Educational Legislative Priorities

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Find out what educators are seeking from lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session. Tim Ogle, executive director for the Arizona School Boards Association and Dick Foreman, president and CEO of the Arizona Business and Education Coalition, and Jennifer Loredo, lobbyist for the Arizona Education Association, will talk about that.

Ted Simons: I'm Ted Simons. This weekend we have heard from advocates for a variety of issues on what they hope to see from the legislature in the upcoming session. We have heard from business and environmental interests. Tonight, education. Joining is is Tim Ogle, executive director of the Arizona school boards association, Dick foreman, president of the business , and education coalition, and Jennifer Loredo, lobbyist for the Arizona Education Association. Thanks for joining us.

Guests: A pleasure.

Ted Simons: Tim, start with you. What do Arizona schools need from the legislature to succeed?

Tim Ogle: Ted, the first thing, obviously, is resolution of the inflation funding lawsuit, proposition 301 lawsuit, that is overriding virtually every education issue. We're now at the precipice of having half of Arizona's K-12 students never who have attended a fully funded classroom as a result of the cuts from '09 never restored through inflation funding. that's a crisis that overrides all other education issues.

Ted Simons: Should there be a deal worked out to get this, get some sort of result and solution? Deals have been talked about in the past.

Tim Ogle: Yes.

Ted Simons: Are you ready?

Tim Ogle: The plaintiffs offered low pressure the plaintiff partnerships of which AEA is one and school business officials and my organization, we did have a deal that we tried to pitch to legislative leaders last summer. But we were told it was a nonstarter. We're hearing actually some very positive signals from the Ducey administration on perhaps movement towards a resolution. So fingers crossed that we can get that done.

Ted Simons: As far as succeeding, Arizona schools, what do they need and specifically from the governor and the legislature?

Dick Foreman: Well, it comes from a business and education perspective. We try to bring this great community of Arizona together from a business and education perspective. What we have our arms around now which we would like to see our legislature do is make sure we do not retreat on high expectations for our graduates, great standards for Arizona students to achieve, great assessments and that those assessments be properly funded.

Ted Simons: What would you define as a retreat?

Dick Foreman: A retreat would be, I haven't seen indications of a retreat in the statements made thus far, but we certainly wouldn't want to see that all the work that has gone into presenting the current college and career readiness standards to be somehow emaciated or start from scratch. I don't think anyone believes that's a good path to take including the new superintendent. We're very hopeful that we're on the right track to bring Arizona students and the families some of the greatest achievement standards in the country.

Ted Simons: What about the legislature and the governor? What can they do to help students in schools achieve?

Jennifer Loredo: Probably one of the top things is make sure our schools have the resources necessary to attract and retain our teachers. Having a teacher shortage, having a crisis of teachers leaving, losing about 50% of our teachers within the first five years because they can make more money, have less stress going to work for a bank or other business, and we need them in education. We can put some resources through the inflation lawsuit, give resources to schools to retract and retain high quality professionals. That's huge. I think a highly qualified teacher in front of a classroom is the single biggest indicator of student success.

Ted Simons: A lot of people say you can't throw money at education or anything. They don't want to talk about it however, is money for education right now going where it needs to go?

Jennifer Loredo: You know, people often say you can't throw money at a problem. I don't think we have ever thrown money at public education the way we need to in Arizona. We have never invested in it. Anything that we have where we forced the hands of the legislature has been because voters of Arizona tried to put more money into education. I have faith that we're going to get some resolution on this lawsuit so we can get money into the hands of the schools, but I think there's a need for business community and education community to step up and put something to the voters in 2016 or 2018 to truly invest in our public schools.

Ted Simons: Do you think Arizona schools are adequately financed?

Dick Foreman: That's not a loaded question, I take. Adequate is always a discussion. I would look at education funding as there is a great commitment, a great pie of money that goes to public education. The first thing we can do is make sure that pie is going to the classroom as much as possible. If you talk to any policy maker on the right or left of the political spectrum they would agree they would like more of that pie to go to the classroom side. The auditor general's report for five years shows an erosion of that commitment. If there's one thing we can do as a starting point outside of the definition or argument about adequacy is increase classroom funding by taking the precious resources we have, figuring out how to reallocate them to reduce administrative overhead that are not necessarily the fault of bureaucrats or misnomers out there. These are factors of inflation, cost of operating, maintaining schools, security, cost of food, nutrition, energy, these are things that are going up, up, up. Meanwhile the classroom spending is taking a hit. Those are some immediate responses we can take that are very positive.

