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home : opinions : opinions February 05, 2016

12/27/2012 10:01:00 PM
Editorial: Education is facing its own fiscal cliff

As Americans watch and wait for "fiscal cliff" news out of Washington, eyes here are beginning to turn to the Arizona Legislature, which opens its 2013 session on Monday, Jan. 7.

One topic that awaits lawmakers, either actively or as a 900-pound gorilla standing in the wings, is that of education.

An effort to stabilize financing for K-12 and universities - Proposition 204 - failed in the General Election. It sought to make permanent the 1 percent sales tax, which voters approved in 2010, that is set to expire at the end of May. It was to be for the purpose of funding educational programs, as well as public transportation infrastructure projects and human services. It also would have set a floor on current K-12 and university funding levels.

Since Prop. 204 failed, lawmakers will certainly be under the microscope when budget negotiations come around. The question is, "What happens now?" The simple answer from legislators is that they will continue to do their best.

Knowing that is the case, news out of Colorado this week caught our attention. The Denver Post reported an effort to revamp Colorado's school finance system that could lead to a tax increase and likely will dominate the early days of the state legislature. "The plan is to have the legislature update the state's school finance formula for early childhood and K-12 education and then to ask voters this fall for money to pay for it."

The catch, as the Post opined, is "you can't have one without the other."

When considering a little history of education in the U.S. and Arizona, including No Child Left Behind, inflation funding, sudden-growth funding and, of course, budget cuts, it is easy to see that Arizona is in the same boat as that of Colorado, or at least alongside: The education system needs reform, not Band-Aids.

What shape that takes remains to be seen. Popular among past ideas were to increase funding, require strict spending guidelines for districts, and to improve outcomes and graduation rates.

Is more money the answer? Considering that money is one leg of the table, it cannot be ignored. And, because the state's economy is improving to the point where the notion of additional taxes is not a deal-breaker, all proposals should be put on the table.

As the Post said: "Providing more money does not by itself guarantee a better system, but it is equally clear that schools across the state would be able to improve outcomes given additional resources."

We just pray the politics here do not mirror those in Washington. If our future and concerns are kicked like a can down the road, the question changes to "if not now, when?"

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2012
Article comment by: Ron R. Harvey

Sure, blame the parents all you like and not education funding, but if you do, remember that the next generation of parents are in our schools right now. Do you really feel we are investing enough in our own futures if we are still well below the baseline? Where do you think crime comes from? Well-funded education?

Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2012
Article comment by: College Teacher

@ Stealth Bummer:

I am confused. You write that your kids came home from school with "liberal agenda versions of history." You then discuss Google, and provide stories of students who are taught that the Holocaust never happened and that Stalin never killed anyone. There does not seem to be a logical connection between these things.

Google is a search engine. As far as I am aware, it does not have an inherent liberal OR conservative bias, though I suppose that depends on how it is used.

I don't think it is part of the liberal agenda to deny the Holocaust or Stalin's purges.

Do you have actual examples of the liberal agenda forced upon your kids?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines "liberalism" as "Support for or advocacy of individual rights, civil liberties, and reform tending towards individual freedom, democracy, or social equality a political and social philosophy based on these principles Freedom from bias, prejudice, or bigotry open-mindedess, tolerance liberal left-wing political views and policies."

Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2012
Article comment by: Stealth Bummer

It would be nice if some of the things I mentioned haven't happened in our schools but they have.

My children came home with liberal agenda versions of history told to them ~ in school.

Google. You will see it is happening.

A high school teacher in northern Las Vegas was reprimanded for telling her students the Holocaust didn't happen. She never apologized for her views, only that she said what she said in school. Because of school policy, she was simply transfered, to a middle school, because she had not done this twice, but merely once and could not be fired. You can bet that her liberal views are more carefully practiced with her even younger students.

Google Educators tell students Stalin never killed anyone.

It's out there. Maybe not here in Yavapai County, yet, but the movement is out there.

Will we wait for it to gain political momentum or stop it before it gets here?

Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2012
Article comment by: US Is Far Behind

The USA is far behind in education and has been for many years. We should take some lessons in other successful countries who actually teach reading, writing, arithmetic. It also starts at home, once again, with parents who care and support their children's achievements and back up the school system. Dress codes, discipline, and a little respect for teachers might help too. No cell phone, drugs, or guns. Let's concentrate on the reason you attend school, to get an education and move on in life with a job. It used to work 40 yrs. ago but our society has gone way off its original course.

Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2012
Article comment by: Take A Lesson

The children today are like "leading a horse to water, but can't make it drink", mentality. If you want an education, stay in school and study, if not, drop out and be a loser. Choices, choices, choices.

Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2012
Article comment by: A Full Accounting

According to a study by the US Census Bureau ("Public Education Finances: 2010" U.S. Census Bureau, Page 8) Arizona spends $7848 per pupil on education. According to the same study $4381 was spent in the classroom (includes teacher"s salary). Where does the other $3500 go?

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: Hobbes2 aka Sam Brunstein

TO: Stealth Bummer

Who wrote: "They come home telling you that the Holocaust probably didn't happen and that there is no evidence Lenin killed anyone"

I think you meant Stalin not Lenin.

You have got to be kidding? Your statement is so far off the mark that it is laughable. The Holocaust didn't happen? Do you really expect us to believe that is taught in schools?

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: Hobbes2 aka Sam Brunstein

TO: James Madison

Who wrote: "The sooner the public school system goes belly-up, the better."

That is an awful lot of students to suddenly start home schooling and dump on private schools. I don't think either one of those could come close to handling the load and I suspect that the quality of education would sink to a new low.

Wouldn't it be better to concentrate on fixing the schools that exist rather than closing them down?

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: Hobbes2 aka Sam Brunstein

TO: There You Go Again

Who wrote: "Washington DC and Chicago both spend $19,500 PER PUPIL and graduate less than 50%. Chicago (per US ED department) has 8th graders reading at grade level for only 8% of the students and only 4% are at grade level for math."

It would be intersting to know where you got your figures?

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: Hobbes2 aka Sam Brunstein

TO: Tongue in Cheek

Who wrote: "With the government, they simply block you at the door, and demand your money."

Aw C'mon. Taxes have been with us since the country was under the Articles of Confederation. How do you run a government without money? And do you claim that we do not need a government? Pure Libertarianism?

The people have always agreed to be taxed because it was necessary. The argument is about "How much."

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: At College Teacher

Thanks. I am grateful for your support and appreciate you sharing your story.

FYI - I am a veteran teacher with a Masters and over 15 years in the classrooms and I am NOT making the average you speak of. Rural teachers make less. I am yet to break $40K because of the last 5-10 years. Just to make a point about our local teachers.

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: And Another Thing

The US is no longer a top performer because we TEST ALL KIDS. Most other nations kick the "stupid" or "underachieving" ones out and they are not test.

They determine if a kid is career or vocational bound and track them from there and only the brightest and best are tested. Research it.

For example in South Korea (who spends a dismal amount - but still more than AZ), they track kids in middle school and only the college bound stay in school and therefore are the only ones tested. And last time I checked they were in the top 3 in the world for test scores.

As an educator...I dare you to be the first person to go to the first parent in the US and tell them that their kids is not smart enough to go to college and that you are tracking them vocationally and then report back to me on how that conversation went. My assumption is that it would be Very UGLY.

Hell...in Arizona it is ILLEGAL for a school to hold an 8th grader back from high school without parent permission. Talk about an backwards system.

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: To Stealth Bummer

As a US History and World History teacher I can tell you that none of what you said is true and I teach at one of the major public high schools where I know that my colleagues and I call teach the same content. Try visiting a classroom.

Arizona spends less than $4000 a student. Below half the national averaged. As someone previously mentioned there has to be a baseline amount spent and we are NOT spending that in Arizona,

For everyone else...districts' financial information in OPEN to public viewing. Go in and take a look. You would be shocked at what our local districts are asked to do with what little money they actually receive.

