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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : opinions : editorials August 20, 2014

1/10/2012 1:15:00 PM
Editorial: State lawmakers should not be schooling state educators

The Arizona state Legislature and education do not mix.

That has been clear for years as lawmakers annually cut funding to schools while introducing new laws to make it more difficult for school officials to do their jobs with the funds they have. Most proposed education legislation that is batty never makes it to a vote, but occasionally some bill that micromanages school administrations and overrides local authority does get through.

Camp Verde has worked through last year’s law mandating that school districts make up to 20 percent of a superintendent’s salary be performance pay based on evaluation. It’s not necessarily a bad idea - some districts were already doing this - but that is a policy decision that should be left to local governing boards. The law assumes that local boards are irresponsible and will pay worthless superintendents exorbitant salaries for doing nothing.

In Camp Verde, at least, the board was already reworking its evaluation process before the new law came into play. Board members were sharp enough on their own, without help from the Legislature, to see what needed to be improved in the present system. They already had plans to make evaluations more effective.

Board members have been so miffed with the interference of the state in this matter they have been tempted to do as little as possible to comply. Many districts across the state have kept the percentage of performance pay in the low single digits - forget 20 percent.

And that’s what happens when the people who know their school districts feel their motives and judgment are being second-guessed by outsiders. These kinds of policy questions should be the purview of local school boards and their electorate.

State Rep. John Fillmore of Apache Junction, all by himself, has been busy coming up with new bills to poke the state nose further into public schools. One of the daffier and most dangerous of his proposals is to allow the classroom teacher to throw out a student, with no appeal and no overturn by administration or school board. Sure, some teachers, would love this, but really?

It is always nice when Arizona lawmakers look at schools for anything other than finding ways to slice their budgets, but respect still must be given to the educators at the ground level when it is a matter of educational policy.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Article comment by: Except when ground level isn't grounded

In theory the idea of school boards making the best decisions is good. But reality doesn't always work that way.

In reality, the kinds of decisions school board members make are very complex and require specialized knowledge. Many if not most school board members simply are not sufficiently qualified on their own to make them.

So board members rely extensively on staff for objective information, guidance, and especially to make them look good to the public. In particular board members rely on the superintendent.

This reliance, or in some cases overreliance, can lead to abuse if the superintendent is able to manipulate the board into making decisions that are not in the best interests of the public. It happens.

So the state mandating performance pay, while not a particularly savory idea, may still be a worthwhile if it works as a check and balance to help prevent a potential abuse of power.

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