Education Reform

Too often, the traditional public-school model fails students and teachers. Charter schools, scholarship tax credits, and merit pay are giving students a better education and teachers a better career.

<p>Too often, the traditional public-school model fails students and teachers. Charter schools, scholarship tax credits, and merit pay are giving students a better education and teachers a better career. </p>

Since Arizona blazed the trail for tuition scholarship tax credits in 1997, Florida, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island have followed our example with programs of their own. More states will likely follow in the next few years.

This year the Arizona legislature is considering an improvement to the individual tax credit law that would allow taxpayers to contribute to scholarship organizations up to the April 15th tax filing deadline, similar to an Individual Retirement Account. Currently, a contributor must take action by December 31st.

Political commentators use the term "Dukakis in the Tank" as shorthand for a public relations effort that backfires. Arizona is in the midst of a home-grown version.

On August 15th, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) issued a press release proclaiming "Horne: Latest ACT College Entrance Exams are Further Proof that Arizona Students Perform Above the National Average."

Mickey Kaus of Slate.com covered a fascinating episode at the Democratic National Convention. In a standing room only event, Colorado State Senate President Peter Groff and reform minded Democratic mayors Adrian Fenty from Washington D.C. and Cory Booker from Newark took education unions to task.

Kaus described the event, writing (emphasis in the original):

Its round one in the battle over school vouchers for children with disabilities and children in foster care, programs signed into law last year by Governor Janet Napolitano.

While I'm more of a Robert Nozick guy, it is an interesting thought experiment to judge todays public schools against the principles of John Rawls, an enormously influential liberal political philosopher.

The Arizona Republic recently featured a two-part series on alleged financial improprieties of charter schools. Focusing on a small number of rogue schools leads one to wonder if the reporter's intent was to tar the entire charter school movement and invite a regulatory response.

Only a few years ago Indianapolis suffered from a 35 percent high school graduation rate. Mayor Bart Petersen took action, challenging the status quo by sponsoring and authorizing an array of charter schools.

"We are simply in an age where cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all, 1950s style education just doesn't work for a lot of kids. The evidence is the dropout rate. The evidence is the number of at-risk kids who are failing at school," Petersen wrote.

Say your family finances hit a rough spot. What should you do? One option would be to pull out the plastic and rack up credit card debt. You don't have to be a financial genius to understand that's not very smart. Yet that is pretty much Governor Napolitano's plan to address Arizona's revenue shortfall.

State government in Arizona has gorged itself for the past five years, growing at a truly unsustainable 12 percent rate. State revenue is already $300 million under budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, with the total deficit projected to hit at least $600 million.

Sky Harbor International Airport recently announced it will conduct a "disparity study" to determine whether it should increase the percentage of disadvantaged businesses-those owned by women or designated minorities-holding vendor contracts at the airport.

Here's another idea: how about using a blind process to award concession contracts to the highest bidder?­ That would ensure equal opportunity while providing added revenues to the airport that could help offset the increased cost to travelers for security and other services.

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