WHAT CONGRESS CAN LEARN FROM SUCCESSFUL STATE EDUCATION REFORM EFFORTS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD,
YOUTH AND FAMILIES
COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
HEARING HELD IN SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA, APRIL 8, 1999
Serial No. 106-21
Printed for the use of the Committee on Education
and the Workforce
TABLE OF CONTENTSOPENING REMARKS OF MAYOR SAM CAMPANA, MAYOR OF SCOTTSDALE ARIZONA *
What Congress Can Learn from Successful State Education Reform Efforts
OPENING REMARKS OF THE HONORABLE MATT SALMON, CONGRESSMAN FROM THE STATE OF ARIZONA *
OPENING REMARKS OF THE HONORABLE JOHN SHADEGG, CONGRESSMAN FROM THE STATE OF ARIZONA *
OPENING REMARKS OF THE HONORABLE J.D. HAYWORTH, CONGRESSMAN FROM THE STATE OF ARIZONA *
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE JON KYL, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF ARIZONA *
STATEMENT OF LISA GRAHAM KEEGAN, SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION *
STATEMENT OF JEFFRY FLAKE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GOLDWATER INSTITUTE *
OPENING REMARKS OF THE HONORABLE THOMAS TANCREDO, CONGRESSMAN FROM THE STATE OF COLORADO *
STATEMENT OF HOPE SILBERT, EDUCATOR, SUNRISE MIDDLE SCHOOL *
STATEMENT OF MARGARET A. GILLESPIE, PARENT *
APPENDIX A Ė WRITTEN STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE MATT SALMON, CONGRESSMAN FROM THE STATE OF ARIZONA *
APPENDIX B Ė WRITTEN STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE JON KYL, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF ARIZONA *
APPENDIX C Ė WRITTEN STATEMENT OF LISA GRAHAM KEEGAN, SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION *
APPENDIX D Ė WRITTEN STATEMENT OF JEFFRY FLAKE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GOLDWATER INSTITUTE *
APPENDIX E Ė WRITTEN STATEMENT OF HOPE SILBERT, EDUCATOR, SUNRISE MIDDLE SCHOOL *
APPENDIX F Ė WRITTEN STATEMENT OF MARGARET A. GILLESPIE, PARENT *
TABLE OF INDEXES *
Field Hearing in Scottsdale, Arizona
Thursday, April 8, 1999
Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families
Committee on Education and the Workforce
U.S. House of Representatives
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:00 A.M., at the Scottsdale City Council Chambers, 3939 Civic Center Boulevard, Scottsdale, Arizona. The Honorable Matt Salmon presiding.
Committee Members Present: Representatives Salmon and Tancredo.
Also Present: Representatives Shadegg and Hayworth.
Staff Present: Rich Stombres, Professional Staff Member and Marshall Grigsby, Democratic Senior Legislative Associate.
OPENING REMARKS OF MAYOR SAM CAMPANA, MAYOR OF SCOTTSDALE ARIZONA
Mayor Campana. Good morning. Iíd like to welcome everyone here, especially the Members of our distinguished Congressional panel; Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado, and Scottsdaleís hometown Congressman, Matt Salmon. I havenít seen Mr. Shadegg yet, but Iím sure heís going to be here, and of course Congressman Hayworth who represents our state and our city in Congress.
Weíre especially pleased to have you here, and I know we have staff and visitors here from Washington DC. I very recently got to be in Washington testifying for all Arizonans and people who are interested in our open space and testifying on behalf of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It was exciting for me to testify in front of a Congressional panel and a little nerve racking.
A great blizzard descended upon us, and I hadnít seen snow fall like that in probably ten years, and that was exciting for me as well. When the press called and asked how my testimony had gone, I regaled them with stories of being in a historic room and Congressman Udall looking down on us, and they said well, will you be home later tonight. I said well, maybe not. It looks like weíre going to get snowed in, and even thatís exciting seeing a beautiful snowfall like this.
When I got home and read the newspaper the following day, the headline read not that the Mayor had been back testifying on important legislation, but that I had been detained for a day in Washington DC. The first one was that the Mayor got an icy reception in Washington. So Iím writing the headline for tomorrow that you all got a warm reception in Scottsdale. Weíre doing what we can to make sure that happens.
Iíd also like to welcome our distinguished panel of witnesses. You all know Senator Jon Kyl, Lisa Graham Keegan our state Superintendent of Public Instruction we welcome home, Jeffry Flake, the Executive Director of the Goldwater Institute, Hope Silbert who is an Educator from the Sunrise Middle School, and a friend of mine Ė we were moms together just across the way here Ė Margaret Gillespie.
Iím especially honored that you all have selected Scottsdale to host this very important hearing on our education reform efforts. As the Congressman said this morning here, we are leading the way in Arizona. You are so right Congressman Salmon.
You know our city is home to a trident and diversified educational community that directly supports our industries such as medicine and high-tech research on the heart. More than that, we know that a quality education opens the door to a quality of life, and we have worked very hard to make sure we have a broad range of educational opportunities here, including retraining in Scottsdale; anywhere from Scottsdale Community College to one Iím especially proud of, ASU Westís MBA program in the Scottsdale Air Park. We got Dial to give a space, the University of Phoenix, Ottawa University, and thatís just to name a few.
So as blessed as we are to have all these fine educational programs and we thank you Monsignor Ė anytime I say a blessing, I want to recognize you as well as these wonderful educational programs in Arizona, and we especially welcome enterprise and innovation in ways to do better what we already do so well.
So I wish your Committee continued success in your efforts, and weíre just thrilled to have you here in Scottsdale. I know this beautiful kiva lends itself well to dialog and conversation, so weíll be able to see the results. Welcome, Congressmen.
OPENING REMARKS OF THE HONORABLE MATT SALMON, CONGRESSMAN FROM THE STATE OF ARIZONA
Mr. Salmon. Thank you very much, Mayor Campana. I just came back from a trip to China and Tibet, and though most of the people I met with didnít know where Phoenix was, they all knew where Scottsdale was.
Iíd like to thank you all for coming. Itís a pleasure to be able to hold a hearing here in Arizona and discuss some of the innovative education reforms that have been implemented at the state level here in Arizona that can and should be enacted at the federal level.
Our federal education policy has been a failure. Over the last 30 years, the federal government has steadily increased its monetary commitment to education spending well in excess of $100 billion over this period. Unfortunately, we have not seen corresponding improvement in the quality of education our children receive. The results of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, TIMSS, released last year, revealed that U.S. 12th graders scored next to last in advanced math and dead last in physics. The Administration, which promised better results in pushing the Presidentís GOALS 2000, canít even claim bragging rights over Slovenia, a former republic of Yugoslavia. Perhaps the program will be renamed GOALS 3000. As for reading, a shocking 40 percent of 4th graders cannot read at the basic level.
U.S. graduation rates are also at the back of the pack. The United States with just 72 percent of its 18 year-olds earning diplomas in 1996 ranks last behind all other developed countries. That leaves 28 percent of 18 year-olds nationally without diplomas, and in certain demographic groups and regions of the country, the rate is even higher.
And finally, the considerable federal investment in education has not increased the performance of disadvantaged kids relative to more advantaged young people Ė a core goal of the federal education policy. Former New York Democratic Congressman Floyd Flake reflected in a recent essay that, while over $100 billion on education programs have been expended on behalf of disadvantaged children, these funds have not made much difference. Study after study has shown that this important federal program has failed to narrow the achievement gap. The result, for Americaís neediest boys and girls, is nothing short of tragic.
While student performance has languished, federal education programs have proven successful in creating jobs for federal, state, and local bureaucrats. Superintendent Keegan, who will testify shortly, has estimated that while the federal investment in Arizona schools comprises just six percent of Arizonaís total spending on education, 165 employees, or roughly 45 percent of her staff, works to manage the federal programs Ė 45 percent of her staff is dedicated to pushing paper for the federal government. What a terrible waste. As Governor John Engler of Michigan has bluntly observed, the federal education programs do worse than nothing. They divert and distract schools from their ultimate mission: Educating children. Governor Engler found that only 48 cents of every federal education dollar actually reaches the classroom in his state.
Yet, in response to these epic failures, the education establishment in Washington has come back with demands for more power, more programs, more central control, more of the same although with some new packaging. We are precisely where we were about five years ago in the debate over welfare reform. The defenders of the status quo used scare tactics and name calling to try to kill welfare reform when we stared that debate. But after the public rose up against the failed programs that perpetuated welfare dependency, Congress overhauled our welfare system, giving states more flexibility in exchange for holding them accountable for results. Now, welfare rolls have plummeted, former welfare recipients are working, and the fear-mongers and naysayers have been silenced. We need the public now to bring the same pressure to bear for real education reform.
The goal of the Congress as we re-authorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) must be to unshackle the states from the oppressive regulations that accompany federal dollars while holding them accountable for results, as in the welfare reform model. To merely tinker with the ESEA would guarantee us failure. A consensus among education experts is developing the child-centered funding having federal education dollars literally following each child as in the Kyl model to serve the school of or follow the school of his choice of his parentsí choice, serves as the preferred ESEA reform model.
At the same time, I believe that we must enact tax credit legislation that would increase spending on K-12 education immediately. Senator Kyl and I are proposing legislation to give families and businesses a tax incentive to provide children an "emergency blood transfusion" to improve Americaís schools at once. These twin reforms child-centered funding and immediate tax credits will increase parental choice, prod schools to produce in order to win student loyalty, and permit states and localities to focus resources where they are most needed Ė as opposed to where Washington dictates. Our children deserve reforms that will begin to show results this year, right now.
After studying what has worked in Arizona, and elsewhere across America, Senator Kyl and I have crafted bills that would provide tax credits to families and businesses for K-12 education, and education expenses, or scholarships; consolidate the bulk of federal education programs into a funding stream that could be distributed by the state on a per-pupil basis Ė like the federal government already does in distributing higher education Pell grants. I would like briefly to outline these two proposals.
