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.
I recently received an invitation to attend a conference about Milton Friedman’s legacy in a variety of policy areas, and to present a paper about Dr. Friedman’s impact on education policy. This led me to prepare a progress report on the movement to engage parents in choosing the right schools for their children’s education.
So how is Dr. Friedman’s legacy looking today, two decades after the first program to fund scholarships at private schools was approved by Wisconsin in 1990?
There are ugly results from a recent analysis by the Los Angeles Times and RAND Corp. that contrasts school employee layoffs with teacher performance in the classrooms of the L.A. Unified School District. From the article:
“Because seniority is largely unrelated to performance, the district has laid off hundreds of its most promising math and English teachers. About 190 ranked in the top fifth in raising scores and more than 400 ranked in the top 40%.”
Recently, I wrote about the fact that all Arizona community colleges meet the Johns Hopkins University definition of “dropout factories” by a very wide margin. Now, Glendale Community College, which only has a completion rate of 22 percent, is adding insult to injury in the form of an anti-competitive textbook program that will make textbooks more expensive for students.
Sometimes a single sentence can send special-interest groups into a frenzy.
The latest example: House Bill 2002, sponsored by State Representative John Kavanagh, which would prohibit governmental entities from using taxpayer dollars to pay dues to groups that attempt to influence ballot outcomes.
There’s good news from Arizona’s neighbors. New Mexico’s newly elected governor, Susana Martinez, the nation’s first Latina governor, is putting her state on the path to real education reform. In her first press conference as governor-elect, she commented on Florida’s successful education reforms:
“The Florida model is a proven one…We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We need to do what is best for New Mexico as quickly as possible.”
Pima Community College Chancellor Roy Flores recently announced that he wants the college to consider new admissions requirements. What he had to say on the subject to his governing board was right on target:
Right now, the college does not require a high school diploma or its equivalent, a GED, or SAT scores that indicate that you’re ready for college. As a consequence, we’ve been accepting people who really aren’t ready.
A few bills pending in the legislature would allow Arizona community colleges to offer four-year degrees. The goal is to bring down the cost of a degree and produce more college graduates. Unfortunately the evidence suggests this is highly unlikely.
Arizona’s Auditor General Office recently pointed out how, with each passing year, less of each education dollar gets into the classroom. This begs the question: How can school districts claim they need more money for the sake of children’s educations when they keep diverting money away from the classroom?
Bill Gates endorsed the concept of giving highly effective teachers more students and higher pay at the Winter Meeting of the National Governors Association. Education Week noted that the Gates proposal closely follows the New Millennium Schools proposal that the Goldwater Institute published in 2009.
Fortunately, cutting edge practitioners have leveraged technology to greatly improve upon this idea.