State Push To Take Over Schools Needs Careful Study

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Last week the state took over the Colorado City Unified School District. Now State School Superintendent Tom Horne wants the legislature to give him the power to take over districts more easily.

The current law allows the state to step in and take over school districts where students are failing to learn or when there has been mismanagement of finances.

In the case of Colorado City, the intervention was based on the financial activities of the district.

The changes sought by Horne would let the state withhold money from districts that ignore the education laws and make district boards and administrators responsible for improving "underperforming" rankings, determined by student scores in the various standards tests (the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards, for example).

The existing law puts the burden of improving a school on the shoulders of principals and does not require participation by either the superintendent or school board.

It is, however, only the large, metropolitan districts that enjoy the luxury of not involving everyone when problems arise. But in a small, rural district, such as Payson's, when there are problems at any level, the solutions have been found with hands-on approaches by everyone from the teachers and the support staff to the principal, superintendent and school board.

The more local authority is diluted, the further removed the real student interests become from those making decisions about their educational life.

Education does not need more bureaucrats and so-called think tanks coming up with recommendations and requirements.

The people who know about the actual act of educating young men and women -- because they do it day in and day out -- should have the greater power to make their individual classrooms and school districts better. It is something they should share with the community's leaders who serve as school board members and advisory councils.

Someone in Phoenix or Washington, D.C. can never truly know what is best for the education of the children of the Rim Country and Tonto Basin or any other rural area. The needs of these children are different, the resources to give them an education far more limited. And the people who know how to make the best decisions for the children and the most responsible use of the resources are the men and women in our small districts.

So, before the legislature takes up Horne's requests, let your representatives know that the best power is local power.

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