Gene V. Glass, distinguished researcher of education at Arizona State University, surveys the amazing spread of school choice in Arizona and asks what are the results of the spread of choice. You have heard the stories about how vouchers and charters will “save poor kids from failing schools,” will create competition to improve public schools, will work wonders for everyone. It turns out that Arizona is the choice capital of the world but is still waiting for that miraculous success that its advocates promised and still promise.


Professor Glass shows how dramatically choice has spread across Arizona, with the urging of choice advocates in the government and the private sector.


Glass writes:


Now Arizona is the school choice capital of the world: 1) 500 charter schools – soon to be closer to 600 if New Schools for Phoenix has its way, and they will; 2) huge virtual academies run by out-of-state companies like K12 Inc.; 3) open enrollment laws; 4) tuition tax credits subsidizing families sending their kids to religious schools; and 5) a history of active homeschooling. In fact, the number of students whose parents have “chosen” is staggering. There are 1,100,000 students of K-12 school age in Arizona. Of that number, 180,000 attend charter schools, 200,000 have exercised their right to switch school districts under open enrollment laws, and about 80,000 attend private (mostly religious)schools or are homeschooled. That amounts to more than 400,000 “choice students” in Arizona out of a population of a little more than one million for a choice ratio of about 40% plus.


With nearly half of all students enjoying the benefit of choice – with its effects on driving incompetent teachers out of work, shutting down bad schools, stimulating private and public schools to reach higher levels of effort and innovation – the condition of K-12 education in Arizona must be nothing short of fantastic!


But, to hear the state’s politicians and business leaders speak of it, Arizona’s school systems are terrible. Below average; lagging behind other nations; a threat to the economy of the entire state; not preparing students for college or careers; in need of major reforms; bring on the Common Core. Arizona’s education system is the paragon of choice, and yet it is a mess. Somebody needs to get their stories straight.