Representative Rebuts Letter Writer’S Claims

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by Rep. Brenda Barton, chairman Agriculture and Water

Again Raymond Spatti displays his ignorance of the facts, his willful deception of the public, and vitriol towards me for the world to view. After more than a month, perhaps your readers have forgotten what I wrote?

He asserts my rejection of applied standards which I certainly never made. I said that our children are wonderfully diverse and no one size fits all when it comes to their education. Sole judging of a child’s progress should not be entirely based on testing, other factors are important too. New York City has just learned this lesson after switching to an entirely standards based testing evaluation and saw their students academic achievement plummet.

As for the tired call for more money. The state of New York (No. 1 in the nation) spends 115 percent more money per student than Arizona and yet the academic achievement of students in New York State is par with that of Arizona. Many studies have shown, that Arizona teachers are doing a fabulous job and our students are achieving.

Many do not fully realize that educational funding is directed locally and not a decision made by the state, it is made by your local school board, superintendent, and federal government. In speaking with teachers familiar with the situation in Payson (something I doubt Mr. Spatti has done), it would appear that the problems facing the district are not solely a result of insufficient funding. As many parents and teachers are aware of, there are other factors involved.

I’d like to see Mr. Spatti’s documentation that I oppose early childhood education since that matter is entirely addressed by the voter approved First Things First initiative that is quite well funded. The fact is, First Things First has its own secure source of funding for 1 to 5 year olds. If there are issues in northern Gila County regarding early childhood education, I would suggest contacting your First Things First area manager.

Of course Mr. Spatti remains blissfully ignorant of the fact that all credible studies strongly indicate that early childhood education, while effective in the first two years of elementary school, makes little difference in a student’s academic abilities after the third grade.

Here is perhaps Mr. Spatti’s biggest whopper he’s trying to get the public to believe: “On her watch, educational funding in Arizona was reduced by over 20 percent.”

The truth is that those education reductions he is speaking about happened due to the Great Recession of 2008 when Arizona’s economy was in free fall. My first term in the legislature was in 2011. Since being elected, I have voted consistently for educational funding in our budget that, as our revenues increase, we are able to restore.

Again another slight of hand in Mr. Spatti’s ignorance or dishonesty is this quote; “she supported HB 2291 which, in a few years, would eventually have allowed nearly 900,000 Arizona K-12 students to pull out of regular public schools.”

The word Mr. Spatti chose to leave out is “failing” and being honest he should have said; “pull out of failing public schools.” In other words, low income children and minorities faced with failing schools should not be trapped and condemned to a lousy education because of where they lived. Per Raymond Spatti, these children would have no alternative but to remain in a failing school. I reject that position.

As for his statement regarding accountability, charter schools are fully accountable to the terms of their state issued charter. So again, Mr. Spatti shows us his total lack of knowledge of the matter or his willful deception. The fact is, charter schools are public schools with a different management structure.

As for his statement “... all segments of the business community” I can report to you that I am endorsed by the Arizona Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and the Arizona State Chamber of Commerce and Industry. They perhaps much more than Raymond Spatti are aware of my efforts on behalf of our children’s education in Arizona.

As a grandmother and great-grandmother, our children’s education and their future is deeply important to me. I am honored that I am in a position to help shape that educational policy that my grand-babies will grow and prosper under.

It is from this intimate perspective that I take the education of your children and grandchildren with the same sincerity and gravity.

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