With billions of dollars pouring into the Gulf Coast, you might expect that the $488 million in federal money designed to help displaced families pay for private-school tuition would elicit no more than a perfunctory nod.
But trouble started when the Bush Administration unveiled a $2 billion emergency education package for K-12 public and private schools that have welcomed displaced students. The National Education Association wasted no time assailing the measure. "We should be focusing our efforts on meeting the needs of these students, not opening up a debate on vouchers," complained NEA president Reg Weaver. "Vouchers do nothing to solve the problems created by Hurricane Katrina. Vouchers are a flawed and divisive approach that undermines public education."
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., echoed those sentiments. "This is not the time for a partisan political debate on vouchers," he said. Displaced families "need real relief, not ideological battles."
He's right. Now isn't the time for ideological battles. Now is the time for Sen. Kennedy and other members of Congress to support direct emergency education aid to families, regardless of whether their children have found refuge in public, private or charter schools. As parents scramble to find good schools for their kids, it's unconscionable not to give parents options beyond public schools.
In fact, some mechanism for allowing parents to opt out of public schools may become a practical necessity in areas where school systems are being asked to absorb hundreds of students.
Children displaced by Hurricane Katrina must overcome many challenges in the years ahead. Helping these children get back to school in top-notch classrooms is an important step toward recovery. Delaying this process out of loyalty to ideology and special-interest groups is simply indefensible.
This piece originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle, September 23, 2005 .
Twenty-one percent of Arizona public schools failed to make adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act this year.
State superintendent Tom Horne tried to put the best possible face on the news. "I believe parents should be more focused on the state's accountability profiles that will be released on October 14. Under the federal system, there are a 144 ways for schools to fail. The state system is more comprehensive and fair, and the focus should be on the state results."
Before embracing the notion that federal standards are unfair, we should consider just how forgiving these standards have become. Many of the schools escaping the dreaded "failure" label actually have atrocious academic performances.
For example, Phoenix's TG Barr Elementary scored in the bottom 10 percent of schools in national standardized tests, and scores declined between 2004 and 2005. Likewise, only 17 percent of TG Barr fourth-graders met state reading standards (51 percent below the state average) and just 32 percent of fourth-graders met state mathematics standards (42 percent below the state average). Despite this dismal performance, TG Barr was not included on the federal failure list, and seems even more unlikely to be on the state's "fairer" list.
Qualitative evaluations confirm the quantitative data. As one parent wrote, "Barr school has absolutely no control over their students. There is no discipline and no learning going on in most of the classes a majority of the time. Something needs to be done."
Presumably, the parent hopes for more than putting lipstick on a very ugly pig. It's time to worry less about being "fair" to dysfunctional schools and more about what's fair for students. The 338 children at TG Barr Elementary, and the thousands of Arizona students in similar circumstances, certainly deserve better.
Many students will soon bring home the first report card of the new school year. Your child's report card should give you a good sense of how your child is faring in his classwork. But how can you know if your child's classwork is comparable to classwork in neighboring schools?
How do you know when an "A" really is an "A"?
A visit to GreatSchools.net might be just the thing. Two million people a month visit this free clearinghouse established to give parents the information they need to know about schools.
With just a zip code, street address, or city name, you can search for your ideal school, find a school's profile, track its performance, and see how it compares to schools nearby, statewide, or even nationwide.
Interested in teacher quality? Click on "teacher stats" and see student/teacher ratios and experience levels. Interested in what other parents think about a school? Read the online parent reviews. Moving? Type in your new location and go exploring.
GreatSchools.net is a virtual open house where all are welcome. Enjoy the visit!
Arizonans may soon be raising their glasses to more than 10,000 varieties of wine. Black Star Farms, a Michigan winery, and several East Valley residents have filed a federal court challenge to the constitutionality of Arizona's wine shipping regulations.
The challenge comes in the wake of Granholm v. Heald, in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down similar programs in New York and Michigan. But Arizona still has not acted to repeal its unconstitutional laws.
With little exception, Arizona prohibits out-of-state wineries from shipping wine directly to Arizona consumers. Instead, wines must be sent through a state-controlled distribution system managed by a handful of distributors and retailers. The system serves little purpose beyond protecting the distributor and retail monopoly over wine sales. It also violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees free trade among the states.
Which wines to purchase should be a decision for consumers, not the state or state-regulated distributors. Striking down Arizona's law would let Arizonans order directly from out-of-state wineries, increasing consumer freedom and choice.
We can all toast to that.
- East Valley Tribune: "Lawsuit could ferment Ariz. wine industry"
-Goldwater Institute: Trading Grapes: The Case for Direct Wine Shipments in Arizona
-Goldwater Institute Amicus Brief: Granholm v. Heald
-U.S. Supreme Court: Granholm v. Heald, 125 S. Ct. 1885 (2005)
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