Monday, September 27, 2010

Editorial: Public education needs transparent accountability

The unnamed Courier editor pushes his professorial eyeglasses down his nose and snores, "Have we let our universities become sacred cows?" Who is he hoping to kid?

Conservatives love to beat up on public schools, whether it's teachers unions indoctrinating first-graders with proletarian class rage, textbooks that don't give quite enough preference to superstitious drivel or the heroic struggle of the Confederacy, or public universities stamping out commie elitists like Xmas cookies. It's a conditioned reflex: say "public education" and a good conservative will always burp out some form of "socialist boondoggle." This goes back to the invention of public education, when people decided they'd prefer to tax themselves for an education system to build informed citizens rather than suffer with the one provided by the churches to frighten children and build good little tithers.

Conservatives love "accountability," which in real terms usually means blaming employees for the decisions made at the top. In Arizona's case the big decision is decades of underfunding our schools, and the big lie is blaming teachers for the results.

Here the editor urges the reader to keep an eye on the Board of Regents to make sure that our public universities don't cost the student too much. Sounds great until you realize that the Board of Regents has almost no control over that in real-world terms. The people controlling tuition prices are our state legislators in the budget process, when they determine the base funding of the universities every year, and they've been doing everything they can to divert public funds away from the universities. In their reelection appeals they won't tell you that they raised your kids' tuition, rather they'll brag (and lie) about "balancing the budget" and obfuscate about how they just transferred the real costs of government to the schools, counties, cities and towns, which have little choice but to shut up and deal with it in usually vain hope of avoiding worse treatment next year.

So if the editor is truly worried about the rising cost of public tuition, he should be asking pointed questions of Arizona's legislative majority leadership, particularly Senate whip Steve Pierce and House whip Andy Tobin. As should readers.

1 comment:

Use To Do said...

If I had to express any regret about moving to Arizona, it would be concerning the schools. As the parent of a grade school child, it worries the heck out of me that our schools have to beg for reams of paper, cleaning supplies, markers, crayons and other miscellaneous things in order to operate. I find it ironic that even with high unemployment, the number of parent volunteers has seemingly not increased. Much to my child's displeasure, I've taken to supplementing his education with workbooks that cover reading, vocabulary and math. I feel that if I don't do this, they'll end up as a management trainee at McDonald's or some such. (If they qualify).
I remember having much more homework than kids seem to get today. Vocabulary and spelling were covered daily and nightly. My child's homework usually consists of two math chapters, (doing every other problem), and reading. Lately, spelling tests have been discontinued. When I asked, I was told that this decision came from the district level. The range of subjects seems to have shrunk as well. I remember that from fourth grade up to I believe ninth, Spanish was a requirement.
This slow starvation of our educational system will, and already is, taking bites out of our collective posteriors. Colleges at various levels are already having to accommodate students with remedial deficiencies. That uses funds that previously were for college level classes.
So, I do not understand those who claim that our schools are over funded. I can only surmise that many who make this claim do not have children or had them so long ago that it's no longer a concern to them. Neither do I understand the claim that teachers are over paid. In a world where a fashion model, or someone rude, or ruthless enough can get chosen to appear on a so called "reality" television show and be paid many times that of the average educator, something is seriously wrong.