AZ schools' U.S.-worst ranking is denounce
Capitol Media Services
Tucson, Arizona | Published: http://www.azstarnet.com/allheadlines/151805
PHOENIX — Gov. Janet Napolitano is lashing out at a new report that essentially calls Arizona the stupidest state.
"We are not the dumbest state in the nation," the governor said Wednesday, reacting to the conclusions of Morgan Quitno Press that rated Vermont the "smartest" state — and Arizona at the bottom. "It was a flawed study," she said.
"I can tell you that because I'm in the schools and I'm with the students and I meet with employers who are moving here," she said. "Why? Because they think we have a terrific work force."
Napolitano did concede that Arizona is not spending enough on education. And that affects several of the 21 factors weighed by the Kansas research and publishing firm in scoring each state.
Scott Morgan, president of Morgan Quitno Press, said six of the factors relate directly to the percentage of Arizona fourth- and eighth-graders who are proficient in math, reading and writing.
States also are graded on the percentage of high school freshmen who graduate and what percentage of employees are administrators — a factor that relates directly to the issue of whether schools are spending enough in the classroom.
States that spend more of their resources per student on education do better in the rankings. Teacher pay also is weighed, as is class size.
Morgan said the funding numbers were adjusted to ensure that rich and poor states were measured equally. For example, the rankings on education spending are based on each state's personal income. Teacher pay is compared with the average pay of all workers in that state.
Napolitano said she agreed with state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne that a better indication of where Arizona stands can be gained by comparing the test scores of students here versus other states. Both said Arizona compares favorably.
On Wednesday, Horne also released a study done by the American Legislative Exchange Council, composed of legislators and conservative policy advocates, which uses scores on various tests to rank the states. That report puts Arizona at 22nd in the nation.
"Morgan Quitno's a stupid company, and I would estimate they have no employee with an IQ over 90," Horne said.
"The numbers are what they are," Morgan responded.
Horne acknowledged that Arizona is last in providing dollars for the classroom. He said he's tried to persuade legislators to provide more money but added that the state does well with the resources it has.
The report also renewed the debate over whether Arizona schools are spending too much of the dollars they do have on administrative expenses.
Napolitano has opposed changing state law to mandate that schools spend more of their tax dollars in the classroom. Instead, for the last 3 1/2 years she has been urging school boards and officials to make such changes voluntarily.
Two months after taking office, Napolitano urged school administrators to move a nickel from each dollar of administrative expenses into the classroom. The governor claimed Wednesday that has shifted $100 million to direct classroom aid.
But figures from the state Auditor General's Office paint a different picture: While the total dollars spent on education have increased since Napolitano took office, the percentage of those funds going to direct education has increased only 0.2 percent, to 58.4 percent.
That compares with 61.3 percent nationwide and 60.9 percent for the 10 states closest to Arizona's population.