Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 12, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

State of Education

  |   Video
  • Arizona K-12 schools were hit hard by budget cuts. Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne addresses the state of K-12 education.
Guests:
  • Tom Horne - Superintendent, Arizona Department of Education
Category: Education

View Transcript
Ted Simons
>> Hello, and welcome to Horizon, I’m Ted Simons, President Obama is coming to Phoenix, the white house says the president will visit the valley on Wednesday to promote his economic stimulus plan, final votes in the house and senate are expected tomorrow. it is a challenging time for educators in our state and a challenging time for its schools chief. with the budget crisis leading state lawmakers to slash funding for education, tough and controversial decisions are being made. tonight, Arizona schools chief tom Horne is here to talk about the state of education and something new -- what he calls "the new three rs." tom, good to see you again.

Tom Horne
>> good to be here.

Ted Simons
>> let's get things started about the state of Arizona.

Tom Horne
>> I gave my state of education address this morning at the legislature -- this afternoon. And I emphasized the new three R’s. Rigor, relevance and relationships. And the most importance is rigor. In the twenty-first century we're competing with India and China, as well as Germany and Japan a lot of other countries and the key is education and our kids have to learn more or we could be badly left behind. And so we have to continue to require more rigor in the classroom, higher standards, these kids need to graduate with better academics.

Ted Simons
>> and they also have to get better instruction and a better education climate, you would agree in Arizona, correct?

Tom Horne
>> oh, yes. resources is part of the picture. one myth I need to clear up a little bit is that the legislature only cut k-12 education 2%. higher education was 18%, but k-12 was 2%. What we need to do is protect our teachers. we need to pay them well enough so that we retain and attract highly qualified teachers and not lay off teachers so we can have a decent class size. And at 2% there is no need to do that, and a lot of people are hearing about teachers being laid off. That’s usually one of two other factors, either overrides failed and that’s a 10% cut rather than a 2% cut or school districts preparing for next year because if they are going to lay off teachers they have to start the process now, they don't know if they'll be laying them off or not. But with a 2% cut, the schools can absorb that. you can make the textbooks last longer. There are things you can do with a 2% cut.

Ted Simons
>> is that the sort of thing that helps us compete with Germany and Japan?


Tom Horne
>> well, cuts are not good. but the economy is not doing well and we have to do our part. everybody is suffering now.

Ted Simons
>> the idea that the argument that the legislature is too focused on cutting education. your response.

Tom Horne
>> I don't think that's a fair criticism of the legislature this year. you know, our revenues are just not meeting our expenditures and education is half the budget. we have to do our part. And my department took a 10% cut, we planned for it, we're ready for it and we have to do our part. the k-12 system took a 2% cut as I’ve advocated for more resources for education. For 30 years, I was on the school board for 24 years and on the legislature for 4 years, and with this job I’ve always advocated more resources for education, but in today's climate, the legislature has a problem in front of them. I think a 2% is something that they can absorb without laying off teachers or doing other things that are badly damaging to our education .

Ted Simons
>> some educators are saying a simple increase in taxes, not much, not permanent but get something done now to get over these bad waters would make more sense than all of these cuts. you say 2%, some say $133 million is a lot of money. for those who say raising taxes to support education in these troubled times, you say --

Tom Horne
>> I say sometimes raising taxes makes it worse because you hurt the economy when you raise taxes. governor Brewer has said next year if the cuts are deep enough, it may have to be on the table. I support her position. but based on this year, I don't think tax increases would be justified because tax increased in the middle of a recession can make things much worse.

Ted Simons
>> what kind of help are you expecting or do you hope to see from a federal stimulus package?

Tom Horne
>> I can tell you we're going to get $900 million for state stabilization. controlled by the governor, but 60% is supposed to go towards education. We’re going to get $200 million for special education. $243 million for title I schools. so we will be getting help from the federal government that will alleviate some of the pain for next year.

Ted Simons
>> And you are getting this information from Washington?

Tom Horne
>> yes, when they compromised between the house and senate bills.

Ted Simons
>> helps how much?

Tom Horne
>> well, you know, they say we may have to cut as much as $3 billion. if we have to -- if we have to cut $3 billion, then that only helps about a third of the way and two-thirds of the way we're still looking at cuts and that would be a disaster and I hope its not going to be that bad but the federal money is not going to make it good news it’s still going to be bad news. but the federal money will help alleviate somewhat, so that it’s not a total disaster.

