Robb: Free Your Mind

April 17, 2017

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Arizona Republic columnist Bob Robb provided an insightful summary of the choice debate overall while commenting on the ESA expansion fight here in the Cactus Patch, but with broad applicability:

….the debate about vouchers isn’t really about money. The argument that vouchers drain district schools of resources has always been a diversion.

Instead, the debate is rooted in different views of the role of government in educating children.

The government, through the coercive power of taxation, establishes a central pool of resources for the education of students.

Voucher supporters believe that the pool should be used to provide the best educational opportunity for each child as determined by their parents. A proportionate share of the common pool should be available irrespective of whether that choice is a district, charter or private school. The focus should be on what is best for each child individually.

Voucher opponents believe that some children should be used by the government as sociological chess pieces. Their access to the common pool should be limited to the schools voucher opponents believe they should be attending, even if their parents believe it is suboptimal.

As Morpheus put it “What is the Matrix? Control.”

In other words, some people view children primarily as funding units for a system that employs a large number of adults. The other side views students as human beings with a huge diversity of needs and aspirations, a large number of which will not be met in a 19th Century Prussian factory model of service provision with a monopoly on the common pool funds. We have very helpfully moved away from this in Arizona, but each new step seems to elicit a fresh burst of misguided outrage. Robb used the term chess pieces, I prefer “funding units” but “copper tops” might be the most apt term:




Tears for Beers

January 11, 2017

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Arizona Republic columnist Bob Robb wrote a piece on Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s recent State of the State address. Money quote:

Ducey wasn’t a party to the deep cuts to K-12 education that were made after the bursting of the housing bubble knocked a big hole in state revenues. In fact, during his governorship, per-pupil spending, adjusted for inflation, has gone up, not down. Try to find an acknowledgement of that in the education funding debate.

In his speech, Ducey pointed out that “Arizona students are improving faster in math and reading than any other kids in the country.” That’s true.

Yet, there is a curious lack of curiosity about this development. In fact, Matt Ladner, a scholar with the Foundation for Excellence in Education, is about the only person in the state documenting it and inquiring about its causes. Everyone else is crying in their beer.

Bob’s kind remarks require two clarifications. First I made a professional transition a couple of months ago. Second, it is only bloody well near everyone else crying in their beer in Arizona, rather than actually everyone else. Crying in your beer is a bad look after all. A select few of us are just way too busy celeNAEPing our progress and trying to figure out ways to get more for it.

After bin Laden

May 2, 2011

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The news of bin Laden’s death reminded me of an important statement by President George W. Bush:

“This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing.”

Bringing bin Laden to justice represents a unifying moment and an opportunity for greater focus in our ongoing conflict. Bob Robb, a columnist for the Arizona Republic, years ago made what I thought was a profoundly sensible suggestion: that Congress make a formal declaration of war against Al Qaeda. Nothing in my mind would bring greater clarity to our efforts to both ourselves and to the world: we are not war with terrorism (which is an activity) or with Islam but rather with a group of people who attacked us and those who have chosen to associate with them.

Bin Laden’s death was not a police action- but a military strike carried out by professional soldiers. There was no effort to read anyone Miranda rights, which is appropriate. No one attempted to read Miranda rights to the Japanese pilots who attacked Pearl Harbor at the Battle of Midway either, preferring to shoot them down and sink their aircraft carriers.

On the other hand, the raid probably killed more actual Al Qaeda operatives than our 100,000 soldiers in Afghanistan have lately at a grand total of four. Sun Tzu taught that the object of war must be swift victory and the time is at hand for the United States to weigh the costs and benefits of conflicts such as Afghanistan. The United States has displayed resolve, now it is time for us to exercise wisdom.  Al Qaeda is not anxious to fight our forces in Afghanistan. Both Bin Laden and KSM were found in wealthy suburbs of Pakistan. You play the ball where it lands-our strike teams have guns, bombs, drones and cruise missiles and will travel.

This is a great day for all Americans, but Al Qaeda is not finished, and thus the struggle must continue. Let’s clarify our struggle and finish the job in a way and in an hour of our choosing.