Arizona Republic
October 27, 2006

Author: JIM RICE
Estimated printed pages: 2

Recently, the media reported results of a study by Morgan Quitno Press that ranked the 50 states according to so-called intelligence. The study identified the "smartest" states, but the headlines quickly changed to "Arizona ranked dumbest in U.S." Arizonans who read the survey quickly realized it wasn't test scores that contributed to Arizona ranking 50th, but rather inadequate funding.

The survey measured 21 indicators, few of which related directly to academic achievement. The indicators included things like school revenue from personal income, percent of school expenditures used for instruction, teacher salary, daily attendance and average class size. These factors are controlled purely by funding, and we know that Arizona is continually at the bottom of the list when it comes to adequately funding education.

In my opinion, Arizona does an incredible job of educating students, given the resources that are provided to schools. Our test scores are above the national average, and we continue to make great strides in improving education despite the following facts:

* Arizona districts receive $6,010 per student, which is well below the national average of $7,734, compared with states like Vermont and Connecticut that receive in excess of $8,000 per student.

* Our class sizes are between 25 to 33 children. Other states average 18 to 20. Arizona also has one of the highest percentages of English language learners in the United States.

We tout high expectations for children and teachers, but I encourage Arizona to have those same high expectations for funding education. Let's quit "dumbing down" Arizona's education system by not exploiting research studies that have little to do with academics and start holding our stakeholders accountable for providing schools with the necessary resources to make differences in children's lives. There is no other profession that takes a beating like public education, yet education is the sole foundation for this country's existence and success.

I encourage the media, legislators, citizens and parents to regularly visit local schools to see the wonderful things happening in public education, to see how teachers and students analyze data to improve student achievement and to witness how our teachers are beating the odds and providing a quality education for Arizona's kids.

Instead of bashing Arizona school districts based on reported survey results, let's team together for the betterment of our state. We owe it to our future leaders.

Dr. Jim Rice is superintendent of the Alhambra Elementary School District in Phoenix. He can be reached at
Edition: Final
Section: Phoenix Community North
Page: 2