Credit? State Capitol leaders want credit for what they do to public education? Please.
Fixing a budget policy mistake that jeopardized the highly successful and intensely popular career and technical-education programs is the right thing to do. But the action deserves no high fives or back slaps, and it certainly shouldn’t qualify for election-year campaign bragging rights.
It’s not surprising that a bill to restore $30 million for high school CTE stalled this week because of jockeying over who gets top billing for doing one right thing to fix a series of incredibly bad moves on public education. It’s also not surprising that the great fix probably needed an amendment to fix the fix. The rush to notch political wins routinely gets in the way of the art of crafting solid bills.
But motivations behind this education bill at the Capitol shouldn’t be lost in the political commotion. They aren’t all about an innate desire to serve the best interests of public school students. It’s not what legislative leadership with a barefaced antipathy for public education wants. It’s what voters/parents and business leaders want.
Imagine that. Civic engagement works. (The poor state of civic engagement in Arizona is an important discussion for another day. Soon.)
Also, let’s not forget the Legislature’s public education track record during the last decade or so. It is primarily the reason Arizona’s school system is in a bona fide crisis.
Lawmakers have done exactly what they said they would do when they campaigned for their jobs to serve the people. Over the last several elections – before, during and after the Great Recession – the standard Republican candidate platform stressed the importance of making Arizona attractive to job creators. Isn’t a high-quality education system alluring to business leaders who are parents of school-age children or who are looking for workforce talent? Not as much as tax cuts, was the typical response. (I heard this a lot during editorial board candidate interviews.)
And now, as Arizona ranks at the bottom of so many education standards, what is a top reason businesses with high-paying jobs reject the Grand Canyon State? The poor quality of our education system.
The political drama over CTE is a hint of what’s coming as we move closer to the May 17 election on Proposition 123, which is another “fix” for stunning failed public policy on education. This time we must change the state Constitution to correct leadership’s mistakes.
The measure seeks to backfill money inappropriately denied to our schools. It doesn’t raise the education system from the bottom. It just keeps it from falling deeper. It stinks, and I’m not sure enough supporters of education will hold their noses to approve it.
But if it is approved, watch who tries to take credit for “supporting” public education. Watch who tries to wear the white hat on the campaign trail. Don’t let them. Knock it off their heads. Set them straight.
No one deserves credit for performance on public education. Any incumbent of the majority party who raises education as a reason to be returned to office should be condemned not congratulated.