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: Chris Bergman

@ College Teacher, I know many teachers who entered the profession out of a love for children and a desire to make a substantial, positive impact on their lives only to discover, as "Get out of the way..." has, that the last thing of concern in today's government schools is teaching. I know many who have masters degrees or better who have left government schools for private, for far less than your $44K, because in private schools they are permitted, no expected, to make a difference in the lives of their students.

I don't question the dedication of teachers, what I question is the purpose, philosophy and methodology of government schools because I KNOW that the problem with government schools is not that they're doing what they "want" to do, poorly. Far worse, the problem is that they're doing what they are meant to do, all too well. bergman_blogs@yahoo.com

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: Get out of the way so I can Teach!

It's amazing how alot of folks say that the government should get out of the way so business can make money.

It would be amazing if government would get out of the way so schools could Teach!

Education used to be a local issue. That's where a local population had control of its schools. Um, when parents, students, teachers, and administrators talked? Together? And figured out what was best for the students and population? Oh, well, it used to be like that.

Now, we have federal testing, common core, state testing, testing of testing to make sure students are tested for results to get money. And the money for good testing goes to pay for the tests. Teachers spend more time doing useless paperwork to make sure their school jumped through the right hoop at the right time to get the right funding than they do teaching!!!

I Love Teaching!! My Students Love Learning!! Get out of our way!!!

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: Typical DC Editorial

Again, the Courier chimes in with yet another leftist-slant opinion here. Just throw more money at it and it will fix itself.

This publication would also be the first to cry "foul" over major tax hikes to cover the cost.

Go figure.

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: College Teacher

@ Chris Bergman:

I completely agree with you about the very important role parents play in education. I'm not so sure about the anti-public school rant on this thread.

I am a product of Prescott's public schools, 2-12. Some of my educational experiences were less than positive, but I had many caring and inspirational teachers and thanks to their help and my parents' involvement, I graduated with above a 4.0 GPA, went on to graduate college summa cum laude, received my Ph.D., and am now dedicating my life to teaching others at the college level.

When a society so publicly undermines teachers by repeatedly questioning their dedication and paying them laughable salaries, it is no wonder students fail to perform. Corporate logic dictates that if you want to retain talent, you pay people ridiculously well and give them obscene bonuses. Yet we pay our Arizona teachers an average of $44,000 a year?

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: Chris Bergman

The number 1 indicator of academic success is?... (Drum roll, please)... Parent involvement.

It's not the parent's wealth or social standing.
It's not the teacher to student ratio.
It's not cost per pupil expenditures by the school district.
It's not even in-class discipline.

All those other things help, but the MOST important ingredient in a successful education, a virtual guarantor, is the parents. How many times have we heard of some academic success from “the projects” who credits his success to his two single, job working mom who didn't let him get involved in drugs, didn't let him run around in gangs and simply MADE him do what it takes to succeed? The reason private schools achieve more, and at lower cost, is because private schools expect, and get, parental involvement.

Government schools, on the other hand, perform exactly the task for which they were originally established, i.e. to produce government dependent, apathetic workers. They do it well and have been at it for quite some time, with each successive generation dialing back the expectations and real education, all the while demanding more money for their "successes."

Personally, I steer every State tax dollar I can toward STO's, who in turn steer that money toward private schools, who in turn produce actual thinking and capable citizens, not just tools for bureaucrat manipulation.

btw, the number 1 indicator of the likelihood of juvenile drug or alcohol use? LACK of parental involvement.
The number 1 indicator of the likelihood of teen pregnancy? You guessed it, LACK of parental involvement.

Apathetic parents breed apathetic children and the only thing that can save them is to be surrounded by compassionate, active and involved adults. No government program, no matter how expensive or well meaning, will EVER solve the problem. bergman_blogs@yahoo.com

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: Stealth Bummer

I have lived in New York, Illinois, California and now Arizona. Never, have I seen the public school system work.

The public schools have taken on a nanny fixation, intent upon producing socially and politically "correct" citizens. Education seems to be on the back burner.

