Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Goldwater Institute: The Myth of Helplessness

Those who accept no excuses get results

By Matthew Ladner, Ph.D.

On April 4th, Arizona School Board Association analyst Michael T. Martin wrote a column opposing the state takeover of the Roosevelt school district. He asserts that widespread lead poisoning is the cause of Roosevelt's problems.

Lead poisoning has been much diminished since the elimination of lead paint and lead gasoline, but not entirely eliminated. An examination of the evidence is in order before writing off these kids.

In our state of 6 million people, the Arizona Department of Health Services finds approximately 250 confirmed cases statewide annually where lead levels in the blood are above the federal standard. Confirmed childhood cases are fewer in number. Based on the fact that there were a few incidents where federal levels were exceeded, Martin theorizes the existence of widespread low level lead poisoning throughout the Roosevelt school district.

The evidence Martin brings to bear is paper thin for such an extraordinary claim. Two of the three zip codes of the Roosevelt school district are listed as at higher risk for lead poisoning. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, this mostly relates to the use of certain folk remedies and Mexican pottery.

By the way, the zip code for the area where the Goldwater Institute resides in has a risk factor more than three times greater. Strangely, two of the top charter schools in the state operate a stone's throw away from the Institute. The Millennium Worldwide Academy also failed to get the lead poisoning memo. Located in the heart of the Roosevelt district, educating Roosevelt area kids, the school's students have no problem humiliating Ph.D.s with their knowledge of history.

Ms. Kelmer, Millennium's headmaster, accepts no excuses and gets results. I wish I could say the same for ASBA. If they have evidence of widespread low level lead poisoning, they need to present it. Otherwise, the Arizona School Board Association will have taken the myth of public school helplessness, already an excuse for inaction, to a new record low.

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

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