Governor Ducey called for a 5 percent reduction in non-classroom spending for district schools and a 3.5 percent reduction in additional assistance for charters . He claims the goals of the reduction are to 1) reduce the size of school administration and 2) refocus on students and teachers.
Politicians know a call to “cut administration costs and ensure more money ends up in the classroom” sells to the masses because “administration costs” is often heard as “salaries for superintendents, principals and office staffs.” In reality, these “nonclassroom dollars” refer to administration, plant operations, food service, transportation, student support, and instruction support.
Ducey realizes these are critical functions and that’s why he recommends requiring superintendents (or CEOs) and the school finance officer to certify the reductions will not affect the classroom. I can’t imagine how a superintendent in good conscience could do this since counselors, transportation, librarians, food service, and speech therapists are critical to a teacher’s ability to teach. One in four children in Arizona live in poverty and they bring a host of challenges with them to school. Challenges teachers can’t deal with on their own, especially with larger classes.
As a 22-year Air Force (AF) veteran, I know that flying operations are generally considered the premier “mission essential” functions. But, AF leaders recognized flying operations couldn’t happen without support functions like food service, personnel, security, transportation, etc. Ultimately, the airman fueling the plane is just as critical to mission accomplishment as the pilot flying it. Yes, classrooms are where the main learning occurs, but classroom teachers can’t do their magic without the right kind of support. When the Governor talks about cutting non-classroom funds by five percent, no mater how he spins it, that equates to cutting K-12 education by five percent.
The Governor’s also wants to take $23.9M from the Student Success Fund to create the “Access Our Best Public Schools Fund” to expand existing charter facilities/construct new ones. He claims this is because of the high waiting lists at best performing charters. Unfortunately these waiting lists are virtually impossible to validate because their for-profit corporations refuse to provide the transparency required of district schools.
Is there a correlation between Arizona’s bottom ten in funding for K-12 education , and 47th in performance ? I am of the thought that to a certain extent, you get what you pay for. Close to 90 percent of Arizona’s students still attend community district schools and yet our state leadership continues to focus on creating more opportunities for profit on the backs of our children, to include making it easier and easier to funnel tax payer dollars to private schools. If Governor Ducey really cared about K-12 education, he would focus on the schools we already have versus building new ones and he’d provide our schools real funding versus just reallocation via a shell game. In the end, claiming charter and private schools do better (a stretch), while starving our district schools of funding, becomes a self-licking ice cream cone which serves those best who don’t need the help to begin with. Maybe that’s the plan.