An estimated 80,000 Arizona students started high school this year, but just how many of them will graduate is anybody's guess. Various measures show Arizona's graduation rate ranks anywhere from below the national average to near last.
As chair of Governor Napolitano's P-20 Council Graduation Rate Project Committee Sybil Francis writes in her recent column, "No one should be satisfied with these graduation rates. Let's focus on getting more diplomas to our kids." Hear, hear.
The committee need look no further. A solution lies in the very research Francis cites. Manhattan Institute scholar Jay Greene has shown that the graduation rate among Milwaukee students using vouchers to attend private schools is nearly twice as high as that of their peers attending the city's public high schools, 64 percent compared to 36 percent.
Greene's findings corroborate recent evidence from the National Center for Education Statistics showing eighth graders from the lowest socio-economic quartiles who attend private schools are four times more likely to attain bachelor's degrees than their public school peers.
Adopting a grant system for students today will mean more graduates tomorrow.
-Sybil Francis: "Graduation rates need new focus"
-National Governors Association: Graduation Counts: A Report of the NGA Task Force on State High School Graduation Data
-Jay P. Greene: "Graduation Rates for Choice and Public School Students in Milwaukee"
-Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters: Public High School Graduation and College-Readiness Rates: 1991-2002
-National Center for Education Statistics: Private Schools: A Brief Portrait
Children evacuated from Hurricane Katrina are being placed in Phoenix's Roosevelt school district. Despite the saying about any port in a storm, this begs the question: haven't these children been through enough?
Before getting on to the harsh realities of this situation, the district should be commended for its remarkable charity, collecting cash and supplies for Katrina victims. The staff and students of one Roosevelt school collected $15,000 for disaster relief, an extremely generous effort by any measure.
The fact remains, however, that the Roosevelt district is deeply troubled in terms of academic performance. The federal government sanctioned six Roosevelt schools under the No Child Left Behind Act for failing to achieve academic progress for two consecutive years. Many of the Roosevelt schools escaping sanctions have tragically low scores. Fourteen Roosevelt elementary schools scored in the bottom 10 percent of schools in either reading or math or both. Of the four elementary schools that scored higher, none scored above the 30th percentile in reading or math. Published parent reviews express deep concerns about a lack of discipline and instability of leadership.
No one should doubt for a moment that there are many dedicated professionals working under trying circumstances in the Roosevelt district. However, Arizona can do better. While many high quality public and charter schools in Arizona are filled to capacity, President Bush has proposed allowing disaster relief funds to follow children to any available public or private school. Placement of Katrina victims in some of Arizona's worst-performing schools shows the wisdom of such a policy. The Goldwater Institute survey of private schools found 26,000 available private school seats in the state. There is no time like the present to make use of them.
September's spike in gas prices, the result of Hurricane Katrina devastating Gulf Coast oil facilities, has some Arizonans demanding the state crack down on high prices. Arizona attorney general Terry Goddard has promised to introduce anti-gouging legislation next year.
"Pump price increases this week of 30 cents or more a gallon in this state are not justified by Hurricane Katrina or the higher cost of crude oil," Goddard said. "Consumers deserve more protection from this kind of profiteering."
However appealing that might sound, anti-gouging laws are poor public policy.
Price spikes are painful, but they beat the alternative. Anti-gouging laws, and other kinds of price controls, discourage producers from supplying more product, leading to rationing, hoarding, and long lines. Those who lived through the gas lines of the 1970s know first-hand what effect government price controls can have on the availability of goods we need.
The free movement of prices helps both producers and consumers make decisions. High gas prices encourage drivers to economize, combining several errands into a single trip for instance. High prices also tell producers to increase supply, in this case encouraging oil producers to repair damaged facilities as quickly as possible.
Price controls amount to pouring sugar in the gas tank, and should be a non-starter.
-Arizona Attorney General: "Terry Goddard Presses Need for Price-Gouging Protection"
- Tucson Citizen: "Arizona AG to monitor gasoline prices"
-Cato Institute: "Let 'Em Gouge: A Defense of Price Gouging"
-Thomas Sowell: "'Price gouging' in Florida"
Concerned by complaints from homeowners, Gilbert councilman Don Skousen is exploring a ban on door-hanger advertisements. Such a ban would stop all sorts of everyday advertisements, from pizza coupons to invitations to church.
Love them or hate them, these advertisements are protected forms of speech. The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned similar municipal ordinances for violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
There is an easy remedy to this problem. Gilbert residents can put up "no trespassing" or "no soliciting" signs, which make it illegal for would-be advertisers to enter private property uninvited and hang their ads.
Of course, residents also wield the power of the purse. We can stop patronizing companies or organizations that pass out door-hanger advertisements.
Those are sensible approaches that balance the rights to both private property and free speech. No new government ordinance required.
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