Sen. Steve Farley on the state of education in Arizona

Senator Steve Farley, Democrat (LD 9), takes off the gloves in this op-ed in the Arizona Republic. Arizona schools are burning while lawmakers fiddle:

FarleyI’m a state senator, and I want to talk about the state of education in Arizona.

I’m going to be very direct.

A couple of weeks ago, not for the first time, I toured Tucson High (my daughter’s school) along with fellow legislators. Alongside dedicated, overworked and underpaid teachers changing kids’ lives for the better, here’s what we saw:

Due the to lack of state funding, more than 10 percent of Tucson High’s classrooms are deemed to be a danger to students and faculty and are locked away. The photo above shows just one of 23 hazardous and unusable classrooms in a school of 3,500 with class sizes currently in the mid-30s.

There are not enough textbooks for students, and many are outdated. There are six counselors on staff with a caseload of 600 students each. There are only computers available for about 20 percent of the students, and many of those are more than 10 years old.

Teachers who started seven years ago making $33,000 a year are still making the same salary. While many brilliant and committed instructors remain, many great talents have already fled the low pay and tough working conditions.

Why are we doing this to ourselves? Why are we destroying the future of our kids and our economy by refusing to invest in education? Could anything be more important? Or more nonpartisan?

These are all good questions to ask the current legislative majority before you mark your ballots in the Nov. 4 election.

Why ask the legislative leaders and their supporters? Because the legislative majority decided to cut building maintenance funds and soft capital (textbook and computer) funds. They also illegally cut voter-approved education inflation funds to the tune of more than $300 million a year since 2009 — money they said we couldn’t afford.

They then turned around and handed it out to corporations as tax giveaways, claiming that these companies might increase wages.

What was the result?

Our schools are entering crisis mode while average wages in Arizona have continued to fall. It turns out that businesses looking to relocate and/or grow here need a good education system more than they need yet another tax giveaway. They want good transportation infrastructure, a trained workforce, and good schools for their kids and their employees’ kids to thrive in an increasingly competitive global economy.

The state Supreme Court has now ordered the Legislature to reset the inflation funding level that was illegally denied our schools, but current legislative leaders are considering whether or not to obey the court order.

That’s right. Whether or not to obey.

This from a group that keeps talking about the rule of law.

Here’s the bottom line. Our schools, our kids, our future workforce and our future economy are in grave danger. We must take a hard look at whether tax loopholes and giveaways actually result in new jobs, and we must fund our schools. Now.

This is a democracy, and on Tuesday we have the ability to change the people who hold the legislative majority and the governor’s office. I urge you to do so.

There are excellent candidates running for the Legislature all over the state challenging entrenched incumbents who are complicit in this educational theft. I urge you to consider voting for these new voices, all of whom are as incensed by this public vandalism as you and I.

If we wield our vote wisely, we can reverse the damage and construct a future that works for all of us. There is a way that schools, families and businesses can thrive together. This is our opportunity to enact that future.

Vote.

2 responses to “Sen. Steve Farley on the state of education in Arizona

  1. Kim Moschetti

    Thank you for your honest writing, Mr. Farley. As a public school teacher, I am flabbergasted at the approach our legislature takes toward our schools, and education in general, and simply cannot understand how these same representatives keep getting re-elected when the “result” of their law-making is so blatantly obvious. We are definitely reaping what we sow in Arizona.

  2. Excellent piece , Mr. Farley. The choice on Tuesday is very stark and should be the driving issue of this election. Thank you for your service and for highlighting this issue.