Since children are not widgets and education is not a "product", economic analyses can raise more questions than they answer. As a taxpayer, a mom, and a public education advocate, I wonder --school closures are "efficient" for whom? Who benefits? Does TUSD benefit? Its not clear that the Efficiency Audit took into account building capacities based on new (lower) class sizes. Do taxpayers and the state benefit? Hardly, since charter schools (where many of the kids will go) receive higher taxpayer funds per student than the public schools. Do students benefit? Its doubtful, as many of them have already been moved once or more. And what about parents? Its easier to go to a charter than to worry about school closures year after year.
And how does the community benefit from school closures? To my knowledge, TUSD does not have or collect this information, despite many decades of school closures. Data from around the country, though, makes it clear that such closures leave most neighborhoods vulnerable to more blight and less redevelopment. "
Efficiency Audit calculations suggest that by closing 9 elementary and 2 high schools we will save roughly 6 million dollars a year. If that is so, then we should have seen very substantial savings from the 20 closures since 2010. Even using the 6 million dollar figure, we should have seen at least 24 million dollars in savings. If so, where are the benefits from those savings?
There are no simple cost-benefit ratios to the quality of education or the quality of our neighborhoods They never take into account the proven value of smaller schools and more choices for parents. When it comes to school closures, we need a much more refined calculus, one that reflects the profound long-term effects on thousands of families and on our society in general. Narrow definitions of "efficiency" that do not answer the "for whom"? question should not drive discussions that affect the lives of thousands of families.
Using a purely economic analysis, many argue that closing down newspapers is similarly an efficient move. After all, newspapers don’t make their stock holders wealthy and they represent an inefficient use of resources. But the benefits of a local newspaper cannot be measured in just dollars and cents. Without local newspapers, investigative journalism and the like, as without public schools, it is hard to imagine a vibrant democratic society.
I personally subscribe to the newspaper and I subscribe to public schools. I work towards keeping them both off of the list of "inevitable closures". In the future, I hope the Star will consider that when we board up neighborhood schools we are often boarding up Mainstreet as well. Please join me in supporting our public schools, and ask the Star to put column inches towards calling for increases in public school funding in Arizona instead of towards recommending that "boarding up Main Street" is the best solution for public school woes