Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 30, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

e-Learning

  |   Video
  • Because of the Internet, students don�t have to sit in a traditional classroom to get an education. We examine the variety of e-Learning opportunities that exist in Arizona.
Guests:
  • Cathy Poplin - Chair, State's E-Learning Task Force
Category: Education

View Transcript
>>Ted Simons:
Lake Havasu City is a long way from Scottsdale, but in cyberspace it can be as close as your fingertips. That may explain why the Lake Havasu Unified School District was in Scottsdale this past weekend recruiting students for its first online high school. David Majure reports.

>>Dodie Gildea:
What you see here basically is the Havasu online home room.

>>David Majure:
Dodie Gildea works for the Havasu online. It's a tuition-free online high school offered by the Lake Havasu Unified School District.

>>Dodie Gildea:
It's a fun experience. Engaging, interactive. I'm going to show you some of that as we go along.

>>David Majure:
On this day she was promoting the program in Scottsdale at one of several open houses taking place across the state.

>>Dodie Gildea:
Something to address a lot of different interests is the key here.

>>David Majure:
Programs like Havasu online were authorized by state lawmakers back in 1998 when they passed TAPI legislation.

>>Dodie Gildea:
It is a TAPI legislation.

>>David Majure:
Now that we're clear about that, what does TAPI stand for?

>>Dodie Gildea:
I know technology assisted something.

>>David Majure:
Technology assisted project-based instruction. It's an acronym only a bureaucrat could love. There are currently seven charter schools and seven school districts that offer TAPI programs. Lake Havasu unified has had its for about four years. This year Havasu online is expanding. It's offering more than 80 courses, about 20 of them are advanced placement.

>>Dodie Gildea:
Having 20 of those gives a range of opportunities for students who maybe are in their current high school and that high school doesn't offer that. So now they can take it online and complement what they're doing at their current high school.

>>David Majure:
Full-time or part-time with Havasu online, students get a resource-rich, interactive environment.

>>Dodie Gildea:
Our teachers also are Arizona certified, highly-qualified. Their interaction is also key.
You'll research and submit all your assignments online. If a student does not have a computer we will loan them one during the course time.

>>David Majure:
There are some safeguards to make sure students are doing the work.

>>Dodie Gildea:
We not only look at when they log in so we can kind of have an idea of when they may be online, but we also have them report their time.

>>David Majure:
And final exam must be taken in the presence of a Havasu online representative. The overall goal of Havasu online is to address the many different needs of different types of students.

>>Dodie Gildea:
It just gives students the ability to get what they need and get what they want.

>>Ted Simons:
Joining me now to talk about online learning is Cathy Poplin, chair of the state's E-Learning tasks force; also the state department of education's she's also the state department of education's deputy associate superintendent for educational technology.
Let's get a definition of E-Learning.

>>Cathy Poplin:
That is something we are grappling with as a task force. It's very broad. The definition we've been using encompasses any type of digital media, whether it's served up through the internet or on a computer from a CD Rom. So it's quite a wide range of definitions.

>>Ted Simons:
The E-Learning task force, when did it get started, and what were the goals when it started and how have those goals changed?

>>Cathy Poplin:
Okay. It was put into legislation in 2006. We had our first meeting in December of 2006. And I really represent Superintendent Horne as his designee on the task force. It's made up of appointees from the House of Representatives, from the president of the senate and from the governor's office.

>>Ted Simons:
A lot of folks who try to get on the same page, isn't it?

>>Cathy Poplin:
Yes, exactly. And we have three really goals, and one is to look at how other states are implementing E-Learning, looking at ways we can implement E-Learning programs within Arizona and then develop and implement innovative E-Learning programs in Arizona.

>>Ted Simons:
You look at different states. Which states seem to be getting it right and were states that you can learn from?

>>Cathy Poplin:
Florida has one of the largest online schools, Florida virtual high school. They've been doing it for nearly 10 years and have a good track record and a very extensive teacher training program which I think is one of their highlights of their program. Michigan is starting a program with online learning, and they did something very innovative. They required all of their high school students to take one online learning class in high school to prepare them for going to college. So there's many models that we looked at. And we've used the information from the North American council on online learning called NACOL that keeps a handle on what's going on with E-Learning in the United States.

>>Ted Simons:
When anyone talks about using the internet for educational purposes or for other wide reaching purposes, accessibility always becomes an issue. How difficult is that in Arizona?

