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>

Two years ago, Angela Sartain watched her oldest son, Pierce, a graduate of half-day kindergarten, cry over his first-grade homework. Now, her youngest son, Wyatt, is in full-day kindergarten and already reading at a first-grade level at Marana's Desert Winds Elementary School.

Though experts disagree on the benefits of full-day kindergarten, Sartain believes it is making the difference for Wyatt, who is getting twice as much instructional time as Pierce did.

The Rodel Foundation says that if Arizona spent $1.7 billion a year on particular programs, "it is reasonable to expect student performance to double within 10 years."

That's an audacious claim. It's also, as it turns out, a claim utterly without foundation.

The Siteks were not trying to hide their children from the big, bad world when they enrolled them in a private sectarian school.

"I am a proponent of a strong public education," said Sharon Sitek of Tempe. "Societies that are successful must have a strong public education system."

Re: the Jan. 30 column "New school finance report leaves a haze of confusion."

The article is a haze of confusion itself. It says the Goldwater and Friedman report on expenditures is "misleading," largely because it shows debt refinancing and capital costs as expenditures.

It makes no more sense to exclude those figures from the education budget than it would to exclude the cost of firetrucks from the fire department's budget.

The Arizona Republic of Jan. 30 praised a vision for education reform called "Lead With Five," the child of the Rodel Foundation. The Republic's coverage included a front-page story, a condensed version of the report and an editorial in Viewpoints.

The report concludes, "If all the programs and initiatives proposed in this report were undertaken, it would be reasonable to expect student performance to double within 10 years."

Such a dramatic improvement in student performance may sound too good to be true. Perhaps because it would be.

PHOENIX-In a report released today on early education programs, Goldwater Institute president Darcy Olsen shows that U.S. elementary students outperform their international peers in reading, math, and science. The findings call into question the advisability of Arizona Governor Napolitano's plans to increase government involvement in early education, including kindergarten.

Armed with a new report claiming thousands of California toddlers linger on preschool waiting lists, state law enforcement officials have signed on to a growing campaign to make preschool programs more available for poor children.

The report, released Tuesday by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, an Oakland-based preschool advocacy group, shows that 76 percent of the publicly funded preschool programs the organization surveyed reported having waiting lists for enrollment.

Corporations could set aside $10 million in taxes next year for scholarships so children from poor families could transfer from public to private schools under a bill that passed its first significant test at the Legislature on Thursday.

Arizona Republic Editorial

Making the tough choices about the future of public education in Arizona would be difficult enough with a firm understanding of what taxpayers are spending on education.

Incredibly, that most elemental fact - just how much are we spending on schools? - has eluded lawmakers, educators and parents for years.

Arizona's system of school financing has become such a Rube Goldberg puzzle of complicated formulas piled atop still more formulas that the most basic questions about school finance are practically unknowable.

PHOENIX-A new analysis of Arizona public school financing shows average total spending for an Arizona public school student is between $8,500 and $9,000. The report, co-published by the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation and the Goldwater Institute, presents information from the Arizona Department of Education's multiple accounting systems in a clear, straightforward way that is readily accessible to parents, taxpayers, and policymakers.

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