by David Safier
An op ed in the Republic is headlined, Fla., Ariz. should continue to learn from each other. Its topic is the "productive" exchange of ideas about education between the two states.
The author of the op ed is ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
What Jeb means is, Florida and Arizona have played conservative "education reform" leapfrog, creating and adopting from one another, among other missteps, varying approaches to funneling state tax dollars to private schools. And he wants the states to keep up the good privatization work.
To demonstrate the close relationship between the conservative education agendas of the two states: Matthew Ladner, who until recently was the education guy at the Goldwater Institute and was intimately involved in Arizona's anti-public school (excluding charters, of course), anti-union agenda, wrote a book about the Florida education miracle in 2008. Its forward was written by Jeb Bush. A year or two ago, Ladner squired Jeb around the Capitol in Phoenix to push their mutual education agenda. Ladner left the Goldwater Institute to work at Jeb's Foundation for Excellence in Education.
For all I know, Ladner penned the op ed.
Why get it in the paper now, less than a month before the election? The answer is, to help the No on Prop 204 folks. Hidden in the rather generalized praise of "school choice" is this gem:
Arizonans, like everyone, continue to debate education funding.
My advice on this front is not to increase spending to simply pay more for what you are already getting, but rather to condition any future increases on improved results. Florida, for instance, financially rewards schools that improve by a letter grade or keep an "A" grade.
That's one of the main talking points of the anti-Prop 204 crowd. We're not against raising funding for education, they claim (falsely). We just want the money targeted to successful programs at successful schools (meaning schools in high rent districts and the occasional low income school that manages wrangle an "A" rating).
For the record: Arizona has earned the dual distinction of being rock bottom in per student spending and cutting more from its education funding than any other state in the past five years. It's time to stop the bleeding and give our schools a transfusion of much needed funds. Once our children's education is funded at a reasonable level, we can argue about how to allocate supplemental funds.