Number one, the K-12 Education Excellence Now, the KEEN Act, H.R. 741. In 1997, Arizona enacted legislation that provides tax credits, state tax credits for individuals who donate money to support public schools or private scholarships at private schools, including sectarian institutions. The Arizona Supreme Court recently upheld the law. Private schools and public schools are already profiting from an infusion of contributions from this tax credit. According to an article in the Tribune nearly $2 million has already been raised from donations from the communities of Scottsdale and the east valley. Thatís significant. Interestingly, the article reported that less affluent schools seemed to collect more than better-funded institutions, an outcome that school officials attributed to parents wishing to help those schools with the greatest need. As to the lawís effect on private schools, I have heard anecdotal reports from organizations that provide scholarships to low income children, such as the Arizona School Choice Trust, that Arizona law will allow them to serve thousands of additional students. The advantage of the tax credit law is that the dollars from these contributions are going directly to our children and parents are able to decide where those donations are directed.
Building on this model, the KEEN Act offers every individual, and business, a tax credit of up to $250 annually for K-12 education expense or activity Ė for example, tuition, books, supplies, tutors, and computer equipment. Money could also be donated directly to public schools or the credit could be applied to organizations that provide scholarships for low-income children trapped in substandard schools.
The Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that enactment of the KEEN credit would result in some $7 billion per year in K-12 spending by families and businesses over a ten-year period. The cost of the credit is on par with the Hope Scholarship Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit that Congress passed in 1997, the tax cut bill to help families meet the costs of post-secondary education. Itís time to act now to help parents and communities improve our K-12 education system.
Imagine the possibilities of the KEEN credit. Scholarship organizations serving low-income children would flourish nationwide. Millions, if not billions, would be spent on tutors and educational aids to enhance student performance. Inner city public schools Ė as is already the case in Arizona Ė would be able to solicit donations from individuals and from businesses. Schools of all types would compete for tax credit money. All of these funds would be controlled by families and local businesses. Margaret Gillespie, a witness we will hear from today, gets to the heart of the matter in her written testimony. She says, when it comes to educating our children, we have to recognize that each child, each family, and each individual situation is different and who knows a childís needs better than his or her parents? The beauty of the tax credit legislation is that it puts the dollars in the hands of those who know what is best for their children. I see KEEN credits providing parents a much-needed tool.
Now, the Dollars Follow the Student Education Choice and Quality Act. In addition to providing tax credits for education expenses, Arizona is also blazing the trail of reform by considering flexible funding mechanisms for education. Arizona has created a true student-centered finance system among charter schools by apportioning charter school capital funds per pupil. Now, Arizona is considering legislation that would create a real-time funding system. In other words, payments to schools would be adjusted on a monthly basis allowing schools to realize the financial benefit as soon as a new student arrives, and to feel the financial loss as soon as the student leaves. The ultimate goal of these types of programs is to focus the funding on the child not on the school or bureaucracy and to allow decisions to be made about educating that child to be made at the individual and family level where it should be made. To be sure, a student-centered funding system allows a parent to remove a child from a poorly performing school, but in addition, they also get to take the money for educating their child with them in choosing a school that can better teach their son or their daughter.
Congress needs to also explore student-centered funding for K-12 education. In the House, I will soon reintroduce the Dollars Follow the Student Education Choice and Quality Act that Senator Kyl and I have developed. Under this proposal, $13 billion of federal education funds, consisting of scores of overlapping patchwork programs, would be returned to the states in one block so that these funds could be distributed by the states on a per-student basis. Implementation of this proposal would result in most of the federal K-12 education bureaucracy vanishing. All schools would have an incentive to improve performance, because unsatisfied parents would be able to move their child and their education dollars to another school. The proposal would also liberate the vast resources states and localities spend to administer federal programs. Wouldnít it make sense to reduce the education bureaucracy and replace them with new, or better-paid, teachers actually teaching children in classrooms.
Once again, I would like to thank our distinguished panel of witnesses for taking time away from their busy schedules to discuss this most important issue. Iím looking forward to your testimony and hope that we can learn about what is working in Arizona, and how we might be able to implement similar programs at the federal level.
With me on the panel today Ė my distinguished colleagues and soul mates and co-warriors in the battle for truth, justice, and the American way, Congressman John Shadegg and Congressman J.D. Hayworth and with that Iíd like to give some time to Congressman Shadegg.
SEE APPENDIX A Ė WRITTEN STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE MATT SALMON, CONGRESSMAN FROM THE STATE OF ARIZONA
OPENING REMARKS OF THE HONORABLE JOHN SHADEGG, CONGRESSMAN FROM THE STATE OF ARIZONA
Mr. Shadegg. I thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I will be brief. I simply want to say that I want to thank you for bringing this hearing to Arizona and for your efforts on the Education and the Workforce Committee.
I recall a little over two years ago when Congressman Pete Hoekstra came to Arizona and held a similar set or hearings on what works and what doesnít, and then produced a thorough report, what works in school districts and what does not. He came to Arizona to look specifically at choice in education and specifically at our charter school program. I visited with him at a charter school on that day, and Iíve been back to that charter school.
I am extremely proud of the fact that Arizona is in fact in the lead in this field in so many different aspects of education and education reform, and I think I have to complement Lisa Graham Keegan, our Superintendent, for her hard work in being on the cutting edge of education reform, and also the Goldwater Institute and Jeffry Flake for their help in pushing public education and education reform.
I wonít go into any great length about my thoughts on each of these issues. I think theyíre fairly well known. I want to compliment you, Matt Salmon, for H.R. 741 and Senator Kyl for the companion legislation.
I want to just tell a brief little anecdote about my own experience. Some of us come to politics with the belief that human beings are in fact created by God in a manner which causes them to respond to incentives. It just so happened this was pure coincidence that my sister who teaches in the gifted program in the Gilbert School District invited me out to give a speech to some students at her school right at the end of the year last year when we were up against the deadline for making the $200 contributions which people could make under the state legislation to support schools.
I walked in and stepped up to desk. As I walked in the room, I said hi, Iím Congressman Shadegg. Iím here to speak to some students and she said fine. Weíll get your sister up here. Just wait here, Congressman. As I stood there, I watched as a young lady was processing at the desk and it was an open room where you could see what she was doing. She was processing a huge stack of envelopes and the reality was that this was in the last week during which you could submit those and still get tax credit for it.
I said to her what are you doing? She was opening these envelopes and pulling out checks and opening another envelope and pulling out a check, and I thought this is a little strange to see in a public school. Iím not quite sure what it is, and she explained that in fact they were checks from average citizens who thought it was a great idea and wanted to support their local school, and they were taking advantage of that innovative law.
I think it is a great point of pride for the state of Arizona, for our leaders in the education field, and for you now to join the Committee. Youíre a new member of the Committee, and Iím glad that you are on the Committee on Education and the Workforce. I have other friends on that Committee and I quite frankly think we are going to accomplish challenging things. Again, I am thrilled with what we are doing and thrilled that we are holding this hearing in Scottsdale.
Mr. Salmon. Thank you Congressman Shadegg, and Iíd also like to introduce my colleague J.D. Hayworth who is also a cosponsor of the tax credit act.
OPENING REMARKS OF THE HONORABLE J.D. HAYWORTH, CONGRESSMAN FROM THE STATE OF ARIZONA
Mr. Hayworth. Mr. Chairman, colleagues, thank you very much ladies and gentlemen. Iíd be remiss if I did not at least direct our attention to one important group that joins us today in our audience, and those, of course, would be school students who are here. We had a good visit prior to the hearing.
Iím so pleased, Mr. Chairman, with your initiative and the initiative of the Committee to hold these field hearings here in Scottsdale, although we do hope that the students and everyone else will have a chance to visit us some time in Washington.
It is an honor, Mr. Chairman, to be the lead cosponsor of the KEEN Act dealing with tax credits. You know, itís been very interesting. While we also acknowledge the identical legislation introduced by Senator Kyl, itís been interesting to hear the ways in which our philosophy has been explained in Washington, and our good friend, the Chairman of the Budget Committee, John Kasich of Ohio talks of transporting money, power, and influence out of the hands of Washington bureaucrats and back home to people who live their lives and are most directly affected by what transpires.
I think this is consistent with that philosophy, but there is an important wrinkle as I look and I see our State Superintendent for Public Instruction, Lisa Graham Keegan here. The fact that we are actually taking what has worked in Arizona and we talk often about the states being laboratories of our Constitution and republic finding ideas that work and produce results.
I cannot forget, Mr. Chairman and my colleagues, at a town hall meeting that I was holding in Payson some of the folks from the school district came by. They said, Congressman could we have a few minutes because the legislature has done something that will help us tremendously. Two ladies from the Payson School District stood up and spoke of the tax credit that was offered with a very, very positive response.
Of course, my friend in the 4th district who was visiting in the 6th district down in Gilbert saw the tangible results from that, where the money flowed from interested citizens was going directly the schools in the form of a tax credit. Weíre very pleased to have this opportunity to work closely with you, Mr. Salmon and Senator Kyl, to take this great example from the state of Arizona and try to apply it nationally.
I might also mention that education remains a local concern but ultimately a national priority, and in tune with that, I am also pleased that Hayworth Education Land Grant Act (HELGA), our new education land grant effort, has cleared the Subcommittee process in the Committee on Natural Resource and will move forward there as we look for ways to empower parents, students, teachers, administrators, and citizens in terms of educational policy.
Again, it is an honor to be here with you. I look forward to working on this legislation. Weíve already joined together to write every member of the Ways and Means Committee. Since we will have personal jurisdiction on this legislation, I hope that this in some way, shape, fashion, or form works itself into legislation as we move forward for more tax relief for the American people. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Salmon. Thank you Congressman Hayworth. When I was granted permission to hold a field hearing here today of the Education and the Workforce Committee, it wasnít a very hard sell, and the reason it wasnít a hard sell is because Arizona has been leading the way on key education reform for the whole country.
In fact, Lisa Keegan has been back to Washington on several occasions to testify before committees back there, and the reason is because she knows her stuff, and she has been leading the way on key reforms.
Senator Kyl in his first term in the Senate has probably been able to accomplish more in his short time there than most senators have in a 30-year career, because heís bold, because heís courageous, and because he speaks from the heart. Heís not your stereotypical politician. Heís a guy that does what he believes every time, and itís an honor to have him here today.
