News

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Once Again, It's Time to Deconstruct the U.S. News "Best High Schools" Rankings

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 6:00 PM

PHOTOSPIN
  • PhotoSpin
Once again, BASIS swept the U.S. News & World Report's list of best public high schools, taking five of the top seven places. University High placed number 15. Does that mean BASIS has five of the seven best schools in the country and University High is the 15th best? Only if you think "best school" means a place filled with high achieving students who take lots and lots of Advanced Placement classes and tests. The more AP courses seniors have taken and the more tests they've passed, the higher a school's ranking. AP courses are the basis of the BASIS curriculum. University High emphasizes the courses, but not quite as much.

Unfortunately, if you read the Star's misleading front page article, you get a different, and incorrect, picture of how a high school makes it to the top.

To get a high U.S. News ranking, you have to jump over a few hurdles, like performance on state tests and graduation rates, to be in contention. Once you've cleared those hurdles, a school's ranking is based totally—not partially, totally—on how many Advanced Placement classes seniors have taken and how well they do on the tests. That's it. This year, the contest didn't even include the International Baccalaureate program as it has in the past. It was all AP, all the time.

Someone who read the Star article would think the ranking uses a more complex, inclusive formula where AP course work is "considered." Nope. Not so. Here's what the Star wrote about the ranking process with my comments and corrections in brackets.
The list, published annually, looks at data from more than 22,000 schools focusing on student outcomes with an emphasis on graduation rates [Nope. If graduation rates are 75 percent or higher, you make it into the all-important AP round.] and state proficiency tests [Nope. If you're in the top 10 percent in state test scores, or lower if you have more economically disadvantaged students, you make it into the all-important AP round]. Diversity [Doesn't matter if you're in the top 10 percent in state test scores], enrollment [Of very little importance], participation in free and reduced-price lunch programs [Nope. BASIS schools don't have free/reduced lunch, so under that category, U.S. News simply says "Not Applicable"] and Advance Placement are also considered [Misleading. AP isn't simply considered, it's the only thing that matters once a school makes it into the all-important final round].

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Good, Available Child Care Benefits Society

Posted By on Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 11:11 AM

FLICKR
  • Flickr
Quality child care is helpful to children and their parents, and though it's expensive in the short term, it's cost effective in the long term. And we spend half as much of our Gross National Product on it as the average industrialized country.

All this information is in a New York Times article. The surprise is, it's in the business section, not a section about child rearing or education. But it's not out of place among articles about finances and the economy, because, even disregarding its value as a societal good, quality child care makes good economic sense.
[R]ecent studies show that of any policy aimed to help struggling families, aid for high-quality care has the biggest economic payoff for parents and their children — and even their grandchildren. It has the biggest positive effect on women’s employment and pay. It’s especially helpful for low-income families, because it can propel generations of children toward increased earnings, better jobs, improved health, more education and decreased criminal activity as adults.
A recent study out of the University of Chicago looks at two long-term studies out of North Carolina where young children from low-income families received free, full-time child care. The children and their families were compared to a control group. The mothers of the children in child care earned more than those in a control group, which is no surprise, but they were still earning more twenty years later. The children stayed in school longer, and they earned more as well. The study found that at age 30, the men who had been in quality child care earned almost $20,000 more a year than the control group and the women earned $2,500 more. The researchers admit that the small sample size of the study means that $20,000 figure for the men likely isn't representative, but even if it were considerably less, it would still be significant.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Trouble in Republican City Over Voucher Expansion?