Ted Simons
>> I want to get back a little more philosophically orientated here with the idea that to some, they see cuts and see first going at education or at least that's what some are seeing that's the first thing to cut. and the question is, is there a perception that Arizona doesn't focus and doesn’t treat education as highly a priority as some of the other states, as many other states?

Tom Horne
>> I would say in the long term, that would be a fair comment. I don't think it's a fair comment right now, that the legislature went first education, when we took a 2% cut and they were looking at much bigger percentages in other areas of the budget. they try to do their best. but in the long term, we have a lot of work to do. I’ve been advocating for 30 years. education week is the gold standard in rating states and what they spend. And for a number of years now, we've been 49th or 50th in what we spend per pupil and they have no reason to disfavor Arizona they are just comparing us to the other states. In the ling term as the economy turns around, part of my job is to advocate that education is the highest priority, we need to get up there. because even with as little as we're spending, our kids are still performing above the average in the national tests which means the teachers and principals are doing a great job with limited resources. if we can get up to average with what we're spending we would be among the top ten states in our test scores because our other academic rigor in the classroom.

Ted Simons
>> do lawmakers in general want us to get any higher on that list? want us to get to 39th or 29th on that list ?

Tom Horne
>> definitely, I would say. I served there for four years. I worked very hard. probably spent 80% of my time meeting with other legislators one-on-one to talk about education. and I served on the school board for 24 years and that was a big priority and I do believe legislatures want to spend more on education. we have to make that happen when the economy turns around and the resources are available. part of my job is to see that we provide enough accountability so we can say to the legislature that if you do give us more resources we’ll show academic results for that -- you're not just throwing money at the problem. but we can show academic results.

Ted Simons
>> the whole deal that was suspended now and the legislators are talking quite a bit about making permanent, that tax cut, gone forever. the tax, I should say, gone forever. is this the right time for something like that, do you think? or could that money, 200 and some odd million dollars be put back into education?

Tom Horne
>> the problem is they took it out a couple of years ago, so you'd be bringing back something that hasn't been there for a couple of years. that would have an effect of a tax increase. that would hit businesses hard. I’m not sure that would be the best for the economy to put an additional tax on it now.


Ted Simons
>> I’m trying to figure this out. it's ok for the older books, the longer hours and these sorts of things as opposed to getting the tax back in gear?

Tom Horne
>> these are tough balances but I don't think 2% has been the kind of deep harmful cut that some people paint it as. what we've been hearing about, teachers being laid off, are overrides failed that’s a 10% cut or districts preparing for the possibility next year and we don’t know if it’s going to happen next year. when we find out, we need to face the tough choices but this year, I believe the legislature has acted reasonably.

Ted Simons
>> the English language learning, you've got money as far as what can be paid for teaching English to students here in Arizona and your number now keeps dropping. You talking about cutting down to what now?

Tom Horne
>> we put into place a plan whereby we teach at least four hours a day of intensive English language instruction. in order to do that, you have to separate the kids for a year and rejuggle them among the teachers. the superintendents of the local districts felt every time you create a class like that, you need a new teacher, and they said it would cost $300 million a year and I said no, you are just reshuffling the students among the existing teachers and sometimes you need another teacher when the numbers don't work. and we got it down to $300 million a year to $40 a year. this year, we've been working with the district showing efficiency, and next year, I’m projecting $9 million rather than the $40 million for last year.

Ted Simons
>> $9 million?

Tom Horne
>> right.

Ted Simons
>> critics are saying all you're doing is playing with numbers regarding how many teachers are needed per classes. How would you respond?

Tom Horne
>> we're not playing. this is serious and we've shown serious results. when I took office, the rate of reclassifying students from English language -- to English proficiency was 9% and it’s up to 21%. We had three districts that implemented our new models last year they more than doubled that rate of reclassifying students. we're serious about teaching kids English but I’m saying don't just say I need more teachers. pay me for it, we can work together to show you how you can use the existing teachers and redistribute the kids and getting the same results. I think $31 million of savings is coming at an important time for our state.

Ted Simons
>> the financial burden though will eventually fall on the districts correct?

Tom Horne
>> it's not a matter of financial burden. Were calculating how much extra it costs to separate the kids out for a year and teach them four hours a day of intensive English language instruction. That’s a calculated and by showing them how to be efficient, we're able to achieve the same results for $9 million that these local superintendents said would cost $300 million and that we ourselves said would cost $40 million last year cost -- the legislature appropriated $40 million and now we've got it down to $9 million by being efficient.