Jeff Flake, I canít say enough about what the Goldwater Institute has done, not only when it comes to privatization of government, making government more effective, but when it comes to education, the Goldwater Institute puts children first. Jeff Flake has been in that position for several years and many of us feel very, very fondly about him leading the fight, not only with the private sector, but with probably one of the greatest think tanks in America today and leading the charge on education.
So with that, Iíd like to introduce our first witness, Senator Kyl.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE JON KYL, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF ARIZONA
Senator Kyl. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Congressman Shadegg, Congressman Hayworth, and fellow panelists.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this important field hearing of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and specifically the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth, and Families.
The three of you have often spoken of the primary legislative initiative which I came here to testify about, and since I know that repetition is a key to good teaching, Iíll repeat some of what you said and assume that weíll all have a result.
But let me first mention that one of the first things on the legislative agenda in the United States Senate was to begin working on education reform, and the first bill that we passed this year Ė or the second bill I should say Ė was the Ed-Flex which stands for education flexibility. Precisely the concept that all three of you have talked about; returning the power to the students and to the teachers and to the parents and getting the dollars right into the classroom.
About seven percent of the money that is spent on primary and secondary education comes from the federal government, but in order to take advantage of that seven percent, over 50 percent of the paperwork that the schools school administrators have to put up with is associated with that seven percent of the money. In fact, Iím informed now that over half of the people that the schools hire are not teachers. Clearly that doesnít help with the instruction of our kids and itís time to get the money to the school without all of the red tape, the bureaucratic requirements, and thatís what Ed-Flex does.
We now have on the agenda a Super Ed-Flex bill which would take an even larger amount of the federal funding and get it directly to the states Ė waiving most of the red tape requirements in the process. So right at the top of the Congressional agenda this year, as the three of you know, is our effort to reform education.
Of course Iím here to talk about the two specific proposals that weíre cosponsoring in both the House and the Senate. They did have their origin right here in the state of Arizona confirming federalism is very healthy today. Ideas that came from our Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Keegan, our Governor and legislature have not only recognized it as important but also throughout the country, and weíre ready to take those state proposals nationwide. Clearly there is much that Congress can learn from the state of Arizona.
These bills, the specific bills that Iíve sponsored in the Senate and Chairman Salmon has sponsored in the House will in fact increase parental and student choice, educational quality, and school safety.
As you mentioned, the first is our so called KEEN Act, the K-12 Education Excellence Now Act which has been reintroduced in the current Congress as Senate Bill 138 and House Bill 741. This bill also was included in the Lott-Coverdell omnibus education reform bill. Thatís important because the omnibus education reform bill is the bill likely to pass, and so while our legislation is introduced separately, itís consumed in a blanket bill which is likely to be the one that goes to the President for his signature.
As you point out, the KEEN Act would offer tax credits both to businesses and to individuals of up to $250 annually and $500 for families for qualified K-12 expenses or activities; which clearly addresses the problem of declining educational standards by giving families and business a tax incentive to help provide children a higher-quality education through choice and competition.
As I said, the state of Arizona has led the way, approving similar legislation in 1997 and as you know, Mr. Chairman, that legislation was very recently upheld by the Arizona Supreme Court.
Our federal bill will be phased in over four years and specifying, this act offers every family this tax credit which could be applied to private schools, charter schools, parochial schools, or public schools. The allowable expenses would include tuition, books, supplies, and tutors. The tax credit could be given to a nonprofit school tuition organization, which is another idea borrowed from the state of Arizona. To qualify as a school tuition organization, the organization would have to devote at least 90 percent of its income per year to offering available grants and scholarships for parents to use to send their children to the school of their choice.
How would this work? A group of businesses or individuals in the community could join forces to send money, for which they received a tax credit, to charitable school tuition organizations. These organizations would then make scholarships and grants available to low-income parents of children currently struggling to learn in schools that may not be working or may even be unsafe.
Providing all parents including low-income parents the freedom to choose where their children will be educated will foster competition and increase parental involvement in education. This should be an important component of our national education effort.
The second proposal is the Dollars Follow the Student Education Choice and Quality Act. This act would insure that education dollars are spent in the classroom on behalf of real, live students rather than in bureaucracies, particularly pulling out the red tape requirements as I mentioned before. This legislation was introduced in the 105th Congress and now itís being introduced in the 106th. Congressman Salmon and I have been working with Superintendent Keegan to modify the bill to make sure that the bill meets the current needs that we have. I think as soon as we get back to Washington next week, weíll be introducing that bill.
As you know, in the 30 years weíve seen an increase in funding for education. We have not, sadly, seen a corresponding improvement in the quality of education. Given the amounts we now spend on education, I believe our problem is not how much money is spent, but how it is spent and by whom.
Our bill incorporates an idea conceived by the Goldwater Institute, our homegrown educational think tank. For several years the Institute has advocated market-based education finance reform in which a specific amount of money would follow each child to the school of his or her choice. This financing mechanism is especially important in our home state where we are home to one third of the nationís charter schools Ė schools without property tax authority. So Congressman Salmon and I believe itís time to take this idea on the road, so to speak.
Our bill would combine most federally funded K-12 education programs, except special Ed, and would send that money directly to the states and local school districts free from most of the federal mandates or regulations.
Our bill adds a new feature for states choosing to receive federal education funds in a block grant: states that opt to let parents control where their childrenís share of the funding goes. If parents choose to move their child to a different public school, including a charter school, or to a private school, the state would then send the childís share of federal education funding to that school, the private school.
Practically speaking, how would this work? Well, if every state chose to receive federal funds in this manner, the Kyl-Salmon proposal would result in roughly $13 billion being sent to the states annually. This amount, $13 billion, divided by roughly 50 million K-12 students, would result in $255 that would follow each student.
When you consider that the average public school enrollment is some 530 students, this proposal would mean that each school would receive $135,000 in annual federal dollars. Thatís the amount essentially at risk if the students would leave. Of course, if more students at $255 for each student chose to come to the school, then that school could attract not only more students but more dollars. So thatís how the program specifically would work. The dollars would literally follow the child.
We believe that this new child-centered education funding framework will work well. The current system has proven to be a barrier to the fundamental principles of parental choice and competition, and therefore education quality, even safety, since parents often canít remove their children from dangerous schools. With child-centered funding, students are more valuable to schools than the bureaucrats who previously would have made the funding decisions.
Citizens in the states put their trust in Members of Congress to represent them in the nationís capital. Itís time for the Congress to show the same trust in the people and give them more control over how their tax education dollars are spent.
It comes down to this: Will local schools be improved through more control from Washington, or will they be improved by giving more control to parents, teachers, and principals? The answer is clear. Top-down, one-size-fits-all, big-government education policy has failed our children and our country. Our education tax credit legislation as well as the Dollars Follows the Student legislation will re-focus our efforts on doing what is best for the child as determined by parents.
These proposals will move the debate in the direction of a federal education policy that would give parents more control, it would give local schools and school boards more control, spend dollars in the classroom, not on a Washington bureaucracy, and reaffirm our commitment to basic education.
These bills will give the parents and businesses the opportunity to help rescue American education so that our children can grow up to be educated and informed citizens that Thomas Jefferson said was essential to our health as a nation.
And importantly, these bills will enable the entire nation to benefit from excellent ideas that have been initiated right here in our state. We look forward to enacting these provisions as part of the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this important hearing. Thank you Representative Shadegg, and Hayworth, and thank all of the panelists present this morning here.
SEE APPENDIX B Ė WRITTEN STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE JON KYL, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF ARIZONA
Mr. Salmon. Thank you. Lisa Keegan was the Chair of the House Committee on Education when I served back in the State Legislature. Back then she was ahead of our time when it came to key reforms, and she was out campaigning for the children with the bureaucrats long before it was cool.
In fact, Lisa youíve been such a wonderful breath of fresh air nationally on the education reform, that many people are now saying that the only thing better than Lisa Keegan as Superintendent of Public Instruction would be Lisa Keegan as National Secretary of Education. I think that would be a great idea myself.
Lisa, would you please share your thoughts with us.
STATEMENT OF LISA GRAHAM KEEGAN, SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Ms. Graham Keegan. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thatís overly generous. I appreciate it and I appreciate Representative Shadegg, Representative Hayworth, and Senator Kyl not just your being here today but for your work on behalf of our ideas in Arizona.
Itís not always been safe. Itís breaking with a lot of tradition that is easily fed into 30 second sound bits to say that we should really take on a system that people have been comfortable with, if not proud of. So I appreciate very much what I know you have to do to get this done, and the work together has been fantastic, and I appreciate you coming out to Arizona. I think that your leadership and the proof that we have that it works here in Arizona is so important.
I simply want to say, again, Senator Kyl said repetition is so important. Iíll repeat a lot of whatís already been said, but I think we really need to get our minds straight on this, and that is that what we are looking for is to follow a philosophy. Programs are interesting but theyíre not our job. Programs are the job of teachers. Theyíre the job of the schools. Education is the job of teachers and the job of the schools.
I havenít done a single thing to educate children, nor have you, with all due respect. What we have done is gone out of our way and insisted that the engine that runs this system is a child and not a structure and not a particular program; that we are focusing more and more in Arizona on the individual child. This system, and Senator Kyl has said so well, to the extent that we make the child important, and I believe we can do that by strapping that money right to that childís back. That makes the child very important. They walk through the door and here comes the money available to that school. That cannot be overstated. That is so important.
Today, right now as we speak, the legislature is debating the bill that you spoke of, Congressman Salmon. It is probably the single most important bill in the future of public education in Arizona, and let me define public education for you. It is the education in the interest of a particular child that is paid for by the public. Thatís it. It is more important to us to be able to say in Arizona we track money according to students and we can show where money is in a particular school revenue.
It would be so nice for parents to know that if there are 500 students in the school and the state is supporting them Iím going to say $4,000 but itís much less than we pay, so we donít have arguments. If it was only $4,000, itís usually well over that, that would be $2 million of operational funds every year, and youíll be able to see it in the schools by July of 2000 under the programs we will have in place in Arizona.
So parents can have a meaningful debate about where the money gets spent, and I guarantee you will see more in the schools, better teachersí salaries, and more time for things that matter than you will see money spent in the district office, because you can see it and you can have the fundamentally important debate about where money gets spent. Right now we have these debates with the absence of truth and nothing is more painful. We can argue all day long about how much money is necessary. At the end of the day if you canít see where it goes, you donít know what youíre talking about. We need to empower the public to understand where this money really goes and how weíre choosing to spend it.
