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