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The Blindspot in the Education Budget Override Debate

J. Rick Normand

J. Rick Normand, SedonaEye.com 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 competence.

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!

blind spotHere 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. The 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)

Dr. Martin Luther King

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

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 coursework. (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.


In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards. Mark Twain

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)


Just in general, any government throughout history hasn’t really wanted its people to be educated, because then they couldn’t control them as easily.
Maynard James Keenan, Cornville AZ

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)

"I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think."  Anne Sullivan  Anne Sullivan Macy overcame a traumatic childhood to become a model for others who are disadvantaged by their physical disability, gender, or class. Her work with Helen Keller pioneered what is used today to educate blind, deaf-blind, and visually impaired children.  Anne was born in Massachusetts to poor immigrant farmers. She was physically abused by her alcoholic father and her mother suffered from tuberculosis. Anne was stricken with trachoma at the age of five, leaving her nearly blind. Abandoned by her father, Anne and her brother Jimmie were sent to an orphanage where he died shortly thereafter, leaving her alone.

“I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think.”
Anne Sullivan with deaf-mute-blind pupil Helen Keller

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…”

“We all recognize that a good school system typifies a good city.”

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.


For the best in Arizona news and views, read www.SedonaEye.com daily!

For the best in Arizona news and views, read www.SedonaEye.com daily!


  1. Robb Gordon says:

    Mr. Normand and I have had our differences but we are 100% in agreement here. I thank God, my parents, and the taxpayers every day for the wonderful public education I received. During the baby boom there was no question in the community about supporting schools. But too many people take the attitude that with the empty nest comes a lack of obligation to the next generation. This is as short-sighted and self-destructive as allowing our roads and bridges to fall into disrepair. Education is indeed part of the infrastructure that makes us strong and competitive. Congratulations Mr. Normand for an excellent essay.

  2. To Rob and Sharlett:

    I sincerely thank you both. Yes, as to you both, we’ve had our differences but I want you both to know that I always appreciate those who can take the right side of an issue along side someone with whom they rarely agree. People who can do this, that is, permit issues to prevail over personal differences, always make for a better informed and better functioning society. And, I admit that I need to make a greater effort to follow this principle myself.

  3. Daniel J Sullivan MD,JD says:

    AWWWHHH, Are your feeling hurt J.Rick? My mistake, with your name. I do apologize; and my apology is every bit as heartfelt as your initial one….
    Your mistake, J.Rick, was to start a mud fight, tryin to bluff/bluster your way thru, expecting/hoping not to get dirty. You have chosen to personally attack me, and others…. who for some inexplicable reason, to me anyway, are afraid of you?!….I REALLY don’t get that….when all they/we originally did was express our views in re the Override issue, keeping our comments on point. Others you’ve picked on asked me to get involved, knowing that I probably would:).

    Then out of the blue, you attacked me; so it’s on, m.f……no ‘sporting fight, no rules…’ no, ‘sorry, never mind..’. And don’t whine; you’re just gettin what you asked to get.

    As for the adolescent gym puffer-y above, I do know people that go to Snap, tho I don’t …. I’ve trained in my own place for many years…since after college f.b./service days; I don’t like wasting a lot of time, or listening to the usual b.s. seen in a co-ed box type gym; you know, the strutting around, the spandex, the flexing, the pseudo fertility dance that is nearly always on display…all, that at this stage of my life. I find pretty boring….tho,as a younger man, I did like the spandex and fertility stuff:)….Now, as a grown up, I prefer bodywt circuit stuff, bag work, and cardio stuff; gotta keep my “pencil neck” in shape for dealing with tough guys, like you !….. Anyway, from what I’ve heard from those that do go, you’re one of those guys that walks/struts around the gym, yapping a lot, asking boring s..t, like “what’s your bench?”,making lots of noise…you, know the yelling, groaning, phony-tough b.s. while “lifting”….basically all the crap I hate….

    Kinda like a physical version of what you do online.

    As to my choice of speech, I am fluent in Medicalese, Legalese, formal/correct English, and ‘street’…which is after all, my roots. With phony tough guys, I find myself most often using the later….but I do tend to go back n forth, depending on the venue, and audience.

    In reviewing your gibberish, I noted you’ve latched on to the term ‘monikers’, used in a derogatory manner, in an attempt, I guess, to appear “clever”.

    O.K., let me dumb it down for you…A M.D. is a degree awarded from Medical schools, in my case Georgetown University, upon graduation; after med school I did General Surgery, at G.U., then Orthopaedic residency training at the Hospital for Joint Diseases, in NYC, where I was selected Chief resident, and then later on, after I got out of the service, a spinal surgery fellowship at the State Univ. of N.Y., Buffalo. I was one of the 2 selected, from 300 applicants;a bit more selective than old T.U….
    Similarly, a J.D. is a degree awarded from a law school, in my case the Univ. of Toledo, upon graduation; I earned that attending classes over a 5 year period, while maintaining a busy surgical practice, primarily in spine, and trauma. And, yes, truth be told, I did graduate with honors from both institutions…..I’ll shoot you an email of my c.v…… if you’ll do the same. You first. Then you can check me out…and, more importantly, I can check YOU out.

    Let’s see who’s the fraud….