Itís so important to me that we donít say this is an argument to get rid of school governing boards. It is not. I happen to believe that the only reason the system hasnít totally collapsed is because of the dedication and the good intentions of local school board members. They are trying so hard to do what is right, but we give them an impossible job. We ask them to run a local monopoly by in large. We say you must educate everybody in that particular boundary and understand that that boundary, means that somebody canít get in. So although we are allowed to cross boundaries in Arizona, and we allow choice through our public charter schools, but that still only represents 30,000 out of 800,000 students. By in large that system is continuing to be run by what are fairly monopolistic systems. The fact that we independently elect the board that is in charge with running our schools does not mean that those systems are then open and democratic. It simply means we independently elect those people who then run what we have forced through law to be monopolies. It is wrong.
I have so appreciated that our representation in Arizona has been willing to say weíre going to focus on students. Weíre going to focus on students and weíre going to be unapologetic about it. The bills proposed by Senator Kyl and Congressman Salmon, supported by and also sponsored by Congressman Hayworth and Congressman Shadegg Ė Senator McCain also has a bill out speaking to individual student needs. It is really a first and it is so heartening. We are now talking about the independent students, and my belief is that to the effect that we can focus on making sure that congressional intervention is student based, just like weíd like for our actions at the state level to be student based programs, it is very important.
You usually wonít hear coming out of my mouth a plea for Congressional intervention for public education, and I have to say to you that the first time I wrote it down on a piece of paper, I had to check myself. I thought maybe I was just flipping out, and Iíve been in this business too long. What I liken it to is looking at history and trying to understand where we really are is a little bit like where Teddy Roosevelt was in the trust busting time. There are times that what Congress can do is something that nobody else can do.
I would ask you to consider the enormous power that you can yield in favor of students. You can reach over the top of this testimony. You may be the only arm of government that can reach over the top of this system and on to a child. This system is heavily, heavily structured. The walls are thick with tradition. It is thick with misunderstanding I think. When we talk about the need for reform, we are often heard as denigrating public education, and nothing could be further from the truth. The ability to focus on what would be good for a particular child and make her the engine of the system is just so incredibly powerful that I have come to the conclusion that is an appropriate and indeed extremely powerful role for the Congress to play.
In Arizona last summer Governor Hull took a step with the legislation that no other state had taken, and that was to move our funding system from a system based on property boundaries to one based on students. It is a first. I donít think anybody realizes yet how powerful that really was. The stroke of her pen on a Students First Bill that really in addition to spending capital funds which is going to take time, which it did it also wrote the philosophy of student-centered funding in the state for the first time. We are embellishing on that this year with the SAIS Bill for the Students Accountability Information System. That came about because everybody saw it as a logical bill.
In the meantime, opposition forces have decided that this is darkness. We have huge opposition and arguments that say it is not a good thing to pay on the basis of a system in real time, because if the students drop out, we will lose money. Iím here to tell you if the students drop out, you deserve to lose money, and I am not going to apologize for that. I do not believe we should fund a system that rewards us for not keeping our children in school and not doing right by our children. If we donít do what the child asks for, then surely they lose money and the school that receives those students for education should surely receive that money.
We should not be bound by the system that we have right now that says we will pay you whether you have your students in place or not. Public charter schools in Arizona only get paid if students come to them and thatís the way it should be for all public schools. We will push that and I will continue to push that until this is enacted. It is part of the system that parents have a right to know where the money is and students have the right to get money available for their education in real time. Specifically in a state that grows by 25,000 students per year it is ludicrous that weíre funding on last yearís enrollment whether or not students are actually there.
The proposals that you all have before you I believe are ultimately empowering of teachers. You do not know and I do not know and I believe that it is for teachers to say. We do not know what will happen if you are successful or if I am successful, but what happens is our teachers and educators, such as those who brought children down here, public charter schools in Arizona.
It will happen when we ultimately empower those teachers in traditional public schools. When their administrators let them go and run their own schools by what they know is right. I believe this movement puts pressure on us to do that. There will be innovations and changes and programs on students the likes of which we have never seen before. When it is imperative that the money on a childís back is going to a school for their use, it is amazing what will happen.
Arizona has been called the Wild West because we moved so quickly toward charter schools. My response to that is itís not because we moved as policy makers. Itís because parents moved and teachers moved and educators created an opportunity. All we do is create that opportunity, and I have never made the claim that we have educated a single child. We wonít and we and havenít, but they will if we let them.
I so appreciate your willingness to do this and take it and make it a national opportunity for other states. Given the opportunity, Arizona would surely take advantage of the ability to honor students above all else, and I believe in turn honor the very fine teachers in the schools that we create. Thank you very much.
SEE APPENDIX C Ė WRITTEN STATEMENT OF LISA GRAHAM KEEGAN, SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Mr. Salmon. Thank you, Superintendent Keegan. We are also pleased to have Jeff Flake, the executive director of the Goldwater Institute, an independent and nonpartisan research and educational organization dedicated to the study of public policy. Through its research papers, editorial policy the Institute advocates the public policy based upon the principles of liberty and government, economic and individual responsibility. It all sounds pretty good to me Jeff. Weíd like to hear your comments.
STATEMENT OF JEFFRY FLAKE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GOLDWATER INSTITUTE
Mr. Flake. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, and panelists. I appreciate this opportunity to participate in this hearing today.
The first time I was before a legislative body of any type was in Utah when I was going to school. I testified on the issue of South African sanctions before the state legislature of Utah. The person who happened to disagree with my viewpoint on the Committee said after I finished testifying, excuse me young man, can you tell me what your name is. I said itís Jeffrey Flake. He said, well I would have thought as much and turned off the mic.
I hope Iím in a little friendlier territory here, but I am really pleased to be here with such distinguished panelists. I think the world of these two people sitting next to me in both of their arenas. Theyíve done some phenomenal things.
The only thing I think I can add is to add a couple of stories about whatís going on here that you can perhaps take back as you consider this important legislation as an example of things that are happening here. It is all based on the premise that the public school system will only improve when subjected to the same market forces that govern the broader economy. A meaningful reform of the educational system has to take place and that is certainly what has happened here in Arizona. I think it is very improved now.
If you wake up in the morning in some communities in Arizona, it would not be unusual to pick up your morning paper and see the benefits of small class sizes extolled in paid advertising in the newspaper for any particular school, then drive to work and hear a radio spot talking about the teacher qualifications at another school in a paid radio advertisement, then go to the local theater for a movie that night and see still another school advertising the benefits of its extracurricular activities as you wait for the movie, and then going to your car and see a flier on your car from still another school advertising something else that they think is particularly good about their school. That is something that nobody thought would happen in public education in a few years and certainly not as quickly as it happened in Arizona.
What is more pleasing than seeing people compete in terms of paid advertising, is seeing actual changes within the schools themselves. One example from a couple of years ago, there were a group of parents who were not satisfied with the reading curriculum in a particular school. So they went to the district governing board and complained, but their complaints, as they had the month before and the month before, fell on deaf ears until they invited a charter school operator to establish a school nearby. That operator did so and about half of the students from that school left for the charter school and only then did the district governing board come back and say you may have a point there. Here are some options in terms of reading curriculum. That scenario is being played out in other areas of the state as well.
Also, thereís an example of the highest scoring public high school in the state or in Maricopa County, the second in the state, would not be in existence, would not be operating were it not for the enabling law that we have. The law says that charter schools donít necessarily have to hire certified teachers. They just have to hire qualified teachers.
This particular school, Tempe Preparatory Academy, has 14 full-time teachers, not one of whom would be qualified or certified to teach in traditional public schools in Arizona, yet they are the highest scoring high school in Maricopa County. There are three teachers there with Ph.Dís and that have degrees from Johns Hopkins, Notre Dame, University of Chicago, eminently qualified, simply not certified, but because the focus here is on children rather than outputs rather than inputs, this kind of thing is allowed to happen.
One other example is a district that I just moved from. One very popular kindergarten teacher felt that he had done a survey of charter school teachers in the area and felt after that survey that he wasnít being paid a market wage. So he went to his superintendent and said Iím not being paid what Iím worth. I would like a $15,000 raise. He was making $30,000 after 15 years of teaching.
That superintendent went to the district governing board and explained the situation with this teacher. The governing board realized that in this era of competition if this popular teacher left, he would probably take with him a good number of students whose parents would line up every year to get them into his class. So they said okay, you got it.
You probably know what happened after that, the teacherís union rejected it, and the offer was rescinded, but that teacher had several offers for his requested salary at other institutions. He has resigned effective the end of the year. So we are seeing that choice and competition is not only good for students but it is good for teachers as well. The unions donít like it, but individual teachers, good teachers will.
What youíre considering in Washington, the KEEN Act, Iíve had a chance to look at it. It is great in that it builds on the principles of choice and competition. The things that common sense has always told us works, and now Arizonaís experience also tells us that it works. Whenever you as Lisa always puts it, and itís the best phrase Iíve heard, itís when you strap the money on the backs of the children and send them to the school of their choice, that is meaningful reform. Those are the principles that youíre working on with both of these legislations and it is absolutely the right thing to do.
It is very nice to see a delegation I share Lisaís belief that the only good legislation that comes from Washington is that legislation that diminishes the federal governmentís role, and these two pieces of legislation certainly fit that description. So I urge you to move forward and do what you can to see them enacted. I appreciate this opportunity. Thank you.
SEE APPENDIX D Ė WRITTEN STATEMENT OF JEFFRY FLAKE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GOLDWATER INSTITUTE
Mr. Salmon. Thank you. Iíd like to thank the panelists for their testimony. If youíll indulge us, Iím sure we have a few questions. Iíd like to start. First of all, I have a question for you, Superintendent Keegan, and if either of you gentlemen would also like to respond, then Iíd be interested in your thoughts also.
In a student-centered system, schools that are performing well will keep their students and their funds while poorly performing schools will lose students and their funds. What will happen to the schools that continue to lose students; will they shut down?
