Session leaves education in waiting (ABEC commentary)

July 20, 2007

By hammersmith

[Source: Susan Carlson, Arizona Business & Education Coalition, cited in Phoenix Business Journal] — The Arizona Business & Education Coalition was eager to see substantial movement during this legislative session toward enacting key recommendations from the P-20 Council. Instead, it was a session of mostly lost opportunity, puzzling and sad news, a glimmer of success, and hope for the next session.

The National Data Quality Campaign determined that being able to link teacher and student identifiers is a key element of a quality state student-data system. Arizona’s K-12 teachers and students already have those confidential identification numbers, and state legislation would have allowed them to be linked. This would have aided staff development and provided teacher preparation programs at universities across the state with a tool to assess the effectiveness of their programs.

It’s puzzling that the session would close without work to complete funding for English language learners, in spite of a court order. Nationally, 9.5 percent of the student population is made up of English language learners. In Arizona, it’s 16.5 percent. We know this growing population will be a vital part of the foundation for Arizona’s economic future, and it is troubling that our lawmakers would give their education short shrift.

It also is sad that Arizona legislators would not fund international schools, describing them as “un-American.” Our students could have learned and applied second and third languages and could have become fluent in global communications. Intel Corp., Medtronic, Motorola Inc., Avnet Inc. and many local and national super-employers do their work multinationally and need to have youngsters from Arizona schools prepared to enter their work forces. Moreover, Arizona’s economy relies on workers from countries around the world who view life through their own cultural lenses.

Some good news for education did come out of the 2007 session: Legislation was passed that will reward high school students who graduate early with scholarships for post-secondary education. Congratulations to freshman Rep. Andy Tobin, R-Dist. 1, for his persistence in moving this to the governor’s desk. The Legislature also established study committees on school construction and charter school financing, and established grant programs for math, science and technical education. These moves suggest that the 2008 session will be an active one for education.