Will Legislators Help or Only Provide a Patch for the Phoenix Schools?

Written by Patricia Hawke for Schools K-12

There is a lot of discussion in the news and especially in school districts across the nation about per student spending rates. As noted in the Business Journal of Phoenix, these rates have doubled over the past 30 years, yet test scores and graduation rates have remained the same.

The Phoenix schools would not know what doubling the per student spending rate might do for the achievement of their students. They, along with the rest of the state’s schools, rank 49th in per student spending — next to the bottom! This is according to the Quality Counts 2004 study by Education Week. 

Currently, the Arizona legislators have the opportunity to correct this grossly unjust oversight but are still in debate.  The state has a $1.2 billion budget surplus to spend. The Phoenix schools and the other schools in Arizona are in dire need of this money, which is a nationally known fact. The state is becoming a laughing stock over its neglected educational system. Yet, those in the State Capitol are debating between using the surplus for education funding, in support of biosciences, or property tax cuts.  All areas are important to the state and in need of funding relief; however, as in the Phoenix schools, if you do not graduate students prepared for college and the workplace, the state’s economy will suffer in the future.

Business groups see education in the Phoenix schools as top priority. They know that to survive in business today, and especially tomorrow, it takes qualified job candidates with college degrees and the skills to succeed. Otherwise, the businesses will not succeed. Historically in such situations, businesses eventually relocate to areas that graduate higher-skilled high school graduates, knowing that many will return to the area after college. Currently, Phoenix schools, along with the remainder of the state, are consistently ranked at the bottom nationally for the number of students who graduate from high school. Is it any wonder that businesses are concerned.

Many parents seek alternatives to the Phoenix schools, unhappy with the school system. Many home school their children. Some move to specific areas in order to enroll their children into better schools. For those parents who can afford it, their children attend private schools. The majority, however, are stuck in the Phoenix schools, because they cannot afford to do otherwise.

The legislature will definitely increase spending for education this year for K-12, of which the Phoenix schools will receive their portion. With all the attention on per student spending, how can they do otherwise? Yet, will the allocated increase be enough? Without quality education in the Phoenix schools, many of the youth of Phoenix will be destined to low-wage, dead-end jobs with little opportunity to succeed. Very few will even consider college, let alone fulfilling such a dream.

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