Ms. Graham Keegan. I appreciate your question, and our experience has been that they donít sit still long enough to shut down. Mr. Flake spoke to an example of a school and a school district in fact, I know what heís talking about there that radically changed its curriculum, and they changed it in favor of what the parents were looking for. Interestingly, they didnít change it all over the district itís very important they changed it in some schools. They kept their old curriculum in other schools where apparently there was some happiness on the part of the parents.
That makes the point that there is no one best system, Congressman Salmon. Certainly in Arizona we have standards that you have to meet. We donít tell you how. There are a lot of ways to get there, and what doesnít happen is schools donít just lay down and say gee, itís a shame that half of our student body just walked across the street. They are changing, and unless they are forced to change, they donít do it. So they donít just sit there. Itís our experience that they are really interested in students. We just make it a little bit quicker through competition.
Mr. Salmon. Either of you care to comment?
Mr. Flake. Just to reiterate what Superintendent Keegan said in that example when the students left. The district then said, okay weíll change, and some of the students then came back, but they took a big hit. It was a good reminder for them that they better start listening to the parents.
Mr. Salmon. Senator Kyl.
Senator Kyl. I would just tell you about the Superintendent of the Mesa Public School System who saw that their enrollments were remaining flat, notwithstanding the increased population. The charter schools were taking some of the students, and what did he do, he said Iím going to make some changes. He did and theyíre getting some of their students back. He said I enjoyed the competition. It brought out what was already the best, a good system, and enabled it to get better and help all of the kids, which is the name of the game.
Mr. Salmon. Jeff, Iím going to direct this one to you. I know youíve done a lot of work on the issue of parental choice. The constitutionality obviously is in question for the vouchers because of the separation of church and state doctrine. In your mind, is there a problem with these types this legislation this particular legislation that weíre talking about today when it comes to violating the constitution?
Mr. Flake. Mr. Chairman, what has happened here in Arizona should give us all some comfort that the courts see it this way. The Arizona School Choice Trust has been operating, as you mentioned, for several years now. I believe Jack McGraw is here in the audience today. They will be able to have several thousand more kids attend a school of their choice because the Arizona Supreme Court just spoke to not only the state constitution but the federal constitution and federal requirements as well in their ruling and said that it was constitutional, because this was not public money.
The voucher question aside, this is a tax credit. I personally, and a lot of people that we spoke to, would like to see this appealed by the teachersí union so that the U.S. Supreme Court would speak to it, and then after that ruling comes or if they refuse to hear it, that other states would move forward this way as well, but we are eminently confident that this is Constitutional.
Mr. Salmon. Superintendent Keegan, critics of the school choice movement argue that such programs would help the few at the expense of the many, and that eventually school choice would create a two tiered system of "haves" and "have nots." Do you see a legitimate concern about school choice in general and would this be a valid argument against a tax credit?
Ms. Graham Keegan. Absolutely not, Representative Salmon. I feel that is a tired argument particularly in Arizona where we now fund all the children individually and that money is portable. You may make your choice of the traditional public system that may be run by a governing board. You may make your choice of a public charter school and that money goes to the public charter school or we havenít yet gotten vouchers that can go directly into a private school. The money would go there with tax credits. Obviously they are using private money, and you make that choice. There is no argument to be made that this is a benefit for one child or the other.
Justice Zlaket in his opinion, which Mr. Flake was just speaking of, spoke eloquently to the fact that under the current system and before choices were prevalent in Arizona, many children were coerced into a choice of a school that did not work for them, and the private schools were outside the financial boundaries of the parents. There are those in our state that do not want to allow that choice to happen and I donít think itís right.
Again, if we just focus on where children go to school not on the individuals who run the system, weíre going to be just fine. That argument to me is tired. It doesnít even make philosophical sense to me anymore. We do fund children and not the system.
Mr. Salmon. One last question, and then Iíll yield the mic to one of my two colleagues. By the way, Representative Tancredo, is on his way. His plane came in late from Colorado but heíll be here forthwith.
One other argument that critics of school choice argue is that choice will not be effective because the schools can pick and choose who they will admit, and that they would cherry pick and only take the cream of the crop. Do you see this as a legitimate concern about school choice in general, would this argument apply to the bills at hand?
Ms. Graham Keegan. If I might, Congressman Salmon, make this point, and I canít make it strongly enough. Only school choice programs in this nation are open to anybody who comes. Traditional public education is segregated. It is segregated by geographic boundaries. It keeps students out, and individual schools get to say we will take you and not you based on where you live, and let there be no mistake, geography boundaries are based on wealth.
This system, the traditional system, is segregated by wealth. Thatís not necessarily a terrible thing. It didnít start out to be pernicious. It was simply communities of interest in the beginning, but it has gotten to where wealthy communities can say who can come and who can not. Poor schools say who they take and who they donít, and the only open part of public education in Arizona is public charter schools, tax credits, and the vouchers that hopefully will pass through the Senate package.
The reason for that is that there is a stipulation in the law that the school cannot make a choice. It must be open to anybody who comes, and they will simply draw by lottery. Congressman Salmon, I surely wish we had enough seats for everybody that wanted to be a part of that law but I donít think that can be overstated enough. The other side is so far saying this is an exclusionary program and in fact it is the only open program on the books right now.
Senator Kyl. Representative Salmon, if I had the time right now, and I donít, but one of the things I would love to do is to start a couple of schools that focused on troubled kids. Anybody could come obviously, but I think that given the number of kids in our society today who come from broken homes, have drug or alcohol problems, who have learning problems, have scrapes with the law hopefully minor scrapes or who in some other way had very special needs, I think I could attract a lot of kids with the right kind of program.
I just saw something in the newspaper in Mohave county that the sheriff is doing for kids that are basically good kids. Theyíve had one minor scrap with the law, and this school that they can voluntarily go to rather than having some other judicial process intervene, has well over an 80 percent success rate in getting the kids back in school learning. Thereís drug and alcohol counseling. There are career assistance people involved.
It is a very rigid environment, but it is the kind of thing that this particular niche of kids who are basically good kids but they have just started to go in the wrong direction. They get their lives turned around. I would love to have the opportunity to set up some schools where the curriculum is really directed to those kinds of kids and there are enough of them around whose parents really care for them that it would be a fine substitute.
Today itís awfully hard for a school teacher to deal with the gifted kid, the troubled kid, with the average kid, with the kid with special needs and all of the rest of it. I think if there was a little bit more ingenuity in the schools, that could be that would tailor their particular curriculum to those particular kids, we would find it would help the public schools that are left with the average kids as well as those with very special needs.
Mr. Salmon. Okay. Iíll give the microphone to Representative Shadegg.
Mr. Shadegg. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me just begin by saying it is funny what lifeís experiences teach us. I had the good fortune to marry a woman who is and was when I met her a teacher, and she has taught me a lot about education. She taught until our second child was born. We have now lived I was thinking about this issue you were talking about Ms. Keegan. We have now lived in the same house for 18 years. That means we must have moved into that house in about 1981.
Education choice was barely a topic back then, and yet when our children became school age when our first child, Courtney, became school age, we began to do some research on the public schools where we resided, because of course, the system is that our house is in a particular district and we go to a particular school.
So she and I she insisted that I needed to be a part of this went into the schools, and we were particularly unimpressed with the kindergarten teachers at the schools. There happens to be a public school much closer to our home, literally right across the street, which would have been a separate school district. So we decided well, letís go visit that school just to see what they have. We did that as well, and we were, again, not particularly impressed with the kindergarten teachers.
So what we did was we put Courtney in a private school for kindergarten. The next year we repeated the process and went to see the first grade classes to look at the program. The program which was not our school, we felt was a much better program. We were more impressed with the first grade teachers, more impressed with the teachers, more impressed with the overall atmosphere and the education the kids seemed to be getting there.
So we applied for a variance and were granted that variance as a result of that request that we made. As a result of that, my wife was compelled because she knew the rules. John, just because she got in this year, that doesnít necessarily mean sheís in next year or the year after that. Indeed, at that time, they were building just adjacent to the school a massive apartment complex. I actually think that it is the single largest apartment complex in the Valley, and it had the prospect of bringing in hundreds, if not thousands, of new students, and they were also building a new subdivision in the district.
So we felt what we needed to do was deeply entrench ourselves in the school and become involved, and Shirley probably would have done that anyway, but that was her information. We were fortunate to keep her on a variance and to go to the other district school actually through all of their education.
In that particular instance, neither school district was more wealthy than the other, although frankly the district we didnít go to may arguably be more wealthy than the one she attended. It gave us power, and it caused us to be involved, and I cannot tell you how well that worked for our childrenís education.
That then makes it difficult for me to understand the intensity of the opposition to what looks to me to be such a good idea. I guess the question I want to put to each of you is, first of all, why in your opinion does creating a child-focused school system scare so many educators and so many parents, and what have you found, particularly because youíve worked so much in that field, each of you, but on the front line you Ms. Keegan? What have you found to be the best arguments to respond to those fears about a school child-focused system?
Ms. Graham Keegan. I appreciate, it Congressman Shadegg. Iím happy to hear I thought you were going to tell me that you had to pay tuition, because that was done in some districts until 1994. So good.
I donít know. I donít often understand myself where that opposition comes from. I think in many cases it is sort of an unthinking response to change. Monopolies, and I use that term advisedly, but thatís really what we have here. Those that have been assured a certain process since before statehood. This is the way itís going to work. This is the way itís going to go.
Incidentally, Arizona had over 300 school districts at the turn of the century. We need to get rid of some of these school districts. There is just a Mecca of administrators. We had over 300 school districts in 1900 and Congressman Shadegg, you may know that. My husbandís great grandfather was part of the constitutional convention. They had wonderful conversations about education in local communities, and there was one school per school district. Thatís what a district was. It was a school. Weíve done nothing to consolidate individual boundaries since that time. So Iím fervently opposed to those initiatives, and if we would just have a couple of superintendents Ė never in Arizona has a single administrator gone away. They just donít. It doesnít happen. So I donít pursue that.
Congressman Shadegg, I think it speaks to why the change is so difficult. Itís just the way itís been, and when you start talking about student-centered funding and you start to disclose where the money is going and involving the school, unfortunately thereís not a whole lot of trust of teaching.
