Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Goldwater Institute: Indianapolis Mayor's office sponsors and authorizes charter schools

Up to the Job

By Matthew Ladner, Ph.D.

Only a few years ago Indianapolis suffered from a 35 percent high school graduation rate. Mayor Bart Petersen took action, challenging the status quo by sponsoring and authorizing an array of charter schools.

"We are simply in an age where cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all, 1950s style education just doesn't work for a lot of kids. The evidence is the dropout rate. The evidence is the number of at-risk kids who are failing at school," Petersen wrote.

Arizona should follow this example and expand the list of charter school authorizers to include cities and universities. An obvious conclusion to draw from the recent Arizona Republic series on financial improprieties at some charter schools is that perhaps the state is not up to the job of oversight.

"Financial oversight of Arizona's charter-school system is soft and sporadic," wrote the Republic's Pat Kossan. Petersen's authorization office, meanwhile, is widely regarded as a national model.

Mayor Petersen has made the challenge to his inner city public schools: educate these kids or make room for someone who will. Charter authorization in Arizona could also benefit from some diversity and competition. One-size-fits-all doesn't work for schooling, or school authorization.

Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute.

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