California, Arizona Offer Startling Contrast in Educational Scenarios

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

What a difference a state makes.

My nephew Steve recently informed me that he and his wife Andrea – lifelong New Yorkers – want to move west. Highest on their list of priorities for a future home is fulfilling the educational needs of their kids, 5-year-old Danny and 4-year-old Molly. Having lived in the Golden State for almost 40 years, they sought my advice. The conversation went something like this:


Steve: So how are the schools in your neck of the woods?

Me: Well, looking at the big picture, not very good. Just 34% of California 4th-graders scored proficient in math on the pre-pandemic 2019 NAEP, placing the state 44th nationwide. And now, due to the teacher union-orchestrated school shutdowns, math scores of California’s 8th-graders show they have the knowledge and skills of 5th-graders, according to an analysis of the state’s 2021 Smarter Balanced test. California also has the lowest literacy rate in the country. That may be due in part to our large immigrant population, but other similar states like Texas, Arizona and Florida have fewer illiterates.

Steve: But I’ve heard the state doesn’t spend enough money on education. Is that true?


Me: Nope. Before the latest barrage of post-pandemic money, California was in the middle of the spending pack nationally, yet we’re way below average in student proficiency. And people are noticing. Between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, public school enrollment in California dropped by more than 175,000 students.

Steve: But wasn’t that due to the pandemic?

Me: Okay, yeah, in part. But the pandemic alerted many to the power of the California Teachers Association, the most powerful teachers union in the country. In March 2021, the U.S. Department of Education released data showing that California lagged behind almost every other state in the country in reopening schools, largely at the insistence of CTA. People took note and according to a recent poll, Californians are the least supportive of local teachers’ unions than voters in any other state polled – with 29% of voters viewing teachers unions negatively. Several studies have shown that Covid-related school shutdowns occurred more frequently in states and municipalities with strong teachers unions.


Steve: Sounds like the teachers unions aren’t really for the kids, huh?

Me: Ya think! At the union’s behest, firing bad teachers is just about impossible. In fact, ten years ago, a case was brought against CTA, claiming that on average, just 2.2 of the state’s 300,000 teachers (0.0008 percent) were dismissed for unprofessional conduct or unsatisfactory performance in any given year. Compare that to 8 percent of employees in the private sector dismissed annually for cause.

Steve: So basically, you’re saying that there are maybe 24,000 teachers who have no business in the classroom?

Me: Yes, and the bad news about CTA doesn’t stop there. In March, the union hosted a gathering in Los Angeles titled “2022 Equity & Human Rights Conference.” The purpose of the meeting was to ensure that teachers stressed the important things to children. No, not the three Rs, but rather diversity, equity and gender studies.

Steve: Gender studies? Uh, I’ve heard about that. But Danny is a traditional boy who likes riding his bike in the mud and Molly is a girl who likes to dress up her dolls. And Andrea and I are just fine with that.

Me: Hah! Say that in a school in Weirdifornia and you might be arrested as a Neanderthal. In fact, in much of the state your kids can be brainwashed on sexual and gender matters, and you’ll never know about it. In Ventura, for example, lawyers recently gave a webinar which gave teachers suggestions on how to encourage their students to embrace a new gender identity without their parents finding out…..


…..Steve: No, please don’t. Is there any good news?

Me: Yes! But it’s in Arizona. Its public education system is not world class, but it beats California in almost every category. And most importantly, the legislature has just passed a universal Educational Savings Account (ESA) bill. When Gov. Doug Ducey’s signs HB 2853 into law, every family in Arizona will be eligible for the program. Participants will receive about $6,400 per year per child, which can be used at the parents’ discretion for private school, homeschooling, learning pods, tutoring, or any other kinds of educational services that best fit their kids’ needs outside the traditional public school system. Any family that wishes to opt out of their local public school – or who already has – would be allowed to join the ESA program under the bill. In brief, this ESA ensures that all families have the freedom to choose whatever form of education best fits their child’s needs.

Steve: Wow! That’s terrific! But doesn’t a set-up like that cost taxpayers more money?

Me: To the contrary. As the Goldwater Institute explains, “…the ESA program costs roughly $6,400 for a typical student, compared to the more than $11,000 that state and local taxpayers spend on each public school student (not even counting the cost of federal spending on top of that. Each time a student leaves a public school for an ESA, over $600 is immediately added back to the public school system, even though it no longer serves that child—which means there is more money for public school students on a per-pupil basis, thanks to the ESA program.”

Steve: I’m speechless. Who could be against such a program?

Me: I’ll give you one guess.

Steve: The teachers union?

Me: You’re catching on, Steve! The Arizona Teachers Association insists that programs like this “take scarce funding from public schools, are rooted in racism, and don’t give parents real choice.” This should tell you that teachers unions excel at one thing.

Steve: Which is?

Me: Lying……


Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.


Continue reading this article at FrontPage Mag.


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