Arizona’s public school system has ranked worst across the 50 United States of America for some time.
Scholaroo set out to find the most and least educated states in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to determine the best and worst school systems per state, the scholarship-centered website compared three key factors:
Student Safety – Arizona ranked 45 out of 50
Student Success – Arizona ranked 44 out of 50
School Quality – Arizona ranked 50 out of 50
According to Scholaroo, Arizona ranks 47th for the least educated, 38th for educational attainment, 48th for school quality, and 48th in the number of colleges/universities per 100,000 adults.
The AZ Schools Report card provides a myriad of statistics. For the most part, Arizona’s public schools are failing miserably with around a 50% proficiency in Mathematics and English among graduating students. Part of the problem is qualified teachers. As an example, Buena High School has 25% of its teachers as non-certified and/or teaching outside of their area of expertise.
I don’t believe it is a lack of funding for the schools. Arizona’s statewide average per-pupil spending for everything is $10,729 in the fiscal year 2022. This marks a nearly 8% increase in spending from the prior fiscal year. But surprisingly, with more students joining the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program, the state surplus has increased by over $1.4 billion. The ESA program has reflected a cost-savings program for the state because each ESA student receives half of what the state allocates for students per year. Therefore, ESAs are saving tax dollars while providing opportunities for parents to select the education source for their children.
When parents elect to move their child to another school or to homeschool, that does not increase the total cost of education. It simply shifts funding to another educational option. I believe parents should be allowed to determine which educational institute provides the best education for their child.
If the public schools want to increase enrollment, they will need to trim overhead, reduce the administrative burden on teachers, and make the education of the students a priority. If they wish to be competitive, they have to make radical changes. Students who cannot complete the basic aptitude tests for their grade level should be held back and tutored.
What does the ESA program offer? It allows parents to use the money allocated to educate their child, to pay for the education model determined by the parent. The state’s expanded ESA program provides up to $7,000 to participating students. Parents can use these funds to pay for private school tuition or to purchase home education courses, tutoring, materials, and supplies. After the COVID-19 debacle with schools closed for almost two years, tutoring to bring students up to the proper grade level is critical and should be a goal for every public school.
Why am I concerned since my children and grandchildren have grown? I see the deleterious effects of their education, and I do not wish that on any future generations. Too many children are being indoctrinated to accept things like socialism and communism, and a lot of that is taking place in our public schools. If we want to save our country, we must start with the education of our children.
I have been pushing for school choice for 40 years. I believe the public education system is ruled by the teachers’ unions, which need to be abolished, and plenty of leftist bureaucrats. Our students are being dumbed down by the current system, and until we get some competition among schools, the public school system will continue to fail our students. I believe there are many teachers who have not been corrupted by things like Critical Race Theory and want to be good teachers. But until we challenge public schools and make other alternatives for parents, the system will continue with their woke agenda. It’s time to take back the education of our children and stop the bureaucratic interventions in our lives. The ESA Program is a great start.
Steve Conroy is a retired military officer and has been actively involved in his community for over 30 years.
It’s always a good day when an elected official holds to his campaign promises. And as the newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Horne has done just that. During his campaign, Tom said he would make it a priority to stop indoctrination like Critical Race Theory while fighting back against cancel culture and improving student performance. Last week, he took important steps to make this a reality.
Under Tom’s direction, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) has eliminated social-emotional learning (SEL) from its administration. Among his first moves, Tom has not only removed references to SEL, but he has gotten rid of other leftist initiatives from former Superintendent Kathy Hoffman like the division of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion along with sex chat rooms for minors like “Queer Chat.”
But while Tom is working hard to end the woke indoctrination of our students, he’s not stopping there…
America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was possibly the most consequential public policy blunder in our history.
The enormous costs included $5 trillion or so in unproductive federal spending, inflation, reduction in our standard of living, and permanent economic damage that will be felt for generations to come.
There was massive learning loss and the specter of loved ones dying alone. The incidence of depression and drug addiction skyrocketed. Businesses were shuttered while many Americans seemingly lost their work ethic.
