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Education vs. Economics?
Guest Author: Theodore “Ted” C. Kraver, Ph.D
Silly proposition since the education and economy drive each other. But it sees to dominate a lot of thinking and decision making in the political and business arena. The public good has always been and always will be funded mainly by public taxes, including K-12 education. Political players rarely apply deep knowledge of how science, technology, engineering and mathematics education drives economics. Unfortunately there is also a false premise floating in the politisphere that cutting taxes will stimulate the economy and pull us out of recession.
Economic research points to the exact opposite. And yet Arizona carved $billion’s from education funding for 1.2 million Arizona students over the past four years. Fortunately our economy has started to recover. Not by the tax cuts that seriously hurt education but because of the rising national economy.
There is a human trait of believing that if someone is successful in one arena: entrepreneur, business tycoon, or wealthy financial manager, then they will somehow have economic wisdom. The economics of business are totally different than economics of states or countries. A typical difference is that companies sell very little of their product to employees. States and countries have their citizens as their customers.
I am troubled by our Arizona election results. Our governor elect professes that his business experience will be used to reform Arizona but a state is not an international ice cream business. Our new superintendent of education wants to focus on a single aspect: common core standard based summative assessments. But Arizona’s education is a complex system of human resources, facilities, technology and curriculum. Evidence has yet to emerge that either has insight into how the science of economics should be applied to education.
In our depressed economy recovery needs a massive increase in investment for educator education, training and salaries…up to the level of comparable professions in other industries. Twenty-first century professional tools must also be provided to the teacher-student nexus. These include high-bandwidth and high capacity learning interfaces with formative assessment based digital curriculum enhanced by emerging technologies. Only then can education effectively serve the individual needs of our students. If education effectiveness succeeds, then once again Arizona will have an economic foundation.
With serious weakness at the top there is an opening for educators to take control of Arizona’s political and institutional destiny. Innovation leadership would drive from the middle. It is up to our Arizona’s education associations and county and district superintendents to become a powerful and integrated political force.
Then this election could be a benestrophe: as a potential catastrophe turned to the good.