East Valley school districts have too many students who want to enroll in their traditional or alternative school programs. It’s a pleasant problem that wouldn’t exist if state officials had listened to critics of the school choice movement over the past decade.
Tribune writer Michelle Reese reported Sunday that a recent, abrupt decline in overall school district enrollment is being countered by a huge demand for instruction from programs somewhat outside the educational mainstream. Some academies focus on more traditional curriculum with rigid control of student conduct; others offer accelerated education for students capable of working faster than their peers.
The common element of all of these programs is they exist to compete directly with government-funded charter schools and private campuses. School districts have been forced to innovate — and to acknowledge the desires of many families for something different — or they would lose too many students. The districts have been aided by their ability to recruit students from anywhere in Arizona and not just from within their taxing boundaries.
Arizona’s school-choice efforts have largely stalled since the creation of charter schools, other than two modest private school voucher programs that have been challenged in court. Janet Napolitano was the main barrier to further expansion while she was governor; as she preferred to funnel more state money solely in the common school-district model.
But Napolitano is gone, and Gov. Jan Brewer would serve well the future of education if she can help to re-ignite efforts to create more options for Arizona families.