Recently, the Arizona Education Network (AEN) opined in the Arizona Republic, “Once in a great while, Arizona citizens have the opportunity to do something truly transformational for the trajectory of our state.”
With such a dramatic statement, one would think they were advocating innovative, new reform ideas or cutting-edge approaches to teaching. Turns out AEN was referring to plans to permanently raise the state sales tax and spend more on Arizona’s outdated public education system.
This idea is neither new nor “transformational.” In fact, this is just an extension of the “temporary” sales tax from 2010. In the past 40 years we’ve increased education funding with no corresponding improvement in student achievement. Nearly three-quarters of 4th graders in Arizona cannot read at grade level — about where we were 20 years ago.
Between 1969 and 2008, inflation-adjusted per pupil spending in Arizona increased 104 percent. The spending increase didn’t make classes any smaller (we have a 20:1 teacher/pupil ratio, nearly identical to where we were in 2000); we don’t direct more dollars to the classroom (we now have the lowest percentage of classroom spending since the state auditor started keeping track); and we continue to keep administrative staff and let teachers go (districts retained more administrators than teachers over the past few years, and the ratio of instructional staff to non-instructional staff is still about 1:1).
Arizona is starting to get beyond the worn-out plan to put more money into the same old system. The state’s new education saving accounts are the most liberty-enhancing school choice program in U.S. history and offer kids the most promise. With these accounts parents can customize their child’s education using their portion of state education funds.
A bill that would double the number of students eligible for these accounts is now on the governor’s desk waiting for her signature. Now that is the kind of change that is truly transformational.
Goldwater Institute: Education Savings Accounts Extend Hope, Opportunities
Goldwater Institute: Education Savings Accounts: Questions and Answers
Goldwater Institute: It’s the Same Old Song
Arizona Republic: A new sales tax for schools?