Reid Buckley, brother of the late political commentator William F. Buckley, Jr., used to ask audiences, “Do you know how high a pile one million bucks would make in thousand dollar bills?” After a pause, he would answer: “Seven inches.” Then he asked, “Now, do you know how high a pile one billion bucks would make in thousand dollar bills?” Again, after a pause: “Well, 28 feet higher than the Washington Monument.”
In 2011, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee estimates Arizona taxpayers will fund K-12 education with more than $8 billion from state and local sources. Imagine eight Washington Monuments stacked on top of one another.
In a revealing moment of honesty, the Arizona teachers union and other opponents of education reform told the Arizona Capitol Times that they are crafting a new message on education funding that deals with fiscal responsibility. Tugging on peoples’ heart strings with the idea that more money for education is always right isn’t working.
“The education community is going to have to think of a new message,” said Democratic lobbyist Mario Diaz. Pay careful attention to the discussion: Unions and others are admitting it’s difficult to believe more tax money for public schools is always necessary but convince everyone else that they are really interested in the state’s fiscal health.
It must be challenging to convince taxpayers every year that all schools need is money when 44 percent of state’s fourth graders read below a “basic” level and Arizona sits in the bottom half of the states in terms of high school graduation rates.
Arizona students don’t need new marketing campaigns — they need quality teachers and quality schools.
Did your school get an A on the new state report card? Excellent — carry on. But chronically failing schools should be closed, and parents and lawmakers should use open enrollment, charter schools, tax credit scholarships, and education savings accounts to immediately change the direction of a student’s educational future.
— Jonathan Butcher is education director for the Goldwater Institute.