Category Archives: Charter Schools

Our lawless Tea-Publican legislature is starving school districts, reducing classroom spending

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.

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School ‘vouchers for all’ bills scheduled to be heard beginning Thursday

Our lawless Tea-Publican legislature intends to fast-track the unconstitutional “vouchers for all” bills today in committee hearings. Tea-Publican legislators routinely disregard the advice of legal counsel. Rules attorneys warn bills are unconstitutional — to no avail.

The Arizona Republic reports, Republicans fast-track school-voucher bill in Arizona Legislature:

Republican lawmakers in the Arizona Legislature are attempting to fast-track a plan to eventually offer vouchers to every public-school student and, in separate legislation, privatize oversight of the public money given to parents to pay private-school tuition and other expenses.

Beginning Thursday, the Legislature will train its sights on the plan to broaden eligibility for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, a school-choice program created six years ago for disabled children. Under the legislation, all of Arizona’s 1.1 million students would be eligible for the program by 2020.

Sen. Debbie Lesko, of Peoria (above), and Rep. John Allen, of Scottsdale, have introduced identical bills to expand the program in their chambers, a move intended to expedite passage. ESAs allow families to use public-school dollars on private-school tuition and other educational expenses.

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Money changes everything: GOP Senate approves unqualified Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary

For the first time in American history, a vice president had to vote in the Senate to break a tie on a Cabinet nominee, and Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Donald Trump’s education secretary. With historic tiebreaker from Pence, DeVos confirmed as education secretary:

The Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as education secretary Tuesday by the narrowest of margins, with Vice President Pence casting a historic tiebreaking vote after senators deadlocked over her fitness for the job.

The entire Democratic caucus of 48 senators voted against DeVos, as did two Republicans, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, who said they did not think that DeVos was qualified for the job. The remaining 50 Republicans voted for her, setting up a 50-50 tie that could be broken only with Pence’s vote.

It marked the first time that a vice president’s tiebreaker was needed to confirm a Cabinet secretary, according to Daniel Holt, an assistant historian in the Senate Historical Office. And it was the first time a vice president cast any tiebreaker in the Senate since Richard B. Cheney did so nine years ago.

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School Choice: Get informed, then join the fight!

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

This week is National School Choice Week and not surprisingly, there is a fair amount of confusion about just what school choice is. Maybe because even in Arizona, (the state the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) rates as #1 for its school choice policies), over 80% of Arizona students actually “choose” their community district schools and therefore don’t pay much attention to the school choice debate. But, that percentage may be at risk since corporate profiteers are well-funded and persistent and continue to purchase influence with lawmakers who chip away at district resources and ease the way for the commercialization of our community schools.

This commercialization has been fed by a lucrative $700 billion education market and the Conservative mantra that all human endeavors placed in the hands of private enterprise succeed, whereas those run by the government do poorly. President Reagan famously quipped after all, “Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.”

I believe though, there are some services that government is best suited for. These include those that provide for our security, safety such as our military, fire and police services, and  yes, those whose mission is to ensure the education of ALL children. Can private entities provide these services? Yes, but from my 22 year experience in the military, they are likely to cost more (contract creep), less likely to serve all equitably, and more likely to be concerned about making a profit than focused on meeting the needs of those they are hired to served. Continue reading

Graham Keegan is “Very Pleased” With DeVos…What a Shock!

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

I started reading Thomas Friedman’s latest book this morning, “Thank You for Being Late, An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations.” I’m only in the second chapter, but in it he credits Craig Mundy, former Chief of Strategy and Research at Microsoft, with using the terms “disruption” and “dislocation” when speaking about the effect of acceleration. Mundy defines “disruption” as, “what happens when someone does something clever that makes you or your company look obsolete. “Dislocation” is the next step — “when the rate of change exceeds the ability to adapt.

I argue the education reform movement has been working hard for some time now to disrupt truly public education; to find “something clever” that makes district education look obsolete. Unfortunately for them, the results haven’t quite matched up to the rhetoric. While school choice advocates like to promote the “magic of the marketplace thinking,” they just don’t have a good track record of improving overall student achievement. And yet, Lisa Graham Keegan, Executive Director of A for Arizona & Glenn Hamer, President & CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry fall all over themselves in an exuberant support piece for Trump’s Secretary of Education (SecED) nominee, Betsy DeVos. They are “very pleased with her nomination” writing that it, “signals a shift in the conversation around education policy in exactly the right way.” Let’s be real. What they are really hoping is that if confirmed, Betsy DeVos will propel the commercialization of district community schools at a “rate of change” that “exceeds the ability to adapt”, i.e., that it will cause “dislocation.” Continue reading

They can have their own opinions, but not their own facts

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com. (Note: the links to sources dropped out of this document. You can click on the link above to go to the original document.)

The first session of the 53rd Legislature began yesterday and as we public education advocates “batten down the hatches” and plan our “assaults”, I thought it a good time to provide what I believe are some of the most salient facts about the state of education in Arizona today.

Educational Achievement. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count 2016 report ranks us 44th in the nation, Education Week’s Quality Counts 2016 ranks us 45th, and WalletHub 48th. Might there be a nexus to our other rankings provided below?

Per Pupil Funding. Our K–12 state formula spending (inflation-adjusted), was cut 14.9% from 2008 to 2016 leaving us 48th in the nation.

Propositions. The $3.5 billion Prop. 123 provides over 10 years (only 70% of what voters approved and the courts adjudicated) disappears in 2026. Prop. 301, which includes a 0.6% state sales tax, raises about $600 million per year for schools and self-destructs in 2021. There is now talk of increasing the tax to a full cent which would bring in around $400 million more per year or, adding an additional penny which would up it $1 billion.

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