Editorial: Governor, we have an education problem

The first step to addressing a problem is recognizing you have one.

Gov. Doug Ducey still doesn’t realize we have a serious education problem in Arizona.

“That’s a false report by a left-wing public interest group,” Ducey said on Nov. 29 moments after helping break ground for a new charter school in west Phoenix which is being built, at least indirectly, with the help of the state treasury.

Ducey was talking about a report issued last month by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities that said the state is spending less on K-12 education today than before the recession when inflation is taken into account.

But, using figures from the joint Legislative Budget Committee, the report is correct. In 2007-08 the state spent from $4,949 to $4,760 per student. Now, accounting for inflation, the state is spending $4,200.

It doesn’t matter what wing looks at that number, it’s significantly less.

The governor has a plan: Give $38 million to the best-performing schools. Create competition, watch the innovation flow. Problem is, the Arizona Republic did an analysis of Ducey’s plan and its results were that most of that money would go to the state’s richest school districts and charter schools.

Poor districts that are desperate for the funds would be shut out.

The voucher plan the governor and legislature passed last year would have a similar effect. The average price for a private school tuition in Arizona is $6,283 for elementary schools and $17,317 for high schools.

The voucher the state plans to give (subject to referendum approval) would give parents $4,500 per year for a child. Most middle class and lower income families are not going to be able to pay $1,800 to $14,800 a year per child to send their children to the best private schools.

Some of those schools will provide scholarships and discounts, but typically the top private schools only offer discounted rates to a third of their students. They have bills to pay too.

Even if the program is expanded beyond the current plan of 5,500 students, not many families will be able to take advantage of it.

What they will see is that what few funds the state provides to public education will be leaving and going to private schools.

We have written this editorial many times, and unfortunately, we suspect we will have to write it again in the future. This is too important a topic to just stand back and watch our schools fail.

These are our children, our grandchildren. This is their future, our state’s future.

Our public schools have proven how efficient they are, ranking 41st in the nation despite being 48th in funding. Think what our schools could do if they just received the national average of $10,700 per student, a whopping increase of $5,500.

It is not our teachers and administrators holding our children back. The fault is with the legislature and governor.

But first the governor needs to realize there is a problem. His office has been very quick to send out our editorials recently that compliment him for KidsCare and Banning the Box in their email blasts. We challenge them to send out this one.