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>

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.

Arizona's public universities want more state funding because, as ASU President Michael Crow puts it, "You can't run a great university on Wal-Mart prices."

But is more state funding the answer?

Not in Michigan. You may have heard that the University of Michigan is one of the world's top research universities. What you may not have heard is that this public university is almost entirely privately funded. State appropriations constitute just 10 percent of the university's budget, down from a high of 70 percent in 1965.

On July 13, parents in New Jersey filed a class-action lawsuit seeking relief from the state's failure to provide an adequate education for their mostly minority children. Lawsuits to increase educational funding are commonplace, but Crawford vs. Davy is different because parents are demanding real educational results, not more spending.

When the Prop 204 campaign criticizes Arizona legislators for reducing education funding during the recession, they never explain what else legislators were supposed to do.

Arizona fell three spots to 48 on this year's Morgan Quitno Press "Smartest State" ranking. That doesn't bode well for the Grand Canyon state, or so it would seem.

In determining which state is the "smartest," the ranking relies on factors that have little to do with how well a state is educating students. The authors fail to distinguish between what goes into the system and what comes out.

Earlier this year, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) assessed the literacy of 1,800 graduating seniors from 80 randomly selected two- and four-year colleges and universities. What they found was not pretty.

20 percent of U.S. college students completing four-year degrees have only basic quantitative literacy skills. That means they are unable to estimate if their car has enough gas to get to the next gas station or to calculate the total cost of ordering office supplies.

Occasionally, a teacher union official tells you what he really thinks. The reigning champion in this regard was the late Albert Shanker, former President of the American Federation of Teachers, who famously said, "When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of school children."

According to the National Education Association (NEA), "A pure voucher system would only encourage economic, racial, ethnic, and religious stratification in our society." One wonders how the NEA could reach this conclusion when both the Milwaukee and Cleveland voucher experiences show otherwise. 

Pages