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Tue, July 16

Editorial: Education tries the free market

It's a time-honored tradition in America that if someone has a good product or service, they should advertise it.

Back in the early years of this century, the Prescott Unified School District launched an aggressive marketing plan to fight the loss of enrollment to charter schools. Arizona has open enrollment, which means that parents can send their children to any school district.

Since employing the marketing plan with donated money, PUSD has enjoyed about a 2 percent enrollment growth every year.

Now the scramble for students among school districts has grown even more competitive. Recently, the Humboldt Unified School District, because of a donation from N. L. Booth & Sons, mailed out postcards to all households in the quad-city area, including Mayer, touting the virtues of enrolling students in that district.

The mailing cites, among other advantages, a five-day school week when the Chino Valley Unified School District is planning a move to a four-day week, and the Mayer Unified School District already is operating on a four-day week.

The HUSD solicitation also highlights transportation to several of its schools, a new athletic field, a new performing arts center, a state-recognized English Language Learner program and food and nutrition programs.

HUSD Superintendent Henry Schmitt says the mailing, like PUSD's marketing plan, targets students in charter schools and home schooling.

But because the amount of money every district operates on depends on the number of students it has enrolled, other districts in the marketing area are less than enchanted with the effort.

Chino Valley School District Superintendent Duane Noggle said HUSD's direct marketing to every household in Chino Valley "goes against the spirit of cooperation" fostered by a May 1 joint meeting of the governing boards from Chino Valley, Prescott, Humboldt and Mayer school districts.

Both the Chino Valley and Mayer district governing boards have voted to suspend their participation in the cooperative effort.

If we truly believe in a free-market economy, then the other districts have an equal right to advertise themselves. Competition is a good thing, and it should inspire all districts to improve the education they offer their students.

Welcome to the free market.

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