Category Archives: Education

The real ‘trickle down’ effect of the GOP tax bill: state and local government taxes

State officials worry that all the economic progress in recovering from the Great Recession is about to be undercut by the $1.5 trillion Republican tax plan sailing through Congress. The New York Times reports, States Warn of Budget Crunch Under Republican Tax Plan:

While lawmakers say the plan will boost growth and strengthen the economy, Oregon state officials say the bill could have the opposite effect by making the state a less affordable place to live and putting a squeeze on state and local budgets.

“What I am concerned about is that this will impede our forward momentum,” Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon said in an interview. “This tax plan will basically burst the balloon that’s happening here.”

Oregon is not alone in its concerns. State and local officials in other high-tax, largely blue states like New York, New Jersey and California are warning the tax plan will strain budgets, shake real estate markets and prompt residents to flee expensive coastal states for places with lower taxes.

Of primary concern is the Senate’s plan to repeal the state and local tax deduction, which currently allows people who itemize their tax returns to deduct state and local income, sales and property taxes paid. The tax break is claimed by people across the nation, but is more heavily utilized in higher-tax states like Oregon, California, New Jersey and New York. Eliminating the deduction has long been a goal of many Republican lawmakers, who view the tax break as a subsidy that poorer red states provide to richer blue ones that spend heavily on government services.

This is misleading. Poorer red states (recipients) are more financially dependent upon the federal government than richer blue states (donors), they get back more in federal dollars than they pay in taxes. See WalletHub’s 2017’s Most & Least Federally Dependent States.

Most Federally Dependent States

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Arizona ranks number 11 among most federally dependent states.

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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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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!

David Garcia Sees New Voters Propelling Him to Governor’s Office

“Every time Trump tweets, a new Democratic activist is born.”

Candidate David Garcia plans to win the race for Arizona Governor by harnessing disaffected voters, and recruiting a generation of Latinos to become new voters who will support Democrats for years to come.

“To change Arizona and win in 2018 we need to focus on new voters,” Garcia told the Democrats of Greater Tucson yesterday in a rousing presentation. “We have a surge of Democratic energy. It’s incredible. We need to take this unique opportunity to get a group of reliable voters that we have not been able to bring out.”

He cited California as an example of a once-Republican state that is now solidly Democratic. The state’s Latino population boomed in the 1990s and they rejected the Republican hard-line stance on immigration. The state’s immigrant population has elected Democratic candidates decisively in every election since 1992.

Minority voters were a major factor in electing a Democrat to Governor in Virginia this month.

The Latino vote

“Latino voters vote for Democrats 70% of the time,” he said. “They are not engaged and we need to get them on board. The numbers are there to win.”

“Every time Trump tweets, a new Democratic activist is born.”

He cited three ways that he can take the Governor’s office away from Doug Ducey:
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Victoria Steele Charts a Comeback with a State Senate Bid

Bruce Wheeler, candidate for US Congress, and fellow Democrat Victoria Steele, candidate for State Senate.

Victoria Steele (right), candidate for State Senate, with fellow Democrat Bruce Wheeler, candidate for US Congress.

Charting a comeback to the Arizona legislature, Democrat Victoria Steele asserts that ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment is a first step to improving the Tucson economy.

“Women are an economic powerhouse.  But if you are a woman of color, you make 54 cents for every dollar white man makes,” she said. “We need a constitutional amendment that guarantees wage equality. Until we have constitutionally guaranteed protection for women, we won’t have wage equality.”

She spoke at the hot new political gathering, the Over-60 Liberals Who Do Breakfast and Lunch meetup on Saturday at Monterey Court on Miracle Mile.

The 4 E’s

Steele is running for the state Senate seat in northern Tucson that opened up when Steve Farley launched a run for Governor. The economy is one of the four “E’s” that are guiding Steele’s return campaign: Education, economy, environment, and equality. Each is affected by the other.

“Nevada ratified the ERA this year,” said Steele, State Legislative Coordinator for the National Organization for Women and co-founder of the Tucson NOW Chapter. “I will work to push it over the edge in Arizona.”
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AEA Education town halls with Gubernatorial Candidates

Nov. 1 – Flagstaff

Nov. 8 – Yuma

Nov. 29 – Phoenix

Nov. 30 Tucson
Specific location information for each is on our Blog for Arizona calendar for each of these dates: http://blogforarizona.net/calendar-2/.

Two Democratic candidates running for Governor:  LD 9 State Senator Steve Farley and Dr. David Garcia, education professor at ASU, who ran for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction in Nov. 2014.