Friday, January 26, 2018

I think that I’m beginning to see the light

A few days ago, one of the school monitors went on a trip to a school near Phoenix with one of the Cholla High sports teams. By the time they finished their game, the sun had dipped below the horizon, and MOST of the area that they traveled through on the way back to Tucson was pitch black.

What the monitor and everyone on the bus noticed was that they had passed several isolated areas that were brightly lit, which the bus driver used as a teaching tool. The brightly lit areas were correctional facilities, and Arizona has LOTS of them. Arizona does not have the highest incarceration rate in America, but it is close to the top, with an incarceration rate of 831 per 100,000. Only 6 states have higher rates, and Louisiana is on top, with a rate of 1082 per 100,000 population.

In terms of shear numbers, Texas has the most people in prison or jail (221,800) whereas Arizona had  55,200, roughly the same population as the city of Flagstaff.

At the end of 2013, America’s prisons and jails held a total of 2,227,500 people, and the country has the highest incarceration rate in the world (693 per 100,000 of population)  - but that is the rate only for adults. In addition, America also had 54,148 juveniles in detention.

Arizona has 5 immigrant detention facilities, which very likely were the facilities that the people on the bus saw, since they were in Florence or a nearby town.

In addition to the immigration detention facilities, Arizona also has 48 state prisons, which includes 6 privately operated prisons. 5 of the 6 privately operated prisons are run by the GEO group, which contributed $52,000 to help Doug Ducey get elected governor in 2014, a pittance when compared to the $113 million in profits the company made in 2013.

And that’s not all.

There are also 5 Federal Correctional institutions in the state, and 3 of them are in Tucson.

The point that the driver was attempting to make was that the students had a choice. They could either take school seriously, or they could slough off and wind up in prison.

In 2011, Arizona spent almost $22,000 on every inmate it its care.

In contrast, Arizona spends a LOT less on education than most other states (roughly $8000 per student) . In fact, Utah is the only state that spends less:

However, spending money is only part of the solution, since the D.C. school system spends more money per student than anyone, but has some of the worst results.

The best schools in the country can be found in Maryland, New Hampshire, Vermont, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. The worst schools are found in Oklahoma, Idaho, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Nevada. The difference between all these schools is the amount of money they invest in their students.

The United States spends more money on educating its young people than any other nation, but the strategy of “throwing money at the problem” has not produced the results that you would expect. In terms of knowledge gained, 15 year olds in America ranked  31st on standardized mathematics tests, and far below average in reading and science.

As recently as 1996, the K-12 school system in America was ranked the best in the world (due to the establishment of the Department of Education in 1979), but we are currently rated at #18. Our various states created Common Core in an attempt to reverse the slide, but we are still far behind Finland, which is ranked #1.

The reasons for Finland’s excellence (and our decline) can be found in the article below:

Both our educational system and our prison system need fixing; simply spending more money isn’t the whole answer. It should be obvious by now that we spend WAY too much money keeping people locked up, and we need to be a lot SMARTER about how we spend our education dollars (although Arizona DOES need to spend a lot more that the state does now.)

The cure to both problems is competent leadership, and it is a very difficult to find qualified leaders in today’s environment. Diane Douglas is the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Arizona. Prior to her election, the only class that she had taught was a stained glass class. Her degree is in business and marketing.

Betsy DeVos is the current United States Department of Education. Her college degree is a BA in business economics, and she has never attended public schools - and neither have her 4 children. Her father-in-law is one of the founders of the Amway Corporation, and he is worth $5.1 billion, which she and her husband will eventually inherit.

She is big fan of charter schools, and is a fierce advocate for school vouchers, which allow students to attend private schools with public funds. In order to hasten that possibility, her proposed budget for the Department of Education is $9.2 billion less than the current budget, a decrease of 13.5%.

Prior to the 2016 election, 98 of the 100 largest newspapers felt that Donald Trump was not fit to be president, and we are reminded of that fact on a daily basis. As a result, his Cabinet is the worst in the history of our country.

As of October 4, Trump had only had a full, permanent Cabinet for 84 of the 258 days he had been in office at that point. The most recent departure was his 24 year old drug czar Taylor Weyeneth, who will resign from his position in the near future, after having been in office less than a month, Prior to his nomination by Trump, he had had NO relevant work experience since graduating from college in May 2016, but he HAD worked on Trump’s candidate committee and his transition campaign.

In addition to the Cabinet, a large number of people no longer work in his administration. “The mooch” only lasted 11 days.

I’m fairly confident that Trump will either be removed from office or forced to resign  at some point during his first term. However, I’m not sure if that will come after or before his divorce from Melania (after all, things have been a little Stormy lately).

America has been through some tough times before, and has survived and prospered, so I am sure that we will recover from our current mess. All it would take to do that would be for enough voters to “see the light”, and make the necessary changes. 

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