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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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NCLB Has Jumped the Shark – Exit Strategy Needed (Matt Ladner)


Examining cut scores changes in Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards, I concluded that the Arizona accountability exam had jumped the shark.  Far more significantly, one of the strongest supporters of the standards movement seems to have reached the same conclusion about the entire No Child Left Behind project.

Mike Petrilli, vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and former Bush administration education official, has written an extremely thoughtful and telling piece essentially throwing in the towel on No Child Left Behind.  More accurately, Mike has given up on the law but not its noble goals.  “I’ve gradually and reluctantly come to the conclusion,” Petrilli wrote, “that NCLB as enacted is fundamentally flawed and probably beyond repair.”  He goes on:

Here’s the crux of the matter: when it’s time for reauthorization, can we overhaul the law itself without letting go of its powerful ideas? Two other outcomes are more likely.  One is the tweak regimen: the law gets renewed but remains mostly unchanged, and we continue to muddle through, driving even well-intentioned educators crazy and not achieving the results we seek.  (This is the prediction of most "education insiders.") It amounts to ostrich-like stubbornness in the face of evidence that an overhaul is what’s needed.  The second is bathtub emptying: throw the baby out along with the murky water and give up on the law and its ideals.  Then we go back to the days when schools felt little pressure to get all of their students prepared for college and life and democratic participation, and we declare No Child Left Behind another failed experiment.

That would be a disaster.

Indeed it would.  In my book, however, the first option

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Is No Child Left Behind's Birthday Worth Celebrating? (Mike Petrilli)

For almost five years now, I’ve considered myself a supporter of the No Child Left Behind Act. And not just the casual flag-waver variety. Much of that time I spent inside the Bush Administration, trying to make the law work, explaining its vision to hundreds of audiences, even wearing an NCLB pin on my lapel. I was a True Believer.

In a way, I still am. After all, in the 21st Century, saying you "support" NCLB is shorthand for affirming a set of ideas, values, and hopes for the country as much as an expression about a particular statute. I’m not just referring to the proposition that "no child should be left behind"–the notion that we have a moral responsibility to provide a decent education for everyone. Ninety-nine percent of the education establishment can get behind that "purpose" of the law and still resist meaningful reform.

I mean a set of powerful–and controversial–ideas that provide the subtext for all the big NCLB battles. First, that virtually all children (even those living in poverty) have the capacity to achieve a reasonable level of proficiency in reading and math by the time they turn 18–and that it’s the education system’s job to make sure they do. Second, that everyone benefits from having someone looking over his shoulder and that schools and school systems need external pressure-i.e., accountability-in order to improve; good intentions aren’t enough. Third, that good education is synonymous with good teaching. This requires good teachers, which every child deserves, but which today’s education bureaucracies, licensure rules, ed schools, and union contracts too often impede. Fourth, that giving parents choices within the education system has all kinds of positive benefits, from creating healthy competitive pressures to allowing educators to customize their programs instead of trying to be all things to

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