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 4:00 PM

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I can’t remember agreeing with Greg Miller—a Republican who runs a charter school and is ex-president of the Arizona Board of Education—before. But an op ed he wrote for the Capitol Times, GOP support of voucher expansion bill an insult to most students, is an exception to the rule. It begins,
As an advocate for education reform for the past 35 years, a co-founder of a very successful charter school, a lifelong Republican, and the most recent past president of the Arizona State Board of Education, I have never been more embarrassed, outraged, disappointed, and angry to call myself a Republican. How on earth do the Republicans in the state Legislature who voted for the Empowerment Scholarship Account (voucher) bill, or our governor, who signed it, look in the mirror and in good faith, not understand what they have just done.
Miller continues,
Public education has been the equalizer for 150 years of economic growth and assimilation of immigrants into the culture that we enjoy today. This is an insult to the hundreds of thousands of students who do not have the resources to pay the additional thousands of dollars for the tuition these private schools will be charging above the state subsidy, and without the opportunity of a quality education provided in their local schools where due process and common goals of expectation drive the continued development of economic expansion for everyone, not just a privileged few.
He ends by saying voters need to kick out the ESA expansion supporters in 2018.
All Republicans that share this view [against voucher expansion] use your vote in next summer’s Republican primary to replace anyone who supported this transfer of economic wealth from our public school system to the private schools of the wealthy.
I’ll take exception with Miller here and say we need to kick out the anti-education Republicans and replace them with some pro-education, pro-child Democrats, but hey, we can agree to disagree on that one.

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Zona Politics Tonight: Councilman Steve Kozachik and Metro Chamber Prez Mike Varney

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 3:06 PM

Councilman Steve Kozachik
  • Councilman Steve Kozachik
Tonight on the televised edition of Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel: I talk with Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik about Prop 101, the city's proposal to hike the sales tax by a half-cent per dollar for five years in order to  fund capital improvements for the police and fire departments and do more road repair. We also talk about the UA's controversial proposal to build a massive Honor's College campus right smack in the historic West University Neighborhood, the city's lawsuit against the state over the state's efforts to take away more than $100 million in state-shared revenues because the city destroys some guns instead of selling them at auction and some other city issues.

Then we've got an exit interview with Tucson Metro Chamber President & CEO Mike Varney, who recently announced his plans to step down after six years on the job. We discuss whether the city of Tucson and Pima County are more business-friendly than they were when he arrived, what the state should do about education funding and why the chamber is supporting Prop 101.

Tune in tonight at 6:30 p.m. on the Creative Tucson Network, Channel 20 on Cox Cable and Channel 74 on Comcast. The show repeats at 9 a.m. Sunday mornings.

On this weekend's radio edition of Zona Politics, I talk with Democrat Paul Durham, who is seeking to replace the retiring Ward 3 Councilwoman Karin Uhlich. Durham is facing fellow Democrats Tom Tronsdal and Felicia Chew in the August primary election.

The radio show airs at 5 p.m. Sundays on community radio KXCI, 91.3 FM, and at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. Sundays on KEVT, 1210 AM.

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Statewide Voucher Initiatives Has Been Voted Down Everywhere, Every Time

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 8:30 AM

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There's no way Republicans can take away the initiative process using the initiative process. Voters won't go for that. And they can't push through school vouchers that way either; people always vote against vouchers. So this year, Republicans have used their legislative majority to thumb their noses at voters, taking away something they like and pushing through more of something they don't.

We've been there before. In 2013 Republicans tried to make it more difficult for voter-proposed initiatives to make it on the ballot. But after passing an anti-initiative law, they repealed it a year later because a move was afoot to let the people decide if they liked what the legislators had done. Republicans hurried to get rid of the law to save themselves from an embarrassing defeat, and to let them reenact anti-initiative legislation later piece by piece, which is what they've done this year.

Private school vouchers have never been on the ballot in Arizona. The Republican-controlled legislature voted in School Tuition Organizations in 1997. In 2011 it did the same for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. Then year by year it passed new bills to expand the two voucher systems.

Why didn't Republicans let voters have their say on STOs or ESAs? Because they know, voucher ballot measures have never passed anywhere—at least not for the past 30 years, which is as far back as I can find information.

Here's a list of statewide votes on vouchers, courtesy of Ballotpedia.
1990: Oregon Tuition Tax Credits. Defeated 68%-32%.
1993: California School Vouchers. Defeated 70%-30%.
1996: Washington State School Vouchers. Defeated 64%-36%.
1998: Colorado Tuition Tax Credits. Defeated 60%-40%.
2000: California School Vouchers. Defeated 71%-29%.
2007: Utah School Vouchers. Defeated 63%-38%.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Dare to Say, 'Tax the Rich'

Posted By on Tue, Apr 18, 2017 at 3:30 PM

COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA
  • Courtesy of wikimedia
If there's a Democratic primary for governor, I'm supporting the candidate who says "Tax the rich."

