The Future Trudges Back To School


Ah — summer falters too soon — as the big yellow school buses renew their diesel trudge and motorists must now keep an especially sharp lookout for kids traveling to and from their schools. Last week, students all across Rim Country groaned at the cruel curtailment of summer, shouldered their book bags and returned to tend to their futures.

The teachers and administrators who have devoted their careers to those kids put the final touches on their lesson plans and girded themselves for a potentially difficult year.

After a summer of angst, Payson Unified School District’s staff must make the painful adjustment to layoffs that cost the district key teachers and administrators. The layoffs, debates and ongoing budget challenges have only exacerbated the struggle to make the system work.

If anyone doubts the importance of schools — just consider the studies on the economic impact of an education. Some 85 percent of Americans have completed high school and 27 percent have received a Bachelor’s Degree. The average high school dropout makes $23,000 annually, compared to $51,000 for the average person with a college degree. Moreover, a college degree cuts the risk of unemployment in half — even in a recession.

Clearly, our economic future depends on what happens in those classrooms. Yet Arizona ranks dead last in education spending, according to some comparisons. By the same token, the United States itself spends a much smaller share of its wealth on education than do our economic competitors. We spend about 5.7 percent of our GNP on education — a little less than we spend on the military.

Of course, money doesn’t guarantee a good education, as studies of per-state spending have demonstrated. Repeated studies show that teacher quality, school principals and the educational background of the family have a bigger impact than simple school spending.

But the dispiriting cutbacks make the work of those committed teachers all the more vital — and our gratitude to them all the more profound.

So thanks, teach — we’re depending on you.

And buck up, kids — it’s good for you. Honest. Cross our hearts.

And the rest of you — drive carefully, your future’s off to school this morning and she isn’t necessarily looking where she’s going.

Organize political rescue team

Just had one of those light-bulb moments — the solution to all our big problems.

The insight came while reading today’s front-page story about the latest batch of rescues by those amazing folks at Tonto Rim Search and Rescue.

First, they hauled out of Fossil Creek a young fellow who was reckless enough to belly-flop off a 25-foot-high cliff into a deep pool in Fossil Creek. Then they hauled out a girl who hiked too far without enough water. Then they located and rescued an elderly man who’d fallen into a bramble of bushes on the East Verde while taking a walk in the dark.

Thank goodness for TRS&R. Seems like no matter how many dumb things people do, Tonto Rim Search and Rescue can always drum up volunteers willing to hike all day and search all night.

For the only thing as persistent as human folly, is human compassion and courage.

So here’s an idea.

Let’s train some of those search and rescue volunteers on state budgeting procedures.

Then the next time the legislature gets together for another one of its belly flop budget sessions, we’ll have a team standing by — ready to rush to the rescue.

Because judging by the results in the past year, the Arizona Legislature needs rescue much worse than your average explorer on the Hellsgate Trail.


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