Arizona teachers demanding another $1 billion in school funding have argued that their ongoing four-day walkout is “for the kids,” but don’t expect the pay hike to stoke student achievement.

Lost in the hubbub over this year’s high-profile K-12 walkouts was the release last month of a comprehensive 2016-17 study showing that student test scores continue to stagnate even though education spending has climbed for decades.

The Nation’s Report Card, a study released every two years by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, found most students below proficiency in math and reading in keeping with what the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Michael J. Petrilli described as a “lost decade” of educational progress.

The Education Department released a graph showing that fourth-grade reading scores virtually unchanged since 1990 even as per-pupil spending in constant dollars rose during that time from about $8,800 per pupil to nearly $12,000.

“The Nation’s Report Card shows that test scores continue to stagnate,” said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos after the April 10 release of the report. “This is not something we’re going to spend our way out of and not something we’re going to regulate out way out of.”

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The Nation’s Report Card shows that test scores continue to stagnate. This is not something we’re going to spend our way out of and not something we’re going to regulate our way out of. #RISE2018 pic.twitter.com/H6GHz8YpYg
— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) April 12, 2018

Hundreds of Arizona schools were closed again Tuesday, keeping about 840,000 students out of class as thousands of teachers, wearing red in keeping with the #RedforEd theme, rallied at the state capital in Phoenix.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has offered a 20 percent pay increase for teachers by 2020, as well as $100 million for new textbooks, building improvements and salaries for support staff, which would increase to $371 million over five years.

Rewarding and recognizing Arizona’s teachers with a 20% pay increase:✅ FY 2018/2019: 10%✅ FY 2020: 5%✅ FY 2021: 5% These raises will be ongoing, protected in the base of the budget, and inflated. #AZBudget #20×2020
— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) May 1, 2018

The Republican governor is also vowing that he’ll do it without a tax increase, but the Arizona Education Association is calling for $1 billion in educational funding in addition to the 20 percent pay raise.

Arizona teacher salaries rank 46th nationally after adjusting for cost of living, according to an analysis by EdBuild.

“They have earned this raise,” said Mr. Ducey in a Monday open letter. “Now it’s time for us to deliver.”

The free-market Goldwater Institute has threatened to file a lawsuit against school districts over the walkouts, arguing that they amount to an illegal strike and breach of contract in a state that does not permit strikes by public-school employees.

“This unlawful strike—and the district’s efforts to aid or encourage it—are therefore not only a breach of contract, but an intentional effort to deprive Arizona students of their constitutional rights,” said Goldwater vice president for litigation Timothy Sandefur in an April 27 statement.

Arizona’s walkout represents the latest in a series of teacher protests that began in February in West Virginia, where the state legislature approved a 5 percent pay increase for all state workers after a nine-day strike.

Teacher strikes in Kentucky, Oklahoma and Colorado followed, with mixed results.

Arizona Education Association president Joe Thomas praised teachers after the first walkout Thursday, saying it was “wonderful” to see the “sea of red flowing from downtown Phoenix to the capitol, where we took over the entire grounds of the capitol.”

He said the march had “75,000 educators and supporters and students, all with one simple message, that we needed to do more for our students. We absolutely can do better as a state, and we have to do better for our students.”

Then again, anyone expecting a revenue boost to translate into improved test scores is likely to be disappointed, said Ben DeGrow, director of education policy for the free-market Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Michigan.

“The relationship between test scores and funding—most of the research shows no relationship between the two,” said Mr. DeGrow.

Overall education funding dropped after the 2008 recession as state legislatures moved to cut their budgets, although most states have seen gradual improvement since 2015, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Even during the recession, however, per-pupil funding was still higher than it had been in 2005, according to the Education Department analysis, and neither the recession-induced cuts nor subsequent budget increases had an appreciable impact on NAEP scores.

The latest NAEP scores found only 40 percent of fourth-grade public-school students were proficient in mathematics and 35 percent were proficient in reading.

Among public-school eighth-graders, 33 percent were proficient in math and 35 percent were proficient in reading.

“Coming on the heels of some modest declines in 2015, the 2017 scores amount to more bleak news,” said Mr. Petrilli in his analysis. “It’s now been almost a decade since we’ve seen strong growth in either reading or math, with the slight exception of eighth grade reading. There’s no way to sugarcoat these scores; they are extremely disappointing.”

© Copyright (c) 2018 News World Communications, Inc.

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