What Direction for Our Schools?
Arizona's Governor , Doug Ducey, has stated that Obama should let Arizona take care of educating our children – and keep the federal government out of our business. (My paraphrase, but the meaning is retained!) Now his budget has been passed and signed resulting in more reduction in the money schools will have to educate our children. Look at the record! “Governor Brewer and the Arizona Legislature are neglecting our kids. For years, they’ve been cutting K-12 and higher education to the bone. What we got from Governor Brewer and the legislature was always more of the same: an education system that’s undervalued and a child welfare agency that’s under-resourced.” (Fred DuVal)
Arizona made the deepest cuts to public education funding – $1.5 billion to K-12 education – in the last five years and now has the lowest per-pupil funding in the nation. In the current session effort was made to expand the eligibility of Arizona’s ESA vouchers to thousands of more students This is nothing more than a “voucher system” designed to divert public money from our already struggling public schools to private schools with no accountability. The Republican legislators chosen to side with groups and people like Cathi Herrod, the Goldwater Institute, the Alliance for School Choice, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). All are pushing voucher legislation at the cost of providing top notch education for our children in our public schools.
Many People are “concerned” about the national movement to establish Common Core principles as the basis for education of our children. The Common Core State Standards are designed to shift the focus in education away from basic proficiency toward preparing students to be college and career ready. Although many Arizona districts have spent many hours developing plans transitioning new classroom strategies and new assessments designed to measure student performance relative to these standards. Now it appears those efforts are being trashed.
Those who oppose the Common Core Standards seem to see only “more federal government control” of our schools and loss of local control. Some object to the very substance of the standards and challenge them on the basis of content. They are wrong! Supporters say the common core standards provide clarity of goals and more accountability to “what is taught” in our schools. They believe Common Core Standards will improve our schools!
However, there is a major problem with current implementation strategy because of its focus on testing as the most important accountability tool. Experience over the past three decades (since the early 1980”s) has shown that school improvement reform based on test results only just does not work! We need to make changes in what we teach and how we teach our children. That is a challenge of immense proportions, but I am a firm believer that our dedicated professionals are able and ready to take it on! For Republicans (like Ducey and Arizona’s majority in the legislature) who subscribe to the Grover Norquist credo: “Starve the Beast and you’ll get better results” - there is a sense that schools have become a “sop” for excesses in funding. Arizona has been on that path for the past years – and what is the result? Too Many of our children are not being educated to succeed in 21st Century life! Charter Schools are not the answer!
I am so disappointed by the actions of Governor Ducey (who claims to be a champion for education) and the Republican majority of the legislature. The next time you see one of our Republican legislators, challenge him (or her) to explain how their efforts over the past five years have made schools in Arizona better.
Marvin Christensen, 2014