Barrett: Current Issues in Education Arizona Listen up!

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I recently was invited to attend a non-partisan educational cadre for Yavapai County, Prescott, Arizona. My recent travels have brought to the forefront how diverse and unique each district is as well how the tasks in front of our elected changes daily in needs. And the need is MONEY. The goal of the cadre was to have meaningful, open critical conversations regarding our statewide education crisis. The Yavapai County challenges were at the forefront of audience members in attendance. On many a fronts, there were critical conversations leading to clearly early divisions. Down to and including a division in seating room arrangements.

The opening task was addressed rapidly. “Fully fund education NOW” followed with by returning one billion dollars to the fund. The response of fully funding education looks like and sounds familiar to our statewide needs as it is a constant theme.

It was apparent teachers and elected officials are growing apart. The manner and amount of funding are becoming an adversarial topic and how we get there. A Governing Board President on the panel simply stated the boards need more funds from legislators.

When a guest interjected and expressed that her governing board requires money to add more counselors. The topic pivoted away from how the economy and loss of funds from ‘08 forward occurred. Then lead to …Why do we even need “rainy day funds”?

This, one would think, brings us to the question. What are the boards budget committees recommendations? Or maybe a better question is what is the district minimum mandate for teaching staff? If teachers are saying there is a lack of school counselors what is missing in structural resources decision making?

Are we saying the legislators need to write bills so Governing Board members avoid this task of their offices? Who knows better than the district their needs? Is the audience calling for a overhaul of the distribution of funding by their Governing Boards? Categorically the cadre did not hear or find a middle ground comprise and even the words “leading to possible solutions” other than MORE MONEY.

Everyone in the audience whole heartily believes the only means was more money would solve education problems. The graduation rates in our state are ever-increasing, students are graduating at a higher rate. But sorely missing is basic performance numbers in reading and math and you can add dangerously low levels. Arizona ranked 45th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in the “Education Week” rankings for 2018. Now in pay, Arizona ranks 49th.

Catherine Barrett is an Arizona Governor’s Master Teacher and currently Chair of citizens initiative petition, A Classroom Code of Ethics For Public Schools K-12. You can find her on Twitter @ReadersLeadPD, and on Facebook at Yes4Ethics.

1 Comment

  1. I recently moved from California. California has increased Education funding by more than 50% in the past five years.
    the Governor changed the funding formula by eliminating categorical funding methodology to what is called the “Local control Funding Formula”. This formula directs more funding to low income, high needs schools and gives local school boards more control in how they spend the money. The results: Not a point higher on any national or state testing. Most money has gone to teacher pension contributions (which is only about 65% funded) and little has gone to the classroo (the average teacher in California, according to the NEA, makes $87,000, the average retiring teacher (retiring this year) is making $100K+ and the average teacher pension is $57K (the average social security pension in the private sector is $15,800). Money has never solved the problem and it never will.. The states with the highest ADA have mostly the lowest scores on tests; states with lower ADA funding frequently high the highest test scores.

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