By the way, even though the overall subject of the debate was education, Ducey still managed to invoke his exceedingly lame slogan about wanting to #kickstart the Arizona economy. Doug appears not to grasp the idea that it takes money to kickstart a project or a campaign, or an economy. As a businessman, he knows that in order to kickstart a business opportunity, somebody has to invest capital into the project.
Both candidates however, when pressed about the Cave Creek Schools v Ducey court ruling demanding an immediate infusion of more than $300 million into our public k-12 schools, aggressively avoided any hint that either would want to increase taxes.
Somebody is going to have to take the ball that I have served up to debunk Ducey's #kickstart meme and run with it. The bottom line is that you cannot #kickstart the economy by imposing austerity measures. Period. End of that aspect of the discussion. Now -- somebody else besides me is going to have to have the balls to boldly declare that economic reality.
Anyway, here's the debate held on Sunday evening.
Now, on to the debate. Here is a critical thinking hint.
Notice the dramatically different focus in the two opening statements.
DuVal opens by saying, "I love Arizona," then expounding on what he means when he says that.
Ducey opens by saying, "I want to be your governor." Then ignores anything and everything that could possibly suggest to the critically thinking voter a reason why it would be in that voter's interests to vote for him.
Frankly, I don't see the relevance of everyone in Ducey's family having made their livings in education. I also don't see how having Lisa Graham Keegan endorse him makes Ducey qualified to be governor.
After Ducey's opening statement, Hook asked the first question, saying that all we hear about Arizona schools is that we lag in funding and we lag in test scores, so what grade would you give our schools overall?
DuVal said, "this is the real challenge. The real challenge is that we have "As" and we have "Ds." We are all over the map. We've accepted a system that is allowing a differentiation of the quality of the opportunities for our childrens' schools. And I think the most important thing we need to do is focus on how we bring all schools to being A schools. How we resource all schools to assure the kind of student achievement that we want and the kind of student success that we want. We have some of the best neighborhood schools and some of the best charters. And frankly we have disappointments in both of those categories and that is the core issue."
Later DuVal explained that he sees talent as being evenly distributed throughout the state but you cannot say the same thing about opportunity.
Hook then cited the US Chamber of Commerce which gave Arizona, on academic achievement, a D; on achievement for low-income and minority students, a D; workforce readiness, a D; return on investment, a B. He then asked what that says to each of the candidates.
DuVal responded that it shows school funding cuts have had huge, devastating impacts. He cited specifics, including 10 percent of classrooms in Tucson have been shutdown by OSHA for safety violations; that 500 classrooms today in Arizona have no permanent teacher; shutting down of music and art programs; and district superintendents having to make draconian choices that are denying our children the kind of educational opportunities that can build well rounded individuals.
By the way, right after the debate wrapped up, Rich Crandall, former Republican state senator tweeted,
According to AZ Auditor General, biggest reason $'s left the classroom is AZLeg stopped paying for school repairs like they promised.Irony alert. When Ducey took the return on investment question, he mentioned that the Chamber gave us an A on school choice.
— Rich Crandall (@richcrandall) September 29, 2014
In fact, other states recognize that the Arizona School Improvement Act of 1994 led the way on that movement. That's a full 20 years ago. And YET, as Hook said, Arizona lags in test scores, educational outcomes.
Arizona’s School Improvement Act of 1994 remains the nation’s strongest charter school law, according to the Center for Education Reform, and the 509 open charters in the Grand Canyon State give parents a substantial range of options. Arizona also offers a tax credit for residents who donate to charitable organizations that offer scholarships to students to attend private schools. In addition, the state minimally regulates home-schoolers while guaranteeing home-schooled students equitable access to the state’s public colleges.
The Republican drive to promote school choice in Arizona is two decades old. Yet Ducey rests his education plan squarely on the shoulders of implementing open enrollment and propagating charter schools.
The only problem with that is Arizona has had open enrollment for TWO decades. And our state has led the country in the charter school movement (which is, by the way, the hallmark of Lisa Keegan's education philosophy) since 1994.
How has that worked out for you, Arizona voters? Average high school graduation rates in the US at 80 or 81 percent, but in Arizona they are 3 to 4 points LOWER after TWO decades of school choice. Quite a return on investment, eh?
When will it be time to take stock and admit the experiment has not been good overall for Arizona?
The ONLY thing that can be drawn as a conclusion, as far as the system impacts, is that charter and the religious private schools funded by the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts have and are still undermining neighborhood public schools.
Of course, Ducey has something else in mind when it comes to school choice. If asked, I am confident he'll change the subject but this is a course of action that will put more money in Steve Yarbrough's personal bank account than into our children's classrooms.
Don't forget that Cathi Herrod is one of Ducey's chief advisors. Private (religious) school vouchers are at the top of Herrod's priority list, right there with destroying the right American women have to make their own health care decisions and promoting discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
There's so much more to get from listening to the entire 57-minute debate. But it really all boils down to that DuVal has genuine vision for improving Arizona schools. Ducey's ideas are stale and past their expiration date.