Public Comments
The Blindspot in the Education

Budget Override Debate
Sedona times / October 20, 2013 /

J. Rick Normand, Financial Columnist

Sedona AZ (October 20, 2013) - Education is intended to
prepare students to function well in the real-world rather than
to serve itself. Since the real-world requires its members to
deliver results, be individually accountable, and be personally
responsible for their own choices, the collectivist model for
education runs orthogonal to the needs of education’s
“customers” (companies, entrepreneurship, etc.). This is not a
political statement, but reality. A “reform” of US education which
focuses on “leveling the playing field” rather than pressing the
bar ever higher for ALL students on an INDIVIDUAL level,
would be an extreme disservice to US students and society as
a whole! America has lost a share of its edge and leadership
in the world because education has become excessively
focused on egalitarianism rather than exceptionalism,
inequities rather than individuality, and community over

Our educational system’s goals should not be to serve itself,
but rather to serve the objectives of the corporate entities to
which its students will be delivered. Corporations in response
(especially scientific & technical) are increasing their efforts to
recruit from outside the US because those foreign students
are found very capable of providing what corporations need.
Seeking both quality and quantity of competent graduates,
corporations have been forced to import talent which could
otherwise have been trained in the US! Given the increasingly
international plane on which US students will compete for jobs
(yes, even here in the USA), educators must spend MUCH
more time researching what their customers (for their
graduates) demand. Otherwise, all the grand efforts to change
education will result in yet another generation of newly minted
graduates serving meals and cleaning cars for immigrants
owning jobs they weren't prepared to secure for themselves.

Many public education critics believe that the principal problem
with today’s public education is the avoidance of focusing on
results. Indeed, that complaint can be taken one important
step further. We not only fail to hold individual students
accountable for poor performance, we have also have failed to
hold the Department of Education accountable for its
performance since at least the Viet Nam War. For instance,
ECONOMICS hasn’t been taught in our public schools in all
that time and now virtually no one understands it. If no one
understands it, then no one will ask why it is that everything is
going wrong!

Here are the metrics that unequivocally prove my point:

Average “Scholastic Aptitude Test” scores fell 41 points
between 1972 and 1991. Apologists for public education argue
that such factors as the percentage of minority students taking
the SAT can explain this drop…which is patently false! Scores
for European-Americans have also dropped. Kids scoring over
600 on the verbal part of the SAT have fallen by 37% since
1972, so the overall decline can’t be blamed on just ethnicity
for “diluting” the results. T
he typical American high school
student spends only 1,460 hours on subjects like math,
science, and history during their four years in high schools
Meanwhile, their counterparts in Japan will spend 3,170 hours
on basic subjects,
French students will spend 3,280 on
academics, and
German students will spend 3,528 hours
studying such subjects - nearly three times the hours devoted
in American schools. In light of these facts, the U.S.
Commissioner of Education Statistics recently revealed the
results of the Third International Mathematics and Science
Study which ranked U.S. Grade 12 competency in
mathematics, the sciences and history as only the 16th best in
the industrialized world after being number one from the end of
WWII until the end of the sixties.

Two out of three eighth-graders can’t read proficiently and
most will never catch up. (NAEP, 2011)

Nearly two-thirds of eighth-graders scored below proficient in
math. (NAEP, 2011)

Seventy-five percent of students are not proficient in civics.
(NAEP, 2011)

Nearly three out of four eighth-and 12th-grade students cannot
write proficiently. (NAEP, 2012)

Some 1.1 million American students drop out of school every
year. (EPE, 2012)

For African-American and Hispanic students across the
country, dropout rates are close to 40 percent, compared to the
national average of 27 percent. (EPE, 2012)

Our public school students trail their peers in most other
industrialized nations.

After World War II, the United States had the #1 high school
graduation rate in the world. Today, we have dropped to # 22
among 27 industrialized nations. (OECD, 2012)

American students rank 25th in math, 17th in science and 14th
in reading compared to students in 27 industrialized countries.
(OECD, 2012)

By the end of the eighth-grade, U.S. students are two years
behind in math compared to their peers in other countries.
(OECD, 2009)

The U.S. ranks behind 13 other countries in terms of the
percentage of 25-34 year-olds who have completed some
college course work. (OECD, 2012)

American students tend to perform worse in math and science
as they age, according to recent studies measuring fourth- and
eighth-graders’ academic achievement against other
industrialized nations. Gaps with high performing countries
like South Korea and Singapore are widening. (TIMSS, 2012)

Not enough students reach college, and many who do are
not prepared.  (

Less than half of American students – 46 percent – finish
college. The U.S. ranks last among 18 countries measured on
this indicator. (OECD, 2010)

Only one in four high school students graduate ready for
college in all four core subjects (English, reading, math and
science), which is why a third of students entering college have
to take remedial courses. (ACT, 2011)

Only 4 percent of African American students and 11 percent of
Hispanic students finish high school ready for college in their
core subjects. (ACT, 2011)

Two-thirds of college professors report that what is taught in
high school does not prepare students for college. (Alliance for
Excellent Education)

Many American children are not prepared to compete for
careers or jobs in a 21st century knowledge-based economy.

