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>

About 15 years ago, the Center for Law in the Public Interest convinced a federal judge that the state should equalize funding for all Arizona public school districts. As a result, today every public school district receives a minimum average of $8,500 per student, and that was supposed to help districts better educate students.  Now the Center wants another federal judge to suspend the AIMS graduation requirement for English Language Learners until funding reaches some undefined level of "adequacy."

A national effort known as the 65-cent Solution would require school districts to spend at least 65 cents of every dollar "in the classroom," and is expected to be on Arizona's 2006 ballot.

The idea behind the initiative is that too much money is wasted on top-heavy administrative functions and too little money is spent on student learning. There is certainly truth in that. Proponents hope the mandate will ensure that money actually reaches students. Unfortunately, those hopes are unlikely to materialize.

In an unprecedented move two weeks ago, the ACLU, the People for the American Way and the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest filed the first- ever legal challenge to a school choice program for children with disabilities. There are four such programs nationwide that have flourished without legal challenge. Opponents are also challenging a similar scholarship program for children in foster care.

On paper, Arizona's charter law allows multiple charter authorizers: the Arizona State Board of Education, the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, and local school districts.

Few developments in education have blasted through the status quo like Sal Khan’s “Khan Academy.” What started as a collection of instructional videos on YouTube to help his 7th grade cousin with Algebra is now a website featuring 3,400 videos on everything from logarithms to art history.

Defining Ideas

If you were designing a K-12 education system from scratch, with no preconceived notions, and taking full account of the breathtaking technological innovations that have made possible a high-quality, highly personalized education for every child, what would that system look like?

Education Next

Like many students, Ollie is frustrated with school. Math is too easy and his teacher doesn't have time to truly customize his education to meet his individual needs. Watch as Ollie discovers an amazing world of technology that maximizes his learning ability and frees his teacher to focus on helping students learn.

Contact: Rob Kramer, (602) 633-8961

Ballots are hitting mailboxes this week and along with electing a President and other officeholders, Arizona voters will cast their votes on nine propositions. One of the most contentious of those, Proposition 204, would permanently raise the state’s sales tax to fund schools.

A friend recently asked, "If Arizona is the national leader in school choice, why is student achievement so low?"

Good question. Arizona is on the vanguard of school choice with more charter schools per capita than any other state and a scholarship system that gives thousands of students the ability to attend private schools. Nevertheless, Arizona student achievement in reading and math has largely stagnated over the past 10 years according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

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