Chair of AZ Senate Ed Cmte Needs Education

Cross-posted from

AZ Senator Sylvia Allen, Senate Education Committee Chair, recently asked, “When is it [funding for education] ever enough?” That depends on what kind of educational opportunities we want to offer our students. Additional funding alone can’t assure high quality schools, but it can provide a broader curriculum, more experienced teachers, smaller class sizes, better maintained facilities more conducive to learning, and much more.

It might be better to ask how much IS NOT enough. I believe there is not enough when: our educational performance is ranked 44th in the nation, our per pupil funding 48th, and our teacher salaries 50th2,000 of our classrooms are without a teacher and another 2,000-plus are filled by uncertified personnel; and our districts received only two percent of the facility repair and maintenance funding they needed from 2008 to 2012, creating a backlog impossible to clean up under current funding constraints.

Senator Allen refers to the Proposition 204 vote as proof Arizonans aren’t willing to pay higher taxes to support education. Well, that was five years ago, and polling data from December 2016 shows 77 percent of Arizonans believe the state should spend more on education and 61 percent (about the same percentage that defeated 204) support paying higher taxes to do just that. Yes, Proposition 123 was “creative”, but it didn’t provide enough to move us up even one place in per pupil funding and as the AZ Daily Sun points out, those in charge at the Capitol are “running out of non-tax gimmicks to tap.”

She also asks if people are willing to move funding from another area — should we let our roads deteriorate or sex offenders out of prison or reverse the millions spent on child safety? Bad examples in my mind since the AZ Legislature has consistently raided the HURF monies to fund the Department of Public Safety essentially causing residents to be taxed again when car repairs are forced by deteriorating roads, and private prisons cost us $4.60 per day per prisoner more than the public ones they replaced $4.60 per day per prisoner in 2010. Yes, this figure is dated, but a more current one is not available because the Legislature mandated the collection of that data be halted.

I’m guessing Senator Allen has her own ideas about how to better support the 80 percent of Arizona students in our district schools. Since she specifically asked for recommendations from readers, though, I will offer mine:
1. Curtail the tax cuts and credits for corporations;
2. Stop attempts to allow even more siphoning off of our district funds to private and religious schools via voucher (Empowerment Scholarship Accounts) expansions;
3. Close corporate loopholes in the tax code;
4. Renew Proposition 301 (which expires in 2020) and increase it to a full penny (currently at one-half cent). Sixty-five percent of the respondents to the December poll supported this idea which will bring in an estimated $400 million more per year; and
5. Convene stakeholder meetings to discuss recommendations from the Governor’s Classrooms First Council (which state additional funding was needed) and long-term funding solutions that include new revenue sources and an update of Proposition 301.

Senator Allen concludes by saying, “I understand as legislators we’re an easy target…”, As an Arizona taxpaying citizen, I would remind her that she and her colleagues get paid to ensure the state’s business is taken care of, including the constitutional mandate to provide for, maintain and enrich our public schools. President Teddy Roosevelt said, “Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining.” I’ve offered five realistic solutions to get our district schools the resources they need. How about you Senator Allen?

11 thoughts on “Chair of AZ Senate Ed Cmte Needs Education”

  1. Linda. You also did not take into account the free solar energy teachers can get in Arizona. What a disingenuous argument. John, stop giving revenue away. Give school districts what the law requires. Give school districts their capital money like your legislature agreed to in the last litigation. And give cities their HURF money back to fix streets. They hypocrisy is breathtaking.

  2. Talk about misleading (lying?) with statistics. The claim in the second paragraph of the post takes the prize:

    “It might be better to ask how much IS NOT enough. I believe there is not enough when: our educational performance is ranked 46th in the nation…”

    When you go to the study and choose the score titled “K-12 Achievement” in the drop down menu, you discover that on this best measure of educational performance Arizona is not 46th but 31st and ONLY 2.1 points below the U.S average.

    While we need to do a lot better, the bloggers claim that we are 46th is misleading. As we used to say when I was a cop, “BUSTED!!!!”

    • Hi John. Not trying to lie or be misleading. But, I was looking at the wrong year of data. AZ is actually 44th, not 46th. I’ll make that change. Here’s the link to the page to which I am referring: It shows AZ at an overall C- for K-12 Achievement.

      Just to be clear, I am at times biased or mistaken, but I do not lie. Too bad we cannot say this about our President.

      • I did say, “misleading (lying?) with statistics” but I was being a bit flippant and I do not think you are lying.

        However, even using the new data with respect to ACHIEVEMENT and that is what I am commenting on based upon your “education performance” comment, Arizona is even better at a ranking of 26th and only 0.3 points below the U.S, average. I also suspect that if the feds did not require English learners to take the tests so early, we would rank even better.

        My point is that while funding is too low in Arizona, our student are not performing that bad as a whole. In addition, none of the salary and funding rankings take cost of living into account.

        • I have hear John, that many AZ GOP Legislatures believe they get a good return on investment for the dollars spent on public education. In other words, it’s okay with youse guys to spend at the 48th level, but have a education performance of well to be fair…let’s call it somewhere between 26 and 44%. It all comes down to dollars and cents doesn’t it? As a taxpayer, I don’t think this is anywhere near a good enough investment NOR a good enough performance!

