The Range

We'll Never Learn

Arizona continues to rank near the bottom of per-pupil funding across the nation, according to a survey released last week by Education Week magazine. The survey, which is adjusted to account for regional economic differences, shows that in 2002, the state spent an average of $6,010 per student. Only Utah, at $5,012 per student, spent less.

But the study also shows that you can't link educational advancement to spending. Utah students, for example, consistently outpace Arizona students on the National Assessment of Education Progress exam.

Meanwhile, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne gave his annual state of the schools speech, in which he assured residents that he stands behind the law mandating that all high school seniors pass the AIMS test to earn a diploma beginning in 2006.

"We will remain as unmovable as the Rock of Gibraltar," said Horne. "In 2006, for the first time in many years, the public will be assured that a high-school diploma in Arizona will mean something."

Immediately following the speech, thousands of Arizona high-school graduates asked, "What's the Rock of Gibraltar?"

In other education news, USA Today reported that conservative commentator Armstrong Williams was paid $240,000 by the Bush administration's Education Department to shill for the No Child Left Behind Act. Armstrong conceded that criticism was "legitimate" and said he wouldn't put himself on the government's payroll again.

Tribune Media Services terminated Armstrong's contract following the revelation.

He'll Make a Brand New Start of It in Ol' New York

The Arizona Diamondbacks agreed to a trade that will send left-handed fireballer Randy Johnson to the New York Yankees in exchange for pitchers Javier Vazquez and Brad Halsey, catcher Dioner Navarro and $9 million. The D'Backs then dished Navarro off to the Los Angeles Dodgers, along with pitchers William Juarez, Danny Muegge and Beltran Perez, in exchange for slugger Shawn Green and another $10 million in cold, hard cash. Whether the moves means the D'Backs will have a better season next year remains to be seen, but it's hard to imagine how they could be any worse.

Elsewhere on the sports beat, the UA men's basketball team put the hurt on Cal, last Thursday, Jan. 6, beating the Bears 87-67. The Cats also played Saturday against Stanford, but we can't seem to remember the outcome of that game, although Stanford grad and TW editor Jimmy Boegle seemed unusually cheery around the office this week.

A Friend Writes...

The latest issue of The New Yorker includes a 10-page package by Jeffrey Toobin profiling former Pima County prosecutor Kenneth Peasley, who ended up disbarred after suborning perjury in the trial of three defendants in the 1992 El Grande grocery triple murder.

Toobin's piece explores the background of the case and delves into how Peasley ended up asking questions that led former Tucson Police Department Det. Joe Godoy to lie under oath in his testimony about how he originally fingered defendants Martin Soto-Fong, Chris McCrimmon and Andre Minnitt in the notorious homicides. The death sentences of McCrimmon and Minnitt have been overturned, although they're still in prison on other convictions. Soto-Fong remains on Death Row.

Toobin notes that the case "already ranks as an extreme example of prosecutorial misconduct, but if Martin Soto-Fong is killed for a crime he didn't commit, it will stand for something far worse."

Peasley turned down a chance to accept a censure from the Arizona Bar Association in regard to the perjury episode and ended up being disbarred last year. He's now working for attorney Brick Storts, who is handling the defense of Bradley Schwartz, the pediatric eye doctor accused of plotting the murder of his former partner, Dr. Brian Stidham. Peasley's new gig is particularly ironic given his comment to Toobin about why he didn't have friendly relations with defense attorneys during his days as a prosecutor: "I didn't believe in playing grab-ass or glad-handing during the trial," Peasley is quoted as saying. "If I went to trial on somebody, frankly, I was convinced they had done something really bad and I didn't think that was funny."

As Toobin notes in his article, County Attorney Barbara LaWall has handed over the high-profile prosecution of Schwartz and the alleged hitman, Ronald Bruce Bigger, to the Pinal County Attorney's Office, because several of her prosecutors had ties with Schwartz or his on-again, off-again paramour, former Pima County prosecutor Lourdes Lopez.

In other Schwartz case news, the Tucson Police Department released documents detailing an internal investigation indicating that Officer Wendell Hunt was fired last month for leaking information about the homicide investigation.