In order to earn a decent wage in today’s economy, most
students will need at least some postsecondary education. (U.
S. Department of Labor)

Nearly 44 percent of dropouts under age 24 are jobless, and
the unemployment rate of high school dropouts older than 25
is more than three times that of college graduates. (United
States Department of Labor, 2012)

Despite sustained unemployment, employers are finding it
difficult to hire Americans with the skills their jobs require, and
many expect this problem to intensify. (“Getting Ahead…”
Business Roundtable, 2009, and “An Economy that Works,”
McKinsey & Company, 2011)

More than 75 percent of employers report that new employees
with four-year college degrees lacked “excellent” basic
knowledge and applied skills. (“Are They Really Ready to
Work?” sponsored by The Conference Board, Corporate
Voices for Working Families, The Partnership for 21st Century
Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management.
Accessed January 15, 2008)

Nearly half of those who employ recent high school graduates
said overall preparation was “deficient.” (“Are They Really
Ready to Work?” sponsored by The Conference Board,
Corporate Voices for Working Families, The Partnership for
21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource
Management. Accessed January 15, 2008)

The share of jobs in the U.S. economy needing a college
degree will increase to 63 percent in the next decade. This will
require 22 million new employees with college degrees. At the
current pace, the nation will fall at least 3 million college
degrees short. (Washington, DC: Georgetown Center on
Education and the Workforce, 2010)

Over the course of his working life, an American male with a
college degree can expect to earn nearly $675,000 more; an
American female $340,000 more -– far more than in any other
country. (OECD, 2012)

Americans who earn a college degree make a 40 percent
higher salary than those with just a high school diploma. (“Are
They Really Ready to Work?” sponsored by The Conference
Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, The
Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human
Resource Management. Accessed January 15, 2008)

High school dropouts can expect to earn just 5 percent of what
a typical graduate will make over the course of his lifetime.
(College Board Advocacy & Policy Center, 2010)

Of the 1.66 million high school students in the class of 2013
who took the SAT, only 43 percent were academically prepared
for college-level work, according to this year’s SAT Report on
College & Career Readiness. For the fifth year in a row, fewer
than half of SAT-participants received scores that qualified
them as “college-ready.”

Yet, in light of all I’ve just reported here, we commonly see
statements like these in our local print media from Education
Budget Override advocates:

“[the] Verde Valley Regional Economic Organization (VVREO)
believes a vibrant and economically strong region begins with
quality education for all children who live in the Verde Valley.
We believe we have high quality schools in all of the
communities of the Verde Valley.”

“…so let me just say that SRRHS has an A rating and Camp
Verde has a C. There’s your comparison…” (See RATINGS

“We all recognize that a good school system typifies a good

Statements like these are, indeed, disingenuous, misguided
and delusional for one simple and obvious reason…the
inductive leap of concluding that funding more and more
money to the best performer in an already failed system
somehow helps our children in a competitive world of
employment opportunities slaps reality in it’s face
considering our young victims of public education are failing
miserably in top job attainment competition against better
educated young adults from vastly superior but very
different types of educational systems from around the
world. Derived from this reality are the hard statistical facts
recited above!

Those of you living in denial of the documented facts above
are part of the problem, not a part of the solution.
Former Teacher
Sedona, AZ

Sedona AZ (October 10, 2013)

The following is a letter from Sedona resident, Henry Twombly,
former teacher:

I write because I oppose the Budget Override.
As a former teacher, I
salaries and academic supplies. I support it now with 27% of my taxes
going to the School District. I don’t support the apparent
mismanagement of funds, when none of the $73-million bond was
designed and allocated for operating expenses as well.
The bond
turned out to be a boondoggle for taxpayers and a windfall for the
construction industry; it did nothing for the quality of education.

The mill rate for the School District went up to a $3.58 total from a
$2.83 total last year. ($1.30 of this rate is to pay off the bond.) So in
effect SOCSD wants to double-tax us. First with the increase in the
mill rate; and then again with the 15% increase over the District’s
revenue control limit.

