Tag Archives: ASBA

A Cautionary Tale

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

Prop 123: Show Me The Money!

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

Since the passage of Proposition 123, I’ve heard people ask where the money went. Did it really go to raise the salaries of Arizona’s teachers?

An August 2016 survey on Prop. 123 funding conducted by the Arizona School Boards Association and the Arizona Association of School Business Officials had 83 school districts (representing over half of Arizona’s students) respond. The survey largely reinforced the narrative that adequate compensation to attract and retain teachers towers as the top priority statewide. Most of the districts concentrated their Prop. 123 funding in teacher and staff bonuses for FY2016, and a full 74% of districts budgeted the additional FY2017 funds for the same.

Survey responses from across the state (21% urban, 24% suburban, 53% rural and 2% remote) affirmed the varied needs of our district schools and for locally elected governance. In some cases, the funding priorities were supplies, textbooks, technology and school building maintenance and repair, all of which support the learning environment. Continue reading

In Defense of Full-Day K

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

One of the topics of discussion at the recent Arizona State Board of Education was the need for full day kindergarten. The minutes of the meeting report that Phil Francis, CEO of Petsmart, “gave a presentation about the importance of full day kindergarten as a grade and the efforts to bring this to Arizona. The intention of the group, comprised of business leaders, legislators and parents, is to make kindergarten a grade with rigor, requirements, accountability and benchmarks.” Arizona State Senator Steve Smith also spoke at the meeting “as a parent and as a legislator in support of this initiative.” He said “his goal is to first find out if this is something that Arizona wants and then the legislature will find money during the budget process.”

I have several issues with both their comments. First of all, there is no research data that shows kindergarten should be “a grade with rigor, requirements, accountability and benchmarks.” In fact, Finland (generally considered the best school system in the world), does not even start their children in school until they are seven years old. Numerous studies show young children need time to play and that putting too much pressure on our youngest students may cause them to miss out on other critical development and lose a love of learning. Continue reading

Partisan? You bet! My party is Public Education.

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

I am a big believer in the two-party system. Our system of government works best when all sides are heard and considered. That is most likely to happen when the power is balanced, forcing legislators to negotiate and compromise. Our founding fathers purposefully designed many checks and balances into our system and I believe our two-party system helps in that regard.

In Arizona, the Democrats must gain only two additional seats in the State Senate to reach parity with the Republicans and in my opinion that would be a very good thing. Then, our senators from both parties would be forced to work together in finding good compromises to solve the problems facing our state.

One of the biggest problems facing our state is the inadequate resources provided our district schools. Arizona is one of the nation’s leaders in promoting school choice and although 80-plus percent of our students choose district schools, resources continue to be siphoned away from these schools in favor of other options. Many of our legislators, largely the Democrats, get this. Several Republicans are also on board. Continue reading

Here we go again…

The second regular session of the Arizona 52nd Legislature officially begins on January 11, 2016.   If past performance is any indication, that means it won’t be long until we see numerous anti-public education bills proposed, some of which will be reruns. With the Inflation Funding Lawsuit settled (pending approval by the voters on May 17th), it will be interesting to see what comes up next. Governor Ducey and the GOP-led legislature will no doubt continue to make political hay from the settlement, but pro-public education advocates are loaded for bear and will be watching for what the legislature does next with regard to public education.

The Friends of ASBA, a sister organization of the Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA), compiles a record each year of how Arizona legislators voted on high priority K-12 education bills. The record shows how each AZ legislative member voted on education bills during the session. I wanted to compute a score though, so I awarded 10 points for each vote in accordance with ASBA’s position, 1 point for those votes in opposition to it and 5 points when a member was eligible to vote but did not. Then I divided each member’s total by the number of bills they voted on.   When a bill did not come before a member, I just reduced the denominator (total number of bills) by one.

As you might suspect, Republican legislators scored an average of 39 percent for voting in accord with ASBA recommendations and Democrats scored 87 percent. This is not to say that every Republican voted against all public education legislation, or that every Democrat voted for all of it. Bright spots on the right side of the aisle include Representatives Heather Carter with a score of 91, Chris Ackerley with a score of 73, and Representative Bob Robson with a score of 77. Senators Jeff Dial and Adam Driggs both had scores of 70.  All Democrat’s scores were 80 percent or higher except for Senator Barbara McGuire with a 73 and Senator Ed Ableser (who has since retired) with a score of 74.

2015 was a very busy year for education advocates but luckily, their earnest efforts paid off and those bills most harmful to our public education students did not pass. Examples include HB2174 introduced by Rep Mark Finchem, which sought to expand empowerment scholarship accounts once again, HB2190 also introduced by Finchem, which would have prohibited implementation of AZ College and Career Ready Standards (already in use for 4-5 years), and HB 2079 sponsored by Rep Petersen and SB 1173 sponsored by Sen Yee, which would have imposed even more restrictions on local bonding efforts.

The second session of this legislature promises to be as exciting as the first and public education proponents will no doubt be watching determine the Governor and Legislature’s true intentions regarding public education. If the 2016 budget does not include a plus-up for public education, that will be a clear sign that despite the inflation lawsuit settlement, they 1) are not listening to the citizens of Arizona who have made clear that education is a funding priority (as a recent poll showed), 2) are not really friends of public education and 3) really are out to privatize Arizona’s public schools, to the detriment of those students least able to take advantage of other options. Money may not be the only answer, but it can be no coincidence that Arizona was 48th in the Nation for cuts to per pupil funding and 44th in education performance. It is way past time to move the marker in the right direction.