Reports that rate Arizona against other states on education shouldn't be taken at face value, a state lawmaker contends.
Sen. John Huppenthal, R-Chandler, is sponsoring a bill that would create an appointed committee to compile rankings of states by education quality and residents' wages and evaluate them to determine where Arizona truly stands.
"I would think that people who are out there would want their education system to be guided by the best policies out there," Huppenthal said. "I'm perpetually looking at who is doing a better job than we are to see how their policies are different than ours."
Huppenthal noted that two studies on the quality of states' education systems ranked Arizona in the middle of the pack and near the bottom. He said an accurate perception of where Arizona ranks would help lawmakers determine which states are role models and which ones aren't.
Members of the committee formed by Huppenthal's bill would be chosen by the governor and leaders of both houses of the Legislature based on their backgrounds in economics, education and public policy. They would submit their findings in an annual report and wouldn't be compensated.
Huppenthal's measure, SB1279, has won Senate approval and was endorsed 6-1 Tuesday by the House Government Committee.
Michael Smith, a spokesman for Arizona School Administrators, called the idea of evaluating evaluations to choose the best "pointless."
"It won't stop anybody from using all the other ones or arguing back and forth about what's really relevant," Smith said.
Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, who voted against the bill Tuesday, said it's clear from various studies that Arizona ranks at or near the bottom in education.
"Why should we waste our time questioning the underpinnings of the rankings when what we should be doing is figuring out ways to improve our place in the rankings?" Farley said.
But Rep. Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, the committee's chairman, said the bill would help officials and the public better understand studies that he said make apples-to-oranges comparisons among states.
"It is very important that we have a true data point to start with," Adams said.