Supporters couch the debate in terms of dire consequences
would adversely affect class size, AP courses, etc. The reduced funds
don’t have to impact the fundamentals, if the cuts were applied to
administrative salaries and ancillary programs like sports, band, etc.
No dire consequences happened when the Budget Override was
voted down last year.

The Information Pamphlet about the Override can be seen as media
hype, if not downright propaganda.
Some people in favor were asked
to write letters of support, fear-mongering about dire consequences,
guilt-tripping with platitudes about the importance of education.
arguments against the Override were included. Why weren’t such
letters requested? Surely there’s opposition to the Override since it
was defeated last year.
If it’s defeated again, SOCSD will probably try
again next year, since they want to make this a permanent tax. Don’t let

Henry Twombly
350 Arroyo Pinon Dr.
Sedona, AZ 86336
For reference to student college
completion statistics click
    From J.B.

    Camp Verde High School
    Shares an assistant
    principal and an athletic
    director...Why can't Red
    Rock High School do
    that?  There's a way to
    save money right there!
From D
This question/Comment was submitted through our CONTACT US interface page

(Name and contact information withheld for privacy reasons)

comments = The budget override you’re so passionately opposed to helps fund arts, sports and other extra-
curricular activities for students. Field trips, sports equipment, etc. My sister is a student at SRRHS and
participates in many of these programs without having to spend too much money out of my parents’
pockets. There are worse things your tax dollars are already going towards including funding a government
that is actively policing other nations all over the world. Said government spends more of your tax money on
war than on education and healthcare combined. Why don’t you make yourself useful and go after those
dollars, not the dollars that go towards giving kids opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Dear D,

Thank you for taking the time to express your comments and frustrations with our educational system.  I will
provide you with data and facts that we have been accumulating that will help you understand where our
education system is, and why it is in the mess that it is in.  We have done extensive research and I will
provide links to our specific web pages with data for you to review.  It is also important to know that the
SOURCE links for our consolidated data are also on the pages, which will allow you to wade through the
mountains of facts and charts and reports should you want to do the same research we have done for you.

I will attempt to follow your thought process in your comments above.

•        We have no issue with sports, extra-curricular activities, field trips or any of the other activities you
mention.  When I was in high school, we also did those programs, and any activities that were outside the
normal curriculum required my parents providing extra funds.  If you live in Yavapai County, your DIRECT
school tax for Sedona SD#9 (our district) already went up 8%, Coconino, 1%. (
org/Yavaipai_Coconio_Tax.html) Or just tell your parents pull out the tax bill they just received.  This has
nothing to do with the override.  Your parents just paid more because the county either raised the value of
your house, or changed the mill rate (the percentage that is used to calculate the tax due). It is curious why
the county would raise the assessed value of our houses when the housing market is in the dumps.  A
question for the assessor I think.  So the Sedona School District (#SD9) already is receiving more money
than last year.  As far as sports are concerned, at Red Rock High School (RRHS) you have a football field
that is the same quality as a NFL field. My high school, which is in Indianapolis, still has the same grass
field it did, and the stands are pretty much the same.  And they amazingly enough have a good football
program. I graduated in 1966. RRHS has a solar field that cost your parents as taxpayers through the $73
million bond issue about $7-8 million, and over the life of the system (23 years) will lose $4.7 million, and
then will have to be replaced.  The Sedona Performing Arts center is so badly managed that it loses
$50,000 a year according to the school board.  How many field trips and teachers could be hired were it not
for gross mismanagement of public education resources.  We, the taxpayers that already support SD#9 are
weary of the school system constantly reaching into our pockets due to mismanagement.  Raising kids is
expensive.  Providing an education base for you and your sister is also expensive.  I have a combined 4
children and 6 grand children. It is the responsibility of the taxpayer to make sure future generations are
educated by providing an education structure that gets the job done.  It is not the responsibility of the
taxpayer to fund fiscal irresponsibility of a school system, and it is certainly not the responsibility of the
taxpayer to fund extra circular activities.  There is a responsibility that parents must take on when they chose
to bring children into the world, and that does not include reaching into other taxpayers’ pockets, when in
fact 52% and 58% of your parents property tax bill in Coconino and Yavapai respectively already goes to
education ( You also need to ask your parents
why the Camp Verde School system has been able to provide a quality education to the students and has
never had an override. And, the rankings of the two school districts, is not what is being reported by the
people who want your parents to vote for the tax override.  I think when you look at the data, as provided by
the state of Arizona; you will learn that what you are being told is simply not true.  
•        You made the comment that we spend a lot of money policing governments all over the world.  We do
have a military presence in a lot of countries that frankly want us there, and in many cases I think these
countries should be providing their own defense and not relying on the United States.  A strong Navy can
accomplish almost everything we do with ground based facilities.  But that is another conversation.  But to
change that it will take your parents voting out the majority of both houses of congress and changing the
president before anything changes in that arena.  You also used the term “policing”, and we do not “police”
in other countries.  There are other terms that describe our presence in other countries, and those vary
based on what country we are in.  We are in the UK, Italy, Germany, Afghanistan just to name a few, all with
a different reason and mission.  This all needs to be reviewed, including the billions we waste “Buying” the
friendship of governments that do not like us through our broken foreign aid policies.
•        D, how much more money do you want government to spend on education?  We have a federal
Department of Education that has a budget of $100 BILLION, that your parents are funding through the
taxes they and the rest of us pay.  Why is there a federal Department of Education? If those dollars stayed in
the states, in our case Arizona, instead of being funneled all around the country our education system
would have way more money than it does today.  D, the United States spends MORE MONEY per child than
any other country on the face of the earth, and over the last 50 years our kids have been losing in the world
rankings as compared to other industrialized nations.  The money spent on health care and war (actually
that would be military, not war) does not affect this fact.  We are NOT competitive anymore. We only
graduate about 35% of the kids that go into college. (  
THAT is not success, and spending more money per child is obviously not working. Graduating 84% from
RRHS to college when only 35% graduate college is FLUNKING. You would think that after 5 decades of
gradual failure we would stop doing what is not working.  Look on the web page I just gave you at our
pathetic world rankings. There is more data on the poor result of our education system as posted by Mr.
Norman on our comments page.  ( Please note that
throughout his article he has given the reader references to cross check the facts.

