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Charter Schools Help Minority Students Catch Up (Timothy B. Lee and Sarah Brodsky)

Minority students are falling behind in the public school system. The graduation rate for Missouri’s white students is 87.4 percent; for black students it’s fully 10 points lower—77 percent. Black students don’t do so well as their white peers on the Communication Arts section of the Missouri Assessment Program.  They lag behind on the Mathematics section of MAP too.

But the gap is much larger in St. Louis than in Kansas City.  In Kansas City, the graduation rate for black students hovers around the state average.  In St. Louis City, it’s an appalling 58 percent. One important reason is Kansas City’s charter school advantage. Kansas City has a vibrant system of 18 charter schools. St. Louis, in contrast, has only 7. Many of those charter schools serve minority students, giving them additional opportunities and discourage them from dropping out. Policymakers in St. Louis and Jefferson City should find ways to expand charter schools in St. Louis so that minority children there have the same opportunities as minority children in Kansas City.

Missouri’s urban public schools don’t do a good job of preparing minority students for life and work.  And unfortunately, many minority families in St. Louis and Kansas City can’t afford homes in suburban school districts, nor can they afford to send their kids to private prep schools or tutoring as many wealthier families do.  Minority teens who aren’t doing well in the public schools may feel that the only alternative is to drop out.

But some Kansas City schools are beating the odds.  For example, Don Bosco Education Center and Hogan Preparatory Academy have black graduation rates above Missouri’s average.  At Don Bosco Education Center, the black graduation rate is a respectable 86 percent.  Hogan Preparatory Academy has an outstanding black graduation rate of 98.3 percent.

These aren’t traditional public high

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Bush Left Too Many Good Education Ideas Behind (Dan Lips)

Five years ago, President Bush signed into law No Child Left Behind. As a new Congress prepares to debate the law’s future, the White House is working to build support for renewing it without any serious reforms. Last week, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings remarked that she was looking only at proposals to “perfect or tweak” it.

But the Bush administration’s satisfaction with No Child Left Behind is surprising because the President’s original education agenda was very different from today’s law. President Bush once advocated limiting federal power in education. During the 2000 campaign, he pledged that he did not want to be “federal superintendent of schools” or the “national principal.” He promised not to “tinker with the machinery of the federal role in education” but to “redefine that role entirely.”

After entering the White House, Bush unveiled the original No Child Left Behind plan. One of this plan’s main pillars was to give states and school districts control in exchange for strong accountability. “The federal government must be wise enough to give states and school districts more authority and freedom,” the White House explained. “And it must be strong enough to require proven performance in return.”

The president proposed a “charter state” option for “state and districts committed to accountability and reform.” This would have allowed participating states and districts to enter into five-year agreements with the secretary of education to free them from federal mandates while still requiring public school to be transparent about results through student testing and extensive public reporting.

Yet Congress scrapped much of President Bush’s original plan. The 1,100-page bill that emerged established new federal requirements and boosted funding for elementary and secondary education programs by approximately 26 percent. All that remained of the “charter state” option was a small provision to grant states

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Arizona Supreme Court Should Decline School Choice Lawsuit (Tim Keller)

Five Arizona families, represented by the Institute for Justice, have intervened in the first-ever legal challenge filed against school choice programs for special needs and foster children. Three other states, Florida, Utah and Ohio, provide scholarships to more than 16,000 special needs children-and none of those programs have been subject to legal challenge.

 

Opponents, including the ACLU Foundation of Arizona and People for the American Way, filed an original action with the Arizona Supreme Court, seeking to bypass the trial court. The Court will consider the case tomorrow, January 9, and parents are urging the Court to either require the case be filed in the trial court, where a full factual record about the programs can be developed, or uphold the programs as consistent with the Arizona Constitution.

The lawsuit relies on recycled legal claims that the Arizona Supreme Court has already rejected and that are inconsistent with the State’s longstanding history of offering educational alternatives for K-12 and college education, including educational voucher programs.  A report authored by IJ’s Director of Strategic Research, Dr. Dick Carpenter II, and released last week, details Arizona’s little-known voucher programs that for years have offered public aid to needy Arizonans to spend on the service provider of their choice-public, private or religious-just like the challenged school choice programs.

Private Choice in Public Programs: How Private Institutions Secure Social Services for Arizonans explains that Arizona operates at least six separate educational aid programs that help students in public, private and religious schools. And two of them specifically support services for foster children and children with disabilities. The only difference between the existing programs and the new scholarships is that bureaucrats decide when a private school is appropriate, instead of parents. The new program simply removes bureaucratic red tape and puts parents in

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