Class 30 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program. The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership.
To talk of education is to talk of tensions and competing demands. Educational philosophies, political agendas, and funding challenges, mixed with student development, teacher standards, and standardized tests. Sprinkle in economic development and labor force development, add a dash of visionary notions about the enterprise of education, and it’s no wonder so many people are overwhelmed by the conversation!
Our Youth & Education Day Chairs did a great job of presenting these various issues in education, and framing a large and complex topic. Presentations on school choice, school funding, and Arizona competitiveness were interwoven with a number of interactive and intriguing class exercises, including one that had us wrestle as school board members with real-world issues. The speakers and presenters were excellent, and as seems to be the norm for Scottsdale Leadership, I left intellectually and emotionally exhausted!
There is no question that society has come to place a lot of expectation on school outcomes. Schools are often expected to be on the front lines of treatment for psychological disorders, drug and alcohol education, and a host of other important developmental milestones. This despite the fact that only 12% of a child’s time is actually spent in the classroom (one of the most surprising and impactful statistics of the day).
Of course, funding is a mitigating factor in meeting the freighted educational agenda. While many of the day’s speakers suggested that educational excellence can be found in any school, and at any level of financial support, it seems clear that sufficient and equitable funding is needed. The formula for school funding in Arizona was developed over 30 years ago. It is worth noting that enrollment in Arizona schools keeps growing, and so funding plans are almost never up to date with current realities. It is also worth noting that Arizona schools have the lowest administrative cost in all fifty states. Ultimately, investing in education really comes down to “pay now or pay later.” According to Dr. David Peterson, the Arizona corrections budget is up 10% since 1981, while the state education budget is down by 13%. We need to do better.
This sentiment was echoed in the closing remarks made by Scottsdale Leadership co-founder Gary Shapiro. “As leaders,” he said, “our call is not to find what is equal, equitable, or adequate. Rather, our call is to have the courage to do what is necessary.”
At the very least, that will mean setting aside some agendas in favor of a larger vision of collaboration between parents, districts, boards, businesses, and political leaders. More proactively, the solution is for all of us to be involved in some way. We can make the necessary investments (of both time and money), and reap all of the benefits of a well- educated citizenry, or we can pay later in the form of unemployment, drug use, and crowded prisons. Again, only 12% of a young person’s time is spent in schools. It is the work of the whole community to create social stability through impactful relationships and helping with extra-curricular activities (music, the arts, sports, service clubs, faith communities, and so forth).
How could you get involved?