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.
Indiana Jones returns to the big screen this summer. In Indy's last movie, he was in pursuit of the Holy Grail. The ancient crusader guarding the Grail revealed that one could gain it only by drinking from the correct cup.
The villain drank from the most ornate cup and suffered a horrible death. Quoth the crusader, "He chose, poorly." Indiana Jones chose the simplest cup. The knight noted approvingly, "He chose, wisely!"
Governor Janet Napolitano has very different ideas about education reform from my own, but I have had to confess a grudging respect for her. In 2006, she went down in history as the first Democrat governor to sign a new school voucher program into law. A few seconds later, she did it again, creating voucher programs for both students with disabilities and foster care children.
In 2007, a family of four needed to earn less than $20,650 to qualify for a free lunch. In Arizona, the median family income for a family of four is over $65,000.
Here’s the surprising news: Low-income students in Florida—namely, those who qualify for free lunches—outperform all students in Arizona. That’s the insight to be gleaned by sifting through the treasure trove of data generated by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the Nation’s Report Card.
This chart from the Brookings Institute may be the most important piece of education data I've seen in some years. The chart shows how teacher certification pedigree affects student performance in Los Angeles. Meaning, it shows whether traditionally state-certified teachers really are more effective in the classroom.
"We could eliminate the nursing school, the journalism school, the law school and the engineering school and still not meet these cuts," Arizona State University President Michael Crow told the East Valley Tribune regarding proposed higher education cuts. The Arizona Republic quoted President Crow as saying that the budget proposal put Arizona "on the path to resembling a Third World country."
All over the state, parents and students are rallying against budget cuts to Arizona's public colleges and universities. Instead of focusing ire at legislators, who are literally between a rock and a hard place, there's another avenue these newly-minted activists could pursue. For Arizonans concerned about increasing access to post-secondary education in our state, why not focus on loosening up state regulations that are choking higher education's private sector?
Crazy for loving you, Patsy Cline crooned. She must have been singing about district schools.
Bill Clinton famously defined insanity as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result every time. Apply that notion to Governor Napolitanos' repeated calls for the state to incur huge levels of debt in order to build school district facilities.
We have better options.
Last fall, voters rejected several efforts to consolidate school districts. While the supporters had a kernel of insight--it's wise to capture economies of scale--they pursued the wrong approach. Instead of making school districts bigger, we should abolish them.
School districts are obsolete, especially in a state with a student-based funding system and statewide open enrollment. Their bonding powers distort equal student funding. Their boundaries and wildly divergent sizes make little sense.
One of the quasi-myths of Arizona's education is that Arizona's performance is average if you control for demographics. It is a quasi-myth because it is true but misleading.
The claim is based upon a report by the RAND Corporation. What people seem to fail to appreciate is what a gigantic leap "controlling for demographics" represents.
Any doubts about congressional leaders' priorities on education were erased last Monday with the release of the new $450 billion omnibus bill. It includes a provision to eliminate the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, which is currently helping low-income children attend private schools in the nation's capital.