Matthew Ladner

School funding dispute a distraction from fundamental problems

Posted on July 06, 2009 | Author: Matthew Ladner
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USA Today recently ran an editorial piece on Victor and Miguel Mendoza, two American servicemen in Iraq who became United States citizens on July 4th.

The Mendozas represent the best of what the nation is celebrating this Independence Day weekend - liberty, freedom and the sacrifice it takes to keep them strong. They symbolize what's right with America, a nation of immigrants that was built by opening its doors.

We should all be joyful and proud to welcome the Mendozas to our nation. USA Today notes that this contrasts starkly with the performance of Arizona high school students:

Immigrants seeking to become U.S. citizens have to pass a test, and the Mendoza brothers aced theirs this week in Baghdad. That's more than you can say for a group of Arizona high school students who were surveyed recently on their knowledge of U.S. history and civics.

Just in time for Independence Day, the Goldwater Institute, a non-profit research organization in Phoenix, found that just 3.5% of surveyed students could answer enough questions correctly to pass the citizenship test. Just 25%, for example, correctly identified Thomas Jefferson as the author of the Declaration of Independence.

Today the Arizona legislature will go back into a special session called by the Governor to continue a dispute over public school funding. Some useful education reforms await action on Governor Brewer's desk, and some, like Lexie's Law, have been signed.

Next session, elected officials of both parties should ask themselves hard questions. What can we do to correct the fact that 44 percent of Arizona fourth graders can't read at a fourth grade level? Why were 75 percent of Arizona high school students unable to identify Thomas Jefferson as the author of the Declaration of Independence?

Arguing over whether to spend an additional $200 million, which we don't have, in a $9.2 billion public school budget is merely a distraction. We have a system of schooling that doesn't work for children or taxpayers. Arizona lawmakers need to do something about it.
 
Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president for research at the Goldwater Institute.
 
Learn more:
 
Goldwater Institute: Fortune Favors the Bold: Reforms for Results in K-12 Education
 
USA Today: Ignorant citizens

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