Author Archives: Linda Lyon

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!

Constitution Applies to All

I was honored to do the coin toss for Military Appreciation Night at a high school football game recently. Thankfully, the loss of the toss didn’t determine the outcome of the game for the home team. They went on to win the game and I enjoyed the opportunity to talk to many of the other veterans who had attended the game.

One Air Force vet thanked me for my service and after some small talk, he told me how horrible he thought it was for NFL players to “take a knee” during the National Anthem. I told him I had a different take that I’d like to share with him.

I said my perspective was that I had served to ensure those players had the freedom to exercise their First Amendment rights. He hesitated a second and then said “well, I just don’t think it’s right”. I told him that I didn’t think the Ku Klux Klan’s views are “right” nor do I like how they express them. But, to paraphrase what Michael Douglas’ character said in The American President, “I may hate to the core what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it”.

I believe those football players who “take a knee” have as much right to make a statement in any legal way they see fit, as the Neo-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville had to express their displeasure with the statute removal. But…when such expressions turn dangerous and deadly, that’s another matter entirely.

To all those who claim they love our country and support our Constitution, I say you can’t pick and choose who gets to enjoy the rights bestowed on citizens of these United States. Millions of servicemembers paid the ultimate price because they believed in our ideals. We best honor their sacrifice by continuing to live by, and protecting, those ideals.

Take No Prisoners

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

During the last legislative session in Arizona, lawmakers approved a full expansion of vouchers to all 1.1 million Arizona students against very vocal opposition. In response, Save Our Schools Arizona conducted a grassroots petition drive with over 2,500 volunteers collecting over 111K signatures to get the issue on next year’s ballot.

To fight back, privatization proponents have recently ramped up their “take no prisoners” war on public education in Arizona with attacks on Arizona’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, Christine Marsh. According to The Arizona Republic, the American Federation for Children (AFC), (“dark money” group previously led by Betsy Devos), recently “unleashed robocalls” in the Phoenix area targeting Marsh. In a related effort, a Republican state legislator, Rep. David Livingston, R-Glendale, also filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, accusing her of disorderly conduct.

What is the egregious violation these women are accused of? According to voucher proponents, (during the drive to gain petition signatures for an anti-voucher referendum), both circulated petitions without a box at the top of the petition checked. The box, according to state law, is required to be checked prior to petitions being circulated, to reflect whether the circulator is a volunteer or paid petition gatherer. In Livingston’s complaint and in AFC’s robocall, Blanc and Marsh respectively, are accused of “falsifying petition sheets” by marking the boxes after the signatures were collected. Continue reading

The House Always Wins

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

I’m not a gambler, but I do know that Sin City isn’t prospering because those who visit its casinos win more than they lose. Rather, the casinos of Las Vegas and those all around the world, prosper because in the end, the house always wins.

That truism comes to mind when I think about our Arizona Legislature and their non-stop assault on the state’s public education system. Yes, it is sad that on the day Save Our Schools Arizona turned in over 111,000 petition signatures for a voucher expansion veto referendum to our Secretary of State, I’m thinking about how the battle has just begun. Not only that, but I’m worrying the battle is likely to not end in the people’s favor because just like the casinos, the game is rigged against us.

Senator Debbie Lesko, the sponsor of SB 1431, (full expansion of vouchers) is no doubt already planning repeal of the law should the referendum actually qualify for the ballot. Why would she do that? Well, for one, because when Arizonans are given the opportunity to vote on public education, they usually support it. For another, if the repeal of the voucher expansion actually gets on the ballot in November 2018, she and her GOP colleagues know that the issue will bring public education supporting voters out to the polls. We know which party the majority of those voters are likely to come from, right? Continue reading

Yeah, Let’s Focus on Our Students!

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

In a recent Scientific American article, a U.S. Department of Education spokesperson for Betsy DeVos said “The secretary believes that when we put the focus on students, and not buildings or artificially constructed boundaries, we will be on the right path to ensuring every child has access to the education that fits their unique needs.” As good as that sounds, it is total bullshit.

Here’s the deal. As much as its proponents try to tell us otherwise, school choice does NOT put the focus on students, because the “choice” is largely that of the commercial school, not the student. We know for example that private schools have total control over what students they accept, irrespective of the students’ funding sources (taxpayer-funded vouchers included.) Charter schools are by law required to accept all, but we also know they enroll much lower percentages of special needs students, those of color, and those in poverty.

As for the secretary’s belief that we should put the “focus on students, and not buildings or artificially constructed boundaries,” puhleeeeeeeaaasssee! This is just a thinly veiled swipe at community district schools. In Arizona, over 80% of our students attend these district schools where facility maintenance and repair is severely underfunded and there are no “artificially constructed boundaries” since we’ve had open enrollment since 1994. Continue reading

Arizona’s Voucher Battle Continues

Cross posted from RestoreReason.com.

The Arizona Republic reported today that Save Our Schools Arizona will now hire paid circulators to “boost the chances that voters get the last word on the legislatively approved expansion” of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (vouchers.) According to The Republic, leaders of SOSAZ had intended to gather the required 75,321 valid signatures with only volunteers by the August 8, 2017 deadline. Now though, the organization finds itself with unexpected money and has decided to hire paid circulators for the last push to get at least 120,000 petition signatures for sufficient cushion.

As is often the case in Arizona though, GOP leaders in the Legislature are already working to undermine the effort. Senator Debbie Lesko, a Republican from Peoria has been the prime proponent of the effort to expand vouchers and is coincidentally (or maybe not), the Arizona Chair for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC.) As the likelihood of getting the repeal referendum on the ballot increases, she is planning ways to end run the effort. One of those is for the Legislature to repeal SB 1431 thereby eliminating the need for a public vote. Then Lesko and her GOP pals would just pass another expansion in the next legislative session. This move would not only require opponent vouchers to start a new referendum drive from scratch, but would also prevent the voucher vote from drawing more Democrats to the polls in November 2018.

Whether the petitions are being circulated by paid circulators or volunteers, they must contain sufficient valid signatures to qualify the referendum for the ballot. If you are an Arizona voter who hasn’t yet signed one of the petitions, please go to http://sosarizona.org/events or https://www.facebook.com/SaveOurSchoolsArizona/ to locate signing opportunities. If there is no opportunity in your area, you can email SOSAZ at SaveOurSchoolsAZ@gmail.com to make other arrangements.

There is no doubt that Lesko and her buddies will do what they can to continue to thwart the will of Arizonans, as has been their modus operandi in the past. For now though, “we the people” must do what we can, to ensure our government stays “of the people.” When it comes to slowing down the attack on our public schools, repealing the full expansion of vouchers is where we need to focus our efforts now. The 95% of Arizona’s students that attend our public schools are counting on us and the future of our state depends on our engagement. Please do your part and sign a petition this week, or for sure, by August 8th!