I personally support absolutely no tenure, not in favor of contracts, donít believe the number of school district governing board members we have itís 90 percent about who enter into master contracts in a right-to-work state. Local school district governing boards are holding out the last deluge of the union abilities in this state. You donít have to do that in Arizona by law but they do it voluntarily. They write these master contracts. I am whole heartedly opposed to that.
I believe in teachers, and I believe in the classroom. I think itís a much smaller percentage of teachers that canít teach than people thought. We donít give the leadership the ability to get rid of those teachers who are not pulling their weight in school. Itís about involving that school, and I think we have so many good schools and we have so many good teachers, that itís horrifying not to do something about it.
Mr. Shadegg. Do either of you have comments?
Mr. Flake. Yes, I do. No one in the public sector or the private sector willing gives up a monopoly. Thatís just the nature, and I agree with Lisa that you cannot cast a broad brush and say that every employee in this system wants to maintain the system as it is. Thatís certainly not the case, but those who benefit from keeping a monopoly, will keep it.
Mr. Shadegg. I can tell you that there are teachers who do not have the same sense about keeping the same system. My other sister, who is a teacher in another school district, had me do an in-service last summer, and I thought I was going into a hostile environment. I thought it would not be hostile when I talked about what we were doing to loosen federal controls, but when I got there, I certainly though it would be a hostile audience and it was anything but that.
The second topic that I wanted to talk about, and I appreciated your comments Secretary Keegan Superintendent Keegan about and thatís what we want to have happen, Freudian slip about improving teachers and I think indeed choice has the possibility for doing that.
I would like for you to comment on your statement that education reform is an appropriate and indeed essential role of the federal government, because I think some people see it as not being an appropriate role of the federal government and I think itís important to lay that foundation. So Iíd like you to expand on that, if you would.
Ms. Graham Keegan. Congressman Shadegg, Iíve had to practice this, because itís been difficult for me. Itís sort of counter-intuitive for me, because I believe so much in not just local control but family control of public education, but I think that those of us at the state level, and certainly the federal level, have serious roles to play here in the national interest and the interest of children.
At the state level I believe, of course, the State Board of Education of every state must lay out the basic curriculum, the academic standards to meet. At the federal level, there was a decision made oh so many years ago to start the Department of Education, and unfortunately what happens is they promulgate program rather than any particular standard. Therefore, the state ought to be more involved in the education, because itís of the nationís interest but there was no reason, so far as Iíve been able to discern through historical reading on it, why this really happened. There was no philosophy of why that happened other than they need to be more involved and move ahead, which is laudable but didnít work.
Right now we are faced with a situation in which there are federal programs, and although they comprise, as Senator Kyl said, seven percent of our money nationally, about six to seven percent in Arizona, they have become a very important lever particularly for special interest groups, Congressman Shadegg, as you well know. Special education which is an area that I think we all say we feel it is so important, and the federal government has certainly gotten involved there. I think it would be better managed at the state and particularly in individual schools.
So my point is that now what we come up against in this country is, quite frankly, full scale monopoly, and that only bears repeating ideas that do matter, and it does matter that we say the same things over and over and over again. Having that come as a national message is so powerful. For you, Congressman Shadegg, and you, Congressman Hayworth, who get listened to in ways that local officials do not and can not to say that we are about students and thatís our unapologetic focus.
Certainly local district governing boards are one system, public charter schools are one, private schools are one, tax credits are another. Anything that works; every window open, every door open, every crack in the floor accessed. We want it all but our focus on the national basis is on the child.
So weíre going to allow that to happen if states tell us theyíre going to focus that money on children; that theyíre prepared to do that in their state, and Arizona will do it all the way. Other states, quite frankly, are not ready for that yet, but I think youíre saying that it will make a difference. I think that we are ready to hold ourselves accountable for their actions, and by the way, in Arizona the academics are on their way up just as are other things that have been taken very, very seriously.
So Congressman Shadegg, although it has been a difficult position for me to come to. I have changed my mind, and I simply believe it is so critically important, and we are not able to do this alone.
Senator Kyl. Lisa, I appreciate your comments. The question is why should the federal government be dealing with this, and the answer is to dismantle what has become a set of federal regulations on how education dollars can be spent.
My eldest granddaughter leaves off most sentences with the phrase I have an idea, and theyíre all great. They usually involve us doing something or buying something, but federal legislators approach education the same way. They say we have an idea. Well, everybody in the country cares about education.
So legislators get a great idea about education. So they put a bunch of money against it, because we have access to all these federal tax dollars. We have this wonderful idea. Well, if you pile them up, we have over 200 wonderful ideas.
To comply with them, the states have to hire all these bureaucrats, as I said before. Interestingly, 12 states had waivers from a bunch of these programs, and when the other states saw what could be done with that flexibility, they basically said we have a better idea.
We know what we need in our schools. We donít want to use that money on a reading program. We already have a reading program. We need to hire some more teachers for math or whatever. So the planners for this Ed-Flex Bill, education flexibility, said give us the same waivers that these other 12 state have so we can decide how to spend that same money in our own interest.
Thatís the idea. Get the federal regulations, as well meaning as they were, out of the way so the money can be spent by the people that have the best idea about whatís needed. Thatís the reason for this federal legislation.
Mr. Shadegg. I actually have a number of other questions, but I understand my colleague Mr. Hayworth has a time problem, so Iím going to stop at this point, and Iíll be here for a second round.
Mr. Salmon. Congressman Hayworth.
Mr. Hayworth. Good morning. I thank my colleague from the fourth district. Itís good to see our colleague from Colorado here as the Chairman welcomes Mr. Tancredo here. It is of course that four letter word, time, that tends to challenge all of us on our work periods here at home. So thank you, Congressman Shadegg and Mr. Chairman.
Superintendent Keegan, I wanted to revisit what weíve done here with tax credits, specifically going back as I mentioned in my opening statement, the excitement of the folks in Payson saying, Congressman, do you have some time in the town hall meeting to talk about what the legislature has done. We think it is going to be great for our school system and our individual schools.
Do we have an idea of how much money has been contributed in Arizona using these tax credits thus far?
Ms. Graham Keegan. Thank you, Congressman Hayworth. Not yet because the SAIS system is not up or we would have that immediately. Itís just another plug in case youíre talking to your local officials in the Senate. Congressman, we will know at the end of this year. Anecdotally itís hundred of thousands of dollars that have gone to local public schools. I know that in my family we personally made a contribution to the two schools that our children are in, and Iíve talked to very few people who didnít do that. Thatís on the traditional public education side and public charter schools.
On the side of the private groups that give scholarships, we donít know that either exactly, although I think anecdotally we know itís in the range of $1.5 million to $2 million dollars, which is a lot of private school scholarships. We are just delighted with it, and really that was as you know brought to us by Ed Franks and their group and they did a good job on it.
Mr. Hayworth. Weíll look forward to seeing how wide spread this is and the economic impact. Yes, Mr. Flake.
Mr. Flake. It should also be noted that with the Ed-Flex system that the Supreme Court had not ruled at the end of the tax year. So anybody making that contribution in tax year Ď98 was taking a risk and still $1.5 to $2 million was raised this year.
Mr. Hayworth. Let me discuss again the particulars of the Arizona tax credit; maximum $500 credit for private school contribution, a maximum $200 credit contribution for public schools. Superintendent, why the reason for the difference between the contributions to public and private institutions.
Ms. Graham Keegan. Well, obviously because the case of the private school, Congressman Hayworth, thatís going to be the full tuition. In the public schools tuition already is being paid through local taxes, so the total cost of the education is being covered, and these are supplemental funds. In the case of the private and charitable organizations, they are partial payments usually for scholarships.
Mr. Hayworth. I thank you very much, and Mr. Chairman, I look forward to working with you, and Senator Kyl and all our colleagues in moving this forward, and I thank the witnesses very much.
Mr. Salmon. Representative Tancredo from Colorado has just gotten here, and he has a brief statement heíd like to make and has a couple of questions to ask.
OPENING REMARKS OF THE HONORABLE THOMAS TANCREDO, CONGRESSMAN FROM THE STATE OF COLORADO
Mr. Tancredo. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and itís a privilege to be here. I am happy that I could take this opportunity to come down to your state and talk about education, because frankly, I canít think of a state in this nation that has done more for education, and to advance the cause of school choice specifically, which in my estimation anyway is synonymous with education achievement.
I wanted to thank you first of all for what youíve done, and secondly to tell you that one reason I suppose Iím in the Congress of the United States now is because I was sort of forced into this situation. I was forced out of running the Independence Institute in Colorado. I say I was forced out only because I had somebody who was always setting the bar higher and higher and higher for us all Ė all of those who run conservative oriented think tanks.
Heís sitting right in front of us here, Mr. Flake. Iíve often told him if he wasnít such an affable fellow, it would be easy to dislike him, because heís so good at doing what he does. All of us who had to compete with him in that environment found ourselves unable to keep up.
So I decided if thatís the case, if I have to keep up with Mr. Flake, Iím going to Congress. Thatís one reason Iím here, and I mean it, Jeff, youíve done a great job. Iíve certainly admired you, and as you know, your efforts weíve stolen a couple of pages out of your book and would like to be able to do more than just that. We would like to implement a lot of what youíve done here in terms of public policy.
I was the author of a voucher bill when I was in the state legislature back 20 some years ago. I offered a voucher bill, and needless to say, not successfully. I was also the chairman of the education Committee at the time and could not get it out of my own Committee, which tells you something. I used to say perhaps itís an idea so far ahead of its time, but it could also be because Iím just not as talented, but for some reason, we were not able to do that. In 1992 I got it on the ballet; however, it failed, but in 1998 I put a new tax credit on and it got closer. Weíre going to keep trying.
One of the things that I wanted to ask you, both of you to comment on if you would. I guess itís the thing that has over these 22 years surprised me the most about the battle for school choice, because frankly, I thought over all the time that Iíve debated this issue in Congress, primarily in the teachersí union, the NEA, that Iíve heard all of the reasons why we shouldnít have it, all the reasons why we couldnít have it, and all the obstacles of trying to implement it.
There was an underlying current that I became aware of not too long ago, and Iím really wondering what you feel; No. 1, if you feel it exists here, what youíve been able to observe, to what extent if it is something youíve seen, to what extent it may affect or has already affected the progress of school choice in Arizona, and how we may deal with it if you think itís a real phenomenon.