>>Cathy Poplin:
It's still a challenge. If you look at our national -- there's a technology counts report each year. And Arizona has scored lower than the national average on access to technology. That has many facets. One is funding. Well, that's probably the number one is funding. And understanding the value of technology. It's not just an extra but really it's a mainstay in education today. Access is big.

>>Ted Simons:
I would guess another concern with E-Learning when you're not there with the kid all the time is how do you make sure the kid's doing all the work?

>>Cathy Poplin:
That's been the age-long dilemma with online learning or even the old what did you used to do, the correspondence courses. Somebody else could be doing it. Some of the solutions are making sure you test in person, that you're there so you can -- if someone else is doing your coursework you still need to show up to take the test. So that's one measure. Students are held accountable in our TAPI schools by self-reporting. You can also track how long they've stayed online. Some of the new software actually will test key strokes and so you know if they're just left or if they're actually online. So that is an issue that I think with the testing and person and some of the other measures that they're coming up with, you can be pretty much for sure that you have a student.

>>Ted Simons:
And talk about funding issues, if you could, especially with the idea of counting students and how that place into this dynamic.

>>Cathy Poplin:
One of the things you learn in task force, one of their new tasks is to look at funding for this type of learning. And I know that TAPI schools have had some issues with over funding students because they often have dual concurrent enrollment in the regular high school as well as one of the online programs. And the funding issue coming with see the time and all those. And I'm not 100\% sure what's there. But I know that we need to look at the funding issue. And that's why the task force was enlarged, their responsibilities, to look at the funding issue as it pertains to E-Learning.

>>Ted Simons:
Okay. And as far as teachers are concerned, they've got something called ideal. What is that?

>> Cathy Poplin:
Yes. Well, that was one of Superintendent Horne's major initiatives in 2005. It's an online web portal, educational portal. Right now it's focused on teachers and administrators. They can go online and take professional development; they can find resources for their classroom aligned with our Arizona state standards. There's online collaborative areas, there's access to many of our Google docs, and we do all this in partnership with Arizona State University.

>>Ted Simons:
Sounds like something that might be good for students, too.

>>Cathy Poplin:
We focused on teachers initially to make sure they were served and then we're bringing students on. And we're doing it in a methodic, systematic way to make sure when they're online there will be something very valuable for them. And it's a perfect platform for E-Learning. So we will look at how we can either supplement what a teacher is doing in the classroom with some online activities, or AP online courses. And there's many things we're looking at.

>>Ted Simons:
Very good. Thank you so much for joining us to talk about this. We appreciate it.

>>Cathy Poplin:
You're welcome.

Fueling Trouble: Alternative Fuel

  |   Video
  • With rising gas prices, sales of SUVs and trucks are down, and more people are opting for fuel-efficient, gasoline-powered cars. We discuss the alternatives to gas-powered cars with ASU professors who specialize in alternative fuel vehicles.
Guests:
  • Jonathan Posner - Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor, Fulton School of Engineering, Arizona State University
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: energy,

View Transcript
>>Ted Simons:
Hello and welcome to horizon, I'm Ted Simons. SUV's dominated the streets like dinosaurs once dominated the earth. But like the dinosaurs, the days of those lumbering SUV's may soon be over. That's because they guzzle gas like crazy, and filling them up can cost $100 with today's fuel prices. As we continue our series "fueling trouble", we take a look at alternatives to gasoline powered vehicles. But first, Nadine Arroyo tells us how one dealer says there is hope for SUV's and big trucks.

>>Nadine Arroyo:
In the last several years, large SUV's and V-8 engine vehicles have been all the rage. Dealers couldn't sell them fast enough, and consumers had plenty to pick and choose from. But with soaring fuel prices, experts say these large vehicles are losing their appeal fast. And although June proved to show major slowdown in what is called gas guzzler sales, some auto dealers say the current drop in fuel cost is peaking interests again.

>>Don Luke:
I think you're going to see truck sales rise again. There's been a lot of panic. A lot of people just froze when gas went crazy. And you'll see people enter into the market. They'll buy what they need. If it's a truck they'll buy a truck.

>>Nadine Arroyo:
In the last two months, auto makers across the nation announced decrease in their SUV and truck production plants even closures due to slow down in sales. General motors eliminated working shifts at two of their truck plants. Ford motor company announced they will shift from building large vehicles to small, more fuel-efficient cars. Chrysler eliminated their leasing program due to decreasing vehicle value. But according to auto dealers, the current incentive frenzy on SUV's and trucks are enticing people to reconsider purchasing a larger vehicle.