  3. do you understand what power is? the voters decide not your arguments. any time spent not getting democrats elected is a waste of time. I do understand whining is more fun. if senate ed.cmt. says you lost the election to your reason argument you have no answer.

  4. Dear John,
    You obviously have not been to the northern rural schools. Even the charters suck at finding qualified people willing to work for free. Why should only the parents pay when everyone benefits from an educated work force? I do not want a caregiver who cannot read or do simple math in my old age. It is very sad when I go to a pre-school and the aides can barely read to the children, since their reading level is barely third grade. Cashiers In Arizona can rarely count back change. Sad, so sad, that you feel money in education is wasted John. I have another idea to add -consolidate districts so there are fewer administrative personnel. Make them by county and then, maybe then, there would be the funds for all those disabled kiddos that are getting the short end of the stick. So sad that therapists are paid by the hour and few are full-time staff. Thirty minutes a week is only a dent on sometimes big academic deficits.

    • Go out and search the archives. You will find a Native American newspaper with me on the front page. Only superintendent to visit the Navajo Reservation in the last 32 years. A teacher who was just named by Education Week as a national model was uncovered by me on that trip. He was also featured in Time Magazine in a four page center fold in May of 2012 under the headline “Education that Works”.

      I didn’t visit schools in all 22 tribes in Arizona but I visited most of them.

      I feel your pain. They have done some super sophisticated studies of academic achievement that have laid out academic achievement as a function of not just poverty but dislocated poverty. Nowhere in America is poverty more dislocated than it is in Arizona tribes. So much so that while we have demographics which are number one in the nation (Blacks in 8th grade math), our Native Americans are almost dead last in every category among the 32 or so states which publish academic results for Native Americans.

      It is a mark of shame for all of us in Arizona education.

      But, not one that can be solved by money. No group needs education transformation more than Native Americans.

      Perhaps 3% of Native American students can pass the common core standards for children. We now have this bizarre Potemkin village education system where students who have difficulty counting above 10 are being taught fractions. I have done 6 cycles of teach and reteach with students who add on their fingers. Not one of them was capable of learning fractions – a fourth grade standard. These poor students can learn to count, to add, to subtract and once they learn those things, they likely can learn fractions. But, we will never know – our conveyor belt education culture has passed them by.

      You can fool yourself into believing these students can learn fractions. They did a famous study at MIT where they had all the students who got an A on a physics test, brought them back 3 weeks later and they all received F’s on the same test.

      Careful measurement of permanent knowledge and skills is necessary to reveal truth in education. We have built a temporary memory culture in a business supposedly dedicated to permanent memory. That temporary memory culture is district education. It needs to be destroyed to make way for what will come next.

      Native Americans will be the biggest beneficiaries.

  5. You can do all of your funding ideas, get them completely in place – to what end? Come back two years later to this blog and all of the language will be the same – woe is us, we are underfunded, we are victims, all of the problem is not enough money, the republicans are evil. All you will have done is consume enormous resources to no positive end.

    We know what the return on money is in education – zero. Over just the last two weeks, I have spent over 20 hours watching videos of school board meetings of what might be the highest performing school board in America. Underfunded? You wouldn’t have a clue. They are moving, approving new state of the art assessment systems, developing and putting in place comprehensive programs for integrating with local businesses, completely knowledgeable about their college attendance, persistence and graduation rates through the clearinghouse system, using that data to improve outcomes for their students. Completely knowledgeable about their market share versus charters, completely knowledgeable about their market share versus other districts and putting in brutal hours of study committee to put all together in a great product. This is happening right now in Arizona. In addition to all this technical excellence, they do all the cultural competence activities and more that you would expect from a great school board. There is not one iota of victim hood in this school district – just breathtaking, laser beam focus on better outcomes for parents and students.

    Now, want to talk about the vastly better funded Tucson Unified School District?

    • “We know what the return on money is in education – zero. ”

      The revealed preferences of every parent who spends thousands of dollars per year to send their children to private schools suggest this assertion is false. If you truly believed this, you wouldn’t support vouchers to help upper-middle class households send their children to private schools at taxpayer expense.

      • Returns to private school fall into the same category. The very best studies which carefully adjust for demographics and income also show negative returns (academic math and reading) to private schools. In the crazy mirror culture of education, one more paradox. Higher test scores, lower test score gains each year attributable to school effects.

        My support for school choice is not so much to take advantage of choices which exist now, but for choices will exist in the future. The human brain is capable of moving (learning) at 2, 3, 4, 5? times as fast as in our hay wagon education culture allows it.

        Only by allowing unlimited innovation, something only possible in a voucher system of public education, can we discover that deeper reality.

        In ancient Rome, when they first harnessed the horse, the harness was choking the horse down to one-fourth of its pulling power. When the harness was finally redesigned, the impact on civilization was transformative.

        How long did it take? 750 years.

        How long are we going to allow district “education” to choke off 75% of the potential of poor and minority children? A thousand years? We are 200 years and counting.

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