David Garcia already signed on to run against Ducey in 2018. Steve Farley has said he's interested. Farley and Garcia are both very smart, energetic guys who I would be happy to see as our next governor. Add the extra pleasure of seeing Ducey crash and burn at the polls, and I'd be damn near ecstatic if either won. Both of them are strong backers of public education. Both will push for inclusive social services from state agencies. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but not enough for me to give either the political edge. That makes it tough to choose between them, assuming Farley jumps in the race.

So if there's a primary, I'm going to be listening for their stands on raising taxes. There's no way to stretch current dollars to pay for what we need. Education. Social services. Did I mention highway repair? Those are all big ticket items, and Arizona has a small ticket budget.

Farley has made a good case for getting rid of some of the tax exemptions gifted to special interests over the years. He thinks there's at least $2 billion in trimmable tax breaks, maybe more, without touching the sales tax exemptions for things like food and prescriptions. And that would be terrific. But whenever I hear that kind of talk from Farley and other Democrats, much as I think it's a great idea, I always feel like it's a way of avoiding the elephant in the room. And I don't mean the Republican elephant. I mean that big ol' "Tax increase" elephant.

Garcia has edged up next to the idea of a tax increase. He says we absolutely need more money for education and he wants to raise revenue, maybe even raise taxes if necessary. But if he has a plan, I don't know what it is.

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Zona Politics: The Latest From Capitol Hill in the Age of Trump From Reps. Grijalva & O'Halleran

Posted By on Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 5:24 PM


Welcome to the relaunch of the televised edition of Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel: U.S. Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ03) and Tom O'Halleran (D-AZ01) talk about Trump's proposed border wall, Attorney General Jeff Sessions visit to Nogales to announce stiffer policies for the prosecution of undocumented immigrants, where healthcare reform goes after its collapse in the House last month and much more. Tune in tonight at 6:30 p.m. on the Creative Tucson network, Cox Channel 20 and Comcast Channel 74, or watch online above.

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Favoring the 8 Percent, Ignoring the 92 Percent

Posted By on Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 3:45 PM

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A little more than seven percent of Arizona's students attend private schools or are home-schooled—eight percent, tops. That's who the vouchers-for-all Empowerment Scholarship Accounts are all about, the eight percent, making sure they get the maximum access to taxpayer dollars our Republican legislators and the governor can manage. Meanwhile, the ninety-two percent attending district and charter schools have to fight to get a few dollars added to the state's dwindling financial commitment to its education budget.

But, the argument goes, vouchers will mean more children in private schools, so the ESA voucher dollars aren't really new money. It's just a case of funds following students. Except that's not what's happened in Arizona. Back in 1997, long before ESAs, we began another voucher program, private school tax credits. It takes money that otherwise would go into the state budget and funnels it to School Tuition Organizations which dole the money out to pay for private school tuition (and make a handy little profit for the STOs in the process). It's grown from a program that transferred a reasonably small amount of taxpayer money to private schools, about $4.5 million a year, to more than $140 million a year. If more vouchers meant more parents choosing private school for their children, we should have seen a boom in their enrollment over the past twenty years. Instead, something like 2,000 fewer students attend private school now than in 1997. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands more students are enrolled in district and charter schools.

$140 million a year in vouchers—and for the past few years we've thrown the ESA vouchers into the mix as well—and the result has been 2,000 fewer private school students in a state with a growing school-aged population. While the privatizers say vouchers are all about the growth of "school choice," a shrinking percentage of parents are choosing private schools for their children.

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Staff Pick

Spring Collection

From Puccini to Prince, the grand finale for the UA Dance season, Spring Collection, offers an eclectic… More

@ UA Stevie Eller Dance Theatre Fri., April 21, 7:30-9:30 p.m., Sat., April 22, 7:30-9:30 p.m., Sun., April 23, 1:30-3:30 p.m., Wed., April 26, 7:30-9:30 p.m., Fri., April 28, 7:30-9:30 p.m., Sat., April 29, 7:30-9:30 p.m. and Sun., April 30, 1:30-3:30 p.m. 1737 E. University Blvd.

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