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5/2/2013 10:00:00 PM
Increase education funding: Quad-city residents' message to Secretary of State loud and clear
Les Stukenberg/The Daily CourierKen Bennett speaks to local educators, parents and concerned citizens about the shrinking budgets for local schools Tuesday.
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Ken Bennett speaks to local educators, parents and concerned citizens about the shrinking budgets for local schools Tuesday.
Lisa Irish
The Daily Courier

Three-hundred Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley and Dewey-Humboldt residents told Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett that Arizona must start adequately funding education during a meeting Tuesday at Abia Judd Elementary School in Prescott.

"Over the last five years, cuts in funding have been imposed by the state in addition to the cuts from declining enrollments," said Wendy Madsen, a parent of a student at Taylor Hicks Elementary School in Prescott. "Our districts together have been forced to cut over $25 million."

Arizona has provided no funds statewide for school building repair since 2009 or for textbooks since in 2008. The state cut full-day kindergarten funding in half, and has kept salaries and benefits flat. As a result, districts statewide have cut staff and programs.

Despite a recovering economy, funding remains below 2007 levels.

"I'm embarrassed and frustrated that Arizona is in this situation," Bennett said. "We cannot afford to continue to keep school funding at present levels."

At the Northern Arizona Interfaith Council's Tri-District meeting, parents, businesses, nonprofits and educators expressed "common concerns about how reduced state education funding impacts children's opportunities, experiences and future," Humboldt Unified School District Superintendent Paul Stanton said.

Businesses and community members can find ways to help and are encouraged to urge legislators to find a solution, Abia Judd Principal Rosemary Agneessens said.

"We're part of a statewide effort," Agneessens said. "Our goal is to have a larger meeting with legislators in the fall."

Bennett said he'd encourage legislators to increase funding.

"I'd like to see us get to the point where districts don't have to rely so much on overrides and bonding," Bennett said. "I believe the best way to get more money into education in Arizona is to get our economy to grow."

Stanton said, "We in education do not have the same clout when talking to legislators as a parent who talks about how funding cuts impact their child's classroom."

When Cheryl Fernandez, parent of a Prescott High School student, learned math textbooks hadn't been replaced since 2001, she and other parents organized a fundraiser that brought in $16,400 for textbooks and technology.

"When we are millions of dollars behind, this is only a small dent in what we really need," Fernandez said. "Fundraisers should not be filling in gaps the state has created."

Laura Markey, parent of a Lincoln Elementary student who injects insulin at school, said nursing cuts put children in life-threatening situations and increase district liability.

Chino Valley Unified School District Superintendent Duane Howard said buses in the district's fleet are on average 16 years old, class sizes grew from 25 students to 32, the district used its own funds to replace 10-year-old textbooks and CVUSD is $1.5 million behind in deferred maintenance.

"I am asking you and others in leadership to remember the sacrifices made by our children, their teachers, and all our employees, and not only restore money to public education, but increase it to hasten and strengthen the Arizona Public Education System," Howard said.

Everyone needs to focus on education funding now, Bennett agreed.

"We need to look at the restructuring of our tax policy in Arizona so that we aren't subject to a 30 percent decline in state general fund revenues when we have an economic downturn," Bennett said.

John Amos, a Yavapai Regional Medical Center administrator, said when he recruits medical staff he often hears they love the area but schools underperform.

"We need state support to bring Arizona education up to compete at the national level," Amos said.




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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, May 04, 2013
Article comment by: Mr Maverick

Don't take my money for education. If the parents cannot afford a good education for their children they should not have any. It is not the State of Arizona who is responsible for your childs education. You conseratives want to spend, spend, spend. Your last proposal to increase sales tax for education was not approved. That is becasue we have passed several funding bills for education but it always gets spent for someone''s pet project.

Posted: Saturday, May 04, 2013
Article comment by: J. Madison

Money is not the problem. Spending on education has increased exponentially over the last several decades, enrollment has declined, and performance has remained static. Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

Posted: Saturday, May 04, 2013
Article comment by: To Private School Parent

FYI - charter schools receive more money than district schools. You can verify that with the state.

