Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why we are at the bottom of the heap

Arizona has the distinct honor of being one of the worst states in the country in which to either be a teacher, or a student.

We are frighteningly close to being awarded The Dumbest State Award (2nd in line for those keeping track at home - the only time when being a Runner-Up is good), according to the National Academy on Something That Analyzes Testing. You can argue this is due to our large immigrant as well as migrant population, or the fact that outside of Scottsdale, the predominant language is NOT English, or the fact that our high school graduation rate teeters somewhere near the 60% mark. Whatever the reason, its resulted in an abhorrently intellectually inferior student population. If you require anecdotal evidence to prove my point, our best and brightest kids - you know the ones, the kids with the 4.4 GPAs who volunteer, and lead a gazillion groups on campus - those kids? They are denied access to the 'bigger names' in colleges regularly. While they shine here in the Grand Canyon State, they are barely even visible when compared to the rest of the applicant pool.

We are #49 in "Per Pupil Spending". Translated into normal language: Arizona spends less than 48 other states on each child in the classroom. It is not only that our teachers are underpaid when compared to their colleagues in other states, but we spend less on Educational Assistants, infrastructure, learning materials such as books and necessary equipment such as desks. (Oh, but as an aside, our esteemed Co-Interim-Superintendents asked for, and received, a $750 a week stipend, retroactive to October 31st of 2008, for 'all their hard work' as well as a $600 a month car allowance.) If we could avoid problem #1, then problem #2 would be something to shout from the rooftops, but clearly, Arizona has not figured a way to do more with less.

Yet, that is exactly what we are going to have to do. Our Legislature, in their infinite wisdom, has decided to cut over 190 million dollars from the education budget.

I understand that times are tough. Believe me.. I get it. Cuts have to be made everywhere. But these elected officials, who, by the way, mostly either send their kids to private school or home school their children, have cut a greater percentage of its own education budget than any other state in the union.

Let me rephrase that: The state that spends less than 48 states on education cut more than any other state from their education budget.

In my district alone, we will lose 220 teachers for the 09/10 school year. If you were a first or a second year teacher in my district, you were unilaterally RIF'd. (Reduction In Force).

Other districts are taking similar drastic measures: cutting out librarians, art, music and other "specials", going to 4-day school weeks, increasing class sizes beyond mandated numbers.

The teachers stand up. We yell, we scream, we beg to be heard.

But our pleas fall on deaf ears.

Arizona's leaders have proven once again that Arizona is a state that does not respect, understand nor value its children.

Shame on them.

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