Education Secretary School Vouchers

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, right, joins Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, as they answer questions during a roundtable discussion on school choice Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, in Scottsdale, Ariz. 

(The Center Square) – An education reform group says parents in Arizona have more say in their child’s education than anywhere else in America. 

The Center for Education Reform, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for school choice and other free-market educational reforms, says Arizona’s charter schools, educational choice programs, innovations in digital learning and policy environment have the state ranked No. 1 in its annual “Parent Power” Index. 

“Arizona’s embrace of innovation is as big as the Grand Canyon,” the report said. “Leaders have worked quickly in a crisis and have challenged laws that prohibit flexibility and freedom. They focus a lot on teachers and standards and clearly put kids and parents first. Whatever is in the water out there we need to bottle …”

Arizona’s five private school choice programs, which serve more than 84,000 families, brought the state’s “grade” to an A. 

The report references Arizona’s charter school districts, whose students are 55% minority and scored 11% higher in overall educational markers. The Basis Charter Schools network has consistently placed at the top or among the nation’s best schools. 

The report praised the state’s educational technology standards for providing teachers ample opportunity to integrate technology into the classroom. It estimates 96.1% of students have access to broadband internet, with more than 36,000 still lacking access. 

The state’s COVID-19 response, specifically Gov. Doug Ducey’s mandates granting distance learning flexibility, got positive marks. 

“Teacher Quality” was Arizona’s weak spot.

“Teacher prep programs not linked to student outcomes nor requiring content knowledge are some of AZ’s biggest deficiencies,” the report said.

Ducey has long-supported school choice programs, implementing expansions of state tax credit scholarship programs. 

Advocates for public education oppose many of the attributes the index ranks Arizona highly on, saying tax credit scholarships not only reduce the state’s tax revenue but reduce public district headcount. This reduces federal and state funding, largely based on attendance. 

 

Staff Reporter

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois and Arizona government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Central Illinois and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.