Original URL:  http://www.kaet.asu.edu/horizon/transcripts/2003/january/jan22_2003.htm

Arizona School Superintendent Tom Horne on Horizon on Jan. 22, 2003

 >> Michael: Joining me now is the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Horne. Tom, I
don't think I've seen you since the election. Congratulations.

>> Tom Horne: Thank you, Mike.

>> Michael: You are a strong supporter of school district consolidation.

>> Tom Horne: Yes, I am.

>> Michael: Why?

>> Tom Horne: Several reasons. The first reason is the efficiency. The Joint Legislative Budget
Committe did a study very recently where they found efficient large districts spend $300 and some per
pupil on administration, where some of the smaller districts spend as much as $1,000 per student on
administration. We only give $4700 per student. So a thousand dollars is a big chunk out of the budget.
People expect the money to be spent in the classroom on teacher compensation and on smaller class
size, rather than wasteful administration.

> Michael: What about the local control issue. That's the one that is always brought up and in fact was
mentioned in the package.

>> Tom Horne: Well, there is an ideal size for a school district, sufficientlily large for economies of scale
but small enough so that people have a say in the school district and that's probably around 30,000
students or so. But we have districts with just a few hundred students. So we can still have local control
and still have the district be large enough so that they have the economies of scale.

>> Michael: Is it politically possible? You and I have both been around for a long time. This idea is not
a new one. It always gets bludgeoned and bludgeoned badly when it comes up. So are we talking
political nonreality here?

>> Tom Horne: Well, there is more interest now than there has been in the past. Arizona has been much
criticized for being 47th in the country and the amount we spend per pupil. We talk about getting more
money per pupil, we can't do that this year because we are playing defense with the budget deficit.
When the economy turns around and there is more tax receipts, education wants to be a priority. If
education is going to be a priority, we have to persuade the legislators and the public that we're getting
100 cents of distance run out of every dollar that we spent. That means accountablilty on the academic
side. That means accountability on the financial side. We have to be efficient, spend the money in the
classroom, and on the academic side, Mike, this is relevant, too, because if you can unify districts so
they go K-12 rather than elementary districts and high school districts, they can be much more
responsible for the academic scope and sequence of the subjects that they teach. No high school in a
unified district was labeled as underperforming. All of the underperforming high schools in our state are
high schools who took their students in from feeder elementary districts. So it would appear that at least
unifying the district has strong academic benefits as well.

>> Michael: The Governor has recommended full funding for both the inflator and growth adjustment, I
think roughly about $400 million increase in K-12 spending. Is that number someplace in the ballpark?

>> Tom Horne: It's required. There's no choice there. Proposition 301 was passed by the voters. It
says that each year we will spend the same amount per pupil that we spent the prior year plus 2% for
inflation. That's voter approved. We passed another referendum that says you can't mess with what the
voters approved. The legislature doesn't have the power to cut that part of the budget.

>> Michael: Senator Bennett has suggested that in other education related areas you could cut and
whack at that $400 million. Governor Hull had suggested that, for example, some of the soft capital
funds might -- if memory serves, I want to say that was in the universe of $120 million or so could be
put off.

>> Tom Horne: She said old textbooks are better than new textbooks.

>> Michael: She did make that point. Let's save that debate for another time. What about, though, just
the concept of, yeah, you can't touch those, but what about some of the other areas that you can touch
and should you touch them?

>> Tom Horne: It's not voter protected. It's true soft capital. I've argued that we shouldn't cut soft
capital because in real dollars we have cut it substantially. We haven't had an increase since 1999, so
the real cost of things has gone up, but the nominal dollar amount has stayed the same. We haven't been
able to adjust for inflation. For example, in the school district I came from, we had a 5-year cycle for
textbooks and we've gone to an 8-year cycle for textbooks. There has already been a substantial cut in
soft capital simply because there was no adjustment for inflation for several years.

>> Michael: The Governor also suggests, and I think there is general agreement on this, I'm not sure on
where it goes, but that there needs to be a reexamination of the Students First funding mechanism. Many
people think we ought to go back to the old system of bonding, supplanted by some state aid. What do
you think about that?

>> Tom Horne: I'm one of those people who does think that. I will come up with a proposal in the next
couple of weeks to do just that. I think it'll save something like $400 million on the current deficit.

>> Michael: Was it folly to try to build all of these schools out of the general fund in current monies in
the first place?

>> Tom Horne: It was, and I was one of 12 Republicans who refused to vote for it. You may
remember we had a session that was extended back in '97, that was extended several months because
they were one vote short on passing it, and I was one of those who wouldn't vote for it. And finally, I
think Robin Shaw made a famous statement. This is a terrible bill, this is a terrible bill, this is a terrible
bill, I vote yes.

>> Michael: I vote aye?

>> Tom Horne: Yes.

>> Michael: That's right. We went through our first round of school assessments last year. Theoretically,
if they were to be labeled underperforming again this year, they would be put in the failing category and
that calls for some Draconian measures. You have suggested that that peril be put off for a year. Why?

