From 2008 to 2014, our state enjoyed the third highest change in K-12 per pupil spending (down 17 percent) in the nation.[i] Two out of three children don’t attend preschool, 27 percent live in poverty and three-quarters of fourth-graders aren’t proficient in reading. In fact, Arizona ranks 47th overall in the annual Kids Count survey.[ii]
Yet, our Legislature seems determined to destroy public education. In 2013, they expanded eligibility for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs).[iii] These accounts allow parents to withdraw their eligible children from public schools and use 90 percent of the state money to pay for educational alternatives, including private school, tutoring, curricula, textbooks, online classes and tuition at Arizona’s public colleges.[iv] Senator Barbara McGuire moved to reconsider the bill after the Senate initially defeated it and then changing her vote to see it pass.[v] Arizona currently has 302 students with ESAs with $5.2 million taken from public education.[vi] This amount is only expected to grow, at the expense, of our public community schools. That’s one of the reasons passage of Oracle School District’s current budget override continuation is so important.
The $82 million per year in Prop 301 inflation monies the state has now been ordered to pay schools doesn’t event begin to close the gap.[vii] The Common Core Standards adopted by Arizona in 2010 are an unfunded mandate. The Arizona School Board Association estimates the cost of implementation in 2014-2015 alone at $156 million statewide and another $240 million in software/hardware upgrades and broadband expansion.[viii]
What can you do? Register for the Arizona Legislature’s “Request to Speak” system at http://www.azsba.org/advocacy/resource-center/. Once registered, you can comment on proposed legislation on-line and have it read into the record in Education Committee meetings. You can also call and email your representatives and of course, writing articles and letters to the editor is always a good idea. It is both your right and responsibility. Want to learn more? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.