>>Don Luke:
Manufacturers are offering huge incentives to purchase V-8 vehicles. Trucks for Dodge are up 150\% over same time last month. So with the drop in the fuel prices, and the huge incentives, people are shifting right back to the V-8s.

>>Nadine Arroyo:
Both dealership owners and experts agree, foreclosures, loss of jobs and high costs of just about everything is tightening the wide world of credit, making it difficult to purchase or make a vehicle trade for one of these.

>>Ted Simons:
Joining me to talk about alternative fuel vehicles is Jonathan Posner, a mechanical and aerospace engineering professor in the Fulton School of Engineering at Arizona State University. Jonathan thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

>>Jonathan Posner:
Thank you for having me.

>>Ted Simons:
The market as we saw in that last piece makes a big deal when it comes to transportation and fuel and such. In the alternative fuel business, the market still a big player?

>>Jonathan Posner:
I believe so. There's several technologies that you'll be seeing in the near future over the next few years. Hybrid technologies you're already seeing. In near future I think you'll see plug-in hybrids which have gasoline in their engine and large batteries where you can do 30-miles of local driving or more on a battery. Charge up your car at night, pay your local utility bill at residential rate, then you'll get 30-miles of coverage. If you want to go more on mileage, 3 or 400 miles, then you'll have a gasoline engine that will allow you to do that. Then they'll have fuel efficiency let's say about 50 miles per gallon.

>>Ted Simons:
And mechanics right now can take Priuses and do pretty much anything?

>>Jonathan Posner:
For anything between $6,000 and $10,000 you can convert your existing hybrid vehicles to plug-in hybrid vehicles. Depending on whether it's cost effective or not depends on your budget and how much you drive as well.

>>Ted Simons:
Is society ready for alternative-fuel vehicles? And I mean just in general, just a mindset?

>>Jonathan Posner:
I think that people are. And I think that recent say dramatic increase in fuel prices has gotten the average person thinking about this more. I mean the sales of the hybrid Prius and other hybrid cars are really exploding. And I think that as new technologies are available, people will be adopting it. Americans are early adopters of technology. I think people are excited about it.

>>Ted Simons:
Plug-in hybrids that you were referring to earlier, how soon will those be on the auto mall lot?

>>Jonathan Posner:
I don't think anyone really knows that. I think you can make one today if you have a hybrid vehicle. But there is talk on the blogs and the internet about 2010 and seeing a plug-in hybrid. There's also talk about seeing just pure electric vehicles.

>>Ted Simons:
Talk about the future of electric vehicles. Because all the rage again in terms of looking for the future. We're back in the past we don't hear much about electric vehicles anymore.

>>Jonathan Posner:
Some people would consider the hybrid to be an electric vehicle because it has a drive train that can run off an electric motor. One of Chevy's new products they call it an electric vehicle because it has large batteries, but it still will have perhaps a small gasoline engine. So as battery technology improves, then the range of electric vehicles, the number of miles they can drive, how fast they can go, will increase. So some of this is technology driven as far as battery technology goes. But the other parts of its economics. So the current batteries that work very well are still relatively expensive. So some of that will be market and some of it will be technology. But the market and the technologies combine, because as technology gets better that same technology can be sold at a lower price.

>>Ted Simons:
Interesting. Hydrogen. We heard for awhile a lot about hydrogen. And again, I think with all the hybrid craze you're not hearing as much about hydrogen. Talk about the future there.

>>Jonathan Posner:
I hear a lot about hydrogen. I work on hydrogen fuel cells. And in fact, I think it's this week hydrogen fuel cell cars are being sold in Southern California. It's a new Honda FCX car called the Clarity. I think they are being sold or leased for $600 a month. So there's a lot of fueling hydrogen stations in California. But the issues of hydrogen will always be how do you produce enough, how do you deliver it, how do you store it and how do you use it best? And a lot of those issues, there's still bugs to work out.

>>Ted Simons:
I was going to say, how soon can those bugs be worked out? We've heard about that with hydrogen for quite awhile.

>>Jonathan Posner:
I would say that California is a good indication of what we'll see in the future. It's going to be a pilot program. They'll see how well the cars run, how easy it is to fuel their hydrogen cars and how difficult it is to either get the hydrogen to the stations or to produce it locally.

>>Ted Simons:
Do you see a future -- and I hate to use the old VHS and beta argument or the blue ray and DVD, HD whatever, but do we need one style of alternative vehicle in the future? Or will it be a la carte?