Ted Simons
>> one last question if you can hold on for me. Is this your sixth state of the state speech?

Tom Horne
>> yes.

Ted Simons
>> as far as education is concerned, what has changed over the years? What’s got better and what’s got worse?

Tom Horne
>> a lot of things have gotten better. I mentioned the reclassification of the students. the test scores are higher. we're above the national average in our national test scores and we've tripled the number of high poverty students who are taking advanced placement courses. We have increased the number of kids passing the advanced placement test because I’m determined to get the kids to proficiency, but to help them meet their capabilities so we're showing a lot of improvement in the performance of our kids in the classroom.

Ted Simons
>> always a pleasure. thank you for joining us.

Tom Horne
>> thank you.

Statehood Celebration

  |   Video
  • Arizona turns 97 on Feb. 14. We look at the Statehood Day activities taking place at the state capitol building and review the latest preparations for Arizona's centennial celebration in 2012.
Guests:
  • Ken Bennett - Arizona Secretary of State and member of the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission


View Transcript
Ted Simons
>> on Saturday, Arizona turns 97 years old. she became the nation's 48th state on valentine's day, 1912, which means her 100th birthday is just three years away. secretary of state Ken Bennett is here to tell us what's being done to prepare for the centennial celebration. but first, David Majure and photographer Richard Torruellas take us to the state capitol where earlier today Arizona’s 97th birthday was celebrated a little early.

David Majure
>> state senators met today in the original house chambers. now part of the Arizona capitol museum. This room predates statehood, it's where Arizona’s constitution was drafted. past senate presidents were honored for their service. Bob Buzdane, Leo Corbett, Stan Turley, Carl Conastic, John Green and Brenda Burns, the first woman to lead the senate.

Brenda Burns
>> yes, the more things change, the more things stay the same.

David Majure
>> former senate president, now secretary of state, Ken Bennett continued his tradition of serving up Arizona trivia and rewarding correct answers with candy. [inaudible]




David Majure
>> senate president Bob Burns named the recipients of this years Polly award. named in honor of the longtime state legislature Polly Rosenbaum, the award is given to public officials who cherish Arizona’s rich cultural resources and support the work of Arizona library archives and public records. this year's award went to two men -- state representative Jack Brown and Jack Feaster, a former general manager of salt river project. student winners of the statewide Polly Rosenbaum writing contest were introduced by speaker of the house Kirk Adams. their winning essays were selected from among 300 entries the theme of this years contest was -- the impact of America’s new president on Arizona.

Kristen Ozmon
>> basically I said that although Obama is going to be doing a great job, the impact is upon us, too, personally. how change can be found within us as well.

Brad Reber
>> my teacher called me and I thought what did I do anything wrong? I thought I was in trouble or something. But she said, oh, you won. I was in first place. it was a surprise.

David Majure
>> so with 97 statehood day celebrations down, Arizona’s 100th birthday is just around the corner.

Ted Simons
>> joining me is Arizona secretary of state Ken Bennett, a member of the Arizona historical advisory commission, one of the groups responsible for planning Arizona’s centennial celebration. good to have you on the show.

Ken Bennett
>> thanks for having me.

Ted Simons
>> let's talk about the effort to get a centennial. How did that start and how long has that been going on now?

Ken Bennett
>> several years ago, the legislature passed a bill that created the Arizona historical advisory commission and charged with coming up with a plan to get ready for the celebration in 2012. it's been meeting every other month or so for the last three or four years and essentially came up with a plan -- we sometimes call it a pyramid, where at the bottom would be numerous projects throughout the state. mostly local, that might be a few thousand dollars all the way up to a few million but really local projects all over the state but maybe one hundred. I think we're up to 50 that have been approved as part the that process. but the bottom part of the pyramid would have all of these projects going on all through the state, and then in the middle there would be half a dozen regional projects. Papago park restoration, a big railroad museum somewhere or who knows? and then the idea was that maybe there would be one signature project at the top. and within the last year or so, it's kind of started to coalesce that maybe that would be the restoration of the capitol.



Ted Simons
>> with this pyramid in line, what is the goal of the centennial? what do you want to see?

Ken Bennett
>> there's multiple goals. but to involve all Arizonans as possible in the celebration of the heritage and history of Arizona. we're the 48th state. the last one to celebrate its centennial was Oklahoma. they did something similar, as far as having a big signature project. when they were becoming a state and building their state capitol, they didn't have enough money to finish the big dome. so they chose as their big signature project, completing a $100 million dome. our dome is already finished but, you know, we're using the capitol that was back from territorial days and so it involves all kinds of projects that will involve as many Arizonans as possible. the plan to just bring everybody into the whole celebration and get ready for it.

