Friday, November 30, 2012

Disassembling Public Education in Arizona

Part I: The Dismantling Of Comprehensive Education: A Case Study.

(3 parts combined in this blog)
Decades, ago, Arizona along with most other states, set standards for public education curricula. The state’s educational leaders defined what children need to know and be able to do in at least ten interdisciplinary content areas: mathematics, reading, writing, the sciences, social studies and civics (local, state, and national government), the arts, comprehensive health, technology, foreign language, and workplace skills. This broad-based comprehensive education introduces these disciplines to children while they are in their most formative and receptive periods. The curricula builds the foundation skills necessary for access to the interdisciplinary comprehensive skills necessary in our complex society. Most, if not all quality public school districts adhere to this fact-based, interdisciplinary, comprehensive requirement. However, most of the 600 charter schools in Arizona do not.
Representatives of minority religious groups, a handful of fact-adverse ideologues, and greed-driven corporations and individuals who want access to education tax dollars, have taken control of Arizona government. Even though the largest group in this minority constitutes less than 6% of Arizona’s population, through concerted efforts, their representatives make up more than 20% of the state legislature and senior political decision-makers. Most leading positions in the state senate and the house are occupied by members of one religious group.
This minority has been able to erode the state’s comprehensive education concept through changes in the state’s tax laws, widespread introduction of charter schools – including online charter schools (virtual schools) that are not schools at all – and funding cuts designed to destroy district schools. These movements and actions are led and funded by people who have figured out ways to pocket public tax dollars collected for the education of all children.
The use of tax revenues has changed in Arizona. For over a decade, there has been an ever-expanded way state taxpayers can direct a portion of their taxes to educational programs they support. They are allowed to deduct those dollars from their tax bills and direct them to schools and programs they like. Now, after years of little steps, this group has been able to erode the idea of separation of church and state. Public tax dollars, intercepted before they get to the general fund, can now go to public, private, corporate for-profit, and religious schools. In addition, corporations can divert large amounts of their state taxes to schools they approve of. There is a noticeable drain on educational dollars allocated from the general fund.
As these tax dollars are drained away from public district schools, they go to replicating facilities, equipment, teachers, and other existing publicly financed resources, including the purchase or rental of land, buildings, and perhaps most disturbing, profit and personal enrichment for charter school “owners and operators.” All of these replicated expenses come out of the dollars provided for students in the charter school. Most inappropriately, these siphoned dollars come near to doubling the cost of education for Arizona taxpayers. The unnecessary cost of charters is kept from the public eye by draining the resources going to public education for all children as provided by public district schools. The long-term solution to support this rip-off is to starve public district schools out of existence and sell off their resources.
This blog will continue in Part II.
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