Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Goldwater Institute: School Choice Reaches Adolescence

by Matthew Ladner

Rebelling against tedious 12 minute rock songs in 1974, the Ramones invented punk rock by taking 1950s Do-Wop songs and speeding them up to last a minute and half. Music fans have been grateful ever since, even if punk isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Spin Magazine voted them second only to some obscure group from Liverpool when ranking rock bands.

In tribute, I offer my own piece of short entertainment in the form of a blitzkrieg summary of our new study School Choice in Arizona: A Review of Existing Programs and a Road Map for Future Reforms.

  • Parental choice programs have reached their teen years after starting in 1994. But as any parent knows, that’s not a level of maturity when we can stop paying attention.
  • Choice has benefited both kids in charter schools and those in the public schools that compete against them. But for every child entering a choice program, three new children have entered the public schools, so we’ve not yet provided enough choice.
  • An analysis of open enrollment data shows that parents decide to transfer between public schools based on test scores, not on the socio-demographic profile of the student body.
  • Lawmakers could improve upon all existing programs: eliminate counterproductive racial gerrymandering in open enrollment, provide more charter school authorizers, and less red tape, make the scholarship tax credit easier to use, for example.

Above all else, the report argues that it is time to move beyond adolescence to maturity -- a truly competitive system of K-12 education. Personal use tax credits or universal vouchers, please.

There, 283 words instead of 35 pages. I could get used to this, and I’ll bet you could too.

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