Ted Simons
>> besides Oklahoma are you looking at other types of celebrations? Be they statehood days?

Ken Bennett
>> some members of the commission that have kind of looked into on their own time and effort to what other states have done. and so former phoenix mayor John Drake has looked at what other states have done. but mostly, about 25 members on this historical advisory commission, from all walks of life, but lots of people from the cultural and historical community of Arizona and then recently, governor Napolitano appointed a centennial commission, and the two groups are working together, but the new one is focusing maybe on taking charge of that big signature project, whatever it ends up being.

Ted Simons
>> the economy right now colors everything. how is it affecting the centennial effort?

Ken Bennett
>> most of what the historical advisory commission has done is relying on local groups that are raising monies to spend on smaller projects and things like that. so there doesn't seem to be too much impact yet. these are just very dedicated people who spend their every waking moment trying to preserve the cultural history of Arizona. trying to do these medium size projects or a real big one is going to be pretty tough in today's economic climate. but if we hang in there, maybe things will be better by 2012.

Ted Simons
>> what kind of funding efforts are you looking at, strategies as far as getting the money in?

Ken Bennett
>> initially there was $2.5 million appropriated to the group to be used as matching funds for some of these smaller projects. $500,000 of that is still available. the other $2 million was taken back by the legislature as part of the budget challenges. but the $500,000, we're trying to use that the best we can to still keep some of these small diverse projects going. and plan the best we can, maybe, for some of the middle sized ones or a big one.



Ted Simons
>> that didn't escape it either, huh? as far as getting people involved, a public-private operation and these things, how is that going? thinking behind a private-public cooperation.

Ken Bennett
>> the new centennial commission that governor Napolitano formed had that in mind and she appointed people from the business community and private sector to sit on that commission and give it the extra muscle that maybe the other one lacked in some respects. I don't want to say it lacked the kind dedication that all of the people have been working on but certainly we have to rely on a real partnership between public and private money to get anything done in the middle and upper level.

Ted Simons
>> is it more difficult, do you think, in a state like Arizona, which is so new and so many people come from different areas -- talk to a sports fan to get people moving here to root for the home team. do you think it's difficult to get them concerned with the history of the home state?

Ken Bennett
>> I don't know. I’m a native, Ted, and I don't think in those terms but there's a lot of people who have made Arizona their home, but it's really not part of their long-time heritage, but I think that's counterbalanced by the fact that we're only one of three states that gets to celebrate a centennial. after us, it's only Hawaii and Alaska left. so hopefully, if people are lacking at all, I hope they're not, but lacking at all in this feeling that this is my home state, that might be counterbalanced by the fact that, hey, we only get to do this now and I’m here now and we better get it right.

Ted Simons
>> the ideal centennial, when you drive home and think to yourself, this is what I want to happen come 100th birthday, what are you thinking?

Ken Bennett
>> I’m thinking that every Arizonan is close enough to one of these smaller projects that are being done all throughout the state, more or less at the local level, and then almost everybody has an opportunity to participate in one of these medium sized projects and then as many people as possible start to coalesce around a significant idea that really stands out for all of us. something we did that was meaningful and that our children and grandchildren and maybe their children are going to remember, hey, those folks back in 2010 to '12, they did something pretty cool.

Ted Simons
>> I can't let you go without asking about the new position here, how are you settling in?

Ken Bennett
>> I haven't burned the executive tower down yet. so far so good. no, we have a great staff. governor Brewer, when she was secretary of state, built a great staff. they've received me warmly and I’m in a little bit of a honeymoon period but trying to learn my job. traveled to two or three counties and got to meet folks that make the stuff work.

Ted Simons
>> do you have a trivia question before we let you go?
Ken Bennett
>> we just had a change in governors.

Ted Simons
>> right.

Ken Bennett
>> who's the last governor who came to the office by election and served their full term?

Ted Simons
>> oh, the last governor who served their full term?

Ken Bennett
>> and came to the office by election. you have to go all the way back to Jack Williams in the '70s.

Ted Simons
>> really?

Ken Bennett
>> ever since then --

>> [inaudible]

Ted Simons
>> I know it's been --

Ted Simons
>> your job has been the steppingstone to the governor's office. thanks for joining us.

Ken Bennett
>> thank you, Ted.

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