Boondoggle: High-Tech High School In Phoenix
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I wrote an article recently for that describes how and why the state of Arizona is on the verge of going bankrupt. Emphasis was put on the role that the education of illegal aliens is playing in the budget crisis. The City of Phoenix has similar financial pressures — they are even contemplating pink-slipping hundreds of police officers and even more supporting staff. Cara Liu reported for KPHO the following:
Phoenix Police To Get Pink Slips?, 1/20/2010

As the city of Phoenix struggles with dramatic budget woes, all departments are being asked to make cuts. That includes the Phoenix Police Department.

Phoenix police spokesperson Sgt. Trent Crump confirmed the department has been asked to prepare to cut as much as 15 percent of its budget — about $70 million.

Phoenix seems to have big wads of cash to spend when it comes to schools that nobody wants to attend. Case in point: Phoenix spent gobs of cash to build a school called CREST for the purpose of educating and training today's students to become the unemployed techies of tomorrow. The problem for the school is that few students are interested in attending.
High-tech school off to slow start A new high school expected to boost the number of Arizona's science and technology professionals has attracted interest from only about half of the number of students it plans to enroll in the fall.

The Center for Research in Engineering, Science and Technology hopes to enroll as many as 150 students in its freshman class when it opens in northeast Phoenix in fall 2010, but so far slightly more than 60 students have submitted applications for the "small, specialty" school.

Now for a stupidity test: both the City of Phoenix and the State of Arizona hire large numbers of H-1B and L-1 visa holders for staffing and computer/IT maintenance. Click here to see a Labor Condition Application from Phoenix to hire an H-1B employee for a $17 per/hour position at the city parks. In addition to importing foreign workers the city also offshores work. So, considering how Phoenix is undercutting STEM professionals that are Arizona residents and U.S. citizens, why are they trying to get more kids to get educations in fields Phoenix won't hire them for?

I received commentary about this fiasco that has so many good points I decided to use it here (with permission of the author):

Wow, these people are really obsessed with the idea of getting more kids into science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. They built this new high school in NE Phoenix especially for that purpose. Since not enough kids are applying to go to this school, the district is now "working with marketing people" to try to convince more kids from outside the district to enroll. What the heck, it's a free public high school specializing in science, math, etc., and they have to try to market themselves to convince more parents and kids to partake in this free science education?

Phoenix proposed a grant two years ago to encourage Phoenix high schools to offer programs that could increase the number of high-school graduates planning to pursue STEM-related careers and post-secondary education. Having a limited number of students graduating from Arizona colleges entering STEM-related fields is a major threat to Arizona's economy, said Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon at the school's groundbreaking, 'This has been about job creation, too,' he said. 'Now we get to put lots of people to work.'

Rather than complaining about the 'limited number of students graduating from Arizona colleges entering STEM-related fields', why don't they bother to consider the career prospects/outcomes for the Arizonans who DO graduate from Arizona colleges with STEM degrees? And it seems fairly obvious to me that it is not a 'limited number of students' that are earning such degrees, but a rather large number of students, in significant excess of the demand for workers with these skills in Arizona.'

Predictably, the readers' comments at the bottom of the article ridicule Arizona kids for being too stupid for this wonderful new school that has been built for them, and for not jumping at the opportunity to attend such a school. I disagree. I think maybe the kids should be applauded for not falling for the stupid scam the adults are trying to sell them on. Maybe the kids are smart enough to notice that the influential adults (politicians, education policy makers, etc.) pushing this idea are not scientists or engineers themselves, but almost certainly come from law or business backgrounds. If a STEM career doesn't lead to power, influence, prestige, etc., then what does it get you? Answer: scientists and engineers work in the service of major business and political interests over which they can exert only very limited influence or autonomy.

Probably the kids' thinking on this matter is not that complicated though. I'm guessing the main reason that more kids aren't enrolling is that they want to stay at their current school (whether the education there is good or lousy) because they already have an established peer network there, and that is probably the most important thing in most adolescents' lives.

by "Adam in Tempe, Arizona"

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