Iím referring to the fact that when we speak about school choice and we talk about the freedom that it gives parents that they do not now have, the freedom to choose from a variety of educational opportunities they would be able to pick. I noticed often when I spoke of this, that there would be people in the audience, and they would be disagreeing or at least not observably agreeing with me.
It became apparent, after how many losses now at the polls, when we do the exit polls, and weíve done also a lot of focus group work. What weíve become aware of is that although there is a desire on the part of a lot of people to accept rhetorically the idea of school choice, there seems to be this gut level fear of it, even for themselves.
Itís one of these things that many parents are saying what, another choice I have to make, and what if I make the wrong one, and although I couldnít begin to verbalize this out loud, I donít want choices for my children. Down deep there is this fear of freedom. I donít know how else to put it, and I donít know how to deal with it. I donít know, again, how wide spread it is and if itís something that we have to be aware of at the moment. I guess Iím just asking what you think about that.
Ms. Graham Keegan. What a great question, Congressman Tancredo. I appreciate it, and obviously yes, Iím very much aware of it, and before we go too much further I have to thank Colorado. Colorado is really the reason that Arizonaís charter school law was written the way it was. It was Colorado that had gone before us and said to us you donít want to do this the way we did it. You want to make a few changes here, here, here, and here. We were the first state to have a board that lets schools come directly, and Iíd like to say that we do that in Arizona because that was Colorado on the phone to us saying think about this. So it does work. States do talk to each other.
Congressman, I think that you have articulated one of the best reasons to push as hard as we can on the responsibility of parents and school choice. I have friends that say to me they are not pleased with the new phone system even though their phone bill came down considerably. Itís overwhelming. I canít choose. I want someone to do that for me, which horrifies me, and we have to sit down and have numerous glasses of Pepsi so we can discuss this Coke, Sprite, whatever it is.
I think that weíve moved. It has been so long that our schools have essentially been the one around the corner. Itís all fine. Weíll take care of it. Drop your kids off. Weíll send them back at the end of the day. It will be easy. Itís a very difficult thing, this role of active parenting to find a school that works.
I also think that one of the reasons we sometimes find public opinion is that the rhetoric becomes against teachers, and it is wrong. I wouldnít I mean, I just think it is a goof ball proposition, tenure and a lot of things that the national union proposes, but those arenít teachers. Thatís an employment organization. Thatís not a teachersí organization. Thatís a completely different interest.
I think for our public institutions itís so important to place teachers first. The reason you want choice is because of teachers. The reason we have public charter schools in Arizona is because of teachers. The reason innovation will happen is because of teachers, and somehow that gets torqued on. Often the other side says these people donít trust public school teachers, yada, yada, yada. We donít say wait a minute, nobody trusts teachers more than we do; otherwise, this would never happen, and we wouldnít believe in choice.
So somehow we allow that message to go sideways, and I also believe that it is a horrible potential reality I donít know if itís true or not of who we have become that we would rather hand off the most fundamentally important decision we have in our childrenís lives to somebody else.
Mr. Tancredo. What happens too, you have to factor this in, itís one of those things you hate to say, but if parents are and again, I hope itís not a general case but I have this feeling often that the reason why they are backing away from it at times is because they are afraid of the choice and afraid of the freedom.
If we go back to the issue of what if I make the wrong choice. Right now, frankly, if I have to send my child to a public school, because I canít afford to do anything else. Itís the school down the street and if something goes wrong, itís not my fault. I can always blame the system. I had no choice. I couldnít do anything about it.
What happens if we take that excuse away, and we say now you have choices and you better make the right one. I mean, thatís a scary proposition if you think about it, and it bugs me, because I donít know how to overcome it. It seems like it shouldnít be there but it seems like it is.
Ms. Graham Keegan. Congressman, and Iíll let Jeff talk in a second. One more thing that is painful, and I think we have got to put it out on the table, and that is the opposition comes from the communities of wealth, and things are just fine. I think we have to deal with that, that all children are entitled to the kind of choice wealthy communities have.
Mr. Salmon. Iíd like to thank the first panel, and we could sit here and talk all day. Weíve got some of the most brilliant minds on education here in the room today, but we do need to move to the second panel. So we thank the distinguished panel for being here today and weíll move to the next panel.
Two of the most important aspects of the education reform question today is the parents and teachers, and today weíre very, very fortunate to have two very distinguished panelists that fill both of those categories. Ms. Hope Silbert is a social studies educator at Sunrise Middle School here in Scottsdale. Today sheíll be testifying about the benefits of tax credits for K-12 education expenses and activities and then Margaret Gillespie, whoís a parent whose children attend Catholic school. She will be talking about the benefits of tax credits for K-12 education expenses and activities as well.
So with that, Ms. Silbert.
STATEMENT OF HOPE SILBERT, EDUCATOR, SUNRISE MIDDLE SCHOOL
Ms. Silbert. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Shadegg, Mr. Tancredo, thank you so much for coming down to Arizona today and my other distinguished panelist.
My name is Hope Silbert, and Iím a teacher at Sunrise Middle School in Paradise Valley. Iím very honored to come to be here today to lend my support and address the KEEN Act. Iíve been an educator in the state of Arizona since 1986, and Iíve seen the effects that budget shortages have had on school programs and extracurricular activities. Many teachers and some special parents have attempted to donate their money out of their pockets to schools. They have not received any lucrative reimbursements, and itís time to right this injustice.
I believe every child has the right to experience education excellence and the time it now. Teachers, students, parents, school administrators, and all tax paying citizens realize the importance of enhancing a childís educational skills. Today we will hopefully take education one step further by helping to enact the K-12 Education Excellence Now Act.
The KEEN bill will empower parents and other tax paying citizens to decide where to put their tax dollars and to receive a federal tax credit when it comes to a childís education. The KEEN Act will help in the following ways:
One is that parents will be able to purchase educational books, computers, or computer software to help augment their childís education.
Parents may also use tutoring as another educational tool, and many people feel that one-to-one interaction can improve a childís focus and educational aptitude and build self confidence.
Another solution that parents and tax-paying citizens have is the option to donate money directly to a schoolís general fund to be distributed throughout the school programs or directly to a specific grade level or department.
The state tax credit program offered by Arizona last year was openly embraced by the parents and friends of the education system. This is only the first year for the program and the funds donated to the extracurricular programs, to public school programs exceeded everyoneís expectations and just think one moment the KEEN Bill will have a more far reaching effect for the children of our country when endorsed by politicians and citizens of American on a nationwide basis.
Parents and tax-paying citizensí money can go directly to the heart of a childís learning experience. This a achieved by donating the money directly to the schools for specific programs. Parents can also donate up to $250 individually or $500 per household and receive a credit federally.
In closing, again, I would like to make a special thank you to Congressman Salmon and Senator Jon Kyl for their support of H.R. 741, K-12 Education Excellence Now Act. These gentleman are looking forward to the future for our children. So the children of our country can make educational strides, build self confidence for a brighter tomorrow, and let us not lose sight of the most important issue of all, and that is the children of American. Thank you.
SEE APPENDIX E Ė WRITTEN STATEMENT OF HOPE SILBERT, EDUCATOR, SUNRISE MIDDLE SCHOOL
Mr. Salmon. Thank you. Margaret.
STATEMENT OF MARGARET A. GILLESPIE, PARENT
Ms. Gillespie. Thank you Representative Salmon, and also Representative Shadegg and Representative Tancredo. Thank you very much for allowing me the opportunity to share my views today with you. I have to say itís an honor, a thrill to be here and be a part of this, and Iíve got to say itís a tough act to follow, this last group of panelists.
My husband, Paul, and I moved to Phoenix in 1981. Our two children grew up and went to school here in Phoenix. Our daughter is now at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and our son is a junior at Brophy College Preparatory. Both kids spent their grade school years at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale. Andrea went on to Xavier College Preparatory her freshman year in high school; however, she was very unhappy in that environment and transferred over to Desert Mountain High School, which is in Scottsdale. Neil is more the product of the Catholic school environment.
Because the kids attended both Catholic and public schools here in the Valley, my husband and I have personally experienced and have definite opinions about each system. More importantly though, we have acknowledged that our children are unique individuals and they have differing needs. Andrea thrived in the public school in high school and Neil thrived in the Catholic school environment.
That leads me to the point I wish to make in the context of todayís hearing. Any legislation that Congress considers should be grounded in one solid principle, that is of empowering parents to seek the education that they believe is best for their children.
When it comes to educating our children, we have to recognize that each child, each family, each individual is very different, and who knows a childís needs better than their own parents. One family especially came to mind as I was preparing this statement. Consider the mother at St. Matthewís who feeds her family beans and rice on a very regular basis so that she can afford the tuition and allow her children to go and have the Catholic education that she believes is crucial to their future.
That is but one example of what parents are willing to do to achieve the educational goals they believe are best for their kids. Giving the families the freedom to choose the education that their kids receive should be paramount in any law passed in Congress and our State legislature.
Arizonaís law allowing individuals to claim a dollar-for-dollar income tax credit for contributions to public, private, and religious schools I believe is a perfect example. In the limited time the tax credit has been available, youíve already discussed it today at length, there are school tuition organizations already set up. I know that the Diocese of Phoenix is one such place where one of these S.T.O.ís has been established, and I know that the hope is that scholarships will soon be made available to allow families seeking a Catholic education to be able to send their children. These may be families that want to see their children attend Catholic schools but they donít have the financial ability to pay tuition. Through this opportunity here in Arizona, they will be empowered to send their children to the schools they believe are best for them.
I have also been reading about how several public high schools, especially in Mesa, are already reaping the benefits of Arizonaís law allowing tax credits for contributions to public schools for extracurricular activities.
Weíve been talking a lot today about the KEEN Act, and from what Iíve learned about that legislation, it appears that the federal government could provide the same empowerment to families at a national level. Now, I understand that the credit will be used toward home schooling, public schools, private schools, religious schools, and for things that are so important such as tuition, books, computers.
We all agree that our country should be constantly seeking ways to improve education, and I think Congress has taken positive steps over the last 30 years to address particular issues under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, but the system has not always accomplished the intended goals. Appropriating federal dollars for various education programs is a good thing unless the dollars are not channeled where they are most needed to benefit the child. Too often the decisions at the local level about how federal dollars are spent are made without the input from individual schools or students. The local education agencies do not always consult with individual schools to determine the needs of their clientele.
