Operation Take Down (Public Schools)

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.

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3 Comments

  1. Mr. Washington, as one of the public opponents of this misguided override, here are some of my observations. This is an M&O override, legally it cannot be used for purchasing or leasing any new buildings. Now the approval of the sale of the property in Phoenix (the Ed. Center) does give this leaderless district that money to do that.

    Is this district underutilized? OH HELL YES! Even with the misguided efforts to ‘mothball’ – the districts term for locking up parts of school buildings and shutting off power and other utilities to them – the schools are still not used to capacity. So that is very bad. Now it gets worse, there is still an OPEN Freedom of Information Act request for the out of district vs. in district attendance in each school. Why is this important? Our tax dollars and equity of programs.

    You see if we are paying for the district to BUS students from other cities to attend Scottsdale schools, why? Why aren’t Scottsdale students in those seats? Why are we paying additional tax dollars, in the form of this override, to educate other cities children? Now also consider the fact that those children only get bused to certain schools. Why?

    There is the equity issue again. Arcadia high school gets them, but Coronado high school? So far, the information request is not complete. From what I have been told, no the children are bused to Arcadia. Where are the programs? Arcadia.

    Hmm, why is the district doing this? Inequity in education, that is illegal by the way.
    As for Laurie Robert’s article, that is another subject, but realize this, charter schools are public schools. Back to SUSD, Supai middle school has a D rating, under the older rules it would trigger that notification to all the parents, I would be one of them, to get transportation to another school. That did not happen, the rules changed. But did the district do anything for the school? Is there a single line in the override about helping Supai? Anything about helping Southern Scottsdale? Anything about increasing the academics?

    Oh yes, the law states that all overrides are just BUDGET INCREASES. Nobody wanted to listen. Remember without a leader, SUSD has NONE, the voters have just handed over a boat load of cash for what exactly? I guess we all just do the hope and pray for better results right?

    If you want, I can write more on the Laurie Robert’s article and how the recent election will change our educational landscape in Arizona, I have researched it very thoroughly.

  2. Hmmm, where is the busing kids from other cities coming from? Do you know that kids from other cities that attend Scottsdale schools generates revenue from the state? Every district is seeking open enrollees. I dont believe we bus kids in from other cities unless those kids live in the district.

    Next, the money the district just got doesnt come close to replacing what the state has taken away.

    If you want to know what the money will ne used for. Attend a board meeting and ask. yes, ask.

    Do you make some fair points about the current leadership. Yes. How are they handling of the excess room is a huge issue. I believe in the long run, the parents money up north will talk. Your points about how the district handles the south Scottsdale schools has merrritt. Chaparral gets a million dollar football building and Coronado cant even get the grass watered. Chap was allowed to get a 100K grant to fix up a weight room. Why did the district allow that? That money could have been used in so many better ways.

    The 1st act of the new board should be to ask for Dr Petersons resignation. If he refuses, he should be fired. Kids and teachers are leaving in droves. We need to stop the bleeding. NOW

  3. Mr. Tom Kennedy – Every student in ANY school gets or gives that school (charter/public) his or her ADM to that school. There is a variable amount (does the student have a qualifying disability and so forth), but that BASE amount is what funds schools across Arizona. So how many kids go to every school counts. That is very true.

    Now what the override pays for, what the tax payers are paying for, applies ONLY to the schools within that certain area. So the SUSD override can only be used to Scottsdale schools (the SUSD schools.)

    Now how do I know that we have children from outside SUSD boundaries coming here? I will cut and paste what Board member Pam Kirby has made public:

    Facts: 31.2% of Arcadia High School enrollment is out of SUSD boundary. They are at 95% capacity. 30.1% of Ingleside Middle School enrollment is out of SUSD boundary. They are at 76% capacity. 19.3% of Hopi Elementary School is out of boundary and is at 96% capacity. 34.7% of ANLC PTO – The Friends of ANLC is out of boundary and they are at 69.3% capacity. 42% of Tavan Elementary School is out of boundary and they are at 74.3% capacity.

    These schools have some of the highest capacities and highest out of boundary enrollments in the entire District. We will be discussing this at our November 13th Board meeting when we review our Open Enrollment Priority Policy. Message me offline or comment below with your thoughts.

    That block of text was on Facebook posted October 19th, 2014. Further information was posted October 20th this is it below.

    The numbers in the original post are entirely out of SUSD district boundaries. If you want to include both in and out of district, the numbers stack up like this: Arcadia HS (43%), Ingleside MS (38%), ANLC (100% b/c it has no home boundary), Hopi (41%), and Tavan (47%). -AND- Cheyenne is 9% out of district open enrollment and 100% total (no home boundary like ANLC).

    That is the end of the Pam Kirby public information. Just note, nothing was made of the South Scottsdale schools. Why? Do we not have programs for other cities children? Look at our utilization rates! We need children too.

    For the record, I have spoken to the Board. You can see me on the YouTube videos. I am the large guy in Red who speaks for Tonalea. Not with happy words for the Board or Peterson.

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