Category Archives: Education

Dem Statewide Meeting: ‘We Can Win with a Progressive Message’

Pamela Powers Hannley

Pamela Powers Hannley giving the Legislative Update to the Arizona Democratic Progressive Caucus.

I have been back in Tucson for two weeks now, and it’s been a fun whirlwind of visits, phone calls, and events with Tucson friends and family, LD9 constituents, fellow Unitarian Universalist church members, labor union members, and Progressives.

Saturday, May 20 was my first campaign event of the 2018 season– the Arizona Democratic Party’s State Committee Meeting in Tucson. In addition to tabling, I gave Legislative updates to the Arizona Democratic Women’s Federation and to the Arizona Democratic Progressive Caucus. Scott Prior and I co-chaired the Progressive Caucus for three years. This was the first full meeting with the new co-chairs Jenise Porter (Pima County) and Joe Murphy (Maricopa County).

Here is my speech to the Progressive Caucus.

Everyone says that this session of the Arizona Legislature was “different”. There are several reasons why it was different. For one, Speaker J.D. Mesnard assigned Democratic bills to committees and allowed floor votes on many of them. According to people on both sides of the aisle, he also ran the House much more efficiently than the previous speaker. In my opinion, the real reason that this session was different is that the House Freshman Class is the largest  in recent history (or ever). Many House incumbents lost, termed out, retired, or tried to move to the Senate. For House Democrats, this meant a demographic shift with our caucus now being majority Latino, half women, and surprisingly progressive on many policy issues.

I’m here to tell you that Progressives– particularly the women– made a difference in the Arizona House this session.

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State Sponsored Discrimination

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

Some parents don’t know best. There. I said it. Let’s face it, some parents aren’t present, some are abusive, and some are drug addicts. Then there are those who are trying their damnedest to provide for their children but their minimum wage jobs (without benefits) just don’t pay enough to make ends meet. Bottom line is, not all parents know how, or care enough to provide, the best they can for their children. Where that is the case, or, when hard working parents need a little help, it is up to all of us in a civil society, to ensure all children are safe and that their basic needs are met. As education reformer John Dewey said over a century ago, “What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.”

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos evidently doesn’t agree. In recent testimony to Congress, no matter what question she was asked about how far states would be allowed to go in discriminating against certain types of students, she kept deflecting to “states rights” and “parental rights,” failing to say at any point in the testimony that she would ensure states receiving federal dollars would not discriminate. From watching her testimony, if she had been the Secretary of Education with Donald Trump as President back in the early 1960s, the Alabama National Guard would undoubtedly never have been called up to integrate the schools. Continue reading

Save Our Schools Arizona referendum to overturn the ‘vouchers for all’ bill

For activists looking to channel their energy into something more productive than attending marches, their dance cards just got filled for the long hot Arizona summer. Time to get yourself a comfortable pair of walking shoes.

Last week former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods and former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson formed “Voters of Arizona” (no web site yet) to file referendums against the Chamber of Commerce organizations’ bills to effectively strip Arizonans of their constituional right to enact laws by citizens initiatives in Arizona. Expect to hear more about this in coming weeks.

Now the long anticipated referendum to overturn the “vouchers for all” bill passed by anti-public education Tea-Publcans in the Arizona legislature is ready to launch as well. The Arizona Republic reports, Parent group will seek to overturn Arizona school-voucher expansion:

Public-education advocates are launching a referendum campaign to halt the controversial expansion of Arizona’s school-voucher-style program.

Members of the group “Save Our Schools Arizona” said they will file paperwork this week and begin gathering signatures to refer their proposal to the November 2018 ballot. The group has planned a rally and news conference on Monday at 5 p.m. at the state Capitol.

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False Choices for Arizona

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

Just when I was starting to think highly of the AZ Republic Editorial Board’s judgement, they came out today with: “The focus of this budget was clearly education – from kindergarten through the university level. It is the beginning of a long climb to provide Arizona’s schools with the resources they need to serve our youth and help drive the state’s economic growth.” Wow! Talk about drinking the Koolaid!