Tim Ogle: Well, in addition to what my counterparts have said with all of those factors being said the auditor general report shows we have one of the lowest percentages of money being spent on administration in the entire country.

Ted Simons: With that in mind --

Tim Ogle: Compared to the 50 states.

Ted Simons: With that in mind it sounds like there's some agreement at least for most people sitting here that more money could be used but it's got to be sent in the right direction. Should the school finance formula, does that need to be changed?

Tim Ogle: The finance formula would work effectively if it was supported. There is a lot of chatter in political circles about redoing the finance formula. In some cases that's code for let's follow our own ideology. But nonetheless it's not the formula isn't the problem. The political will to fund it is.

Jennifer Loredo: To that point, I think one of the things that is not well known probably to the public is what's happened on the capital side of funding for schools. The legislature is effectively taken any capital dollars it's given to schools and completely removed it. So money schools need to maintain or to build they are having to go to voters and beg for bonds or overrides. If they don't get those passed they have to take it within their budgets to make the necessary basic upkeeps of a new air conditioning unit, new roof, et cetera. That's cause a huge drain on money that could go into the classroom.

Ted Simons: School choice, voucher plans, those sorts of things. We'll be hearing about them from the legislature. Your thoughts.

Dick Foreman: Most people would argue and I think successfully we have the greatest choice of any state in the country. We still find somewhere around 87% of airplanes choosing their traditional public school. So as long as we understand the choice means true choice, that we're not forcing parents to make a choice, not forcing educators to encourage one over the other, I think we have expanded choice. Open enrollment. We have made a lot of progress compared to other states in terms of giving parents choice. Maybe there's some things we should still be looking at, but I would be concerned if we started trying to force a choice where it is not even requested.

Ted Simons: The governor says he wants equal access to great schools. What does that mean?

Tim Ogle: No one could be against that. As Dick just told us, 87% of Arizona parents think their quality school is right down the street at their neighborhood K-12 school. One of the basic roles of government, I think, is to make sure that that local neighborhood school is of very high quality. That's what we all want and that's what our citizens are demanding from us.

Ted Simons: Instead of equal access to great schools, equal resources to all schools?

Tim Ogle: Or make all of our schools -- provide the avenues for all schools to be effective. That's what we all believe.

Dick Foreman: Provides support that makes every school the opportunity to be great. Which I think we would all heartly endorse.

Tim Ogle: And we know how to do it.

Ted Simons: Do we know how to do it? Is it viable?

Jennifer Loredo: One thing when we talk about school choice a lot of times we fail to look at the fact that in Arizona we put a lot of requirements and responsibilities on our public schools yet a lot of times policy makers try to talk about moving money to private education and parochial education, but there's no standards, no assessments they have to meet the way a traditional public school has to meet. That's something the governor has to look at, is the great public school, is that a great school just like our neighborhood great public schools R. we at least know what standards and accountability those schools are under.

Ted Simons: As far as public monies to private schools it seems to be a direction the legislature is moving toward. Thoughts.

Dick Foreman: Candidly it's not a level playing field. We have corporate tax credits that provide unlimited applicability to those contributions to private schools that do not in kind offer the same thing to public schools. I would like to see the whole system looked at holistically so that we can take the generosity of corporations, generosity of parents, of people, and if you want to make a contribution let's make that money equally usable for all academic achievement models, not just extracurricular on one side and anything you want to do on the other.

Ted Simons: What needs to be done to make Arizona, when people think of Arizona, they think cactus, sunshine, tourism and golf. What needs to be done for folks to see it as a great education state.

Jennifer Loredo: you need to make it attractive for businesses to relocate here was we have great neighborhood public schools. You it make the tax rate zero percent in Arizona if you don't have a good public school businesses won't come. We need to give our schools the resources to be competitive with other states in terms of services and programs for the students that they serve.

Ted Simons: Very quickly, how does Arizona become the education state?

Tim Ogle: As a former teacher, principal and superintendent I would say that great schools are made up of dedicated teachers, involved parents, strong leadership and we need to provide the avenue for all three of those to thrive in the same environment.

Ted Simons: Good to have you all here. We appreciate it.

Guests: Thank you for having us. Thank you, Ted.

Tim Ogle:Executive Director, Arizona School Boards Association; Dick Foreman:President and CEO, Arizona Business and Education Coalition; Jennifer Loredo:Lobbyist, Arizona Education Association;

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