Daily Archives: November 15, 2017

Arizona’s mismanagement of public education

You may have been following this story over the past several weeks. Arizona allocated $85 million to wrong schools for special-education, low-income students:

Financial miscalculations by state education administrators have resulted in hundreds of Arizona schools missing out on tens of millions of federal dollars to serve students with special needs and those from low-income families.

According to an Arizona Republic analysis of data provided by the Arizona Department of Education, the state has misallocated $85 million over the past four years, giving some schools too much and some too little.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas last month publicly announced that the state erroneously allocated $56 million in federal Title I funds for low-income students. Last week, she sent a letter to schools notifying them of another problem: $30 million in federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) grants over the past three years allocated to the wrong schools.

For some underfunded schools, this may have required them to pull general classroom funds to cover expenses for special-needs services, and prevented them from hiring additional teachers or giving raises.

“The superintendent and (Arizona Department of Education Chief of Staff) Michael Bradley are not taking this lightly,” said department spokesman Stefan Swiat. “They are taking an audit found under a previous administration and they are tackling it.”

Swiat said the start of both problems dated back to prior superintendents, although the issue with special-education funds wasn’t fully assessed by federal officials until this September.

The disclosures from the Arizona Department of Education has fueled the argument from education leaders that they need more money to properly educate the state’s K-12 students.

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Secretary of State Michele Reagan is disenfranchising voters

Last month we learned that Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan violated the law when her office failed to mail publicity pamphlets to hundreds of thousands of voters in time for the May 2016 special election, a state-appointed investigator has concluded.

But, the investigator found, there is no provision in state law to punish anyone for not delivering the pamphlets on time and Reagan and her staff did not act criminally.

That’s the outcome of a long-awaited investigative report released Wednesday by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. Michael Morrissey, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice, led the review as an appointed special investigator.

Reagan responded “mistakes were made and we were responsible,” then tried to pass the buck to vendors and her staff.

Last week the Secretary of State was sued for illegally denying thousands of Arizonans the right to vote in federal elections because they registered using the federal voter registration form. Arizona, lawsuit contends voters are being disenfranchised:

Legal papers filed Tuesday in federal court here acknowledge that state law requires would-be voters to produce certain identification when registering. That requirement has been upheld in prior court rulings.

But attorneys for the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Arizona Students Association point out that the U.S. Supreme Court has said that state law does not — and cannot — prevent people from registering to vote for federal elections using a federally approved registration form. And they contend that those whose state registrations are rejected for lack of citizenship proof are not informed of that option.

“At least 26,000 voters in Maricopa County alone have been disenfranchised by these policies,” the lawsuit states. But the problem is not limited there.

The lawyers say they’ve sampled more than 2,000 state registration forms that were rejected because applicants had failed to provide the required proof of citizenship. Of that group, fewer than 15 percent successfully registered after receiving notice of the rejection.

“Therefore, many eligible voters across Arizona have been disenfranchised by these unnecessary bureaucratic policies,” the lawsuit states.

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If we want better, we must do better

You might have noticed I’ve not posted anything in quite some time. For those of you who don’t already know, I am managing my wife’s, Hollace Lyon, campaign for the Arizona House of Representatives in LD 11. That obviously, is taking up much of my bandwidth.

This morning though, while riding my spin cycle, I read an article on TucsonsSentinel.com from October 2016 titled “A decade after the recession, Arizona schools still suffer from budget cuts” that got me too spun up to keep spinning.

What really set me off was Senator John Kavanagh’s answer to why the AZ Legislature has cut $4.69 billion from our public schools since 2009. He claimed lawmakers didn’t neglect schools but actively worked to “give individual schools the most flexibility, because…I believe the districts themselves know the best choices for their students.”

Give me a freakin’ break! Why is it that Conservatives seem to love them some “choice” as long as that choice is not a woman’s. Let’s face it. The only “choice” the AZ Legislators give district schools, is a sort of “Sophie’s Choice”. For those who never saw this Meryl Streep movie set during Hitler’s Germany, Meryl played a mother to whom the Nazi’s gave a “choice” as to which of her children they would allow to live. Don’t get me wrong, it is certainly not my intention to minimize the horrors perpetrated on the Jewish people during the Holocaust, nor to equate the taking of a life with the underfunding of schools. But, when a school board is forced to make choices between the lesser of evils due to inadequate funding, this is not a real choice.

Okay, so this article was from a year ago…surely things have improved right? After all…we passed Prop. 123 and, the Governor “lavished” a 1.06% pay raise on teachers. Well…even after Prop. 123, (a 70% settlement of a debt already owed), state and local funding remained $1,300 less per pupil in FY 2016 than in 2008 when adjusted for inflation. As for teacher salaries, we still need an influx of $1 billion to get Arizona’s up to the U.S. median. And now, the Arizona School Boards Association, and others have sued the State of Arizona and the School Facilities Board for inadequate capital funding (cut by 85% since 2008).

None of this should surprise us. After all, the Arizona electorate continues to elect legislators that vote against our district schools and their students. The bottom line is that until we realize that doing what we’ve always done and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

We MUST accept that the ONLY way we are going to see things really change for the better with Arizona public education is if we elect more pro-public education candidates. As it turns out, I have three great ones for you to take a look at.

Hollace Lyon is a retired Air Force Colonel who served 26 years in the Communications career field, commanded twice, served in NATO, taught senior military leaders at Armed Forces Staff College, and retired out of the Pentagon where she helped set priorities for the Air Force budget. Since retirement, she has pursued several charitable endeavors and been involved in state-level politics at all levels, to include serving as campaign manager for a state Senate race and running for the House in 2014.

