Several bills on education have been introduced recently in the Arizona Legislature. Some will help support the majority of our students (almost 90% whom are enrolled in traditional public schools.) Some however, will only serve to support privatization of education in Arizona which will not work to the advantage of most of our students. The description of these bills has been provided by the Arizona Education Association. My comments follow in italics.
HB2399 would double school districts’ bonding capacity, which would help some districts out that are able to get voters to approve the bond, but this measure would also increase the economic inequities between school districts. – As many SaddleBrooke residents know, our latest bond issue for the Oracle School District failed in 2011.
HB2425 would disband the ELL Task Force and move its assignment to the Arizona Department of Education. This task force was originally charged with the creation of the Structured English Immersion (SEI) program to be used in all school districts and with reviewing and approving alternative SEI models submitted by school districts.
HB2530 requires students enrolled in an Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) to annually take a norm-referenced achievement test or a college admissions exam. Kudos to Rep. Heather Carter for pushing this bill forward and ensuring there is accountability in this tax-payer funded voucher program. Unfortunately, another bill (SB1363) expands the ESA voucher program to include students who are eligible for kindergarten. – HB 2530 is supported by the AZ Education Assoc. and the AZ School Board Assoc. It is absolutely amazing to me that not only do we not have laws that require standards and testing in AZ’s work-around to a voucher program (ESA) and home schooling, but the AZ Legislature and AZ Dept. of Education is prohibited from regulating these programs. How then do we know the children in these programs are being properly educated?
SB1285 would require the Arizona Department of Education to mail a pamphlet to parents about non-public school options such as private schools and vouchers. The bill would cost $1.5 million annually and proposes to use federal Title 1 funding. AEA President Andrew F. Morrill told the Arizona Republic, “The bill appears to be a marketing ploy to use public funds to increase the customer base for private schools. This is unnecessary and probably would run into some legal challenges down the road.” The bill is ALEC’s signature legislation this year. It was held in Senate Education committee last week and is on the agendas for the Education and Appropriations committees this week.
SB1385 would make private charter school teachers’ evaluations so they could not be released under a public records request. – How can this be in anyone’s best interest except for those who profit from the charter school’s operation?
SB1450 seeks $5 million from the general fund for Arizona’s Alternative Teacher Development Program to be awarded to a qualifying service provider, i.e. Teach for America. – Both Diane Ravitch, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education and an education policy analyst and Linda Darling-Hammond, Professor of Education at Stanford University, have criticized Teach for America (TFA) for sending inexperienced young people to teach the nation’s most vulnerable children. In fact, a study in Arizona in 2002 held that TFA teachers had a negative impact on their students as compared to certified teachers. Another study Darling-Hammond led with 4,400 teachers and 132,000 students concluded certified teachers consistently produced significantly higher achievement than those uncertified and TSA teacher had a negative or nonsignificant effect.