D, the bottom line is that throwing more money at a documented broken education system is not even a
Band-Aid fix.  We have had 50 years of Washington intervention into a system that used to work pretty well.  
It now does not work. The states are receiving unfunded mandates (an unfunded mandate is a forced
action by the federal government that is placed on the states that is not PAID for by the federal government)
which eat into the education budgets of the states.  The only way to stop that is to have your parents change
the people in Washington that continue to destroy our education system.  Taking a few extra dollars out of
local taxpayer’s pockets will not accomplish anything except to make the local school board more inefficient.

If you want to have some fun, and see what an 8th grader in Kentucky had to know 100 years ago, take this

Thanks for your questions.  Your questions and comments and this response will be posted in the
comments section of my website.  

Michael Schroeder
Susan Read
166 Kaibab Way
Sedona, AZ   86351
(928) 284-9547

Sedona Red Rock News
P. O. Box 619
Sedona, AZ  86339

Dear Editor:

This is a reply to Ms. Mary Chicoine, VVREO Chairman’s comments on October 25, 2013.

One of the expenditures wanted by the School Board is to upgrade its Wi-Fi.  The reason is the student’s
mobile phones are taking up too much space, and the School Board wants to upgrade the system to
accommodate the student’s personal phones. The public shouldn’t be asked to pay for this to
accommodate students.

It’s a waste of taxpayer money to build a Performing Arts Center at Sedona Red Rock High School, when it
sits idle!  Why isn’t this facility been used more to bring in revenue to offset the construction cost?

The West Sedona Elementary School enrollment was down 13% this year and had a “C” Rating.  It’s unfair
to tell everyone that our schools have a high rating, when in fact they don’t.

15% is too high and unacceptable!  Other school districts in Arizona are also faced with budget increase
overrides, but they are asking for 5.5% increase.

Has anyone ever mentioned about the teachers medical and retirement benefits when asking for higher
salaries?  These are pretty substantial benefits they receive compared to most people and should be
counted in their salary when asking for more funds telling taxpayers they are not paid well.

We live in a rural area; big business isn’t going to invest here, so why is Ms. Chicoine trying to give the
impression that they are.  Let’s get back to the basics in education; our grandparents enriched themselves
by doing it themselves and not relying on others.

I urge others to consider a “No Vote” for the School Budget Increase Override; we already pay generously to
operate our schools.  The School District should live within their means and tighten their belts, just like the
rest of us.


Susan Read
School Budget Override Not The Solution
sedona times / October 22, 2013 / 3 Comments

Sedona AZ (October 22, 2013) - The following is a letter to the editor from Suzette Orah-
Bruhn in opposition to the education budget override request:

School Budget (increase) Override is not the solution!

We all agree on one thing! Proper education is most important. Lack of good education creates ignorance
and prejudice. This in turn creates war and terrorism.

I also understand the need for funds to support teachers and better education.