Posted: Saturday, May 04, 2013
Article comment by: @ Hooty Hoo

Hooty, Entitlement Crowd likely has somewhat more education than you, unless you have a couple of degrees, considerable post-graduate credits, and certifications in various fields. Old Entitlement Crowd also has spent a lifetime working and paying federal and state income taxes every year, even now in retirement. Additional taxes have included property taxes (which include school taxes) on owned homes and raw land has been payed by old Entitlement Crowd since his twenties, and continue to be paid now in his retirement years. So, it seems that old Entitlement Crowd does in fact continue to exist, sometimes it seems merely to keep paying those damned taxes to maintain free-loading basement dwellers like you appear to be, Hooty.

Posted: Saturday, May 04, 2013
Article comment by: Poppy Keegan

Some may see an increase in education funding (or even just a return to prior funding levels) as a "burden" or "waste," but I receive no greater return on any of my tax dollars than than those which go to maintaining our schools, paying our teachers, and purchasing educational materials and technology.

Arizona is selling our kids short. If we don't invest in our schools and advocate for our children's future now, we will all pay later.


Posted: Saturday, May 04, 2013
Article comment by: Hobbes2 aka Sam Brunstein

TO: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, who wrote: "There is no more generous person on earth than a liberal spending someone else's hard earned money."

I'm a liberal and I pay taxes, including the property taxes that are often a partial source of education funding. It isn't other people's money, it's my money.

However, I do wish it were being spent more effectively. Not only are the AZ students among the poorest educated in the US, but the US students are among the poorly educted of the world.

As a father-survivor of the "New Math" homework brought home by the kids long ago, my opinion, and that is what it is is "opinion," I believe tht we need more teacher education in the subject matter that they teach and less in the principles of "education."

Interestingly, we never talk about that the successful countries do. We keep examining our navels and coming up with yet another "great idea" without any idea of what goes on in the countries at the top.

Here is a comment about this from an article about this. (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5054618)

"Given equal IQ, time on task, etc., it's the effectiveness with which mathematical relationships are made clear to the students (part of which requires significant procedural drill, which Japanese kids do after school) that matters most. A lot of time is wasted in the US doing procedural drill with no conceptual understanding, with even more wasted on constructivist "discovery" methods whereby kids are supposed to somehow teach themselves and each other the mathematical relationships, and all of this led by teachers who aren't required by their union to even know anything about mathematical relationships much less teach them."

What struck me is that my kids, bringing home their "New Math" (principles, not procedures) homework did indeed not have any idea what it was about and, even though I am a degreed engineer, I was unable to figure out what the teacher wqnted.


Posted: Saturday, May 04, 2013
Article comment by: Yeah, yeah, yeah

It is no accident that the liberal solution to every problem is the same: throw tax money at it, but only other people's money. There is no more generous person on earth than a liberal spending someone else's hard earned money.

Posted: Friday, May 03, 2013
Article comment by: An Observer

Kleenex Anyone? and jeri smith-fornara pretty much nailed it. But why did career politician Bennett change his education colors now. He was prompted by the entry of Fred DuVal as a candidate for governor. Fred is the former chair of the Arizona Board of Regents and has sterling education credentials. Bennett is trying to do a quick chameleon change from an attacker of education to a champion of education. Hopefully the voters will be well-informed on this issue before they vote for our next governor.

Posted: Friday, May 03, 2013
Article comment by: Mom and school employee

@@mom and school employee. That would be a great idea! Right now administrators are busy trying to interview replacement teachers for those who are burned-out and moving out of state to make a better living. We would love to have them available to interact with the students and let us do our job. It seems that they have to spend more of their time trying to make up for financial shortages at our facility. My students feel important and respected when the people in charge spend time with them.

Posted: Friday, May 03, 2013
Article comment by: @Mom and School Employee

Well then.....Let's just hire one hundred new administrators to walk around and give the kids hugs all day long. That would be a good use of tax payers money.

