Before anyone starts to panic over Cap’n Al and his Tea Party pals killing Common Core education standards in Arizona, Senate approves ban on Common Core standards, let’s make some salient points.
Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal supports the Common Core standards, and last September proposed renaming the standards to quiet down the black helicopters caucus of the Tea Party that sees everything as a federal “guvmint” conspiracy by that secret Muslim Kenyan in the White House who wants to indoctrinate their children with godless communism, or some such nonsense.
(The Common Core standards were developed by the bipartisan National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. It was only after President Obama said, “sure, give it a try” that the black helicopters caucus of the Tea Party assigned evil intent to the standards.)
Governor Jan Brewer also supports the Common Core standards and went along with Huppenthal’s scheme to rename the standards by issuing an executive order last September renaming the standards the”Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards.”
More importantly, the organized business community, i.e., the GOP establishment, supports the Common Core standards. Businesses are not going to relocate to, or stay in Arizona, if the state does not have a quality education system to produce a qualified workforce. (Already our problem).
So no matter what the black helicopters caucus of the Tea Party does by passing bills to try to kill Common Core, our Lame-duck Governor is going to veto those bills to keep the federal dollars that come with it flowing into Arizona, and to keep the organized business community, i.e., the GOP establishment, happy.
This is a futile temper-tantrum by the black helicopters caucus of the Tea Party. They don’t have the votes to override the Governor’s veto.
[UPDATE: In a surprising reversal, five Tea-Publican senators switched their votes — Adam Driggs, John McComish, Steve Pierce, Michele Reagan and Bob Worsley — joined all 13 Democrats to sink Cap’n Al’s battleship, the SB 1310. The organized business community, i.e., the GOP establishment, defeats the Tea Party again!]
More troubling are the bills supported by Cathi Herrod and the Christian Taliban at the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) to turn state funding for public education into vouchers that can be used for private and parochial schools, in violation of the Arizona Constitution. (http://www.azpolicy.org/issues/bill-tracker)
One of Herrod’s bills ran into trouble in the House Education Committee on Monday, when the committee rejected SB 1237 (.pdf) on a 2 to 6 vote. The bill has already passed in the Senate. House panel votes down empowerment scholarship bill (Arizona Capitol Times, subscription required):
Tracey Benson, a spokeswoman for the Arizona School Boards Association, said the group’s lawyers are looking at stopping the department’s practice of using the charter formula for all students.
Associate Superintendent Chris Kotterman told the panel of lawmakers there was a disagreement between the department and Joint Legislative Budget Committee over what the statute meant, so the department used committee testimony from the 2013 session to interpret the Legislature’s intent of funding all students.
Janice Palmer, a lobbyist with the Arizona School Boards Association, said the department’s interpretation is on “shaky legal ground.” She said the statute, which passed into law last year as SB1363, provides charter-school funding only for kindergartners and for children who were previously in charter schools.
“Our attorneys are currently looking at the fact the department has decided to go ahead and interpret the legislation as being that every single ESA recipient is provided that,” Palmer said.
One of Herrod’s other bills, sponsored by her water-carrier and Arizona state chairman for ALEC, Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, was delayed so that Lesko could amend it to make the school voucher expansion plan even bigger:
The House was set to debate HB 2291 (.pdf), sponsored by Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, on Monday, but delayed a vote for the second time since last week.
Lesko said the state Department of Education expressed concern with the original bill language, which would have expanded the program to students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, or to those whose family income is 15 percent above that threshold. Education officials said it would be difficult to confirm whether families meet those criteria.
To resolve that issue, Lesko’s amendment expands the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program even further. The bill would make students in schools that have large low-income populations and qualify for extra federal aid eligible for the vouchers.
“I believe that we need to improve education, and to me it doesn’t matter where that education takes place,” Lesko said.
The amendment would mean about 73 percent of the state’s students, or 880,000 children, would be eligible to use public money for private school, according to the Arizona Education Association.
Democrats who oppose the program say it is likely Republicans will eliminate the cap as soon as next year to further undermine public education. Tea-Publicans have already reduced the percentage of tax dollars entering classrooms to lowest level in 13 years:
The share of education tax dollars that actually wind up in Arizona classrooms slid again last year to the lowest level in the 13 years the state has monitored it.
New figures from the Auditor General’s Office show that less than 54 cents out of every education dollar was put into actual classroom spending. That’s 7.4 percentage points below the national average.
Auditor General Debra Davenport said that shows up largely in more students being packed into fewer classes. Not only is the average class size in Arizona larger than the national average, Davenport said it’s actually increased in the last two years.
That also was reflected in the fact that while the number of children attending Arizona public schools has dropped by 3 percent since 2009, the number of teachers dropped by 8.6 percent.
Governor Brewer may very well sign the voucher bills if they reach her desk. It is up to all of you to raise your voices like you did for the Religious Bigotry bill to derail this unconstitutional attack on public education.