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Napolitano disputes 'dumbest' ranking

By Nathan Scherotter

Nov 4, 2006

Funding problems, not lack of effort or determination, are responsible for Arizona’s bottom-of-the-barrel ranking in a study comparing the state’s educational system with others around the country.

In an Oct. 30 appearance at Corona del Sol High School, Gov. Janet Napolitano listed Arizona’s population boom as a cause of major funding problems throughout the state.

“We are not the dumbest state in America,” Napolitano said. “We have funding challenges that need to improve.”

The study, released in early October, showed that Arizona spends only $5,300 per student, while the national average is $7,000.

Napolitano blamed the state’s steep population climb and outdated spending plans as the primary causes.

However, she said the October study was “cut with a dull knife” and is a couple years out of date.

Despite this, she insisted, Napolitano remains dedicated to making a change.

“We are going to balance the budget and fully fund K-12 education,” Napolitano said. “No later than 2008, Arizona will have a full-day, state-funded kindergarten.”

The governor listed her steps to improve the education system across the state:

1. Make an effort to ensure that all students are reading at grade level by the second grade.

2. Spend more on students who come from a non-English speaking family.

3. Raise the dropout age.

4. Require every 8th grader to take an algebra class.

Napolitano wants to implement these changes in order to educate children at a young age. She believes that the earlier a student can read, the earlier that student can learn.

“We have excellent schools and excellent school districts,” Napolitano said. “The legislatures are the source of the problem.”

Because of this, Napolitano urges parents and students alike to ask questions. She wants parents to go to their school boards and to their legislatures and ask where the state money is going.

The governor also stressed the importance of a college education and shows this by continuing to give money to the Arizona universities. According to Napolitano, over 98.4 percent of jobs that earn over $27,000 require a college degree.

“Higher education needs to be excellent and affordable,” Napolitano said. “Arizona already has one of the best community college systems in the country.”

Napolitano also wants to keep funding arts programs and said that, in the coming years, Arizona social studies programs will have the toughest curriculum in the country.

“We have the smartest kids; let’s give them the toughest curriculum,” she said.

With all the problems facing the Arizona educational system, Napolitano says she sees growth and results for the near future.

“We need to keep working at it and we will get it done.”

More than 150 students and parents attended the program.



Photo by Vanessa Catharine Dojaquez


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