>> Tom Horne: Well, the schools were identified in October. They have to come up with plans of
improvement by January 31st. The first tests that are given for the following year are the following
March, and so if they would be underperforming a second year based on tests taken in March when
they only presented a plan for improvement in January, two months is not enough time to put into effect
a plan of improvement for a school, so by delaying it a year, we give them a full year to put into effect
the plan of improvement and turn themselves around by their own plan of improvement before they are
in danger of being designated as a failing school.

>> Michael: What does "failing" mean? I mean, what remedies does that call forth and what are the
perils that the school is in at that point in time?

>> Well, it starts out as sort of a positive thing. We have to send help. We send improvement teams,
solutions teams to help the school improve. But if those don't work and there is a finding that the school
was negligent in implementing its own plans of improvement, ultimately there can be state intervention,
and we could put the school up to bid and have outside parties come in and take over the school.

>> Michael: If you have that ramping up process, in other words, the first stages were from the
government -- we're here to help you, what is the real peril, though? I agree with you the basic
unfairness of, well, hold it, you only got the plan locked in February 1, we'll start testing on March, but
on the other hand, what's the true unfairness or the true peril if it's only leading to, hi, we really think you
should improve in this area and let us help you in this area.

>> Tom horne: But then the following year they are up for state intervention, which nobody wants to
have. In addition to that, the failing label is a terrible stigma to put on a school. It can effect real estate
values in that area. It affects people's morale. You don't want to put that label unfairly on a school that's
not really failing. School board members, if enough failing schools are found in their district, will have to
put on their re-election the fact that there are failing schools in their district. There are a lot of
consequences to being a failing school. My experience is that schools that have been designated as
underperforming are working very hard to turn those schools around.

>> Michael: Does that require legislative change?

>> Tom Horne: Yes. And we have submitted a bill to do that.

>> Michael: Any read from the house and/or the senate on their general views on the subject of putting
it off a year?

>> Tom Horne: I've gotten favorable responses to that part of it.

>> Michael: Okay. Let me turn to another subject. Obviously English immersion and waivers of that
process, you made that an issue during the primary campaign. What programs, what changes are
underway in relation to that general area?

>> Tom Horne: Well, one of the first things I did was I appointed Margaret Garcia Dugan, who was
one of the co-chairs of English for the children that passed the initiative requiring that English immersion
be replaced by bilingual education, I appointed her as the associate superintendent for academic
support, which is the area that deals with that, as well as many other areas. By that appointment, I made
it clear that I meant what I said, and we are going to enforce that initiative. But it's not enough to enforce
it. We have to make it absolutely clear that every school that has nonEnglish speaking students must be
serious about teaching them English. If they'll be serious about teaching them English and the students
can become fluent in a year, they can fly academically. There is no limits to what they can accomplish
academically. The schools must be serious about teaching the students English. Their parents want them
to learn English. It's just the bilingual machine of educators that have been fighting this. If you talk to
parents in the communities of people who don't speak English, they very much want their children to
learn English.

>> Michael: Are we spending enough on the subject? I know we have a study underway at the current
time, and if I recall correctly, hasn't the federal court put off the deadline on that for another year?

>> Tom Horne: They have. The legislature did pass a bill funding a rather expensive study to determine
what is the real cost -- what's the added cost of teaching students English.

>> Michael: What's your basic feel for that? Are we passing the Goldielocks test or not?

>> Tom Horne: I think probably the cost per pupil is higher than what we're spending now to truly teach
students English quickly, but we're overidentifying English language learners. We're going to need to put
something in place to be sure that the students who need to learn them are placed in programs. Right
now there is a financial incentive for schools to identify students as English language learners when they
might be speaking English quite well.

>> Michael: I hate to do this to you. We've only got 30 seconds left. Any key changes in aims in the
near term?

>> Tom Horne: Yes, I'm proposing that the aims test measure only reasonable skills and knowledge to
get a standard high school diploma. For those students who have the higher skills and knowledge, we
should recognize that with honors endorsements, differentiated diplomas, tuition waivers for those at the
very top, so we motivate and stimulate are brightest and our average students, but to get a standard high
school diploma, only reasonable skills and knowledge should be required. That being said said we are
going to insist on the 2006 deadline, that you don't graduate if you don't pass that test. All right, Tom
Horne, thanks very much.

>> Tom Horne: Thank you, Mike.

>> Michael: If you would like to see a transcript of tonight's program, go to our Web site at
www.kaet.asu.edu., click on "Horizon." You can also see transcripts of past "Horizon" programs and
find out about upcoming topics.

>>> Tomorrow California recently had its share of Colorado river water slashed. We will talk about
what that means for Arizona.

>>> And, of course, on Friday, reporters gather here and this not so round table to discuss the week's
news events.

>>> Thank you very much for joining us on this Wednesday evening. I'm Michael Grant. Have a great
one. Good night.