Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.
Arizona may be at, or near, the bottom in many education related statistics, but when it comes to a school choice friendly environment, we are #1. That’s why, when executive committee members of their state school boards associations got together last year in Oakland for the Pacific Region National School Boards Association meeting, the Arizona team shared their story of eroding legislative support (funding and supportive legislation) for our district schools as a cautionary tale.
It all began in Arizona with the Legislature’s authorization for charter schools in 1994 and of course, open enrollment so parents could choose to enroll their children in any public school in the state, not just in their district. This mattered because 1) it told parents they were free to look for greener grass elsewhere, versus watering the grass they had, and 2) all that mattered was their child’s education, the hell with the rest.
Arizona’s first charter school opened in 1995. Now 180,000 students attend about 550 charter schools in Arizona equating to 16% of the students and 30% of the public schools. In 2010 in fact, Arizona had the highest number of charter schools per capita in the nation. The competition created with district schools wasn’t all bad. Many district schools offer fuller curriculums with more specialty programs than they once did. But, for corporate reformers, that wasn’t enough. Continue reading
Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.
A couple of nights ago, I was talking with a news editor who asked me about the effect of the voucher expansion on homeschoolers. He said when he homeschooled his child, he saw it as his responsibility to bear those costs. He wondered with the new expansion, if homeschoolers would now get taxpayer dollars to teach their child at home. I told him homeschoolers were always eligible for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs), or vouchers (I prefer to call them what they really are), but their child needed to be in one of the eligible categories such as: having a disability, from a D or F rated school, living on tribal land, dependents of military, wards of the state, etc. With the latest expansion of eligibility though, all categories of children are eligible for the vouchers. He surmised it wouldn’t take long to reach that cap, given there are some 20,000 homeschooled children in Arizona.
It is difficult to find clear data about the number of homeschoolers but a general estimate is from three to four percent of the school-age population. Given that, we are looking at 30,000 to 40,0000 students in Arizona. Another source I found from 2011 quoted the number at 22,500, so in the interest of being conservative, let’s go with 25,000. To the news editor’s point, if all 25,000 estimated homeschoolers took vouchers, that would deplete Arizona’s general fund by $110 million in taxpayer dollars which are then not available for district education or other critical programs and services. And this new outlay would not be offset by any reduced costs on the part of the state since previously, parents were footing this bill. At three to four percent though, homeschoolers are just a fraction of those who could take the vouchers and run. Continue reading
Too few people read newspapers, and too many who do read only the headline caption to an article. Copy editors write the headlines, and too often the headlines are misleading and do not accurately reflect the content of the reporting.
For example, our sad small town newspaper the Arizona Daily Star ran the headline “Arizona spends less in classrooms” in its print edition, and “Arizona spending in classrooms declines year over year” in its online version for this Howard Fischer report. The Arizona Capitol Times similarly ran the headline “K-12 classroom spending reaches all-time low” for Fischer’s report.
So kudos to the copy editor of the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff for a headline that accurately reflects Howard Fischer’s reporting, Amid cuts in state capital funds, classroom spending falls:
Arizona’s mainstream public schools overall spent less of the money they received last year in the classroom than in any of the 16 years the state has been keeping track.
The trend tracks a cumulative $2 billion cut in state capital funding since 2009, forcing many school districts to shift dollars from teacher salaries and instruction into air conditioner and boiler repairs.
And state funding per pupil, when adjusted for inflation, has fallen from $8,794 in 2008 to $7,746 now.
Posted in Arizona State Legislature, AZBlueMeanie, Budgets, Charter Schools, Constitution, Corruption, Courts, Education, GOP War On..., Governor, Infrastructure, Legislation, Media, Party Politics, Propositions, Scandals, Taxes