Tucson’s Best Export

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TUCSON – A recent story in the Arizona Daily Star mentioned Tucson’s best export.

No, the story wasn’t about the talented young people who leave Tucson for better opportunities elsewhere, due to a dearth of opportunities in their hometown— which in turn is due to decades of Tucson chasing industry away.


Talented young people are Tucson’s second-best export, not the first-best.

Actually, the article was about a Tucson eighth-grader who won the Arizona Spelling Bee. Not surprisingly, his ethnicity is East Indian.

But he isn’t the best export—at least not yet.


The best export is the school he attends: a BASIS public charter school, one of two in metro Tucson, which was mentioned in passing in the article.

Why is that the best export?

BASIS, which ranks near the top on international test scores, has roots in Tucson.  It spread from Tucson to other Arizona cities and is now spreading across the U.S.


Strangely, there isn’t a large flashing sign at Tucson International Airport bragging that Tucson is the hometown of one of the best school systems in the world.

Such a sign would help to overcome the negative impressions of Tucson that high-paying corporations get when they conduct research on where to put their headquarters or major operations. 

The first impression is the awfulness of many K-12 public schools; the second is Tucson’s high poverty rate, which is related to the awfulness; and the third is Tucson’s high crime rate; which is related to poverty.

To wit, areavibes.com gives Tucson an F in crime, an F in employment, and an F in schools.

As an example of the awfulness of schools, the Amphitheater School District has a middle school math score of 17 on the State of Arizona’s MERIT test.  By contrast, the score at the north campus of BASIS is 90.

The local teacher union and its puppets in local government would never allow a sign touting BASIS, because they hate charter schools, although the schools are public schools.  Their stated opposition to the schools is poppycock:  that minorities aren’t welcome at the schools.

They should say that to the eighth-grader who won the Arizona spelling bee.

Raytheon Technologies’ missile operation also appears to be unwelcomed in Tucson.  That’s because local attitudes about big business have changed for the worse since the operation was established in the 1950s by aeronautics tycoon Howard Hughes.  As such, there is not a prominent sign at the airport touting that Tucson is the home of 10,000 rocket scientists; nor are there frequent feature stories in the local media about the company; nor do local politicians go out of their way to recognize the huge contribution that the company makes to the local economy.

It is said that you can’t fix stupid.  Even BASIS can’t fix the stupid of the Tucson establishment.


As we move through 2023 and into the next election cycle, The Prickly Pear will resume Take Action recommendations and information.

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