Napolitano Education Agenda Fails Students

Below please find a recent op-ed by Len Munsil.
Thanks to Janet Napolitano, Arizona families have fewer quality schooling
options now than they did four years ago. Back in 2002, one in four schools
statewide was failing. Today more than one in three schools is failing,
according to just-released federal achievement data.
These dismal results come on the heels of Napolitano’s latest education
agenda unveiled at the National Governors Association Annual Meeting just a
few short weeks ago. “Innovation America,” as she calls it, is Napolitano’s
year-long initiative as the new National Governors Association Chair. “To be
competitive as a nation,” she says, “we must prepare our young people to
meet the real demands of the job market.”
After four years in office, Arizonans are still waiting for Napolitano’s
rhetoric to become a reality. Let’s hope she doesn’t hurt our nation’s
children as badly as she has hurt Arizona children.
By nearly every standard, Arizona students are doing worse-despite spending
twice as much as the rate of inflation for each student enrolling in K-12.
Almost half of Arizona fourth graders are functionally illiterate, and only
about one in three Arizona eighth graders has mastered rudimentary math
skills. Fewer of the state’s fourth and eighth graders score at a basic
level in science today than they did five years ago.
In fact, as of 2005, Arizona eighth-grade science scores were among the
lowest in the country according to the Nation’s Report Card, with more than
half of all eighth graders lacking basic science knowledge.
For all her talk about the importance of competition, Napolitano has done
everything in her power to stop it from entering the school house
door-despite overwhelming evidence that competition from school choice
programs improves education.
Hundreds of analyses spanning three decades by researchers from such leading
universities as Harvard, Stanford, and even Columbia University’s Teachers
College show competition from school choice programs resulting in improved
student achievement, increased graduation rates, better school efficiency,
and higher teacher salaries.
Findings by Napolitano’s own National Governors Association graduation task
force corroborate those results! Expert Jay P. Greene, author of Education
Myths: What Special-Interest Groups Want You to Believe About our
Schools-And Why It Isn’t So, wrote in a recent editorial that the “benefits
of educational options [are] clear. …student achievement increases when
schools are faced with increased choice and competition.”
Still, Napolitano is so beholden to the status quo that she turns a blind
eye to these studies. Recently she said, “To date, I have not yet heard
anything to persuade me that this improves the quality of education.”
The so-called “education governor” should do her homework. Then she couldn’t
veto legislation designed to help more quality charter schools open at a
time when many of Arizona’s best charter schools have three-year waiting
lists. Nor would she put special interest politics before students by
vetoing legislation she promised to sign last year providing scholarships to
low-income children. Thanks to intense pressure from policy makers and the
public, she finally relented.
Apparently, Napolitano thinks Arizona public schools can’t handle a little
competition. How, then, does she expect students to learn about competing in
the real-world economy?
In this school year, the state will spend nearly $5 billion on K-12
education. That’s enough to give all Arizona students a $5,000 scholarship
for the schooling option their parents think is best-rather than giving that
money to politicians pushing failed policies.
The results are in, and they speak volumes. It is ultimately Napolitano who
doesn’t make the grade. Arizona children need solutions, not lip service.
Napolitano’s continued opposition to policies that would make schools more
competitive and students better prepared reveals her actual
business-as-usual agenda. It is time for a change.