After nearly two decades of tinkering with an equalized student funding system, everybody knows some Arizona districts get more than others. A new analysis from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) now shows just how much more.
In fiscal year 2002, median per student revenue from local, state, and federal sources for Arizona school districts was $8,173. Yet the state ranks third nationally for a 219 percent disparity between the highest and lowest revenue districts, $18,035 compared to $5,659.
On the other side of the ledger, Arizona's median per-pupil expenditure (which excludes almost $1,400 in capital, debt interest, and other non-instructional expenditures) was $6,197. Once again, Arizona ranks third nationally for a 186 percent disparity between the state's lowest and highest expenditure districts, $4,481 compared to $12,828.
"Equalizing" districts' finances has failed. It's time to equalize children's opportunities instead with a statewide educational grant system.
To see how much funding your public school district received-and how it was spent-in fiscal year 2003, visit our interactive Student Funding Look-Up database, developed in partnership with the Friedman Foundation.
As state governments get into the biotech race, how likely is it to pay off?
As of 2001, 80 percent of responding cities and states identified the bioscience industry as one of their top two development targets. So Arizona's foray into the field is not as cutting edge as some would have you believe.
Yet, it's politically appealing to get on board the publicly funded "high-tech" gravy train, so it's not hard to convince policymakers to do so. Which is not to say the field does not hold promise, but as a whole, it has yet to provide a net payoff for investors (public and private).
California upped the ante by committing $3 billion for stem-cell research. As a result, one local researcher cited this move as requiring that Arizona also ante up, saying "It must make business sense for California to have done this."
Hardly. As economists familiar with this field will tell you, qualified researchers are in relatively static supply. So in the short term, states are put into something of a free agent bidding war, pushing up the prices for a limited amount of talent. Like free agents, this intellectual capital is free to move on when a better offer comes along, which is likely, given how popular this field is with politicians.
In the long run, cities and states that gave invested in facilities will not be in much of a position to decide what and who occupies them, not wanting these facilities to sit empty.
Thomas Jefferson attacked the idea of forcing Americans to contribute to political causes they disagreed with. He called it "sinful and tyrannical." Most Americans still believe it violates a basic sense of fairness.
But Arizona's system of publicly financed campaigns for state races has invented a new wrinkle of government meddling in elections. Last week, the state's Clean Elections Commission voted to remove Representative David Burnell Smith from office for allegedly violating state campaign finance laws. According to the Commission, Mr. Smith exceeded spending limits during his recent primary campaign, so now it's seeking Mr. Smith's removal from office despite the fact that the Arizona Constitution doesn't give it that authority.
Mr. Smith's case is an important precedent since several other newly elected legislators are also being accused of running afoul of the state's complex campaign finance laws. "The system has created a dangerous Soviet-style bureaucracy where five unelected members of the Clean Elections Commission become the judge, jury, and executioner of what constitutes righteous campaign activity," says Mark Brnovich of the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute. "Even mere allegations of financial wrongdoing can have significant impact on political campaigns during the final frantic days before an election."
Free-speech advocates aren't the only ones casting a jaundiced eye on Arizona's law. A 2003 government study of the state's campaign finance system found that its goal of increasing voter participation hadn't been met. Despite an ostensible goal of "cleaning up" elections, public financing schemes like Arizona's are really designed to make political campaigns a wholly owned subsidiary of the state -- and thereby influence their outcome. But citizens have the right to put their money where their mouth is in politics -- and also a right to keep their money in their pockets, a right effectively denied them by laws mandating public financing of election campaigns. Arizona's system is going even farther, denying the public the right to be represented by the candidate of its choice.
This piece originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal Political Journal on March 30, 2005.
Today it's hard to imagine that America was once a blue nation.
With Republicans now in control of all three branches of the federal government, and a majority of state houses and governorships, few Americans remember a time when conservatives were in the minority, let alone marginalized.
But in 1950, the political observer could look out upon the American landscape and see nothing but liberalism.
Liberalism's triumph was so complete that the leading literary critic of the time, Lionel Trilling, famously remarked that it was "not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition" in America.
But by 2004, America's political and intellectual climate had undergone a sea change, culminating in the election of George W. Bush to a second term in office.
The story of conservatism's remarkable rise to power during the intervening 40 years is the subject of The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, an endlessly fascinating and carefully researched book by Adrian Wooldridge and John Micklethwait, two British journalists whose work is normally found in the pages of the Economist.
Wooldridge, who spoke recently at the Goldwater Institute, believes predictions of a breakup of the conservative movement are unfounded. But just how successful the conservative movement will be at implementing additional long-term reforms remains to be seen.
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