The beauty of the tax credit legislation is that it puts the dollars into the hands of those who know what is best for their children. I have never been a proponent of big government, and I believe that the more input that the American people can have on the issues most affecting them, the better. As the primary educators, parents are responsible for directing their childrenís education. I see KEEN providing parents a much-needed tool.
In summary, I believe the federal tax credits proposed in KEEN are good public policy for several reasons. First, these tax credits will directly benefit school children, providing their parents additional resources to meet their childrenís learning needs during the K-12 years. Just as important, these tax credits provide equitable support for each familyís own educational priorities, whether their children are attending public, private, religious, or home schools, and as an added bonus, we parents are provided the rare opportunity to determine where our tax dollars are spent.
For all these reasons, I am very happy to support the educational tax relief package introduced by Arizonaís congressional delegation and to say how proud I am so see Arizona at the forefront of educational progress and reform.
SEE APPENDIX F Ė WRITTEN STATEMENT OF MARGARET A. GILLESPIE, PARENT
Mr. Salmon. Thank you. Iím going to yield to Congressman Shadegg for whatever questions he has at this point because I am told he has to go.
Mr. Shadegg. I simply want to and I do have to be brief thank both of the witnesses for their very thoughtful testimony but more importantly for their involvement in the issue. Hope is a friend of long-standing and I have been to Sunrise Middle School at her invitation and spoken there. I think she does a great job of advocating for children and for children and the education system.
Ms. Gillespie, I think your testimony is extremely well taken and articulate and would be received very well in Washington if delivered by you or by someone else like you, that is by parents involved simply as parents.
There is one point a couple of points I want to make that you may find surprising. The first is I donít know if you realize it, Mrs. Gillespie, but your testimony contains a shocking, a radical statement. What you suggest and you heard Lisa Graham Keegan just a moment ago suggest that indeed education reform is a proper role for the federal government, but you go on and give us a very cautionary piece of instruction. You say that whatever legislation Congress considers should be grounded in this one solid principle, that of empowering parents to seek the education that they believe is best for their children.
I want you to know that that statement and particularly one word in that statement would be viewed in Washington, D.C. as very radical, because as you just said, the legislation that weíre talking about gives parents control over their own tax dollars, but in all of this discussion of choice from Congressman Tancredo, all of it is driven by that one notion that parents ought to be able to select the education that they believe is best for their children.
If you look at the education system we have in America today, it is structured to do the exact opposite, but the worst example of where they are the exact opposite is in Washington D.C., because there, as Senator Kyl just pointed out, you have over 200 programs. I think heís actually low on that number.
Some Members of the United States Congress, the vast majority of whom I would suggest have never been to Arizona, never been to Phoenix, never been to Scottsdale, never been to Sunrise Middle School. Iíve got an idea, as Senator Kylís granddaughter did. Iíve got an idea, and they decide what education is best for the children of America removed from the children by thousands of miles, by layers of bureaucracy, by absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of what these children actually need or what that school actually needs, how they can best allocate and spend its resources. So I think it is a radical statement and would be viewed as that in Washington, because it is so fundamental and so correct.
Beyond that, the second point I want to make before I have to run, which I have to do, is that I want to A) Thank you for speaking out, and B) Implore you to continue to speak out, because quite frankly while the panel we just had was very knowledgeable and had a great deal of expertise and is highly regarded and highly respected, I would say to you that the great debate on this issue, on choice and education, on a student education centered system, on giving parents the ability to choose for their children the education that they believe is best, on empowering teachers and school administrators to write to the school, to approach the school to provide the best possible education for those kids.
The most credible people on that issue are not the people that were on the last panel but are you, because the realty is whenever Lisa Graham Keegan or Jon Kyl or Jeff Flake or John Shadegg make a statement about education, they view it as a political statement by politicians in one form or another. It is viewed with a degree of skepticism, but what you in your case, Hope, a teacher or you, Mrs. Gillespie, as a parent speak out and say, wait a minute, think this through and please understand that the choice is really for the children, that a tax credit program does give you control, that it would make a better school, a better program, and control more of the dollars that are being spent on your childís education. You have vastly more credibility than we do, and I want you to speak out, and I appreciate you being here.
Mr. Salmon. Representative Shadegg I always want to call you Senator Shadegg I appreciate you being here. Representative Tancredo.
Mr. Tancredo. Just a quick question. My wife has just retired after 27 years of teaching in the public schools, middle school in Colorado. She used to say all the time when confronted by her colleagues who knew that she was married to me, her last time was kind of uncommon. They would say Tancredo, is that that guy thatís doing that stuff, and sheíd always say well, you know, itís by marriage. Itís not by blood. She would eventually be able to get out of it like that, but what I wondered from you, to the extent that you confront anything like that with your colleagues because of the position youíve taken here and have taken in the past and have been outspoken.
Ms. Silbert. Well, I would speak on behalf of my colleagues in saying that the state bill that helped forward money for extracurricular activities has been extremely helpful. I do not believe that there is one staff member, at least at my school that I have knowledge of, that is opposed to receiving money to help children with extracurricular enrichment.
We had, unfortunately, due to budget, cuts our intramural programs after school were cut. We can now have parents donate money to help supply money for these after school programs. We have science clubs. We have Internet clubs. What a wonderful way to help supplement these programs by these tax donations. That is an absolute positive and I do not see one negative that goes along with that.
The debate between choice is a very sensitive one, and I know where I stand on certain things. I think that I could speak freely for myself and say that when it comes to teaching, that if any teacher, be it public school, private school, charter school, if theyíre not doing the job, theyíre going to hear about it in a couple of ways. One is through the word of the parent, and one is through the word of the school administrator.
Competition is healthy, and I know at my school we have the best of the best. I am proud to work with my colleagues at Sunrise Middle School who instill wonderful values in educational skills with children. If weíre doing what weíre supposed to be doing, then thereís not a problem at all. Itís when people donít put the 110 percent in just like with children, if theyíre not putting in 110 percent into their academic day, itís going to reflect upon their grades. For teachers, itís very similar. If weíre not putting in that 110 percent and weíre not giving it our all, then itís going to reflect on us. So if weíre doing what weíre supposed to be doing, thereís really no fear of competition at all.
Mr. Tancredo. Thank you. I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful that makes me feel to hear you say that. Again, over all the years of debate on this subject, Iíve always said wouldnít it be wonderful instead of listening to someone, a teacher or teachersí union person is usually the one arguing about it, being so defensive about what they do every day and about the system theyíre in.
Thatís what this is when people say, oh please donít put in vouchers. They run. They hide. They put a cross up to stop it from advancing. What it tells you, of course, is thereís a fear, an innate fear that if people were given the key to the door, they would all run out, because what youíre doing isnít good enough.
Itís so wonderful to hear somebody say bring it on, because weíre great, and we do a great job. I know Iím a good teacher. I know my colleagues will do it. Thatís exactly what the system needs, and by the way, youíre right. I think that you would succeed in any system of competition and of choice, because I can tell right now that you do what you do because you love to do it.
Ms. Silbert. Thank you very much.
Mr. Salmon. I like your comments, Congressman Tancredo, about good teachers will thrive wherever theyíre at. Whether theyíre in the private or public setting, good teachers will always be desired in our society and will always be compensated by the way I think they should be compensated.
Many of us have said weíve had this conversation about teacher salary. Why shouldnít a great teacher make $80,000, $100,000 a year. They should. Someone who is molding the minds of the children in America I think we ought to put that at a premium, but until things turn around in this country, itís not likely that would ever happen. When weíre scoring next to last on the TIMSS report on math and science, people want to get what they pay for.
The current system does not reward excellent teachers. Excellent teachers get the same kind of pay really everybody else does, and I think competition is just a model of excellence that competition is something weíve talked about in our American society for 200 years. Competition breeds success. Thatís what we believe in our economy. When Adam Smith first came out with his theory of a free market, thatís what we believe will happen in education, and it will.
I have one last question, and thank you so much for being here today. The business aspect, do you think that more businesses will get involved and contribute private dollars or excuse me contribute business dollars to our education, and if so, can you please explain.
Ms. Silbert. My hope is that businesses do become more involved as we move into the 21st century. I think itís imperative for businesses to be involved, especially computer companies such as IBM, Apple, Mackintosh. Itís essential. Even law firms, doctors, people from various business sectors.
Itís important for them to integrate into the school so that they understand what is it that the children are learning on a daily basis. So when they graduate from school, there are certain expectations there are set. I think itís important to have that partnership, because the monies that can be donated through businesses can only help a school, be it private, public, charter. I believe that those monies would certainly help enrich a school financially.
I think itís essential for businesses to be involved, and I am certainly not opposed, and I have we have had career days at our school where we get businesses involved, people in the community involved. It is embraced when people come to our school, and there is not one negative thing that comes from that.
Mr. Salmon. Just in summation, Iíd like to say that Representative Shadegg made a comment that you are far more credible because people suspect whatever we say that itís politically motivated. I agree with that and Iíd also like to remind people that in addition to being politicians, many of us also are parents, and we all have children in school.
My oldest daughter will graduate from high school this year and I have four children in the public school setting. They have been in the public school setting since they were in kindergarten. I have a child thatís a senior in high school, one thatís a junior in high school, one thatís in the 8th grade in middle school, and one thatís in the 5th grade in elementary school. I for one donít really want to spout just political rhetoric when it comes to my childrenís future. I want them to be successful, what parent doesnít.
Iím reminded of the commercial about the salsa and the cowboys are sitting around the camp fire and then they say New York City. Why is it that we always have to draft our education policy by what works in New York City, what works in Washington, D.C. thatís right what works in New York.
Letís get rid of this one size fits all approach. Letís empower teachers and children to be able to take control of the destiny of their education, the future of their education. What can be more pro-education than that.
So Iíd like to thank everybody for being here today. Itís been a wonderful hearing, and weíll go back and have good things to report back to the Education Committee, and we hope that our childrenís stake in this legislation will be successful. Thank you very much.
This hearing is now concluded.
[Whereupon, at 12:01 P.M., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]