There are kids who do well, yes. But many more who don't. They are bombarded with so much beyond Reading, English, Math and Science they are overwhelmed. Social issues are often skewed to political agendas. Kids know very little American History but can tell you what is in a Koran. They come home telling you that the Holocaust probably didn't happen and that there is no evidence Lenin killed anyone.

Taxpayers have LONG cried for a return to a simple education bringing our kids back to a high level of success in math and science. Social issues will not get a child a job as a chemist or an accountant. The time needs to be spent on learning skills, not the social agendas, political correctness that is so dominant in all lessons today. An assembly a few times per year touching on social issues would be enough. Period.

Taxpayers have learned that more money only goes toward increases in the social agendas and continues to produce kids that are not educated to succeed in advanced education. They will be global citizens, but ones who cannot do the work necessary to have our global society succeed. We import people from other countries to do many high tech jobs. Doctors, scientists, etc. Routinely, our high school students graduate (yes, graduate) and can barely spell or make simple change.

Our kids used to be one of the top educated in the world. We are now mediocre to poor.

Who wants to throw more money at THAT?

Unless your child is one a top learner naturally, get him/her out of public schools. You will definitely give them a better future. Throwing money at that is a smart investment.

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: R S

Why 3 supervisors and support staff for 3 districts in a 12 mile area? Seems there could be some major cuts at the top!
the District I taught in for 28 yrs had twice the student population as the Tri City area and half the administrators. Is this the "Good old Boys network" I hear so much about?

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: JTED wasting Thousands of dollars

Why do we let JTED rape our schools of both money AND students? Their idea of education is costing us and students millions at this point. 80% of their spending has been on staff and benefits!!! Yet there they are, spending other school's money and employing people for what good? This district was a bad idea from the beginning and now has turned into a financial boondoggle. Who benefits? The students didn't get Christmas bonuses. The students didn't receive pay raises. Wow has JTED milked the system that is supposed to support STUDENTS and EDUCATION, not a bunch of counselors and administrators. How absolutely rude and inconsiderate these JTED people are!!

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: Local Teacher

@ Mr. Kerr - yes...you did miss those reports/articles.

As for the state of education, all we need face is one fact for the state of AZ. 8-10 years ago, Arizona was in the bottom 10% for school funding and now education funding has been cut by 20% in the last few years. We (Arizona) spend less than $4,000 per student and the national average is almost double that.

We can all agree that at some point it is just throwing good money after bad money. Throwing MORE money at education won't fix it - BUT WE MUST SPEND A BASELINE AMOUNT - and in Arizona we are NOT.

204 did not pass. Fine. Taxpayers said no to a permanent sales tax, but now it is time to hold the legislature accountable. They created this and now they must fix it.

I personally did not vote to re-elect a single one of those that were responsible for (and were a driving force) in cutting education - but the majority did. So now, the majority must speak up and tell them what they must do. Refund education. Restore the funds that they took away!!

And while they are at it they can put back the money that they stole from the original 1 cent sales tax that they stole from education.

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: James Madison

The sooner the public school system goes belly-up, the better. Time to decentralize another failed government program.

The exodus to the private and home schooling sectors has already started. Like overtaxed citizens fleeing bankrupt California, they are fleeing the bureaucratic federal schools.

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Steele

We need to redo K-12 education and provide more funding to the classroom. Junior colleges and four year institutions should have a freeze for several years to allow for cost savings in bloated administrations and feel good departments that drive up costs and student loan costs. Enough is enough.

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: There You Go Again

Oh Please! Spare us the hand wringing. Washington DC and Chicago both spend $19,500 PER PUPIL and graduate less than 50%. Chicago (per US ED department) has 8th graders reading at grade level for only 8% of the students and only 4% are at grade level for math. Our own local private schools spend around half of what PUSD spends per student and has a higher academic rate. Many of these schools take the disabled and disadvantaged. So - get your head out of the sand - money alone is not the issue. We do not need to grow government or taxes we need to shrink them.

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