Arizonans say education is valued but underfunded

May 16, 2012

The overwhelming majority of Arizona voters believe that a top-quality public school system is either crucial or very important to the future of Arizona, but few believe state funding reflects that commitment, according to findings in a recent Merrill/Morrison Institute Poll.

While support for a quality public school system is high, the statewide poll of 488 registered voters also found that half of Arizona’s voters rate the state’s public schools as poor or very poor, and nearly three-quarters say that the state’s public school system is underfunded. Download Full Image

According to the poll, 97 percent of Arizona voters say that a top-quality public school system is either crucial (70 percent) or very important (27 percent) to the state’s future.

While voters consider top-quality public schools a high priority, less than half rate Arizona’s public schools as excellent (2 percent) or good (42 percent). Forty-one percent rate the state’s schools as poor and 9 percent rate them as very poor. Latino voters gave schools higher marks (4 percent excellent and 56 percent good) than whites (2 percent excellent and 41 percent good).

More than seven in 10 Arizona voters (74 percent) say that the state Legislature provides the public schools with less funding than they need, compared with 17 percent who say the funding is about right and 6 percent who say that funding is more than what is needed. While the overwhelming proportion of Democrats (85 percent) and Independents (82 percent) believe that public school funding is too low, 58 percent of registered Republicans feel the same way.

Finding: Keep public money in public schools

In addition, the poll found that 71 percent of Arizona voters oppose shifting funds from public schools to parochial, private and charter schools, while 26 percent think that the state should spend less public money on public schools and more on parochial, private and charter schools.

While the majority of members from all political parties oppose putting more public school funds into parochial, private and charter schools, slightly more than one-third of Republicans (35 percent) favor that strategy compared with 16 percent of Democrats and 23 percent of Independents. Eighty-two percent of Democrats strongly oppose (51 percent) or oppose (31 percent) such a strategy.

The poll also found that nearly two-thirds of Arizona voters (63 percent) prefer that funding for public schools comes from extending the 1 percent sales tax than by depending on allocations from the state Legislature (22 percent). Fourteen percent indicated that they don’t know which the better option is.

Bruce Merrill, the director of the poll, notes that next to creating jobs and rebuilding the state’s economy, voters see the need to improve the quality of education as the most serious problem facing Arizona.

“The message from voters is clear – education is critical to Arizona and people want more resources to go toward building a quality education system,” said Merrill, who is a senior research fellow at Morrison Institute for Public Policy. “Voters do not want the funding for public schools diverted to private and charter schools and are even willing to have their taxes raised to support a quality education system in Arizona.”

Voter priorities and English only

The poll also queried voters about what priority the state should place on six education-improvement tactics. All six tactics were seen as very high or high priorities by the state’s voters, although there were some distinctions among them.

Putting more emphasis on teaching basics such as reading, writing and arithmetic received the most support, with 91 percent rating it as a very high (54 percent) or high (37 percent) priority. Voters also supported placing more emphasis on math, science and new technologies (88 percent), increasing teacher salaries (86 percent), improving teacher quality (84 percent) and hiring more teachers to reduce class size (83 percent). 

Although the majority sees it as a priority (63 percent), a somewhat lower percent rate requiring that classes be taught in English only as very high (39 percent) or high (24 percent) priority. Significantly fewer Latinos (45 percent) than whites (64 percent) view requiring that classes be taught in English only as a priority. In fact, nearly half of Latino voters (48 percent) rate requiring that classes be taught in English only as a low (35 percent) or very low (13 percent) priority compared with 33 percent of whites. Seventy-nine percent of registered Republicans rate requiring that classes be taught in English only as a very high (53 percent) or high (26 percent) priority compared with 44 percent of registered Democrats and 61 percent of Independents.

“Arizonans have consistently voiced support for a strong public school system, but consistently give the current system low marks,” said David Daugherty, director of research at Morrison Institute. “These recent poll findings reinforce that and give an indication voters would be willing to pay more to improve the system. Arizona’s future, like the future of all states, is dependent upon its public education system.

“If Arizonans want a bright, successful, fiscally strong future for the state, a top-rate education system must be its primary investment. If, on the other hand, Arizona fails to provide a top-quality education for its children, the future will be far less attractive and everyone will feel the effect,” Daugherty added.