Posted: Friday, May 03, 2013
Article comment by: Mom and school employee

The key to the success of any student is the connection they make with even just one person in a school. You all remember a specific teacher that either allowed you to feel valued as a person or intimidated you and caused you to dislike school.
Most of the teachers in this area are here because they made a commitment to the community and it's children. The more often our children are able to find and connect with a positive staff person, the greater the chance of them successfully finishing school. Fewer teachers and staff mean our children are less likely to meet that one person who connects with them and helps usher them into adulthood. Having to do "more with less" only robs our young people of the opportunity to meet and connect with people who can make a difference in their lives.


Posted: Friday, May 03, 2013
Article comment by: Colleen Smith

Wait, didn't Bennett Just attend to listen to our program? Actually don't Doug Ducey lead the charge against education funding this year?

Posted: Friday, May 03, 2013
Article comment by: A Private School Parent

If the State of Arizona is not funding the public schools adequately, why are the charter schools growing like gang-busters? The charter schools receive the exact same amount of money per child as the public schools. The charter schools continue to grow and have exellent teachers and the public schools continue to shrink and have barely adequate teachers. Additionally, the private schools continue to grow, have great teachers, and the students score in the top 20% in the nation on the standardized tests. I am told that Trinity Christian School had a waiting list last year.

The answer seems to be that the public schools waste way to much money on useless personnel (administrators), buildings, buses and programs. The lack of competition in the past has made the public schools fat and bloated. Now that there is real competition, the public schools can not compete and will continue to fail.

That is why I put my children into private school.


Posted: Friday, May 03, 2013
Article comment by: To Empty High School

The empty high school is unfortunate, but would people have been saying if the existing high school would have to had gone on split shifts? Construction of new homes came go a grinding halt so the projected enrollments never happened. These things happen and it's entirely possible that that school will be needed one of these days.

Posted: Friday, May 03, 2013
Article comment by: You Get What You Pay For

I used to be a physician recruiter. They want to know several things: how much can they make, how much call do they have to take, what cultural amenities, and how good are the schools. Wives are all about the schools. And they do ask about funding, teacher's salaries, the whole bit. I can tell you that doctors' wives are the main reason more YOUNG doctors don't locate here, or why they leave. And the schools are one reason they stay away. It didn't used to be that way. When the baby boomer doctors retire here many of you will have to to to Phoenix for your medical care, and school funding is indirectly one of the reasons. You'll be stuck with the old duffs.

Posted: Friday, May 03, 2013
Article comment by: Hooty hoo

@ Okay But: I love your comment. If teachers could can the dumb, lazy, fat kids life would be a whole bunch easier for them. But they can't. The private schools can, and the charters can cherry pick to some degree. But the public schools have to take everyone. The funding stinks, I've been around it enough to know.

Posted: Friday, May 03, 2013
Article comment by: Concerned Parent

Before you talk about entitlement and the lack of quality education being the parents'/teachers' fault, or state that schools are getting enough money b/c enrollment is down, do some research. Schools are struggling. Classrooms are filled. How can you expect an elementary school teacher, with 30 students in his/her class, to provide each and every student with the education they deserve and need? Most are doing their very best and are passionate about education, but that's a tall order.

Not to mention, they're not getting a lot of help. There's not enough funding for support staff, nurses, new textbooks, technology or specials.

Arizona has cut funding for education by close to 25% in the last five years. That means Arizona is spending a quarter less PER STUDENT than it did five years ago. Soft capital, which helps pay for text books, used to amount to about $1 million per district. Now, those districts get $0.

Quality educators and administrators are leaving the state in droves to pursue opportunities in other states, states that provide funding for education.

Professionals or businesses who are drawn to our community because of its beautiful weather and hospitality aren't coming here because they don't want their children to fall victim to Arizona's education crisis. So, what does that do for Arizona's economy?

The lack of funding for education in this state doesn't just affect teachers and students. It affects our economy. Quality education brings a quality work force, businesses, physicians, etc. etc. Investing in our children's future, is investing in our state's future as well.

Take a look at some of the nation's top spenders in education and compare their economy to ours. There is no comparison.



