Horne – Conformity above Excellence.

tom horne.jpg      Tom Horne is usually pretty good about supporting charter schools but he and his agency have really gone over the deep end. Some charter schools teach ancient history in middle school and save U.S. history for high school. One of those schools, BASIS School Tucson, has been rated among the top ten schools in the U.S by Newsweek two years running. But such honors are not enough for the Arizona Department of Education. They oversee a public system in which about half the students fail the AIMS test at certain locations. Horne and the department want to force BASIS and other charter schools to teach history out of sequence. Luckily a judge just ruled in favor of the charter schools. Maybe Horne will now get back to fixing failing public schools and stop trying to ruin the ones that are working.


  1. That’s why Horne is not be a serious contender for governor in 2010. He can’t win the Republican nomination with his track record of supporting excessive liberal regulations such as this. Of course, he could always switch back to the Democrat party and run against Phil Gordon on the Democrat side.

  2. George of the Desert says


    How is asking that students be taught American History, the Constitution, etc., excessive liberal regulation?

    All Horne has done is say schools need to have standards. They can exceed standards all they want. The state has never forced a curriculum on schools and is not doing so in this case.

    Would you want to go to a doctor who just hangs out a shingle and practices medicine without knowing if he had passed the standards required to be a doctor? Of course not. Schools need to be able to measure what a student knows. The only way to do that is set standards so they have some baseline to measure from.

    If standards are eliminated, any yahoo can open a school and “educate” kids without any way to be accountable for that kid’s performance. Is that really what we want?

  3. Horne very accurately defined the need for the standard; should students transfer between publicly funded schools the information to which they have been exposed would have consistency. If a parent is sure their child will today and forever more be subject to one and only one method of delivering the curriculum, then that child is fine. But should a child need to move from a non-standardized curriculum to a standardized they could miss important and necessary pieces of the whole.

    Rules should not be based on subjectivity, such as BASIS being a superior school in terms of test scores therefore they are allowed to make their own rules. Should another less qualified and successful entity desire the same latitude, it could be disastrous.

    The curriculum is not taught out of sequence. Rather world history and geography are included in lower grade social studies and US history is addressed in middle school. World history and geography is again taught in the sophomore year of high school and US History in the junior, US Government in the senior.

  4. Oro Valley Dad says


    Charter schools do have standards. Sometimes, like in the case of BASIS, they have much higher standards than many public schools. The charter schools ARE teaching American History, the Constitution, etc. Just in a different order than government schools. To Horne that small amount of freedom is not acceptable.

    Speaking of standards for Spring 2007 45% of the eighth graders at Hohokam Middle School (TUSD) FAILED the AIMS math test. Only 2% exceeded expectations. For the same test at BASIS (Tucson) 59% of the kids exceeded the objective on same test and NO ONE failed! You sure you want to talk about standards?

  5. Oro Valley Dad says


    “Should another less qualified and successful entity desire the same latitude, it could be disastrous.” More disastrous than what is happening in some of the government schools?

    You are using false logic. You assume that standards imply good results. I would argue that the standards of the public system are in many cases producing a lower level of quality than the less regulated environment of charter schools. What is the point of standardization if the product is mediocrity?

    Maybe the government schools are all on the same page of the same book on a given day but is that the best way to educate? Or is Horne more interested in “processing” the students rather than having them learn. So they all covered the same material at the same time. That is not what is important. What does matter is what they learn and absorb when the material is covered. By that measure many government schools come up very short. Horne should focus on fixing failing government schools and let charter schools do what they do best, innovate and excel.

    One more thought. Maybe the government schools should align their curriculum with BASIS instead of the other way around. Why is a school that is excelling having to bend to the demands of a system that in many ways is failing?

  6. “ “Should another less qualified and successful entity desire the same latitude, it could be disastrous.” More disastrous than what is happening in some of the government schools?” Now that’s false logic!
    There was no assumption that standards imply anything other than the guideline by which the individual schools establish their curriculum.
    You’ll get no complaint from me about using BASIS as the template. Standardizing to their model would still be necessary. My issue is not with BASIS, it is about accountability across the board whenever public funds are involved, the law should not be subjective.