>>Jonathan Posner:
I think it will be a la carte. If American consumers have taught us anything it's that everything likes something different. Blackberry versus iphone, whatever it might be. Macintosh versus PC. So there's always going to be an interplay between what people want. Right now you can buy diesel vehicles, small Volkswagen diesel vehicles that get 60-70 miles to the gallon. So it's about choice and it's also going to be market-driven. So as fuel costs change then people will make different decisions.

>>Ted Simons:
Are people still experimenting with cooking oil in diesel engines?

>>Jonathan Posner:
Yeah. I would say that they are. I know some people locally who are working with that. Except that people are going to have to eat a lot more French fries if they're going to expect to drive that kind of biofuels.

>>Ted Simons:
That's the market again. The market says this sounds great but here are the consequences and precursors to it.

>>Jonathan Posner:
That's right. And I think there's different factors that play into what drives people. There's people's choices, there's the market, there's institutions, there's policy, and there's the environment. So there's a lot of different factors here. And everyone has to find common ground. And when there's common ground, then new technologies will emerge.

>>Ted Simons:
Including things like E-85 and compressed air. Throw those into the mix. Which of these formats, which of these ideas are most likely to go ahead and succeed and progress and which will kind of fall by the wayside?

>>Jonathan Posner:
Well, we already see lots of hybrids on the road. And there'll be more of those, I believe. And the next great thing you'll see I think is plug-in hybrids. This will be the next product which you can buy from dealerships. I mean, the fuel cell program is fantastic, but it's a pilot program.

>>Ted Simons:
Okay. Quickly as far as this plug-in hybrids though, is that going to be a drain on the system?

>>Jonathan Posner:
Current reports say it will not. There's a series of reports that have come out and there's been committee meetings in Washington, DC. That address. This and people believe the experts in this area believe that current power that we're producing at power stations will be enough. If you drive say 30 miles on a battery you're not going to be buying gas but buying electricity and powering your car overnight when most residences and commercial businesses are not using that power. So it's not so much a drain during the day.

>>Ted Simons:
So the grid will survive.

>>Jonathan Posner:
I believe so.

>>Ted Simons:
Okay. Very good. Hey, thank you so much. This was great. Thanks for talking with us.

>>Jonathan Posner:
My pleasure.

The Cost of School Utilities

  |   Video
  • Facing the loss of $94 million they use to pay utility bills, some Arizona school districts were concerned that they would have to cut teachers and programs. But now, a provision in the new state budget provides financial relief. We take a look at how it helps.
Guests:
  • David Peterson - Associate Superintendent of Operations, Scottsdale school district
Category: Education

View Transcript
>>Ted Simons:
In April we showed you why Arizona school districts were faced with losing millions of dollars they use to pay their utility bills. Some school districts were considering program cuts and teacher layoffs. Now it appears they won't have to go to those extremes because state lawmakers have provided a new source of utility funding. In a moment we'll hear from a Scottsdale school official about the new source of money. But first, David Majure shows us what school districts were up against.

>>David Majure:
$94 million. That's how much money Arizona School Districts plan to get this year from local property taxes to cover part of their utility bills. That money will soon be disappearing, but the bills will not.

>>David Peterson:
I hate to be the dooms day person but it's going to be catastrophic. We are going to have to do some major reductions in force.

>>David Majure:
David Peterson is assistant superintendent of operations for the Scottsdale unified school district. To avoid cutting teachers or programs, he's been working hard to make the district more energy-efficient.

>>David Peterson:
The fruits of our labor, if you will, is last year we reduced our energy consumption by 1.2 million kWh.

>>David Majure:
Enough to power about 80 homes for a year. But not enough to make a dent in the district's utility bills.

>>Franchesca Thomas:
We can't conserve our way out of this problem.

>>David Majure:
Franchesca Thomas is a mother of three boys enrolled in the Scottsdale district.

>>Franchesca Thomas:
Local communities, local citizens, should not have to pay for the basic operating costs of public school.

>>David Majure:
But in 1985, state lawmakers says otherwise. Funding for schools was not keeping pace with the rising cost of utilities. So the legislature came up with something called excess utilities. They told districts to use their actual 1984-85 utility expenditure as a baseline. In subsequent years, if utility rates increased faster than their budgets did, districts could use local property taxes to make up the difference. Enter prop 301. Approved by voters in 2000, it raised the state sales tax for teacher salaries. But it also set a date of 2009 after which school districts may no longer use local property taxes to pay for excess utilities.

>>David Peterson:
Our excess utilities for this year is a little over $5 million.

>>David Majure:
That's $5 million Franchesca Thomas believes the state should be responsible for.

