Monday, November 07, 2016

Improving AZ’s education reputation

In a few weeks, legislators will be heading back to the Capitol to start making choices for Arizona kids and classrooms.

An Arizona Republic columnist recently wrote, “Why Republican leaders hate public schools is a
question that confounds me, but they’ve demonstrated every year that they do.”  The writer was referencing long-standing efforts to divert money from public schools, which have been robbed of resources for years, to private schools by expanding Empowerment Scholarship Account voucher programs. Supporters defend the program by saying they want to give more students the opportunity to leave underperforming schools. However, an Arizona Republic investigation showed most children using the program were leaving good schools in wealthy districts. There are additional concerns about the lack of oversight of how the funding, which is siphoned away from public schools, is used.

The voucher program seems to have some serious issues with administration and with meeting goals since it’s not helping the students it’s supposed to. Most Arizona students still attend public schools, and so we should find a better way. By investing in K-12 public education, we can start to reverse the trends that our state is becoming all too well known for – crowded classrooms, low per-student funding and high teacher turnover.

Also, there is a growing movement to restore full-day Kindergarten in the state.  Already, legislators, members of the business community and educators are working together to make this a reality. The biggest hurdle seems to be the $240 million that it could cost. Overcoming this obstacle means focusing on the right priorities -- funding ideas that work and scrapping the ones that don’t.  That would go a long way to improve Arizona’s education reputation.

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