Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Graphs help

Jailbreak followup:

The escape of three murder convicts from the private prison in Kingman is playing out like a slush-pile screenplay. Yesterday brought news (h/t to Cap'n Tom) of another amazing operation by Arizona's crack lawnforcement system, rousting an innocent family on the basis of a bad tip. I'm on the lookout for stories on the official response to the security failure at the prison, and why these guys were in a medium-security facility.

You'd think some of this might make it into the Courier, but I guess they needed the space to tell us that nothing's happening in the DeMocker trial this week.

Editorial: It's a crucial year for Arizona education

The headline writer gets it right, for once. But like a stopped clock, this headline would be accurate every year.

Kids grow, and development happens regardless of whether our education system is properly funded this year or that. Our failure to invest in education at any given time means that kids miss learning opportunities. There's no second chance on second grade, not really. Missing a development window for a child has long-term consequences.

The unnamed Courier editor is jubilant here: "The 2010-11 academic school year . . . will be the year education makes a comeback in Arizona," arguing that the institution of the temporary sales-tax hike puts a big pile of new money into the schools. Sounds great, dunnit?

I hate to pop your bubble, editor, but you missed a crucial factor in the basis of your optimism. Before the sales-tax initiative, and to a large extent anticipating its passage, the Legislature, directed by Gov Brewer, slashed the state budget by 2 billion clams, including cutting education funding, by far the largest budget category, back to the 2006 level. The new sales tax is meant to replace most of that funding, but it only brings us back to less than zero. From a funding standpoint, our education system is therefore at least a little worse off this year and in the coming years than its already parlous state.

Even that depends on new sales-tax revenues meeting the Governor's optimistic projections. State budget cuts and the 1070 controversy are playing hob with tourism and conventions, and the construction industry is still on life support. LD1 Rep Lucy Mason is not optimistic that the sales tax will pull the ed budget back up: "We hope that it can even out, but more than likely that's not gonna happen."

I'm willing to allow that the editor simply does not understand what the Governor and Legislature were doing with the budget. It was confusing, after all, like the shell game it was meant to be. But one would hope that the editor of a daily newspaper would be a little more on the ball about something so important to our community.