Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hit Me with Your Best Shot. . .

OK, here is what we are going to do. bit by bit, I am going to release the rough draft of my policy positions, and I want all of you to rip me bloody on it. I want you to find the holes in my logic, the places I am just plain wrong, and don't be afraid to call me an idiot.

That being said, this will not be the entirety of my Education position. I have several more points of emphasis that I will release after getting feedback for each.

Here we go:

Increasing Education Expenditure by Understanding and Controlling Capital Spending.

Several studies have shown that we can expect exponential growth in Arizona over the next 20 years. Building the infrastructure required to sustain this growth is likely to further strain education funding during this period and going forward. Careful planning and proper policy, however, can help preserve at least a portion of the funding that would otherwise be claimed by capital and return it to operations and the actual teaching of our students. Some specific things that can be done:

1. Reaffirm and expand Arizona’s commitment to open enrollment and home schooling. So far, the charter school program has been a tremendous success and has slightly to moderately slowed the need for infrastructure growth as the facilities for charter schools are privately funded. An upswing in home schooling, while providing Arizona families more choices in the education of their children, has also relieved some of the infrastructure burden that would have occurred otherwise. If families wish to participate in a charter school or home schooling, then the barriers should be further reduced where practicable.

2. Maximizing use and maintenance of existing structures. It is important that older buildings be maintained and updated in such a manner as to keep them operable for extended periods of time. Schools that may be losing enrollment due to their location in areas where demographics are skewing toward older families without school aged children should be moved toward utility as “magnet” schools which are more likely to attract students based on specialized curriculum rather than proximity. Studies should be done to determine the feasability as well as the effectiveness of moving some schooling systems to year-round operation.

3. We should resist, at all cost, to succumb to the suddenly popular urge to finance new school infrastructure to hide budget deficits. Not only is it wrong to essentially tax our children to hide our poor spending decisions in other areas, but the convenience of resorting to credit in government spending, as in personal spending, often obscures the need to make hard choices. It is the duty of the state leadership to face and make difficult decisions as they spring up and not kick these problems down the road for future leaders, especially when it comes to education.

11 comments:

RepGroe said...

Bravo! Especially #3.

roger said...

Hmmm interesting...comment.

Anyhoo, let me say that the solution to our education system is not more charter schools and home schooling. While it appeal to christian conservative quite a bit, I am not sure that competition is the answer to our failed schools.

Let me ask this, how do you feel about admission requirements to these schools? About the testing standards that it takes to get in to most? About the strongly important issue of what happens to kids who do not have the parental involvement of those who are most likely to home school or choose charter's (and be able to take them there without busing)?

Respectfully, this is an option for the most involved of parents. It is a sad extension of the conservative philosophy of competition to a level where it should never go...the level of children paying deeply for the ability of their parents to be involved.

The reason this isn't an answer is that while these schools with a "selection bias" prosper, those left in those that are not chosen fail...and they may never be admitted...on the basis of class, race, test scores, etc.

Are you really willing to let the market punish those who are not ready to compete, do not have the capacity to do so, etc.?

Again, respectfully. Its a nice campaign slogan for your party...but most of your party is higher educated, higher socio-economic, and likely to benefit from these government programs...while others...are not.

roger said...

On number #3...how on earth can you assume that there has been poor spending choices on schools as the school funds are cut or rise at a rate that is much lower than those in other districts around the country?

Why on earth can you argue that we should not finance new schools when old are crumbling and our state government will not fund maintenance as you suggest...it certainly hasn't happened at our universities. We try the damnedest to get infrastructure funds and they say no no no...it just aint sexy.

Last, we don't pay for houses with cash. We finance them...we invest in them. How can we not do that with education?

Finally, answer this, why SHOULDNT we spend more money on education. It has been proven over and over that the argument that it goes to waste and wasteful administration is a red herring. We are LAST in school spending per pupil. Even conservative states like Texas finance schools with bonds and with 3 times the property taxes we do. They have a much better ed system...a much better economy...and an equal chance to those who have access to schools.

If you were a bit more pragmatic...like some great GOPers like Bob Dole, Warner, and others who valued public education, I might send you a check.

If you wake up and see that there is a role of government for education (as you see with Defense and fighting the border) you might get my support.

AZAce said...

Roger,

Texas doesn't have income tax, hence the high property taxes.

Framer said...

Roger,

I support charter schools, but I send my children to a public school because that is the choice that is right for me and my family.

I will always fight for local control of public schools because that is what should happen. Unfortunately, that comes at a price as there will always be an imbalance statewide between school districts. Sometimes the district will take that local control and make bad choices, and will do a very poor job. In those cases it is important to have an out in the form of charter schools and home schooling so parents can strive for something better for their children.

I never want to be to the point where we are entirely micromanaging the school districts as a state. You should largely get what you vote for in local school jurisdictions and I believe that the majority of the time that is a very good thing. Sometimes it is not, however, and there needs to be a plan B.

And I hate to say it but I don't have a problem requiring something of parents when it comes to education, either in getting a child to a location not serviced by a bus, or the requirement that some charter schools have of parent volunteer time. I suspect that nearly all parents are willing to make that sacrifice if it is required. There comes a point where there comes a gap between the government and the people in a lot of areas where sacrifice and effort must make up the difference. Because some wouldn't use such an opportunity is a poor reason to deny it to all.

Neither of my parents graduated from high school, but my mother sacrificed to make sure that I did, and made sure I went to college as well.

