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Uncovering America's methamphetamine history; PA Early Intervention programs vital for child development; measuring long-term impact of the O.J. Simpson trial on media literacy.

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President Biden's name could be left off the ballot in Alabama and Ohio, the Justice Dept. mandates background checks for gun show purchases, and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds moves to allow state police to arrest undocumented migrants.

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Housing advocates fear rural low-income folks who live in aging USDA housing could be forced out, small towns are eligible for grants to enhance civic participation, and North Carolina's small and Black-owned farms are helped by new wind and solar revenues.

Report: AZ doesn't do enough to fund, support public schools

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Thursday, February 29, 2024   

A new report is handing out grades to states for their support of public schools and Arizona gets an "F."

The Network for Public Education's "Public Schooling in America" report examines and rates public education on 42 factors, including measuring the influx of private schools, as well as the impacts charter schools and voucher laws are having.

Beth Lewis, co-founder and director of Save Our Schools Arizona, said most Arizona voters consider public schools what she calls the "backbone of our society."

"Strong schools make a strong state, and we have disinvested in our public schools," Lewis contended. "Our lawmakers have walked away from funding our public schools and supporting our teachers and that is going to have long-term economic impacts for our state, and also for individual students. Our lawmakers have truly abdicated their duty."

Lewis argued Arizona has the most expansive and yet least accountable universal voucher program in the nation. This means vouchers are going to students whose families could have paid for private school but are now placing what the report calls an "unnecessary burden" on taxpayers.

Voucher proponents countered they decrease the tax burden, as voucher payments are often less than what it would cost to educate a child at public school. But the report found it only happens when a substantial number of students attend private schools using vouchers.

In 1999, about 6.5% of Arizona students were in private schools. In 2021, the figure had hardly changed. Lewis added while most Arizona families continue to choose public education, it has been dramatically defunded.

"That choice is harder and harder for families to make because they see all of these other options and wonder, 'Well, I really want my kid to go on and have this successful future The state refuses to fund my choice.' They start looking at other options," Lewis observed. "It's human nature. I'm a parent, I understand. You just want what's best for your kids."

She pointed out charter schools have fewer regulations than public schools in Arizona, which means less accountability and fiscal responsibility, and more questions about academic quality. The report includes a list of recommendations, including immediate moratoriums on new charter schools and vouchers.

Disclosure: The Network for Public Education contributes to our fund for reporting on Early Childhood Education, and Education. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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