Last Thursday, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal did an interesting turn-around (OK, well maybe not so interesting or surprising since this is Huppenthal after all, whose election wasn't actually based on improving education or getting more money in Arizona's classrooms, but fighting "La Raaaaza"). At a press conference announcing annual school grades and AIMS test scores, Huppenthal said that schools in Arizona need more money.
“We know that the stress from the finances of the last couple of years are a significant distraction from the educational mission, and that the Legislature needs to do something about it,” Huppenthal said.
“Our school system needs to be compensated at least for inflation,” he said. “And they need a little bit of catch-up ground from the cuts over the last couple of years.”
According to a story by Howard Fischer, Huppenthal complained about the Legislature's corporate tax giveaways hurting most of all. It's what "loser states do," he said.
Seems like House Speaker Andy Tobin didn't take too kindly to that remark and pointed out what education supporters were thinking all along: Hey, didn't Huppenthal, a fellow Republican, support those education cuts when he was a state lawmaker?
But the superintendent, a former Republican state legislator, also took a broad swipe at his former colleagues and the governor for approving “corporate giveaways,” calling them “inappropriate.”
Huppenthal said he does not oppose broad-based tax relief, like the nearly 30-percent cut in corporate income tax rates approved by lawmakers two years ago.
“What I'm not comfortable with is buying growth, making these deals,” he said. “I think that's corrupt.”
And Huppenthal said it's also bad policy.
“The economic research is clear: That's what loser states do,” he said.
The comments annoyed House Speaker Andy Tobin.
“I find it very disconcerting that the superintendent of public education does not understand the value of job creation so that we can put more money back into the education system and especially K-12,” he said.
Tobin also took a slap of his own at Huppenthal.
He said the superintendent never lobbies lawmakers for more classroom funding, instead making his priority to get $32 million to replace his agency's aging data system; a point Huppenthal did not dispute. And Tobin said that if Huppenthal, a former lawmaker, is unhappy with the state's economic development policies he should run for the Legislature again.
Under Tobin, the cuts and tax breaks remain justified as a means to help education, but remember school districts are now under the weight of the Common Core curriculum that requires a huge technology and training implementation in order to take the yearly test on computer.
What a difference a year (and reality) makes. Last year, the Arizona Capitol Times reported on the state implementing the common core standards and guidelines that need to be in place by this school year. Huppenthal didn't seem to care about education funding back then:
Huppenthal said that budget constraints won’t interfere with implementation of the new standards.
“Can we roll out the common core within the current resource restraint? Absolutely we can,” Huppenthal said. “Would we like to have more resources? Oh, you better believe it. But we’re prepared to operate under multiple environments and get the mission accomplished.”