High School Student’s Perspective: Stop the school-funding disparity, 12/4/09

An Op Ed letter was recently sent to the Arizona Capital Times, in which a high school student from Lake Havasu High School discussed the disparities in public funding in her area.

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To see the filing for Hobday v. Horne, click here.

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Stop the school-funding disparity, Arizona Capital Times, December 4, 2009

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As an 18-year-old high school senior, I decided to join the lawsuits against the state of Arizona over school finance. I have seen my school go without many of the basics that help create better students, while other schools have the things that better prepare students for the rest of their lives and the world. I have seen students forced to sit on the floor because there weren’t enough seats, but it is much more than that.

We do without a lot of things at Lake Havasu High School, but my biggest concern is that my school receives thousands of dollars less per student than other schools across the state. The disparity is huge. If we consider that 100,000 of the lowest-funded students in the state will receive $7.5 billion less than the top 100,000 funded kids during their education in the Arizona public education system, you begin to understand very quickly that the system is simply not fair.

The Arizona Constitution says that we must provide a “general and uniform public education system.” You don’t have to be a high school senior to know that a $7.5 billion funding difference is not general and uniform. We are asking the court to rule that the disparities in student funding are not equitable and not constitutional. It will be up to our elected officials to fix the broken school-finance system. Not that I am calling anyone old or anything, but, we have a real opportunity to fix an old school finance system that was last overhauled in 1980 – 10 years before I was born.

I have accepted this out-of-date system my entire K-12 career. Let’s work so the next generation of students doesn’t have to tolerate the same disparities. I am the face of inequity in our school system. Let me tell you what I see every day – overcrowded classrooms, kids sitting on the floor, textbooks being shared and falling apart in our hands. Teachers constantly come and go.

I am just starting out as an adult. I don’t pretend to understand all of the tough choices that lawmakers have to make each and every day. But I do know this – we students are the future of Arizona. One day we will be Arizona’s workforce. By joining other concerned parents of public school students to file these lawsuits (Editor’s note: Dukes is a plaintiff in the lawsuit titled Hobday, et al. v. Horne, et al), I am asking for what is fair. Arizona should value all students equitably and stop picking winners and losers.

- Lauren Dukes
Lake Havasu High School student

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