Originally published Sunday, March 11, 2018 at 06:05a.m.
Meaningful. Thorough. Effective.
Those are three words that describe what we want in education support from the Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey for education in Arizona.
It would include more money for capital improvements, upkeep and maintenance, classrooms – such as technology and materials, as well as better salaries for teachers and staff, among many others, to fully and properly prepare our children for the future.
What the state lawmakers are doing, however, constitutes giving a single cracker to a starving man.
The bill (HB 2377) for school supplies – in the form of $150 that teachers can use for everything from pencils and paper to sheet music, plus a dollar-for-dollar tax credit up to $150 per year against what teachers owe in state income taxes for their out-of-pocket expenses – is ridiculous.
While we are all for helping teachers with the school supplies expense that is currently coming out of their personal pockets, it is still a sad statement and underscores the much bigger, obvious negligence of the state wherein they are not funding education properly.
Yes, we would like to see the bill pass so teachers have some relief. At the same time, it feels like too little considering the cuts public education in Arizona has suffered over the past decade. That amounts to tens of millions of dollars across the board.
Consider also that each fall parents go shopping for school supplies at local businesses – where lists are posted from each school on what they are expected to buy for the coming school year. The lists are unbelievable and near $100 by the time they get it all. Pay to play in a different form.
Yet the state lawmakers sit in Phoenix and think up ridiculous bills – wasting precious time – instead of fixing the issue of schools and education. Further, just this past week an analysis showed many of the state’s charter schools – public schools themselves – are near bankruptcy.
Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, disagrees with those who would rather get nothing than the proposal that’s on the table. “This is not a fix, and we know that,” he said. “It’s a good-faith effort to try to help our teachers. It’s not everything but it’s something.
“So let’s not have that kind of talk about ‘insulting’ and ‘not a fix.’”
The “school supplies” bill has bipartisan support, but it also has bipartisan opposition.
But is it meaningful, thorough, and effective?
If it passes and Ducey signs the bill into law, it may qualify as meaningful. Unfortunately, it is not thorough – many more needs exist in public education, and it certainly is not effective when teachers may be able to buy school supplies but continue to struggle, for example, to pay rent.
The bill – a drop in the bucket – will not produce the desired or intended result of what lawmakers have promised so many times: quality education.
And our fear is – that in passing this bill they will say “we gave you something” – it sidesteps the issue of giving them what they need.