Hollace is obviously pro-public education (how could she not be living with me), but she is also focused on the need for voters to demand fiscal responsibility from our lawmakers. “Our lawmakers talk a lot about fiscal responsibility,” she says, “but they aren’t delivering it. Instead, they are busy diverting education tax dollars to private schools with no accountability or transparency, sweeping our highway maintenance funds away for corporate tax breaks and offering us the “opportunity” to double or even triple tax ourselves with measures like Propositions 416/417, and pulling monies out of the state employee pension trust fund requiring them to pay increased premiums to replenish the fund.” Hollace likes to point out that fiscal responsibility means more than cutting taxes or reducing programs and services. What it really means is that we…the taxpayer…get what we pay for. Learn more about Hollace at www.LyonforAZ.com where you can donate to her campaign, join her email list, or sign up to volunteer.

As the current Past-President of the Arizona School Boards Association, a member of the Peoria USD Governing Board and a former teacher, Kathy Knecht is another huge public education advocate. Aside from the fact that she will be a wonderful state Senator, her race is all the more important because she is running in LD 21 against Arizona’s Chair for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and sponsor of SB 1431 (the full expansion of vouchers), Senator Debbie Lesko (cue the hissing.) Learn more about Kathy and donate to her campaign at www.ElectKnecht.org. Let’s all help her give Debbie Lesko the boot!

Another fabulous candidate is Christine Marsh. Christine was Arizona’s 2016 Teacher of the Year and an outspoken advocate for Arizona’s students. She is running in LD 26 for the Arizona Senate. Like many of our education professionals, Christine doesn’t do it for the money, (I teased her once that if she gets elected, she’ll actually make less than she does as a teacher), but rather, for the love of her students and the opportunity to make a real difference in their lives. Go to www.ChristinePorterMarsh.com to learn more about Christine and contribute to her campaign while you are there!

These races are critical because we actually have a chance in 2018 for real change. We only need to flip two Senate seats for parity in that chamber and only five in the House. The tea leaves say it’s possible, but it will take all of us to make it happen. You see, that’s the thing about a Democracy, it requires participation by the voters.

Not everyone can actually run for office, but EVERYONE can do something. All three of these candidates need money and almost everyone can donate something. Campaigns also need lots of volunteers to canvass, drive, make phone calls, have house parties, write letters to the editor, install signs and much more. No matter what your limitations or your skills, I guarantee campaigns have something you can do to help.

Finally, you need to be registered to vote and then actually vote. I can’t tell you how disheartening it was in 2014 to find out that not even half of the people in LD 11 with mail-in ballots, bothered to mail them in. RIDICULOUS! Joseph de Maistre, a visionary French counterrevolutionary, is credited with originally saying, “we get the government we deserve”. If we want better, we must do better. It is beyond time to step up. DO. IT. NOW!

New Tugo Bike Share program launches on Nov. 17

Where do you want Tugo?

“Tucson’s Tugo Bike Share system will launch on Friday, November 17, with an event that formally kicks off at 12:30 p.m.  Event will be at Catalina Park, 941 N. 4th Avenue (south of Speedway Blvd.)

The launch event will be emceed by Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who is scheduled to speak at 12:30 p.m.

Immediately after the speakers’ remarks, dozens of cyclists, including Mayor Rothschild, will ride Tugo bikes from Catalina Park to various docking stations, and the system will be open to the public.”

Map of where these bike stations will be located: https://tugobikeshare.com/system-map/
Photo of  Tugo yellow bike below.

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Action Alert: Time to kill the evil GOP bastards’ ‘tax cuts for corporations and Putocrats’ bill

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch released the revisions to the Senate tax plan Tuesday night. The new version sunsets most of the individual tax provisions after 2025, but makes the lower corporate tax rate permanent. Senate GOP changes tax bill to add Obamacare mandate repeal, make individual income cuts expire:

Senate Republicans announced that the individual tax cuts in the plan would be made temporary, expiring at the end of 2025 to comply with Senate rules limiting the impact of legislation on the long-term deficit [by making the individual income tax cuts temporary, Senate leaders are seeking to ensure that the bill does not violate the chamber’s Byrd Rule that prohibits legislation passed with fewer than 60 votes from raising the deficit after 10 years]. A corporate tax cut, reducing the rate from 35 to 20 percent, would be left permanent.

Oh, and it also repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

This would result in 13 million fewer people having health insurance, according to projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The CBO has also projected that repealing the individual mandate would drive up insurance premiums for many Americans by roughly 10 percent.

As Axios.com says:

Remember “skinny repeal”? The repeal bill that all but three Senate Republicans voted for on the express condition that it not become law? Because, as Sen. Lindsey Graham put it, “the skinny bill as policy is a disaster”? The policy is basically the same this time around.

  • “Skinny repeal” would have done more than just end the individual mandate, but that was its biggest change, and the one that made it a “disaster” for insurance markets. Any vehicle that repeals the individual mandate, without a replacement, will cause premiums to rise and leave millions more Americans uninsured.
  • That said, none of the three senators who killed skinny repeal — Susan Collins, John McCain or Lisa Murkowski — has said repealing the individual mandate would be a deal-breaker for their tax votes.

Why now? The savings. Repealing the mandate would save the government roughly $340 billion over a decade, and Republicans need that money to help offset the lost revenues from $1.5 trillion in tax cuts.

  • As CBO reminded lawmakers yesterday, if the tax bill does end up adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit, automatic cuts would kick in — including $25 billion from Medicare. Some Republicans have also said they won’t vote for a tax bill that adds to the deficit, making the search for spending cuts especially important.

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