However, I do question the need to ask the already overburdened Sedona taxpayers with another tax
increase to get this funding. If we vote yes without seeing the full picture, we are voting for additional taxes.
The school has avenues to fund itself, IF it operates like a business, with correct priorities in place.

Sedona Red Rock High School and its Performing Arts Center cost million of taxpayer dollars to build and
loses $50K per year
Sedona Performing Arts Center cost millions of dollars to build and it looses $50.000 a year! SPAC belongs
to the Sedona School district. If there were a professional management in place and a business plan, the
income would have paid for better teachers. Then, the school would not have been in an unfortunate
‘begging’ situation from the taxpayers. SPAC’s successful and PROFITABLE operation will also bring in
additional income to our city of Sedona:  the hotels, restaurants and stores will all benefit, in high season as
well as low season, when we need the business. It’s a win-win situation.

Remember: We only have 490 students! That’s all. Our taxes for the school are already over 40% of our total
tax bill. That’s a lot.

This is a very emotional issue. We need to step back a little, see the reality of the situation, find better
solutions, and not allow our emotions cloud our decisions.

We all want to have a good school system in Sedona. However, asking for more taxes to support an
operation that if managed correctly, could support itself, is not correct.

Before I vote yes on the override, I would like to see priorities in expenditures. I would like to see the
willingness to self-fund at least by operating SPAC professionally and successfully. I would then be the first
one to say CONGRATULATIONS to a perfectly managed and operated high school district!

Suzette Orah-Bruhn
Sedona AZ
Tax Override Money Supports Dumber Curriculum and Kids
sedona times / October 23, 2013 / 1 Comment

Sedona AZ (October 23, 2013) – The following is a letter to the editor about the local school
district curriculum and its request for tax override funding:

Dear Board Members and Superintendent,

Is this below pasted article or any variation of, type of curriculum being promoted and taught within the
Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District? Your prompt response would be greatly appreciated.

I do know according to your own web-page links, you are currently teaching ‘Common Core’ (soft-core)
Communism, Agenda 21 material.

Furthermore, I must say, I am outraged at the current ‘Special Election’ ballot being circulated for extension
of the current Budget Over-ride, desiring to saddle all of us cost conscious, fixed income, and budget
minded people in the Cottonwood area to continuing higher taxes. You all ought to be ashamed for even
bringing this matter up.

So, let me get this straight; what you really are proposing is more money for dumber kids:
From S.N.
via "Contact Us" page

Tim Foist, former superintendent of Mingus Union,
VOLUNTARILY took a $50,000 a year cut in pay to help with
their budget crisis. He proved that the Superintendents'
position is a part time one, at best...He agreed to be a phone
call away at all times, and was always in his office during
crucial budget talks and/or decisions.  It worked just fine!  
Superintendent Lykins, STEP UP!  It's all about the kids,
Underutilized Assets

Former Red Rock High School Teacher
Sedona, AZ

I offer a perspective that the taxpayer may not know about.
I taught at Red Rock High School for 5.5 years. During that
time, I watched as administration repeatedly mismanaged
buildings and resources. For example, in the bond monies,
the same bond that built the performing arts center, a
$75,000 kitchen was built. This was to be used for a Life
Skills class.  Out of a 360 minute class schedule,it was
used for 90 min....The rest of the time, it sat empty...

There was also another Home Economics room with a full
kitchen...But yet Red Rock High School would not replace
the Home EC teacher when she resigned.  REALLY?  In a
town like Sedona, possibly the center of the resort industry
in Northern Arizona, they could not find a teacher to fill that
position? Once again, not all students go to college.  The
Hospitality/ Restaurant Management Class would have
benefited scores of students who had the desire to stay in
Sedona and pursue a career in the culinary/resort industry.
Even a chef at one of the fine restaurants in the area could
have been hired (full or part time) to fill a void until a teacher
could be found.  

Once again, mismanagement of the resources and
buildings that are available.  Vote NO on the Override.  The
leaders of SOCUSD need to take a business approach to
OUR school district. Bring in a management team and stop
wasting taxpayer's money!

It should also be noted that Camp Verde HS has a culinary
class AND a Culinary Arts Club....
Hi Mike,

We are just back from Houston. I can see that you have done more
homework on your ads. 33% grad rate from college is about par with the
rest of the US.
We should be steering more pupils towards vocational
careers that pay well or can lead to owning a business. It seems the
only option is college and that is not suitable for the vast majority.
Well done for bringing up the losses on the Performing Arts Centre. How
can the community turn that around instead of a shell for the Park.
Thanks again for your concerns and follow-through.

Sedona, AZ