Fifty-nine percent of the 488 telephone interviews were conducted in Maricopa County, 16 percent in Pima County and 25 percent in Arizona’s other counties. Forty-nine percent of the voters interviewed were men; 51 percent women. The sample was weighted to be 36 percent Republican, 30 percent Democrat and 34 percent registered independents or “others.” The sample was selected so as to include representative samples cell phone users and Hispanics. The sampling error for the statewide sample survey is plus or minus 4.4 percent. The interviews were live and conducted April 10-14 and April 16-20.

ASU assistant police chief transitions to new university role

May 17, 2012

Arizona State University assistant police chief Allen Clark is taking on new challenges in his career as he transitions to ASU’s director of emergency preparedness.

With a strong track record of training first responders throughout the university and the country on emergency operations, Clark will focus initially on preparedness initiatives, including planning for restoration of normal operations after an incident occurs. Allen Clark Download Full Image

“I’m excited about expanding my career in emergency preparation to include additional aspects other than those of a first responder,” Clark said. “It’s a brand new position.”

ASU’s Police Department has been Clark’s employer since 1989. He joined the department after working as an officer in Huachuca City, Ariz., and as a law enforcement specialist/security forces officer for the Arizona Air National Guard. During his ASU police career, Clark climbed the ranks from a patrol officer to corporal, sergeant, commander and was named assistant chief in 2007.

“Allen has made some great contributions to law enforcement and ASU,” said ASU Police Department Chief John Pickens. “It has been a pleasure working with him. Because of his dedication and commitment, we are a better agency. I wish him continued success in his new position.” 

Highlights during Clark’s career have been numerous. He spearheaded a firearms program overhaul in 1993 to provide updated equipment and training opportunities for department staff. He planned security operations for Super Bowls and dignitary visits including the 2009 commencement with President Barack Obama. He co-chaired a committee to review the Virginia Tech shootings and served on an awards committee for police department personnel. Clark particularly enjoyed his time as a sergeant in the department as it enabled him to directly mentor officers he supervised while working on administrative matters.

One of his most memorable moments occurred in 2000 when he was a sergeant. He approached a vehicle in a dark off-campus parking lot and apprehended a man for attempting to rape a woman. He discovered that the suspect was wanted in Texas and that the vehicle he was in was connected to a homicide from another state.

“I just happened to be at the right place at the right time,” he said.

Other instances are memorable for different reasons, such as the time he took his mother for a “ride-along” so she could see what her son did on the job. After apprehending a suspected drunk driver and placing her in the back of his patrol car, he began to process the suspect’s vehicle for evidence. He returned to his car several minutes later only to find his mother hugging and consoling the crying woman.    

During his years at the department, Clark also has developed a positive working relationship with the university community. One of the hallmarks of a university police department is working with administration and other departments to enhance the educational environment.

“Though it may not always seem apparent, we are very oriented to student success,” he said. “ASU and the police department foster an environment of free speech, assembly and the right of young people to mature into adults. Unfortunately, there are times when the maturation process conflicts with state laws and our involvement is required.”

As the university continues to grow, Clark has helped facilitate keeping pace with the community policing needs of students, faculty and staff by leveraging technology and cutting-edge processes.   

“Nearly six months before other Valley police departments began studying the use of 13-hour shifts, our department had implemented the shift and began an in-depth study of its effects on our personnel. The administration has been very supportive when studying new systems, and has funded technology that helps the department succeed in a very dynamic environment,” he said.

Clark has appreciated the support of top university administrators throughout his years in the police department.

“As most have witnessed at one time or another, there is never a time when the university is idle,” he said. “In that regard, we’ve appreciated the support from President Michael Crow, Morgan Olsen, and several other ASU administrators when advancing the ASU Police Department to one of the best in the nation. Dr. Crow has always been one of our greatest proponents.”

Clark, who starts in his new position July 2, said he’ll miss the people from the police department, but is looking forward to expanding his role in emergency preparedness.

“It’s been a very fulfilling career,” he said. “It’s time to take it to the next level.”