    So,you see, the M.D., and J.D. after my name aren’t “monikers”, in the meaning of the term as you attempt to use it; they represent earned degrees from institutions of higher learning. The term moniker is more aptly applied to the initials after the name of guys who get their legal “education” surfing online…or by spending the night in the Holiday Inn Express… and their “advanced” degrees from places like “Whats-a Matter-U”…..

    In re the legal topic you have attempted to expound upon above, I thank you… for your simple, if somewhat child-like, interpretation of the First Amendment, as it relates to Speech’; the analysis is a bit more nuanced than that, however.. and, defamation is NOT the only cause of action you’ve put in play. I’ll leave you to your web search to try to figure out what that means….hint; start working your way thru the “intentional torts”….that should take someone like you with no actual legal education, training, or experience, a bit of time.

    To everyone else, again, I support the Override; that’s the only reason I ever went online on the Biz site…or anywhere else. I mostly like to be, and as J.Rick is learning, am best left, alone…
    I do see legitimate points of argument from the No vote group. I think it is the case that there has been a lot of money spent on ill- advised projects, funded under the school budget, like a state of the art ball-field, which is way too expensive/and a lot better than the teams I’ve seen play on it; the performing arts center, which should have been a community, not school budget item; and the solar panels, which should have been proven to be cost effective prior to going up; and finally, my own pet peeve, the White Elephant of an “administration building”…that rusting tin hulk off campus.. that should have never been put up. That said, the No vote on the Override hurts the wrong people; Sedona kids, and indirectly, the community, for the reasons I’ve offered elsewhere . The kids are not the people who spent money that should not have been spent.
    People should be able to disagree agreeably on the Override; or at least stay on topic. You may visit the Biz site to judge whether my comments were intemperate, or not. I did not respond in kind, when this blowhard/phony-tough guy/ self-proclaimed, pseudo-intellectual attacked me, personally, the first time. Then he sent yet another snotty email to Angela L. after his posts were taken down elsewhere…a middle aged lady who he continues to bother, tho she’s asked him to stop…which is how I learned he re-posted the same crap. So, I got involved; he’s asked for what he’s gotten.

    In closing folks, I’m going to stop the back and forth now on this type of forum; its wasting a lot my and others time. I’ll deal with J. Rick directly. I only wasted my time on this blowhard to show that he can’t bully everyone. Take care, and please consider voting ‘Yes’ !



  5. Sullivan:

    I have had no email exchanges nor sent any email letters in two years to Angela LeFevre. She did, apparently, give you my personal email address. Meanwhile, please do check me out. There’s not a single skeleton in my closet. So, you think you should be involved with our public education system and our young people?

  6. Marty says:

    November 5th cannot get here quickly enough to put an end to all this BS!

  7. Helen says:

    To: J Rick Normand and Daniel Sullivan,

    Come On Guys – enough is enough and this is just tooooo much testosterone!

    The continued back and forth fighting for and marking territory is so very far off the subject of a NO or a YES vote on the school district Override. (I’ve got a male dog who marks his space with much more respect and at least hangs his head when he gets caught!)

    As the mother of 3 adult kids: If any of my kids treated another person in the ways you two are going after each other I’d remind them that they get what they give. I’d remind them to treat everyone in the same ways they want to be treated and then I’d think I’d not done a very good job of teaching my kids to respect all peoples ideas, even though they differ from theirs.

    Lastly, I’d strongly talk to my kids about how the concept of using “Bully Tactics” (as you BOTH are doing!!! ) to make a point – by dishing another person – actually is erasing any valid comments, by either side, and just trying to put the other person down in order to make one of you two bullies feel more righteous and important.

    Enough! Accept that you two eliminate each other’s votes and move on – PLEASE?

  8. James Poole says:

    Great information J. Rick Norman. Education starts at home. I am voting NO.

  9. Larry Smith says:

    JR, just a side note. All high schools teach Economics, which is taken in the senior year of high school. The seniors take American Government the first semester and Economics the second semester. They must pass both courses in order to graduate. If they do not pass one or the other must take it in summer school. Most states require these two courses. The question is how well are they taught. We must change the mindset about test scores and getting into Harvard, which does not help the child in gaining practical work experience and knowledge in order to compete in the workforce.

  10. Helen says:

    Isn’t the bottom line HOW the money is spent and where it is spent and what the results are on all budget levels? ….do I remember correctly that someone mentioned a “conference” out of state that completely wasted money that should have been spent on our kids? Am I remembering correctly that the performing stage is basically silent and doesn’t bring in not enough revenue to offset the constant LOSS in revenue that the school district – and even the Sedona 30 can’t fund?

    That “party”/conference out of town is enough for me to Vote NO! I’ve yet to see a teacher’s pay increase shown or any exact place the money will be spent if the override wins….anyone else seen those figures?

    Please remember that as the override election is over on 11/5/13 – regardless of the results – the financial well being of our district remains as the bigger picture…as they continue to tax US.

  11. Willy lowman says:

    Today is November 5th, Guy Fawkes Day. I don’t see how anyone can possibly vote for this expensive override on this day. The kids will be fine, but this override will charge each property .21 per $100 of assessed value. That’s not some $20 override, that’s about $250 for a cheap condo. Can someone do the math on a $350,000 home? What does it come out to?
    Oh, wait, I get to pay for Obamacare too. Wow, lucky me. Oh, the 750 empty theatre is dead in the water.

    Oh, lucky me. Sorry I’m tapped out be these grifters in this town but they will get this override passed but I’m getting really angry and it has to stop.

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