Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education released the first-year evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program serving 1,366 low-income students in the nation's capital, www.ed.gov/programs/dcchoice. The report found the average family income of scholarship applicants was $18,742. A majority of participating parents cited academic quality as the primary reason for participating in the school choice program. Additionally, parents listed fighting, tardiness, destruction of property, truancy, cheating, and guns or other weapons as problems at their child's previous school.
The report also dispels some common misconceptions surrounding private school tuition and student population. Most participating private schools ask families to pay $5,500 or less in tuition, and 60 percent of participating private schools have student bodies comprised entirely of students from racial or ethnic minority groups. On average, 82 percent of children attending participating private schools are minority students. Three out of four participating private schools said they accept or are willing to accept special needs students.
The report is the first in a series of annual reports that the U.S. Department of Education will conduct to monitor the impact of the program on participating students.
There's no accounting for taste, or so they say. It turns out, there's no accounting for the benefits of investment in the arts either. On the surface, "support for the arts" seems like one of those universal aspirations, something no one could be against. But it's not so simple.
While a community may agree that some public artwork brings benefits to everyone, those benefits are not equal to everyone and may even be negative for some. As the now infamous Maplethorpe fiasco exhibited, art is subjective, and when we publicly subsidize it, we inevitably please some while offending others. This is important because any art that is worthwhile challenges the appreciator, but the public vehicle forces people to subsidize things with which they may wholeheartedly disagree - it's presumptuous to think policymakers and bureaucrats are capable of choosing "good" art over "bad," or even meaningful art over vapid.
Despite cries of the arts being "woefully underfunded" in this country, private investors have for centuries patronized artists whose work provided some benefits to themselves and consequently to others who did not pay for it. This is the nature of ideas, and government should not be in the business of interfering with this process. As this RAND study points out, insofar as public policy can motivate the arts, it is from cultivating interest (demand-side) rather than simply building more galleries and performance spaces. This is important to keep in mind, as more and more cities get into the business of broad-stroking their way into the arts.
In one of his regular email correspondences, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon wrote Friday, "I said that in order to be a GREAT city, THIS city needs to excel in three areas: Education, Public Safety and Jobs."
The mayor's prescription? "This downtown Phoenix Campus of ASU is the catalyst for the first - and the foundation for the other two.
Mayor Gordon's statement, along with much of the hullabaloo in the Arizona Republic and among the Valley's elites about the "visionary" new ASU-Phoenix campus, was probably missed by most Valley residents who are busy taking advantage of the area's plentiful jobs and reasonable cost-of-living in order to raise families and fulfill the American dream.
The claim that new job creation requires a downtown campus is belied by the job growth that has been the hallmark of the Valley's economy for 15 years.
As urban policy expert Joel Kotkin, author of a forthcoming Goldwater Institute study, wrote in Sunday's Arizona Republic, Phoenix's economy was one of the best-performing in the nation throughout much of the 1990's, aided, in part, by a comparatively low tax environment. A downtown Phoenix ASU campus was not needed to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
Many new jobs, moreover, were high-wage jobs. In fact, Phoenix had a higher percentage growth in high-wage jobs in the 1990's than Portland, Seattle and Denver.
These accomplishments have been achieved almost entirely without the help of government. Major new multi-million dollar public works efforts are hardly required to jump-start this already-bustling region.
A Valley program for training orthopedic surgeons is getting ready to close its doors. Some are predicting the closure will deliver a blow to the Valley's already-scant supply of physicians. This concern is misplaced.
A 2001 Goldwater Institute report found that federal and state regulations and mandates in the health care marketplace, not lack of teaching programs, is to blame for Arizona's physician shortage. To attract more physicians to the state, policymakers should consider introducing measures to energize the marketplace, including individual medical savings accounts, association health plans and eliminating restrictions on individual interstate health care insurance coverage.
The current threat of medical malpractice litigation may also deter doctors from practicing in Arizona. Consumers, moreover, end up paying the price in terms of a limited health care market and increased insurance premiums. Addressing this will take some doing. Any changes to the Arizona tort system require changing the state constitution.
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