As far as racism and class separation being rampant in the charter school system, I want to see hard evidence. I suspect that there isn't enough to support these common claims. Show definitively that there is an issue and I will fight for the reforms.

And as far as funding and spending in public schools, I believe you may be jumping the gun a bit. You have read just a small portion of my education platform, and this is all I have on charter and home schooling. The other 80% is entirely about public schools and positive things we can do there.

I went to public schools, I send my children to public schools, I like public schools. I do recognize, however, that others may not be of the same opinion, and I wish to protect their current ability to choose another option.

What I want to do is give public schools the tools to compete and win back those who may have lost faith in them.

Thanks for the feedback, give me more, and I will provide you with more information to show that we are closer than you think.

Framer said...

Roger,

I suspect that infrastructure costs probably aren't accurately figured into the "money spent per pupil" figures. But that is my argument entirely; wise choices made with capitol frees more for operations and the actual job of education.

If proper maintenance is not being performed on existing structures, then I will indeed have a problem with that and will fight to make sure that is done. Maintaining an existing structure is far cheaper than continually building new structures (in most cases.)

And as far as increasing funding wholesale, that may or may not happen, and I guarantee that it will not happen this year or next with our current deficit.

Again, I fall on the side of using a large portion of state funds on education as it is a primary, constitutional responsibility of our state government. The state it seems, and especially in recent times, our governor does not agree.

It is my understanding that health care is rapidly overtaking or already has overtaken education as the largest portion of the state budget. That keeps me up at night because that trend is unlikely to reverse anytime soon. What could the money we spent on instituting all day Kindergarten been better spent on? I bet plenty of good educators could give me a healthy list.

And for the final dagger, remember that great lottery concept and how it would be "for the children?"

Here's the breakdown of where things go:

General Fund $819,683,700

Local Transportation Assistance Fund $581,000,000

Heritage Fund $318,526,500

County Assistance Fund $160,286,000

Mass Transit $72,134,600

Economic Development Fund $53,078,500

Healthy Arizona $61,317,700

CASA $31,423,100

Department of Gaming $900,000

I'd like to see some of those hands removed and a larger portion going to education like we were promised.

Again, I've go more coming.

Anonymous said...

Texas doesn't have a state tax because it has OIL.

roger said...

Thanks for the very thoughtful responses Framer. I will respond more later when I have time.

As for the property taxes being high because there is not state tax...it doesn't matter. Property taxes are the primary engine for funding schools nation-wide. States do provide a per pupil aid, but property taxes are the big big issue. It is also why there are disparities in schools in a big way...which I understand that charter schools are meant to help with...but why not attack the real problem rather than bandaiding it with school choice?

The clear problem can be illustrated with District 16. Arguably the best schools by far in S. Arizona. It is also the richest school system and has the highest property values. That is no accident if you consider that property taxes fund the schools. Last, what is sad is that to join that school system, you must purchase a house or pay rent in that district...which is very very unaffordable for most families. Its a viscious cycle.

As for the issue of lottery funding. I don't trust it either unless it is clearly dedicated as it was in Georgia to a specific program. In Georgia, a very conservative state, that is a the Hope Scholarship program which put Georgia in the top 5 support of aid to students entering higher ed. It provides free tuition to those with a B average leaving high school and a B averge attained in school. We remain second to last in aid to higher ed. students.

Lotteries can work and do...but not when it goes to the black hole I call the general fund. I will agree with you there.

AZAce said...

Not all states rely on property taxes for primary education funding, although most certainly do. Texas is a bad example for a number of reasons.

But, I have been in school systems all over the state of Illinois and have seen schools in some very poor areas in Illinois (including Chicago) crank out top kids because they provided choice via magnet schools that centered on math, science, reading, etc. The issue was not how much money, but how the money was spent. We can't often fix poor parenting problems, but we can give all kids the best chance by putting the money where it really matters: reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic. And when those aren't offered as much or as well as they should be, choice is the only option that prevents a two-class system that gives great opportunities to rich kids and prevents poor kids from getting out of the system that's keeping them poor. Rich people always have choice including private schools, tutoring, etc. Poor people don't when we tell them they're stuck with the school down the street and they should simply beg for more money from the state or sell more candy bars for the school.

Mariana said...

azace is right; I used to live in Texas and yes, the best schools are in the welthiest or most poluted parts of the state.

Framer,

1) not all parents can volunteer or have the time to drive their kids to school; I know, I was there.( Better public transportation would help)

2)even with vouchers, most of the studends will go to traditional public schools wich will become less funded; even if you and I send our kids to the best schools (public, private, etc) we will still have to deal with people that come from the "not so good" schools: people we work with, people that work for us, people that make our cars, people that build our homes, you got the idea. Don't we all benefit if "they" got a good education? (By good education I don't necessarly mean college)

Framer said...

mariana,

Thanks for your feedback. I suspect that we underrate most parents willingness to sacrifice a little if it means improving the quality of their children's education. I don't believe that government shouldn't be afraid of asking for a small bit of sacrifice that doesn't invole taxation, especially to those who directly benefit.

2. I have never said anything about vouchers for private schools. I would suspect that even if offered, most private schools would not jump at the possibility anyway. I would prefer to work in the existing system of charter schools, which, and this may surprise some, even Obama agrees with.

To restate, good, locally-controlled public schools are the best possible scenario. However, there are times when this is simply not working, and, in those situations, charter schools provide a reasonable safety valve.