Posted: Friday, May 03, 2013
Article comment by: Okay ...but,

"We MUST hold teachers accountable for performance to really make a difference for the quality of our children's education."

Fine. But let me choose my "employees" that are going to reflect on my performance. If your kid is a jerk who refuses to do any work and is too tired to learn because he stays up all night playing video games (AND YOU LET HIM) then I get to fire him and kick him out of my class. That is how the private sector in any other field works. People are evaluated based on their performance but they have some say in the factors that may influence their performance.

Let us be realistic. We cannot control what kids are in our rooms, what circumstances they bring with us, how many days they miss or what attitude they have about education and its value. Therefore you want to have my pay tied to things that I cannot control in any way, shape or form.

Figure out a fair way to do it and I will agree with you and fight to have it implemented - until then (respectfully) sit down and shut up.


Posted: Friday, May 03, 2013
Article comment by: Ignorance Isn't Bliss

Once again, the bloggers thinking they are making informed comments are just showing their ignorance. The area schools have cut $25 million from local budgets. As a state we have reduced education funding by 21%. This is the highest in the nation. Our schools are underfunded. Say what you want about how under performing our schools are, but here in Prescott our school district is one of only 29 school districts in the state to receive an A.

Quoting Thomas Jefferson, "Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty."


Posted: Friday, May 03, 2013
Article comment by: Cut it Out !!

To throw more money at it assumes that you have spent a baseline necessary amount in the first place. It is just not true. Arizona spent less than other states in the first place. Then we lead the country in education cuts. We (Arizona) are spending less than 4,000 per student. Staff has been reduced and class sizes have been increased. It is time to get a clue. You get what you pay for and GREAT teachers are leaving our are and leaving the field. By supporting these politicians and "spreading their propaganda" ideas all you are doing is devaluing the post important and most neglected function of a society. Shame on all of you.

Posted: Friday, May 03, 2013
Article comment by: Ron R. Harvey

If Mr Bennett wants to grow our economy, he needs to invest in education. An economy made of undereducated fools can not grow. Road Runner thinks that throwing money at the problem is a bad idea, but since we haven't tried that in AZ in over 30 years, maybe we should at least give it a shot.

Posted: Friday, May 03, 2013
Article comment by: And the education winner is..

...the kids whose parents can afford to send them to preschool. My daugher teaches preschool and her students parents pay $18k/year to go there. And let me tell you those kids are going to tear it up. That's where it starts folks. They'll be looking in the review mirror at the other kids.

Posted: Friday, May 03, 2013
Article comment by: Huh? Huh?

Since when did funding our youth's education become a liberal vs conservative issue? Remember one thing folks: K-12 education in the USA is going downhill fast compared to superior nations elsewhere. Education is the foundation of an educated workforce, and ours is getting less competitive. Our college education system is one of the best, and many foreigners come here for that and end up taking a ton of the top jobs here. Our workforce is still looking for manufacturing jobs that are going bye bye. We should invest more money not less. Money talks and BS walks in education, don't kid yourselves.

Posted: Friday, May 03, 2013
Article comment by: No More Tax Spending

You can lead a horse to water, but can't make it drink. Education is not something you can shove down a child's throat if they don't have the incentive to learn. No more taxes spent, especially on illegals' education.

Posted: Friday, May 03, 2013
Article comment by: In case ...

In case the average citizen doesn't understand how education is funded, as apparently most of the commentors on here do not, let me fill you in. The state of arizona pays a per student fee to each school as well as buckets for capital expenses and transportation. The schools aren't just losing money because the students are leaving and they get fewer of the per student fee amounts, but they are ALSO cutting the amount paid for each kid, the buckets for capital expenses have almost been entirely eliminated as well as cuts in the transportation bucket. Education is getting cut from every direction. You say GROW arizona economy? How is that going to happen when business have families and they won't come to the state because education isn't adequate. Not only that, but businesses are LEAVING because of the economy and taking more kids, more money, more of everything out. It's a circular connected system folks, one feeds the other which feeds the other and so forth. Education is the lynch pin to connecting the whole circle back together.


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