Butcher: It's the same old song for education funding - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

Butcher: It's the same old song for education funding

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Jonathan Butcher is education director for the Goldwater Institute.

Posted: Thursday, January 12, 2012 8:18 pm | Updated: 9:37 pm, Sat Jan 14, 2012.

In 1965, The Four Tops released a follow-up to their hit single, "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" with a number called "It's the Same Old Song." It was, actually, nearly the same song as "Can't Help Myself," admits singer Abdul "Duke" Fakir, as he and songwriter Lamont Dozier were in a rush to produce something and "reversed [‘Can't Help Myself'] with the same chord changes" to write "Same Old Song."

In Arizona, we're hearing the same old song about more money for education, now in the form of continuing the "temporary" 1 percent sales tax.

The Arizona Education Network says, "Studies show Arizona continually lags among the bottom of all states in terms of public education funding and academic performance," as though speaking of money and student achievement in the same breath will somehow link them together.

As history shows, increases in education funding do not lead to higher levels of student achievement. In fact, education funding has been on the rise for decades with nothing to show for all that additional money.

Between 1985 and 2007, federal school spending increased 138 percent, and per-pupil expenditures around the country have more than doubled since 1970, says Stanford University's Eric Hanushek.

In Arizona, reading scores for fourth-graders on the Nation's Report Card have changed little in the last decade, despite a 47 percent increase in total spending per pupil between 2000 and 2009. Interestingly, even when funding ticked down 4 percent between 2009 and 2010, not only did that make but a small dent in the earlier increases, but scores did not change. Suggestions that Arizona's low achievement levels are a result of funding levels ignore these findings.

Lawmakers should follow Gov. Jan Brewer's lead and mark Arizona as the nation's leader in education reform, as the East Valley Tribune reported last week, and keep the state committed to sound fiscal practices and a balanced budget.

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