Winston Churchill said, "A politician is to be judged by the animosities he excites among his opponents." By proposing the creation of charter schools for his country, Great Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, has excited much contempt from the education establishment.
Blair's proposal includes giving parents the power to fire principals of under-performing schools. They will also be able to convert district schools to charters, and create new schools.
The Arizona charter school experience has brought higher rates of student achievement growth, lower taxpayer costs, and improvements in traditional public schools, spurred through competition. Blair hopes for the same in Britain, saying, "Schools will be accountable not to government at the centre or locally but to parents, with the creativity and enterprise of the teachers and school leaders set free."
Blair faces objections from within his own party. His deputy prime minister opposes the reform. According to one government source, "He is scared nice schools that are doing very well will expand and do well, but will leave more and more other schools to close and on the way to closure they will have all the problems of a failing school."
This quote nicely summarizes the essence of opposition to meaningful school reform. It reveals a preference for not having successful schools expand, and allowing failing schools to continue to miseducate children. As he battles the education reactionaries, Blair should recall for them another Churchill quote: "It's not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what's required."
-BBC News: "Blair's 'pivotal' school reforms"
-Goldwater Institute: "Comparison of Traditional Public Schools and Charter Schools on Retention, School Switching, and Achievement Growth"
- Education Next: "Rising Tide"
Who knew a garden could be so controversial? In Gilbert, citizens are complaining about Daniel Lee Thompson's organic garden. Thompson is proud of his garden because he maintains it without pesticides, but his neighbors aren't so enthusiastic.
The garden, which includes large lettuce, cornstalks, and turnip greens, is in his front yard. Neighbors have complained that it's an eyesore and smells badly.
Gilbert law will not settle the matter for neighbors, at least for the moment. So long as Thompson keeps the weeds trimmed, no violation of the Gilbert City Code has occurred. Even Steve Wallace, Gilbert's senior code compliance officer, has admitted that people are currently allowed to grow crops for themselves. Some neighbors suggest that the city should change the code. But should government be the skunk in this garden party?
Citizens who want more rules and regulations in their neighborhoods can form homeowner's associations where land-use restrictions tend to be more restrictive. Equally important, the restrictions are based on voluntary contracts signed by the people who are the most effected by the rules.
There's no use in bringing in government when citizens can resolve differences on their own. Civility, private agreements, and common-sense are homegrown remedies that respect private property and allow a thousand gardens to bloom, no skunks required.
Arizona's public universities want more state funding because, as ASU President Michael Crow puts it, "You can't run a great university on Wal-Mart prices."
But is more state funding the answer?
Not in Michigan. You may have heard that the University of Michigan is one of the world's top research universities. What you may not have heard is that this public university is almost entirely privately funded. State appropriations constitute just 10 percent of the university's budget, down from a high of 70 percent in 1965.
A new report to be released tomorrow by the Goldwater Institute, The Privately Financed Public University: A Case Study of the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, shows how the University of Michigan went through this transition without compromising quality, and how ASU and UA have the potential to do likewise.
-Goldwater Institute: "The Privately Financed Public University: A Case Study of the University of Michigan Ann Arbor"
- Economist: "The Brains Business"
-UANEWS.ORG: "Regents Hear About Need, Look for Funds"
Is Philadelphia a model for the Valley? Arizona Republic columnist Jon Talton recently praised that city's government for its plan to implement high-speed wireless Internet for residents. He contrasts it with Phoenix whose "challenges," he complains, keep it from being as business friendly as Philly.
As a former Philadelphian-born, raised, and educated there-I have news for Mr. Talton. People are leaving Philadelphia in droves, particularly if they have a college degree. According to The Economist, the top destination in the country for college graduates is Phoenix.
Flight from Philadelphia is not a new pattern. The city has shed about a half million residents since the 1950s.
The future doesn't look any better. Despite its Internet plans and the alleged "hipness" of its downtown, Philadelphia's bloated city government is rife with corruption. You know your city's in trouble when the mayor's offices are being bugged by the FBI.
Worse, Philadelphia's crushing "business privilege tax and wage tax" chases businesses out of the city.
Business owners and entrepreneurs want low taxes, light regulation, and a corruption-free city government that confines itself to providing essential services. That's why the Phoenix metropolitan area ranks at the top of Entrepreneur magazine's hotspots for entrepreneurs. It was number 16 in Inc. magazine's 2005 list of top cities for businesses. Philadelphia? It was 265.
Philadelphia can have its city-planned Internet. As for me and thousands of former Philadelphians, we'll take the Valley's vibrant economy over a "free" Internet any day.
-Jon Talton: "Underachieving Phoenix can boost business economy"
-The Economist: "Centrifugal forces"
-Goldwater Institute: "The Tax Man and the Moving Van: Fiscal Policy and State Population Shifts"
-CNN: "Twelve indicted in Philadelphia corruption probe"
-Inc.: "The Top U.S. Cities for Doing Business"
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