Thursday, October 09, 2008

No blank checks for public schools: Tucsonans, say no to Prop 403

I'll offer a modest compromise to the Tucson Unified School District: You give us merit pay for teachers, and we'll give you a budget override.

Proponents of the override would like to tell us that this is not the same district that simply lost $1.6MM in assets, that having a new superintendent and a few new board members, TUSD should be given a clean record by the public. I say, "Show us you're different!"

Why should we believe that TUSD could improve public education if we simply give it more money? (Private schools, after all, operate on less per pupil.) Have enough reforms been put into place that administrators can honestly say "our hands our tied"? I need, and you should need, convincing of the district's bona fides, signs that they're not asking us to fork over more of our wealth or income so they can worry less about the budget while doing business as usual. Standing up to the teachers' union and insisting on merit pay is the clearest signal that can be sent that TUSD is operating for the benefit of the taxpayers, not its employees. Absent that, we ought to be shown some very clear reforms before, not after, we fork over the money. Reforms--fundamental changes in the way the district educates children--not promises involving trendy buzzwords like "smaller class size". An end to social promotion costs nothing.

Until I see either concerted reforms or the breaking of the Tucson Education Association, I will not vote for any TUSD budget override. (A dollar-for-dollar private school/homeschool parent tax credit wouldn't hurt, either, but that's asking too much!) Call it the "do not feed" principle. You don't give spare change to the bum if you think he's just going to spend it on wine. The people asking are different, yes, but it's not clear that they're not bums.

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