Dr. Michael Block, head of the BASIS Charter School group and arguably the most successful school reformer in Arizona, made the following statements in a round-table interview in the Arizona Republic on education reform:
Robert] Robb: If you could implement any single one idea to improve K-12 education in the state, what would it be?
Block: I would privatize the entire government school system. I don’t think you can actually run schools today with the amount of disagreement we have over the fundamental mission of schools. Is it social welfare? Is it academic excellence? Is it social justice? You can’t possibly have an educational system if you have this amount of disagreement, so privatize it.
If by privatization, Block includes means-tested vouchers (to help kids from economically-challenged families choose among private schools), sign us up. The main question is how to get there from here.
Block also had some great comments about school funding:
Robb: There are some nationally successful charter-school systems that don’t come to Arizona because they say that the level of funding is inadequate for them to implement their programs here. Does Arizona fail to provide enough education dollars for a high-quality K-12 education in this state?
Block: We do produce this great education on $6,200 (per pupil) or something like that. But we’re doing it on fumes at this point because there has been this decline of 6 or 7 percent since the boom. So, we’re on fumes now. We can’t take much less, and I think in the long run it probably is right on the margin.
A few dollars more would help. If the system was functioning, probably $6,000 to $7,000 (per pupil) works in Arizona with our price structure. It would be nicer to have more, but it probably works. It doesn’t work very well if the requirement is to make up for a deficient system before the students come to you.
Robb: But if you are perceiving that you’re operating on fumes and you’ve got students coming to you who are highly motivated or have parents who make them highly motivated, can you really argue that it’s sufficient for other schools that don’t have such highly motivated students?
Block: Well, I can certainly argue that it’s OK for probably the vast majority of Arizona children. The at-risk population even here is probably a minority and maybe 30 percent or so.
Your question is, I think, sort of a false question. The levels that we operate at are close to the levels that you could operate (other) schools if everyone was doing their job.
If part of the system isn’t working, then it’s not enough. If you have to take students who are not reading and don’t know their number facts, it’s probably going to take you more than $7,000 per student. But that is not inherent.
The full interview is available here.
Americans for Prosperity