Sen. Andy Biggs' recent suggestion that current education funding is acceptable because “some schools are excelling” is faulty. These schools succeed in spite of the state's neglect, because of local taxpayers who pass bonds and overrides, and volunteers who donate their services, time, money and supplies to our children's schools. His statement ignores a burden shifting from the legislative budget process to local school district taxpayers, and even private donors, who provide everything from needed dollars to paper and pencils.
The Arizona Constitution requires the state provide education “as nearly free as possible.” A majority of current Arizona Legislators do not believe that K-12 public education is a public good. The Legislature has drastically cut the education budget, and Arizona ranks at the bottom in per-pupil funding. It continues to divert public funds to private schools with its ever-expanding tax credit schemes and actively works against groups that advocate for a stable funding source for education.
In the meantime, qualified and experienced teachers are being driven out of the classroom. Capital improvements -- from carpet to air-conditioning to safe parking lots -- are being deferred. And parents, along with community businesses, are being asked to financially support public schools, which -- per the Arizona Constitution -- should be properly funded in the first instance.
K-12 faculty, staff and administrators work hard to challenge and develop students. Importantly, though, the districts that are keeping their heads above water, even excelling, all have a long legacy of financial support from the taxpayers in the district – both direct donations and bond approvals. Without that support, the successes of the districts are in jeopardy.
And as we consider our state's priorities, does it really make sense to tie the quality of a child's education to the willingness or ability of a particular zip code to financially support public education? Those who wrote our Constitution certainly did not think so.