"Lawmakers Play Favorites With Schools"
If you really want to get your blood boiling, check out this recent op-ed from Arizona Republic columnist Richard Ruelas.
The Arizona legislature considered two plans recently. One increased funding for gifted education by 49%. The legislators also looked at a proposal to increase funding for English language learners by 21%. Ruelas sees a conspiracy afoot to help children named "Logan" or "Madison" who "sail through with so much ease, it's almost tedious," while leaving children named Maria or Jose behind with a measly 21% funding increase.
He's correct that the Arizona legislature has been dragging its feet on coming up with a good funding mechanism for ESL students. The state now faces hefty fines for failing to put good programs in place.
But there are two problems with his argument that the legislature's incompetence in the ESL field is in any way evidence that lawmakers prefer to give "handouts" to children who have it easy. First, English language learners and gifted students are sets with an intersection. It's pretty insulting to gifted immigrant children to suggest that there's no way, no siree, no possibility that they might be gifted.
And second, I looked up the numbers. This man is managing to whine that ESL learners are getting a low boost even though ESL funds are being boosted far, far more, per capita, than gifted funds.
Arizona has 154,000 students classified as English learners. The legislature is considering raising the per capita ESL spending (on top of the standard cost to educate a student) from $355 to $432. That means an increase of $77 per child. Total ESL spending would rise from about $55 million to $67 million.
The gifted education bill would raise per pupil spending on gifted education from $55 to $82. That's an increase of $27, or 49%.
To review. ESL funding is increasing by $77 per child. Gifted funding is increasing by $27 per child. The only reason the percentage increase is twice as high for gifted education is that gifted education is starting from such a low funding level. Call me crazy, but I don't see a $27 boost as a conspiracy to enrich the Logans and Madisons of the world. Especially when compared with a $77 per pupil funding increase in ESL.
But Ruelas doesn't care about the numbers. Read this excerpt:
"The sponsor of the [gifted education] bill, Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Mesa, testified that gifted children drop out of school because they get bored. He told me the same during a phone interview.
"'I've talked to several kids,' he said. '(They say) 'I was always in trouble. I've read all the books in the library, and then what was I supposed to do?'
"Maybe go to Barnes & Noble?"
The man doesn't get it.