For several years now the state’s Republican-led legislature has bragged about how they made tough choices during the recession to get Arizona’s fiscal affairs in order. They took a lot of money from a lot of important programs, and one of those was education.

Despite many telling lawmakers it was not legal, they took funding that specifically violated a law having to deal with increasing education funding with inflation.

Well, here we are four years later, and just last week a Maricopa County judge ruled the state was indeed wrong and they have to pay that money back. As of right now, that cost is $317 million. In total, counting four years of stealing from education, the state could be on the hook for $2.9 billion.

The new budget is in place, spending limitations have already been set. Now we have to wonder how our geniouses in Phoenix who got us into this mess are going to pay up.

Of course, some are already planning an appeal. Rather than coughing up the money they owe these schools, they’ll start spending taxpayer dollars to continue fighting a battle they will likely lose in court.

After the ruling, Gov. Jan Brewer didn’t take responsibility, and she didn’t hold lawmakers accountable. Instead, she used scare tactics to announce that if the state has to go through with finding this funding they will likely take it from public safety and protection programs aimed at the state’s “vulnerable population.”

Let’s be clear – Arizona lawmakers have been short-changing education for a lot longer than the last four years. Arizona consistently ranks as one of the worst in the nation when it comes to education funding.

However, they haven’t hesitated to approve new programs such as setting the third-grade reading standard initiative. While schools were charged with yet another form of standardized testing, Arizona lawmakers told schools to fund it and figure it out themselves.

Now, Arizona students must be reading at a third-grade level before they can pass to fourth grade. On paper, not a bad idea. These children should be able to read at grade level before passing onto the next grade, but the state has a responsibility to give schools the necessary tools, such as money, to do it.

Anyone who has sat in a public-school classroom recently would know that students right now are being taught to pass reading and math standardized test. Critical thinking is going away and selecting the right letter in a multiple-choice test has taken precedent.

I will give a specific example. I love my daughter’s elementary school, but in a recent open house, was discouraged when I saw the daily schedule.

While there are 80-minute and 50-minute sessions outlined for reading and math, there is one 30-minute session per day for social studies, science and writing. Since when did writing become an afterthought?

So much of the lesson plans center around meeting standards established by lawmakers with no clue. I don’t want my daughter to be able to just pass a test. I want her to come home with her mind full, and I want her to be able to use her education and apply it to life.

Last week’s ruling is good for Arizona’s schools because it forces lawmakers who wouldn’t focus on education willingly, into doing what’s right, which is investing in our future. Investing in our children.

(1) comment

John Flanagan

I suppose many of us do not have the pleasure of knowing the specific areas of education cuts because local media doesn't press for much detail, and all politicians of both the political party in power as well as the media's favored minority party usually release only the minimum. But I know one thing, and it is true everywhere in the country, particularly on the east coast....that is....some are of the opinion that we just need to keep throwing money into the bottomless pit of education, including administration, and some "programs" are more costly and less cost effective than others. The education portion of property taxes in some places of the country are so high that other aspects of government services are short changed, and each year the school administrations want more and more money to feed the bureaucratic monolith of public education. Someone has to come along with a cool head and look at the facts and do the math of what the American taxpayer can afford.

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