>>Franchesca Thomas:
It's the right thing to do for children in the state of Arizona.

>>Ted Simons:
In June, state lawmakers adopted a plan to help school districts pay for their excess utilities. Yesterday I spoke with David Peterson, associate superintendent of operations for the Scottsdale school district about that plan. And David Peterson, thank you for joining us on horizon.

>>David Peterson:
You're welcome.

>>Ted Simons:
Quick overview. The excess utility program. What are we talk about here?

>>David Peterson:
Excess utilities was a program that allowed schools to actually pay for their utility bill. Back in 84-85, utility costs were skyrocketing, sort of as they are now. And school districts had a hard time keeping -- keeping up with the funding. The legislature had a more difficult time making sure funding was there. They came up with a formula for excess utilities that basically took what you paid in 84-85 as a baseline, and any costs above that baseline, it was adjusted each year as our increases went, you had a special tax. So you could tax your taxpayers for that additional cost for utilities.

>>Ted Simons:
And it was set to sunset, and yet there was legislation in the house to keep it going, correct?

>>David Peterson:
That is correct. Yes. It would have -- as of June 30th of this coming year, it would have gone away.

>>Ted Simons:
If it had gone away, how would the Scottsdale school districts, unified in particular, how would they have been affected?

>>David Peterson:
We would have been devastated. It was a little over $5 million in additional funding that as funding as difficult as it is to get, we would have probably had to lay off 120 teachers.

>>Ted Simons:
My goodness. All right. Now as far as the legislation is concerned for extending the program, changing the program, starts in the house. Sat there for quite awhile. And then all of a sudden it's kind of rescued in the senate. Talk us about that.

>>David Peterson:
Represent Reagan initially had the bill in the house to the commerce committee. She did a wonderful job and then it sat there. It got down to the 11th hour and truly probably 11:30 the budget needed to be passed for the state. They were ending the year. And Senator Allen from Scottsdale stepped up to the plate. She was truly our white knight. She took it on and said "I have to make this happen because it's important for schools. We cannot impact children." and so she pushed it through, steadfast with Senator O'Halleron from the Sedona area and Senator Bee along with the Governor made it happen in the senate. They agreed. It went to the house. The house initially weren't going to have it go through. Representative Reagan stepped back up again and said "I have the votes to make it pass." they said, if you have the votes put it to a vote. She put it to a vote and sure enough it passed. So here we are. We're finally going to be rescued.

>>Ted Simons:
Okay. Rescued. It passes. What passed? What is different now with this new formula as opposed for what you had?

>>David Peterson:
There's some significant differences. First of all, the formula now will fund basically 90\% of the excess utilities. Prior to that, excess utilities, what you spent above your baseline, you had a tax for, your local taxpayers paid for that. Now it's going to be funded under the state's general fund. So it goes into our normal budget. It's 90\%. Again one of the reasons it's 90\% is some legislative people, rightly so, said schools have to make a good faith effort. We have to conserve. So we have a 10\% component that we have to try to conserve those dollars in order to show that we are doing our part.

>>Ted Simons:
Can you do your part with energy -- I mean, energy costs are rising across the board. I mean, what are you doing to try to conserve and is it working?

>>David Peterson:
It's going to be difficult. We've done a lot of lighting upgrades in Scottsdale, we've changed temperature settings. I can tell you that from January to June of this year, we actually cut our consumption by 1.92\%. Almost 2\% consumption. But our actual costs went up 8\%. So I saved 2\% of use but I paid 8\% more to do it. And part of that is because of the rising costs of utilities. And we have to fund those things.

>>Ted Simons:
There had been some talk from other legislators about override votes and these sorts of things. Why was that not a good idea?

>>David Peterson:
To me, that type of legislation was just bad law. First of all, you have districts that can not pass an override. So how do you expect an override to actually pay for a basic cost of instruction? So we're asking our voters to go and pay for an override or vote in an override for something that first of all should be a basic component of instruction. And if the district can't pass it, how would they keep their lights on? They'd have to turn their lights off because they can't pass their override.

>>Ted Simons:
You get the new method of costs here and trying to control these costs and pay for these things. How long before this one sunsets?

>>David Peterson:
Right now it will go on through when proposition 301, which is probably another, gosh, it's another 11, 12 years. We should be in good shape. But hopefully by then some folks that are working on some new finance formulas will finally step up and we will have a new finance formula in Arizona so that we can see how schools will be funded in the future.

>>Ted Simons:
Very good. David, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate.

>>David Peterson:
Thank you for having me

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