Roughly 350 Tombstone students have been waiting more than a year to move from their historic, but crowded, 83-year-old high school into their new school. The new Tombstone High School remains closed indefinitely because, as school superintendent J. Ronald Hennings admits, "We just can't get kids to it."
Even after spending $7 million, and going $600,000 over budget, Tombstone school and district officials still need one more thing: a new road that leads to the school. And, of course, lots more money to build it.
As it is, Arizona taxpayers have spent the equivalent of $20,000 per Tombstone High School student for an empty building.
If school facilities and related construction projects continue to be funded this way, Tombstone High School students won't be the only ones on a road to nowhere.
Enrollment in the state's public schools will exceed one million students in just four years. According to the Arizona Department of Education, average capital and debt service funding now exceeds $2,000 per student, ranking the state among the highest in the country.
A sensible solution is to make full use of existing capacity. There are an estimated 26,000 available seats in Arizona private schools right now. Average tuition is $4,600-roads included.
- Arizona Republic: "No students attend Tombstone school"
-Goldwater Institute: "Survey of Arizona Private Schools: Tuition, Testing and Curricula"
-National Center for Education Statistics: Projections of Education Statistics to 2014
-Arizona Department of Education: State Totals in Superintendent's Annual Financial Report Fiscal Year 2003-2004
Can restrictions on freedom of speech be lifted? Two cases just added to the U.S. Supreme Court docket may signal the start.
The outcome in either of the two cases could affect Arizona's Clean Elections Act.
The first case, Randall v. Sorrell, concerns a Vermont law that set an extremely low limit on how much money citizens could contribute to candidates and limited the amount of money candidates could spend on their campaigns.
The second case, Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission, is a challenge to the federal Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, also known as the McCain-Feingold Act. In this case, the Act prohibited a non-profit group from running certain advertisements shortly before federal elections. The Court will decide whether such restrictions on non-profit, grassroots groups are constitutional.
Either case before the Court could renew support for constitutional challenges to Arizona's Clean Elections Act, which also restricts speech by deterring private citizens and independent groups from spending money on speech regarding publicly financed candidates lest it be automatically matched by the state. If the Vermont challenge succeeds, the Court will have reaffirmed the importance of money in expressing political views, and declared that expenditure limits are invalid under the Constitution. If the Wisconsin challenge succeeds, the constitutional strength of independent grassroots speech will be improved.
A victory in either case would be a significant step toward restoring the fundamental importance of allowing unfettered political speech, and could signal the beginning of the end for Arizona's Clean Elections program.
- Arizona Republic: "Court takes up vote funding"
-James Madison Center for Free Speech: Randall v. Sorrell
-James Madison Center for Free Speech: Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC
-Goldwater Institute: Is Cleanliness Political Godliness?
The late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) related an insightful anecdote in his book Miles to Go. Senator Moynihan asked Laura D'Andrea Tyson of the Clinton administration for two supportive studies to justify the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars on a favored program. Moynihan received two studies the following day, but after reading them, noted that both studies actually concluded similar programs had failed to produce any type of measurable results. In response, Moynihan sent the following letter to Tyson:
I write you at such length for what I believe to be an important purpose. In the last six months I have been repeatedly impressed by the numbers of members of the Clinton administration who have assured me with great vigor that something or other is known in an area of social policy which, to the best of my understanding, is not known at all. This seems to me perilous. It is quite possible to live with uncertainty, with the possibility, even the likelihood that one is wrong. But beware of certainty where none exists. Ideological certainty easily degenerates into an insistence upon ignorance.
The great strength of the political conservatives at this time (and for a generation) is that they are open to the thought that matters are complex. Liberals have got into a reflexive pattern of denying this. I had hoped twelve years in the wilderness might have changed this; it may be it has only reinforced it. If this is so, current revival of liberalism will be brief and inconsequential.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Arizona politics is not immune to such ideological certainty. Jon Talton of the Arizona Republic, for example, used his Sunday column to describe the school choice corporate scholarship tax credit that passed the Arizona legislature with bipartisan support as "right-wing utopianism."
Having actually read the school choice literature, I will pose the Moynihan challenge. If within the week Mr. Talton can provide two control-group studies of the attitudes of parents who have actually used one of the private school choice programs showing something less than substantial improvement in satisfaction with their child's school, I will happily buy him a steak dinner at a downtown restaurant of his choice. I can produce a large number of studies that demonstrate the opposite, but two will do the trick for Mr. Talton.
Alternatively, I invite Mr. Talton to produce two control-group studies of any of the nation's school choice programs that show students learn significantly less after exercising choice. Again, I can produce a large number of studies from scholars at Harvard, Stanford, and Georgetown concluding that students learn significantly more in school choice programs, but a mere two studies showing the opposite will win the bet for Mr. Talton.
Mr. Talton has the opportunity to eat steak while making me eat crow. I look forward to a response.
The overwhelming need for stability for the estimated 6,000 school-age children in the Arizona foster system was highlighted recently in the Arizona Republic story "Activists want foster kids to stop changing schools."
The impermanence of foster care is one reason foster children are among the most at-risk in society. Adults who were formerly in foster care are more likely to be incarcerated and dependent on state services than the general population. Early warning signs are seen in the classroom, where foster children have lower test scores and higher absenteeism, tardiness, and truancy than average.
Frequently changing schools makes matters worse. The Department of Education estimates that children lose about four to six months each time they transfer to a new school. One out of two foster children ultimately fail to graduate from high school.
One remedy is found in a new report by Goldwater Institute senior fellow and Heritage Foundation education analyst Dan Lips. In the study published by the Maryland Public Policy Institute, Lips finds that "offering children in foster care opportunity scholarships could address some of the common problems plaguing the educational experience of foster care children, such as instability and persistent low expectations." Schools can also tailor educational services to the unique needs of foster children, including the requirement for greater life skills and self-sufficiency training.
- School Choice for Foster Children: Fostering Stability, Satisfaction and Achievement
- Arizona Republic: "Activists want foster kids to stop changing schools"
- Assessing the Long Term Effects of Foster Care: A Research Synthesis
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