In his third State of the State address today, Gov. Doug Ducey detailed the opportunity climate that is Arizona. He talked about growth in the economy and his many successes in reducing red tape and regulations that kill innovation and economic expansion. He plans to do more here. But in devoting the bulk of the speech to education, it’s clear the governor is not amused by those who bash Arizona’s schools, and that he is doubling down on his commitment to education after passage of Proposition 123.
It is worth repeating, Proposition 123 was a huge deal. It settled a stifling lawsuit and put in place an injection of $3.5 billion of new resources into K-12.
Not exactly chopped liver.
Yet the “crybabies,” as Bob Robb called them in a recent column, constantly questioned the administration’s continued interest in education.
Well, today the governor laid out a thoughtful step-by-step roadmap for continuous improvement in K-12 classrooms. He also made clear to the naysayers that there are abundant examples of educational quality across Arizona. We simply want more of them.
How? Well, there were no silver bullets. Instead, the plan has a practical, rational and informed focus on teachers, early literacy and funding for excelling schools with an extra emphasis on those serving low-income students. When the budget is released on Friday we will know more. But today’s speech was clearly intended to lay out a plan for the long haul.
And by focusing not just on money, but also on effective strategies, the governor told those looking for a simple “4,5,6” solution that he won’t be pigeon-holed into overly simplistic funding schemes devoid of results. Instead, he carries in to 2017 and beyond a comprehensive plan loaded with foundational supports that have a track record.
This included a clear call for certification deregulation. There is no connection between the certification paper chase and quality. We are pleased to see Governor Ducey move his anti-regulation agenda precisely where it is most urgent: toward easing the flow of quality candidates into ready classrooms, and to letting those who can prepare teachers the ability to do so. His example of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as someone not qualified to teach civics in all Arizona classrooms is about as good as an illustration you can get of how broken our teacher certification system has become.
Voters insist that policy and resources lead to results. There is no longer an excuse to fund schools or programs that don’t work. We already know too much now about what can work, and today the governor astutely covered some of the tools principals and policymakers need in their toolbox.
However, for the governor’s plan to be fully realized, the State Board of Education must match his leadership and ensure a robust A-F school grading system that accurately shines a bright light on outcomes and understands how to measure those closing the achievement gap. Only then can this plan be truly dispatched with fidelity and its impact truly felt.