What happened? The short answer is that we panicked and listen to “experts” who vowed we could halt this virus if we were willing to sacrifice enough.
At first, with imperfect information around a deadly new phenomenon, projecting a worst-case scenario and drastic measures to prevent it made sense. However, more data and experience with the virus soon tended to support a strategy of containment (“stop the spread”).
Still the decision makers at the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), doubled down on their zero-COVID based recommendations. Lockdowns ensued. We scoffed at cost-benefit analysis. “If only one life…” and “in an abundance of caution…” became the guiding standards of policymaking.
The American people mostly went along with it. Why wouldn’t they? They were provided little awareness of alternate approaches.
Once the narrative had been established that eradication was the only permissible strategy, opposing viewpoints were excluded to a degree any Third World dictator would have envied.
Dissenters were shamed and censored. Professional reputations were attacked. Dr. Fauci informed us that “I am the science” and thus all who disagreed were “science deniers.”
Consider the case of Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a Professor of Health Policy at Stanford. He also directs Stanford’s Center for Demography and Economics of Health and Aging and is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economics Research. So, the doc isn’t exactly an empty suit. He was also a co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD), signed now by thousands of medical scientists and practitioners, which advocated for “focused protection” against COVID.
Since COVID is dangerous only to a relatively small proportion of the population, it was argued that the greatest efforts should be in protecting people most at risk, the chronically ill and elderly. This would focus resources where they do the most good, saving lives and money.
Agree or not, there is nothing looney about this notion that one-size-fits-all doesn’t make sense for COVID-19. It was mainstream common sense, advocated by highly qualified, non-political scientists.
Yet the blogosphere and leading scientific opinion channels exploded with vitriolic denunciations. The authors were accused of promoting infections among the young to achieve a cruel herd immunity strategy. The claimed the GBD was promoting a wholesale return to our pre-pandemic lives—that they were encouraging fringe groups who distrust health officials and prioritizing individual preference above public good.
None of it was true, but to the social media tyrants, that didn’t mean that Dr. Bhattacharya should be vigorously debated. It meant that he must be threatened and silenced.
We just recently learned that he was indeed censored and intentionally shadowbanned by Twitter. His account was tagged with a label of “Trends Blacklist.” He was censored before he tweeted a single message.
He had violated no rules. He spread no “misinformation.” He only defied the approved consensus. He was silenced by the mob at Twitter, none of whom had anything like his knowledge or experience.
The GBD authors were right, of course. None of the isolations, lockdowns, or school closures affected the eventual course of the virus. We received virtually no benefit from the massive self-inflicted harm.
It’s ironic in our supposedly modern, enlightened age that dogma won out over science. That is, we based our societal decisions on knowledge rooted in deemed authority, not the open inquiry of the scientific method.
We paid a big price for listening to the Fauci’s of the world with their refusal to balance benefit with cost. Dr. Fauci bragged of not caring about the cost of his demands.
They convinced our leaders to spend money we don’t have in a vain attempt to achieve the impossible.
Bad idea. We can’t afford to let it happen again.
Dr. Thomas Patterson, former Chairman of the Goldwater Institute, is a retired emergency physician. He served as an Arizona State senator for 10 years in the 1990s, and as Majority Leader from 93-96. He is the author of Arizona’s original charter schools bill.
But after watching Republican Tom Horne win the race for Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction this November—while 19 conservatives picked up school board seats—Democrats went into a tailspin. That’s why it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Governor Katie Hobbs is willing to do whatever it takes to change the narrative, including lying to voters about K-12 education spending…
Not all students in our schools are destined for college, but this does not mean that they are lesser in their social standing. Every student is different, and each one deserves the opportunity to explore alternative pathways with equal standing in their career development.
Take trade craftsmen, for example. These people work with their hands to create the things that stand all around us, and their respected professions have long histories of easily identifiable accomplishments—like the buildings we live in and the roads we drive on.
