Last week, I volunteered to teach an adult education course at Heritage Highlands.   Regrettably, few people showed, because a golf tournament occurred simultaneously.

That epitomizes Arizona’s attitude towards education.  Sports matter.  Schools and learning don’t.  Look at the space devoted to each in the media.  Compare salaries of coaches and teachers, then ask who influences more individuals.  Having been both a substitute teacher and a classroom volunteer on successive days in the same school, I know what teachers do.  Rich retirees need to volunteer in the schools, teach reading or otherwise give back to the community, in addition to playing golf.  Make no mistake, nearly all of us receive more from America than we give, Social Security heading the list.  The exceptions are those public servants and military who risk and give their lives.  And only 7% of us are veterans.

If ever a time to prove it takes a community to educate a child, this is the time.  If ever America needed an educated citizenry to compete in a fiercely competitive world, this is the time.  If ever education needed money and volunteers, this is the time.  If ever we needed parents to make education a priority for their children, motivating them to study, dress, speak and write well, this is the time.  The teenage brain matures later than the body.  We must recognize that fact and understand that teachers alone cannot mandate proper behavior.

We need to pay for education with money and time.  An educated society wouldn’t have tolerated keeping Iraq war spending off budget.  I don’t recall the anti-tax crowd, most of whom supported the war in 2003, serving or demanding fiscal honesty and responsibility from the previous administration.  But suddenly they are using precisely that reason to destroy public education.   How many dollars we need for education depends upon how many of us are willing to volunteer.  Regardless, I want my taxes go to education rather than to unwinnable wars and impossible nation building started by old men who never served one single day abroad in uniform.

It’s time to embrace what Horace Mann wrote 172 years ago:  the public should no longer remain ignorant; education should be paid for and controlled by an engaged society; classroom diversity is important; schools should be non-sectarian; children should be taught the values and spirit of a free society; and there must be well trained professional teachers.

Sales tax raise?  Absolutely.  Triple it for luxury items.  Income tax?  We need a marginal tax rate of 90% for income over $3 million, comparable today to the 90% rate over $400,000 under Eisenhower, a Republican.  It might decrease greed.  Saving Arizona and America is more important than saving par.  We must spend whatever required to ensure we graduate students who meet reasonable standards to move to the next level.  Cutting education funding is about as stupid as it gets.  But that’s Arizona.  And that is why we’ll leave.  Enjoy your golf.


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