As traditional public schools face increased competition from charter schools - which now educate 1 in 13, or about 82,000 Arizona students - some public schools are working to provide parents the information they need to make more informed decisions about where to enroll their children.
C.I. Waggoner Elementary School in Tempe hosts events such as "Experience Kyrene Night." The open house encourages parents to learn more about the public school and its students' performance on standardized test scores. Teachers field questions from curious parents.
As school choice advocates have long argued and "Experience Kyrene Night" demonstrates, charter and private schools can benefit public schools by making public schools more accountable and more responsive to parents' needs.
As Goldwater Institute's Dr. Vicki Murray comments in Sunday's East Valley Tribune article, "Schools in marketing battle for students," public schools "have to compete now because they're no longer the only game in town."
More information on the success of charter schools can be found in a 2004 policy report by Lewis Solomon.
Three recently-elected state senators and representatives have violated Arizona campaign finance laws, according to preliminary findings from a Citizens Clean Elections Commission investigation. This announcement comes on the heels of the Commission announcing that it may remove Rep. David Burnell Smith from office for allegedly violating campaign finance laws as well.
In a move that will not surprise any opponents of the public financing of political campaigns, the Commission hired Gene Lemmon, the former chairman of the Citizens Clean Elections, to conduct further investigations. Interestingly, neither the Commission nor the Attorney General are moving to investigate alleged campaign violations by those on the left, such as the group Mainstream Arizona, as Goldwater Institute chairman Tom Patterson noted in the East Valley Tribune.
Unfortunately, other states are holding Arizona's system up as a model for campaign finance reform. For example, Connecticut legislators are contemplating a publicly financed campaign system similar to Arizona's. In an op-ed in today's Hartford Courant, I urge Connecticut voters to not make the same mistake we have made in Arizona. Besides failing to deliver on the promises its proponents made, the Commission itself is illustrating the inherent problems with a group of unelected bureaucrats having the power of judge, jury, and executioner over political campaigns.
The Rodel Foundation's new "Lead with Five" report is "utterly without foundation," according to Arizona Republic columnist Robert Robb. In "Education report gambles big bucks on skinny data," Robb examines the report's contention that its recommendations, including increased education spending and all-day kindergarten, could double student achievement in just 10 years.
Robb questions the validity of the Rodel Foundation's claim, noting, "There's not even a clear statement about what particular measure of student achievement should reasonably be expected to double." For more analysis of the Rodel report, see Goldwater Institute senior fellow Matt Ladner's Rodel reforms are old wine.
Like mushrooms after a wet winter, convention centers seem to pop up almost out of nowhere. And much like the accidental fungi, once in a long while you can come across a treasured tuber, like the prized truffle or Maitake. But most of the time you're probably better off not consuming random mushrooms, because they can be poisonous. So goes the city in search of a convention center.
Despite well-documented increases in convention space supply and stagnant to declining demand, cities insist on trying to compete in an industry on its way down. As Heywood Sanders, professor of Public Administration at the University of Texas at San Antonio, puts it in a recent Brookings Institution report,
"Currently, overall attendance at the 200 largest tradeshow events languishes at 1993 levels" Nonetheless, localities, sometimes with state assistance, have continued a type of arms race with competing cities to host these events, investing massive amounts of capital in new convention center construction and expansion of existing facilities. Over the past decade alone, public capital spending on convention centers has doubled to $2.4 billion annually, increasing convention space by over 50 percent since 1990."
Phoenix is currently engaged in its own ill-advised mushroom hunt, despite less than stellar booking rates for its existing downtown convention space, and the obvious superior market dominance from nearby Las Vegas, with its similar climate and landscape. At $600 million from state and city sources, plus another $350 million from the city for a convention center hotel, Phoenix is assuming it will find the right mix of public subsidy and marketing to make it an edible exception to the otherwise inedible convention marketplace - public convention space across the country, in cities large and small, operate at increasing losses.
Some are even calling for smaller, regional convention centers in places like Scottsdale, acknowledging that these types of economic development anchors usually sink elsewhere, but "if we get it just right," our economic waters are buoyant enough to make it float. Nevermind that private resort settings already provide the kind of space appropriate for the smaller and niche convention events these cities are after. Did anyone notice the Westin Kierland Resort go up? What about the Camelback Inn, which boasts over 40,000 square feet of conference space? Cities must recognize that places that are suitable for convention space usually already provide said space, at the behest of private investors and business owners.
City planners, in their constant bidding to provide economic growth to their region, even at the expense of privately-funded growth, will often latch on to easy but foolhardy projects like convention centers. They would best serve their cities by heeding the old Sicilian proverb, Vidi ch'un s'affaccia quacchi fungi: Watch out for the appearing mushroom.
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