After all, this headline a couple of days ago: Gov. Doug Ducey gets much of what he wanted for education, was bad enough. Those in Ducey’s camp no doubt read it as him being successful, but those who know what he proposed against what our districts need, know that his getting “much of what he wanted” wasn’t well…all that much.

Instead, it is clear that his commitment to delivering tax cuts every year he is in office is much more important to him than fixing our state’s severe teacher shortage.. That’s clear in his woefully inadequate proposal of a permanent 2% increase, rolled out over five years which amounted to only $15 per month in the first year for the average teacher. As it turns out, the Legislature funded a 1% increase for next year with a “promise” to fund it again the following year. This funding is only for existing teachers, is more a stipend than a “raise” since it is not distributed on a per-student basis and therefore doesn’t increase with inflation. It amounts to about $500 per year, or about $40 per month. The Republic Editorial Board writes that, educators “will be watching next year to see if this is a good-faith effort.” Not so much I think. I mean, fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us. I don’t think educators or public education advocates have much faith in any promises the GOP-led Legislature or this Governor make to public education. Continue reading

We Invest In That We Value

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

The recently released ASU Morrison Institute report titled “Finding & Keeping Educators for Arizona’s Classrooms”, offers a myriad of interesting insights into Arizona’s teacher shortage. Like the fact that 22% of new teachers hired in AZ between 2013 and 2015 left after their first year on the job and of the new teachers hired in 2013, 42% were not in the AZ Department of Education (ADE) database by 2016.

We know teacher attrition rates – about 8% over the past decade in the U.S. versus 3–4% in high-achieving nations like Finland and Singapore – are a problem. Our national price tag for teacher turnover is in fact, estimated to be $8 billion per year. With the rate ranging from under 9% in Utah to the high of 24% in Arizona, it is clear our state owns a higher than average share of this cost. But, cost isn’t the only factor as “High teacher turnover rates have been found to negatively affect the achievement of all students in a school, not just students in a new teacher’s classroom.”

A 50th ranking for elementary teacher salaries obviously has much to do with this. And although wages for all occupations across the nation actually rose by 2% between 2001 and 2016, teacher salaries have remained flat. In Arizona, elementary school teachers are actually now paid 11% less and high school teachers 10% less than in 2001. This dearth isn’t helped by our state’s low cost of living either. Although we are “only” 49th in secondary teacher pay, when compared to Oklahoma’s lower cost of living, Arizona drops to 50th. Continue reading

While you were sleeping, AZ legislature passes Ducey’s immoral budget

After a marathon session of back room deals and arm twisting among Tea-Publican legislators — to the exclusion of the Democratic minority who represent over 40% of Arizonans — Arizona’s Tea-Publican controlled legislature approved a budget in the wee hours of Friday morning when only a handful of reporters were left watching their dirty deed. This is how one-party autocracy works in Arizona.

“A budget is a moral document.” Ducey’s budget is immoral.

The Arizona Republic reports, Arizona lawmakers pass $9.8 billion budget:

Arizona lawmakers passed a $9.8 billion budget early Friday that provides 2 percent pay hikes for public-school teachers, a modest income-tax cut for residents and $1 billion in extra bonding authority for the state’s public universities.

The final spending plan for fiscal 2018 featured key elements Republican Gov. Doug Ducey outlined in January, as lawmakers began their work. But it also underwent significant changes at the hands of Republicans in the House and Senate. No Democrats voted for the budget.

“Arizona has passed a budget that prioritizes education, boosts teacher pay, and invests in our universities — all without raising taxes on hardworking Arizonans,” Ducey said in a statement minutes after the budget won final approval at 3:55 a.m. “For the first time in a decade, we are making significant and lasting investments to grow our state.”

Ducey won’t receive the budget bills until Monday, when the Senate is scheduled to send the final documents to his office. He is expected to sign them.

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