Monday, August 17, 2015

It’s back to school – but still no new money for classrooms

It’s back to school – but still no new money for classrooms

It is back to school time and the state has a $266 million surplus and a $460 million rainy-day fund, but as an Arizona Republic columnist put it, “it’s pouring on the heads of Arizona’s schoolchildren.”  Here’s what that looks like.

Last month, school administrators reported that they needed to fill at least 1,000 teacher positions across the state. The Washington Post reported teachers are “fleeing Arizona in droves.” And the most recent preliminary AzMERIT test scores are alarming – they show most Arizona students are not “proficient” in math or in reading. The headline from The Arizona Daily Star proclaimed “Early report: Two-thirds fall short on AzMERIT test.” As we increase the expectations for our students, we must also increase the level of support they receive if we expect them to be successful.

“The total number of jobs between both of these companies totaled 3,000. And they were high-paying, too. The average wage at each company was more than double the Phoenix average per capita wage.”

Looks like the Republican leadership’s choices on education funding are already threatening our economy. Without a substantial investment in public schools now, this is what our students could continue to look forward to:
  • Lower test scores – “The more money invested, the higher the test scores,” said ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy Senior Policy Analyst Dan Huntington.
  • Increase in classroom sizes – a former Phoenix Elementary School District governing board member said in a recent interview that the state budget cuts meant schools had to increase their classroom sizes and freeze teacher compensation. 
  • Student safety impacted – some schools could have to scale back facilities maintenance, security guards and shared nurses.
In the face of all of these challenges, and there is also a school inflation funding lawsuit that remains unsettled. Although a judge has ruled that schools are due $330 million from the state, the governor has still not offered a plan that would put more money into classrooms now.   But he is talking about more tax cuts – what special interest groups will benefit from that? What does this mean for the economic future of our state?

Let’s #AskDuceyWhy he won’t commit to getting money back into classrooms now to make sure there is #really #OpportunityforAll.  

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