On Wednesday, the Oakland school board voted 4–3 to close three of California’s highest performing schools: the American Indian Model (AIM) charter schools. When Ben Chavis took over the American Indian Public Charter School just over a decade ago, it was the worst peformer in Oakland—an utter shambles. Today, it and the two sister schools Chavis created are among the highest-performing in the entire state. I know—I did the math. In a 2011 study comparing the performance of all of California’s charter school networks, I found that AIM was #1 by a wide margin. For contrast, I included in the study two of the state’s most elite, academically selective high schools: Lowell in San Francisco and Gretchen Whitney outside of Los Angeles. After controlling for student characteristics and peer effects, the AIM network beat them both—not just on the official state tests, but on the Advanced Placement tests administered by the College Board as well. More remarkable, AIM accomplished all that while spending less per pupil than the Oakland Unified School District, whose performance is abysmal by comparison. And that’s the great irony of the school board’s vote to close the AIM schools: the board accuses Ben Chavis, who is now retired, of fiscal irregularities or mismanagement during his tenure. Think about that: The board’s own schools are expensive failures. The AIM network is an incredibly cost-effective success. Yet somehow Chavis is the one accused of mishandling a budget? The core of the allegations seems to be that Chavis, who has a real-estate business, leased space to his schools and made money from that transaction, while vaulting AIM schools to stratospheric success. So, naturally, we should punish his schools. $#%#?!?
Featuring Dan Ikenson, Director, Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, Cato Institute; Simon Lester, Policy Analyst, Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, Cato Institute; Daniel Pearson, Senior Fellow, Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, Cato Institute; and Bill Watson, Policy Analyst, Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, Cato Institute.
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In this issue of the Cato Journal, economists Geoffrey Black, D. Allen Dalton, Samia Islam, and Aaron Batteen offer one prominent example of allowing the market to work. Also in this issue, economists Jason E. Taylor and Jerry L. Taylor reexamine the relationship between marginal tax rates and U.S. growth, and Robert Krol looks at bias in CBO and OMB economic forecasts.
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