Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 12, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

State of Education


  • 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.

What's on?
  About KAET Contact Support Legal Follow Us  
  About Eight
Mission/Impact
History
Site Map
Pressroom
Contact Us
Sign up for e-news
Pledge to Eight
Donate Monthly
Volunteer
Other ways to support
FCC Public Files
Privacy Policy
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
Google+
Pinterest
 

Need help accessing? Contact disabilityaccess@asu.edu

Eight is a member-supported service of Arizona State University    Copyright Arizona Board of Regents