Poor little rich kids’ schools

by David Safier

Districts serving rich kids are upset that those lucky districts with all the poor kids — and the even luckier districts with lots of kids who don't speak English — are getting too much money. The rich want their fair share, damn it!

If this sounds like something Mitt "47 percent" Romney said to a bunch of rich donors, well, he might have, but he didn't. No, this message is from Brewer, her conservative cronies and — shame on him! — Vail Superintendent Calvin Baker.

The Star has an interesting article about Brewer's Performance Funding scheme to reward the winners and punish the losers. Superintendents in "loser" districts, represented by TUSD's John Pedicone, hate Performance Funding, while superintendents in "winner" districts, represented by Vail's Calvin Baker, love it. Pedicone is on the side of the angels on this one. Baker, on the other hand — a capable superintendent who is understandably looking for a few more bucks for his schools — is sounding like a greedy, spoiled, entitled son of a bitch. He wrote an email that's summarized in the article.

Vail doesn't receive as much funding because it has fewer disadvantaged students than other districts, he wrote. Just 30 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

Since poorer school districts get extra money for disadvantaged students, districts with higher-achieving students should receive more money for succeeding, he said.

"Money for succeeding." Translation: Vail is doing a better job than TUSD, which is failing to educate its students. I suppose that's what Mr. Baker tells parents at schools' big money fundraisers (I doubt they have to depend on bake sales to raise extra money) and when he crows about how much money the district got from its affluent parents — and grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends — in the form of end-of-the-year tax credits. "We're a successful district, unlike . . . those guys over there."

Mr. Baker's a smart man. He knows the extra ELL funds received by districts like TUSD don't nearly cover the added costs, nor does the extra funding from special education. And he knows — at least I hope he knows, if he can stop patting himself on the back for a minute — that the teachers at his "A" schools would not work miracles at TUSD's "C" and "D" schools. Put the "A" school teachers in "C" and "D" schools and by January, most of them would be going home sobbing every day saying to themselves, "I don't know what to do. I just don't know what to do!" After they got over the shock to their systems in a year or two, they'd be fine. Not more successful than the current staffs at those schools, but fine.

Baker is giving his version of the Brewer talking points, summed up by Craig Barrett, the head of Brewer's Arizona Ready Education Council (AREC). At a Yuma gathering, Barrett said his goal is that "the state basically equalizes the funding across school districts on a statewide basis not a local basis." That would mean Vail, Catalina Foothills and Scottsdale school districts would get the same amount of money per student as TUSD, Sunnyside and Flowing Wells. Forget the educational challenges that demand extra staff and extra resources at the schools with less affluent students. "Equal" to the entitled means the same amount of money per student, no matter what — or maybe a bit more to the affluent students who are, to quote the pig Snowball in Animal Farm, "more equal than others."

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