Budget overrides won’t fix stupid. Scottsdale Unified School District taxpayers approved a budget override this week that will hopefully plug some holes…if it doesn’t get siphoned off for building new facilities to add to SUSD’s underutilized capacity. Since the majority of the funding for the Yes to Children campaign came from construction companies, we should all keep an eye on the override money.
Meanwhile, I’m reminded of a great column Laurie Roberts published back in March 2014 which chronicled the long downward spiral toward our current public ed situation…over a period in which we didn’t hear ‘boo’ from the folks who are now most visibly claiming credit for saving public education in Scottsdale.
Here’s some of Laurie’s column:
Operation Take Down, as I’ll call it, began a few years ago, as the Republican-controlled Legislature began sucking money out of the public schools. Total [state] spending on K-12 education was $412 less per student last year than it was in 2009, according to a recent report by the Arizona auditor general. And that’s in a state where our $7,500 in per-student operational spending already trails the national average by about 42 percent – or more than $3,000 per student.
Meanwhile, the Legislature in 2011 began a narrowly focused voucher program, aimed at allowing children with serious physical and mental disabilities to attend private schools using public funds. It was a decent thing to do for a small group of disabled children whose needs the public schools couldn’t or wouldn’t meet.
Then the program was expanded to the children of active-duty military. And to foster-care children and those adopted out of the foster-care system. And to children attending public schools that received a D or an F rating from the state – because, heaven forbid we actually fix our failing schools.
Then came certain kindergarteners.
Now this year come a series of bills that would dramatically expand the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program, as it’s called — from the current 761 students to 28,000 within five years, and eventually to every child in public or charter schools.
Currently, there’s a cap on the number of new kids who can be added to the state-funded scholarship program each year, presumably to avoid wholesale devastation in the public system. But it expires in 2019. Does anybody really believe the GOP-run Legislature will continue that cap?
“This,” Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix and the bill’s sponsor, said, “is an opportunity for every parent to place their child in an environment that best fits their child’s educational needs.”
Or put another way, it’s an opportunity to use taxpayer money to boost private and religious schools at the expense of already underfunded public schools.
Make that, another opportunity to use taxpayer money to boost private and religious schools at the expense of already underfunded public schools. We already have the always expanding tuition tax credit program, which has diverted millions of tax dollars to private religious schools.
But back to the latest siphon, the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. What happens to the kids left behind? The ones, for example, whose parents don’t have the money to pay the difference between the state-funded scholarship and the actual cost of private school?
Tuition at Xavier College Preparatory is nearly $17,000. At Brophy, it’s $13,500 and it costs up to $19,000 to attend Rancho Solano. Scottsdale Christian Academy hovers around $10,000 while at Phoenix Country Day, tuition ranges from oh my goodness to yeeeow. ($21,000 to $24,000).
As for the families who can’t find a cheaper private alternative, they’ll be stuck in those public schools that our leaders oh so strongly support. Why, just last week the Senate came close to scrapping new, more rigorous educational standards for public schools.
Fortunately, five Republicans joined with Democrats to seize the wheel of the careening clown car and steer a saner path – one that supports standards aimed at preparing our kids to succeed in the 21st Century.
Now those five senators – Bob Worsley of Mesa, Michele Reagan of Scottsdale, John McComish of Ahwatukee, Adam Driggs of Phoenix and Steve Pierce of Prescott – need to grab steering wheel once more.
Here’s an idea. Instead of disabling the public schools, how about fixing them?
Of course, Michele Reagan is moving up from state senate to secretary of state after her victory Tuesday. Given the current state GOP attitude toward bi-partisan efforts (as evidenced by today’s pending spanking of non-conforming precinct committeemen), I don’t expect we’ll hear much anymore from the remaining four Republican senators who previously supported sane support of public education in Arizona.
Governor-elect Doug Ducey has close ties to the anti-public education Goldwater Institute. One of his campaign minions is JP Twist, son of Goldwater Institute founder Steve Twist and former chief of staff to Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane. JP’s brother, Eric, was headmaster at Archway Veritas charter school for a time. So Ducey is unlikely to be a public education cheerleader.
Ditto the apparently-elected tea partier state superintendent of public instruction, Diane Douglas, who leads David Garcia by a little more than a point in the latest tally.