  7. George of the Desert says

    Oro Valley Dad:

    I DO want to talk about standards. You state that BASIS has higher standards; that’s wonderful, no problem there. By that logic (which is good logic), they should have no problem meeting or exceeding minimum standards set by the state. The fact that some schools are not reaching those standards demonstrates those schools have real problems. Parents, teachers and the public need to have those schools held accountable for their poor performance. If there are no standards, that will not happen because there is no basis for measuring their academic performance.

    This is analagous to a kid in 7th grade taking honors English. He’s essentially taking 8th grade coursework, but he would still have to demonstrate a working knowledge of 7th grade English when it came time to do standardized testing. This would be no problem for the kid – he’s exceeding the standard anyway. And he’s not being stopped from taking coursework that is more challenging.

    It’s also analogous to a doctor choosing to become a brain surgeon. He must still demonstrate he has the competency to do the basics, while no one would deny him the right to excel in his chosen field. The same is happening at these charters – no one is holding them back as evidenced by their “excelling” labels. It’s unclear what they are angry about since they have proven they are anything but mediocre.

  8. Oro Valley Dad says

    “accountability across the board whenever public funds are involved.”

    Fine with me. I just think that Horne should apply that standard to the government schools and fix them before he worries about when a kid learns a certain topic. Lots of kids in the government schools are never learning the material. He should focus on that issue and stop worrying about everyone being on the same page on the same day.

  9. Remember the definition of government in these United States.

  10. George of the Desert says

    By the way, charter schools are “government schools.” They are funded by state and (in most cases) federal dollars.

  11. Oro Valley Dad says

    Charter schools are certainly publicly funded but they suffer under less regulation than traditional government schools.

    By your logic charter schools are also “public schools.” What term would you use to distinguished the two systems? Charter and non-charter? Successful and failing? Highly regulated and mildly regulated?

  12. George of the Desert says

    Actually, by law charter schools are defined as public schools:

    15-181. Charter schools; purpose; scope

    A. Charter schools may be established pursuant to this article to provide a learning environment that will improve pupil achievement. Charter schools provide additional academic choices for parents and pupils. Charter schools may consist of new schools or all or any portion of an existing school. Charter schools are public schools that serve as alternatives to traditional public schools and charter schools are not subject to the requirements of article XI, section 1, Constitution of Arizona, or chapter 16 of this title.

    B. Charter schools shall comply with all provisions of this article in order to receive state funding as prescribed in section 15-185.

    All the titles referenced deal with school finance or capital outlay.

    I once again appeal to the logical argument that if you’re a doctor, you would have to pass minimum competency standards in order to practice medicine. That would not prevent you from becoming a brain surgeon, cardiologist or any other specialty that requires far more than the basic skills. But you need to master those skills just the same. Charter schools need to ensure their students master the basic skills as well as moving up to higher levels of expectations.

  13. Charter schools are public schools. They are “government” schools and since they accept the dollars from the state are beholding to follow the rules of the state.

    George makes an excellent point. Not all schools are equal and that includes charter.

  14. Oro Valley Dad says


    Fine, charter schools are less regulated schools that receive government funds. So what do you want to call them in order to distinguish them from standard district “public schools?”

    Looking at your doctor analogy I come up supporting the charter school view. The U.S. is a relatively young nation. The basis for our constitution goes back to Greek democracy and French and English views of freedom. Therefore to study world history before covering U.S. history makes perfect sense to me.


    Charter schools are beholden to the state but according to the judge in this case they are not beholden to the whims of the Arizona Department of Education.

  15. George of the Desert says

    Standards are set by the State Board. Hardly a “whim.”

  16. Oro Valley Dad says

    Just look at the word Standards. The more each school is forced to follow the standards the more each school becomes standardized. Why not focus on excellence instead of standardization.

    Listen to you own words. You are worried about student switching from one school to the next. What about the best education possible for each student, standard or non-standard? I think the department’s plan is more about sub-standard than about excellence.

  17. nightcrawler says

    Having kids who have attended both a successful charter school and fine high public school, I have seen this debate unfold in real time. We are truly talking apples and oranges here. It all comes down to what model serves the individual child the best. My feeling is that the successful charter schools, measured by AIMS and other standardized scores, should be left alone. Conversely, those that struggle need to be held accountable by the state standard.