But to acquire these skills, students need trade school education, which often involves apprenticeship programs typically offered by trade union associations and sponsored by the business contractors that need these skilled employees. They usually start at age 18 and require a high school diploma or GED along with a willingness to work. Most of the time, the training is free to the student, except perhaps to purchase tools, and can involve a job placement during the apprenticeship so the student “earns while they learn.”
“North America’s Building Trades Unions’ (NABTU) world-class registered apprenticeship programs train workers to become highly-skilled, six-figure earning construction workers through a debt-free, technologically-advanced education. These earn-as-you-learn programs pay family-sustaining wages and provide health care coverage and retirement benefits from day one.”
At the end of the apprenticeship program, which is usually three to four years in length, the student can be certified as a journeyman and be free to apply for employment in the general workforce or even start his or her own business.
Why Do I Have to Go to School?
Inevitably, just about every student wants to know why they have to go to school, but how do you explain to them the importance of learning the things that schools are required to teach?
Perhaps one way is to start presenting various career pathways to students as early as fifth and sixth grade, and then develop their interest in these pathways through middle school. This would prepare them to specialize their education in high school and help them to understand that they need to learn basic education skills in reading and math so they can progress to the more practical applications of developing a career pathway.
What Is My Exit Strategy?
Presenting career pathways to students earlier in their education is an important first step, but it’s not enough. It is critical to prepare students for the next step in their lives once they graduate. Unfortunately, many of them have no idea what they will do after high school, and that demonstrates a disappointing failure of the school system.
I often hear from trade union recruiters that they cannot get any serious attention from guidance counselors and that they do not get much opportunity to talk to students in the way that college recruiters often do. The education system appears to favor college enrollment at the exclusion of other viable alternatives. This does a disservice to our students and to the community which needs more skilled workers.
A working wage through school with no debt, job placement after completion, and in-demand skills are very attractive features that should appeal to students trying to decide their future after they graduate from high school. Schools and career counselors should take these trade career pathways more seriously and include them as options they promote.
How Do We Do This?
One way we can begin to implement this is by looking at what is working well in other areas. The NABTU has already developed a curriculum in use by several high schools around the country. It introduces students to the apprenticeships and career opportunities available in the building trades. They call it “The Other Four-Year Degree.”
In addition, we should start taking an honest look at our communities and the skills that are needed to make it function effectively. Below is one arbitrary list of skills, but there are plenty more.
The “Big Three” – professions where we often heat about critical shortages: teachers, police, and nurses
Trade Craftsmen – electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, HVAC, steelworkers, brick and tile workers, plasterers, boilermakers, and more
Health Care – doctors, nurses, medical technicians, therapists, medical assistants, medical records
Engineering and Technology – hardware and software research and development, design, manufacturing
Business (Public and Private) – general management, legal and accounting, human resources, sales and marketing, project management, entrepreneurs
Who Provides the Training?
One of the primary objectives of public education should be to fulfill the needs of the community. Below is a list of the educational organizations that can address that objective. But the key is they need to work together cooperatively and seamlessly to be effective and show value for the funding that is invested in them.
K-12 Schools(District, Charter, Private) – general education, career pathway development, and introduction to job skills training
Trade Schools (West-MEC and EVIT) – trade union apprenticeships
Community Colleges – technical certificates, professional degree programs
Universities – research and development, professional degrees
Military – probably the largest and most sophisticated job skills training organization available
Local Businesses – job specific skills
Why Should We Spend So Much on Education?
In Arizona, we spend more than half of the state budget on education. There should be a very clear and convincing reason to justify this massive expenditure. If this funding is regarded as an investment, where is the demonstrable economic benefit that shows a return on that investment?
The practical answer to both questions may lie in the concept of economic development at both the personal and community level.
The student attends school so they can develop into a productive adult capable of supporting themselves through employment.
The community benefits by having skilled employees available to move forward on growing business enterprises that provide goods and services to the community.
That’s why we should focus on providing all viable career opportunities for our students, By doing so, we can make this investment pay off for their futures—and for ours.
Kurt Rohrs is a Chandler resident and incoming member of the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board.