Original URL: http://www.azstarnet.com/star/today/21024editsuptpubinstruct.html

Blanchard for schools
Jay Blanchard is by far the best candidate to improve Arizona schools.
Tucson, Arizona Daily Star, Thursday, 24 October 2002

As far as political footballs in Arizona go, education has been kicked about as hard and often as any and probably more, a lot more. Arizona's public education consistently offers poor marks in achievement and public financing. It hasn't helped
that three of the last four superintendents of public instruction have tried to impose pupil test standard measures that have not - to say the least - met with rousing success.

Three men are contesting for the office of state Superintendent of Public Instruction. Republican Tom Horne, who thrashed incumbent appointee Jaime Molera in the primary, faces Democrat Jay Blanchard and John Zajac, the ever-obligatory and tiresome Libertarian.

We endorse Blanchard, a career educator and a professor of education at Arizona State University. He has served one term in the Arizona Senate.

Horne is a Phoenix attorney who has served on the school board of the Paradise Valley school district - the state's third-largest - for 24 years. He has been board president for the past 10 years. Horne also served in the Arizona Legislature for
two terms.

Zajac is a radio and television producer and is secretary of the state Libertarian Party.

As a senator, Blanchard supported greater state oversight of charter schools, including fingerprinting charter teachers. He supported revoking the licenses of charter schools that declared bankruptcy, and he advocated the State Department of Education sponsoring a charter school designed to help students study for a GED.

Blanchard supports student testing, but wants to combine the Stanford 9 and AIMS tests. He proposes that this test be given to freshmen high school students. He says this would allow sufficient time for students who fail the test to obtain
tutoring and other assistance in order to pass the test before graduation.

This seems a much more flexible approach than that advocated by Horne. Horne, staunchly opposed to social promotion, argues that 3rd-grade students who fail the AIMS test must repeat that grade. If the student fails a second time, however,
Horne says the student should be promoted. This contradicts his supposedly strong objections to social promotion. Horne supports AIMS testing, but he proposes to adjust the scores one must achieve to graduate. He blithely says he has no idea how many students this would affect, but says off-handedly that question eventually will have to be answered. Advocating a change while completely ignorant of the consequences of that change is not only dangerous, it is also imprudent.

Horne won the primary by constantly charging Molera with failure to enforce Proposition 203, an initiative measure that voters passed by a 2-to-1 margin two years ago. This law requires schools to teach all classes in English. Students who
have no English are supposed to be immersed in English for a year. The law was a direct assault on bilingual education. It permits waivers under certain conditions, and Horne charged some school districts were abusing the waiver provision. This constant drum beat provoked charges of racism against Horne, which he has denied vigorously.

Horne has pledged he will strictly enforce Proposition 203. Presumably, whoever wins this race will be obliged to do so. Horne contends that immersion is the key to improving the education of Hispanics and others.

This is a debate that will continue. Skeptics such as Blanchard and this newspaper note that so-called immersion does not include any English-only requirements outside of school. "Total" immersion in this context is hardly total.

Zajac contends that there should be no state-imposed student testing. Districts should be free to develop their own tests - the state should provide the money. That will happen the day hell freezes. Schools should be competitive, says Zajac. So he proposes the state award vouchers and allow students to attend any school, private, parochial or public. Zajac admits he is running only to uphold the Libertarian Party's status.

Blanchard is by far the best qualified candidate. He is an educator who speaks to issues Horne seems content to ignore. Blanchard proposes to improve Arizona's appallingly under-financed schools by paying teachers more, reducing drop-out
rates and strengthening vocational programs. Blanchard clearly stands out in this race and merits the vote.


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