    The issue of school transfer credits is valid and should not be minimized. This ruling will impact those students who move to and from the charter school system. Many kids will be boxed in one way or the other. Parents/kids need to make a decision on which way to go and stick with it.

    Sweeping generalizations are not appropriate in this discussion. There are many fine charter schools and also many excellent public high schools in this state.

  18. Oro Valley Dad says

    Great concept to allow for “what model serves the individual child the best.” Thank you for the acknowledgement that schools that are excelling might best be left alone.

  19. Mr. Conservative says

    Charter Schools = no teachers union

    “Public” Schools = N.E.A. approved!!!

    Take a look at the Kyrene School District vs. Horizon (a charter school in Ahwatukee) and what the test scores are. Horizon is out-scoring the public schools, hands down (oh how I wish Slade Mead & Rae Waters would try to explain their way out of this…). Choice is what it’s all about… bad charters will fail, good ones will stay and even excel. Too bad the bad public schools don’t follow the same pattern!!!

  20. In reality, the teacher’s union could just as easily be a part of a charter school. This is a right to work state, it is up to the district or holder of the charter to acknowledge, or not, any union. There is no statutory obligation to do so. If the AEA should decide to entice teacher’s from a privately owned charter school to join up for the “benefits” of membership, they easily could. They cannot be restricted from joining but the union leadership can be restricted from having any say into the workings of the school. My guess is it is just a matter of time before you see the AEA entering into the charter waters.

    No doubt there are some charters that are the model of student achievement while others are a far cry from anything I would want my children to attend. The same could be said of traditional public schools. The test scores have charters and traditional public schools on both ends of the achievement spectrum.

    The debate over the how’s and why’s some schools do better than others is not one to be determined in short snippets of anecdotal accounts for evidence of superiority on either side. It is, as nightcrawler said, an apples to oranges discussion. The point being, if transfer credits and accountability are of concern there must be standards.

    Parents who send their children to a school that does not conform to the state standards in curriculum alignment should be made aware of that possibility. If, as a matter of parental choice, they agree to accept such delivery of service then all is well. But, if and when that child enters another traditionally aligned school they run the risk of missing areas of instruction.

    You can cite BASIS and say, so what they do so much more. But laws are not made based on the one person who does good. They are made necessary by the real potential for at least one to do badly. Accountability is blind.

  21. Am I missing something? The story referenced here only talks about the judge’s questions of the two parties, and it seems to infer the judge’s decision before it is actually made.

    Plus, since this thread started, hasn’t the judged rules against the charter school’s request for an injunction?

    Sucks for them to be doing a great job and have to put up with interference from the system while schools all over the state suck without being interfered with.

    And we need a new Horne picture… wow…

  22. Mr. Conservative says


    Name for me one charter school that has any teachers on staff that are N.E.A members…

  23. If there are any, I do not know of them nor do I wish to try. You have no beef with me if the subject is the teacher’s’ union! If there was ever a reason to choose a charter school beyond the academic it would be to avoid the union.

    The right to work laws do not require an employee to belong or for a business to recognize a labor union. There are districts that have neutralized the ability of the local union to be involved beyond offering insurance, etc.

    The NEA is a very rich, very powerful force nationally and in our state there are several legislators who fawn over the AEA leadership when they testify before committee, including conservatives. SB 1431 would have untied the hands of schools in teacher dismissal but failed in committee, while all but one R voted “aye” (O’Halleran) the response to the testimony was pretty sappy. I thought Linda Gray and Karen Johnson were going to start batting there eyelashes at Andrew Morrill. Do not put all your eggs in the “no union” basket, they have a machine and know how to use it.

  24. Tom Dodson says

    Tom Horne presides over schools that rank in bottom 5% of all states in the US. His classrooms and Pro Illegal Alien stances force all students to learn at the pace of the slowest non-english speaking illegal alien. Based on his current job performance he does not deserve a job promotion to Attorney General that will allow him to apply Pro-Illegal Alien positions to an office that is in place to serve legal US citizens best interests. Margaret Dugan for Supt of Public Instruction and Andrew Thomas for Attorney General and finally ” Common Sense ” will be applied to our schools and our sovereign State laws. No more RINO’s , we cannot afford it. Tax increases instead of trimming the fat off the budget is wrong.

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