Chair of AZ Senate Ed Cmte Needs Education

AZ Senator Sylvia Allen, Senate Education Committee Chair, recently asked, “When is it [funding for education] ever enough?” That depends on what kind of educational opportunities we want to offer our students. Additional funding alone can’t assure high quality schools, but it can provide a broader curriculum, more experienced teachers, smaller class sizes, better maintained facilities more conducive to learning, and much more.

It might be better to ask how much IS NOT enough. I believe there is not enough when: our educational performance is ranked 44th in the nation, our per pupil funding 48th, and our teacher salaries 50th; 2,000 of our classrooms are without a teacher and another 2,000-plus are filled by uncertified personnel; and our districts received only two percent of the facility repair and maintenance funding they needed from 2008 to 2012, creating a backlog impossible to clean up under current funding constraints.

Senator Allen refers to the Proposition 204 vote as proof Arizonans aren’t willing to pay higher taxes to support education. Well, that was five years ago, and polling data from December 2016 shows 77 percent of Arizonans believe the state should spend more on education and 61 percent (about the same percentage that defeated 204) support paying higher taxes to do just that. Yes, Proposition 123 was “creative”, but it didn’t provide enough to move us up even one place in per pupil funding and as the AZ Daily Sun points out, those in charge at the Capitol are “running out of non-tax gimmicks to tap.”

She also asks if people are willing to move funding from another area — should we let our roads deteriorate or sex offenders out of prison or reverse the millions spent on child safety? Bad examples in my mind since the AZ Legislature has consistently raided the HURF monies to fund the Department of Public Safety essentially causing residents to be taxed again when car repairs are forced by deteriorating roads, and private prisons cost us $4.60 per day per prisoner more than the public ones they replaced $4.60 per day per prisoner in 2010. Yes, this figure is dated, but a more current one is not available because the Legislature mandated the collection of that data be halted.

I’m guessing Senator Allen has her own ideas about how to better support the 80 percent of Arizona students in our district schools. Since she specifically asked for recommendations from readers, though, I will offer mine:
1. Curtail the tax cuts and credits for corporations;
2. Stop attempts to allow even more siphoning off of our district funds to private and religious schools via voucher (Empowerment Scholarship Accounts) expansions;
3. Close corporate loopholes in the tax code;
4. Renew Proposition 301 (which expires in 2020) and increase it to a full penny (currently at one-half cent). Sixty-five percent of the respondents to the December poll supported this idea which will bring in an estimated $400 million more per year; and
5. Convene stakeholder meetings to discuss recommendations from the Governor’s Classrooms First Council (which state additional funding was needed) and long-term funding solutions that include new revenue sources and an update of Proposition 301.

Senator Allen concludes by saying, “I understand as legislators we’re an easy target…”, As an Arizona taxpaying citizen, I would remind her that she and her colleagues get paid to ensure the state’s business is taken care of, including the constitutional mandate to provide for, maintain and enrich our public schools. President Teddy Roosevelt said, “Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining.” I’ve offered five realistic solutions to get our district schools the resources they need. How about you Senator Allen?

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4 thoughts on “Chair of AZ Senate Ed Cmte Needs Education

  1. Ms. Lyon,
    Thank you for a powerful rebuttal to Senator Allen’s “whining” about public education costs. I wonder where she spent her career as an educator prior to her new career as politician?

    I would happily pay more in taxes to improve public school education. I would also very happily continue to support Corporate Empowerment Scholarships when they are used appropriately–to support private schools with a mission to pull financially burdened families forward by offering their children a giant step up that they unfortunately cannot get in Arizona’s public school systems, for the reasons you so clearly outline.

    There is a middle school in Tucson which accepts only students whose families qualify for Federal free lunch programs. They only accept class sizes of 20 or fewer students. Many 5th graders transferring from public schools read at a first-grade level, some with minimal English language proficiency. By the time they leave 8th grade, they often receive scholarships to private college-prep high schools. This school has survived on vouchers, grants and donations. Last year, a Corporate Empowerment Scholarship was a godsend.

    I have not named the school because I have not discussed my missive to you with them. Feel free to contact me for more info. Schools like this need empowerment. Brophy? Maybe not so much.

    Thank for your support for Arizona education!

    • Hi Ms. Metcalf, thanks for the read and your comments. Are you maybe referring to corporate tax credits through School Tuition Organizations versus Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (vouchers?) At any rate, would like to hear more. I visited the Edge charter school which sounded similar to the one to which you refer.

      • Yes–I misspoke (miswrote?). The school I’m referring to is Imago Dei Middle School in downtown Tucson. The school was started 10+ years ago by two Episcopal priests, with 5 students in a room at a local church. They have grown to 80 students in a permanent facility which, because of a corporate tax credit and being named an Angel Charities beneficiary last year, they can now purchase.

        My wife was instrumental in getting the corporate tax credit–I’m not crystal clear on all the details, but do recall Brophy was also in the running for the award.

        Maureen

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