Category Archives: Education

The Worst and the Dumbest in the Trump Administration

David Halberstam once wrote a book about the Kennedy and Johnson men called The Best and the Brightest. The theme of that book was despite the qualifications and acclaim these public servants had earned before and during most of their White House Service, most still offered the Presidents poor advice on how to handle the war in Vietnam.

Now if most of the people regarded as the best and the brightest at that time helped lead this country into one of the worst foreign and military policy periods in our countries history, imagine what the President’s aides, probably some of the worst and dumbest to serve, can do to us.

Saturday Night Live actually captured the problem with a segment (link below) with actor Bryan Cranston, reprising his role of Walter White from “Breaking Bad,” becoming the nominee to head the Drug Enforcement Agency (D.E.A.) illustrating that the Administration’s goal to put people who oppose these departments at the head of them.

It has become so bad with the Trump choices that most sane people are scared if Jeff “I never met an immigrant I liked” Sessions resigns as the Attorney General. Just who are among this cast of incompetents in or headed to the Trump Administration.

Betsy DeVos

This ultra-rightwing fanatic became our Secretary of Education despite promoting policies such as vouchers so religious schools can be partially subsidized with public monies. Since becoming the Secretary of Education (after a less than stellar performance at her confirmation hearings where she thought guns were needed in some schools to fight off grizzlies), she has been a champion for student loan companies who want to make the industry more profitable for them.

DeVos has also turned off people with her inattention to special education and civil rights. Walking out of a question and answer session with the Parkland High Students was not helpful either With no background in any sphere of public education, one has to ask, what is she doing there if not to undermine public education?

Scott Pruitt

Not a week goes by when there is not some controversy involving Scott Pruitt, the former anti-Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A) Oklahoma Attorney General who, wait for it, became the head of the E.P.A.  Pruitt has fashioned himself as a cross between a Sun King and a mob figure between not allowing scientists to speak their mind about the environment, making environmental rules and regulations more business-friendly and wasting public monies on first-class travel (to avoid contact with the people), installing a new “Bat Phone-Cone of Silence” communication system, and increased security detail that most other cabinet heads do not get.

This is all while he had a very nice residential rental arrangement courtesy of lobbyists whose pipeline expansion he approved. Finally, his arrogant behavior displayed when he asks his motor entourage to blast sirens so he can arrive at events quicker make people wonder if Scottie needs to be beamed out of the E.P.A. at the earliest opportunity.

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Gov. Ducey starts killing hostages to force the legislature to meet his demands for his budget

The Arizona Capitol Times reports that Governor Ducey has impulsively started killing hostages, i.e., vetoing bills passed by the legislature and awaiting his signature, in order to extort a budget out of his GOP-controlled legislature which includes his deeply flawed and fiscally unsustainable plan for teacher pay raises in an attempt to placate Arizona teachers before they walk out on Thursday. Ducey goes on veto spree to push teacher plan:

Gov. Doug Ducey let legislators know today he wants a budget – now.

Ducey, playing hardball with state lawmakers to get his teacher-pay raise plan passed, vetoed 10 Republican-sponsored House bills in an attempt to force the legislature to finish the state budget.

The message included in each of the 10 veto letters reads the same.

“Please send me a budget that gives teachers a 20-percent pay raise by 2020 and restores additional assistance,” the letter reads. “Our teachers have earned this raise. It’s time to get it done.”

The vetoed bills were not particularly contentious. Among those struck down, the governor vetoed bills that would have codified provisions for electric bicycles, created additional protections for sexual assault victims and authorized the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family to work with various agencies to teach young children about the dangers of illegal drugs, alcohol and marijuana.

Ducey’s veto rampage comes a day after the Arizona Education Association and Arizona Educators United announced teachers will go on strike April 26. Lawmakers could pass a budget before Thursday if it is introduced in the Legislature on Monday.

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Can you hear us now?

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

Many questions remain unanswered about how Governor Ducey intends to fund his $648 million school funding plan which would provide a 20% bump to teachers by the 2020 school year and give schools $100 million for discretionary “additional assistance” next year. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) however, projects the state will face a $265 million cash shortfall in FY20 and $302 million by FY21. Not surprisingly I suppose, the Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning & Budgeting (OSPB), paints a rosier picture based upon “changing economic fundamentals.” They “note higher than expected job growth, and manufacturing growth that has accelerated to levels last seen before the Great Recession.”

Legislative Democrats however, aren’t buying the sustainability of the Governor’s plan and want it to be funded at least partly, with a tax increase. They also want to be brought to the table so consensus can be built. Gubernatorial candidate Steve Farley struck a moderate tone by saying “I’m willing to work with Doug Ducey. I’m running against him, but I want to get things done. We have an opportunity here that shouldn’t be missed.”

For some time now, education groups have been working on developing that opportunity with a couple of potential ballot measures. AEA favored an increase to income tax for high earners, while other education groups favored raising the Prop. 301 sales tax to a full cent, though they worried about the regressive nature of sales tax so they discussed options to mitigate. Now it appears, those potential solutions may have been sidelined. Continue reading

Gov. Ducey’s so-called school safety bill advances out of committee

The Senate Committee on Commerce and Public Safety voted 4-3 on April 19 to advance Governor Ducey’s so-called school safety plan, a plan crafted with and endorsed by the NRA. NRA endorses Arizona Gov. Ducey’s plan to prevent school shootings; bill passes committee:

The National Rifle Association, the country’s most powerful gun-rights lobbying organization, has endorsed Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan to prevent mass shootings in schools.

Republican lawmakers in the Arizona Senate announced the NRA’s support Thursday during a committee hearing, where Ducey’s proposal cleared a crucial first vote.

Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, the committee chairman, said legislation outlining the governor’s plan, Senate Bill 1519, respects Second Amendment rights while taking steps to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.”

“Arizona is listed by many as the No. 1 Second Amendment state in the country. I want to keep it that way,” Smith, who’s sponsoring the bill, said at the outset of Thursday’s hearing.

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Now it gets interesting…

Arizona Educators United (AEU) and the Arizona Education Association (AEA) just announced Arizona teachers have made the decision to strike. They reported that  57,000 of the state’s 60,000 teachers cast ballots with 78 percent voting for the walk out. When asked about timing, AEU leader Noah Karvelis said they wanted to give communities time to prepare, but would begin the walk out next Thursday.

When asked about the teacher’s demands, AEA President Joe Thomas referred to the two letters the groups have hand-delivered to Governor Ducey’s office (to which they’ve received no response), and said that they will definitely demand no tax cuts this year. He said it is time to start reinvesting in our schools and our state.

At least a third of our teachers were at my school board meeting tonight, and several of them spoke during the call to the public. They were respectful, realistic and real. One of the teachers talked about all the things she buys for her classroom and her students. She mentioned the items decorating her classroom walls, the snacks the students eat before they go out to recess and the tissues they use to blow their noses. She said it is a slap in the face to allow teachers a small tax credit so they can go out and buy their own supplies.

I agree. As former Vice-President Joe Biden said, “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget.” That’s really the bottom line. Until Governor Ducey and our Legislature finds a dedicated funding stream, to adequately fund our district schools and their professional educators and staff, they are telling our teachers, our parents and worst of all…our students, that they aren’t the priority.

We have even more turbulent days ahead and I hope calmer heads will prevail and allow us to find the best solution that will lead to much brighter days for Arizona district schools. I predict though, that if all the efforts of education advocates and teachers (including the walk out) doesn’t get the job done, the voters will finish the work in November!

Gov. Ducey’s teacher pay plan is unsustainable, teacher walkout appears likely (Updated)

Calling the governor’s plan not fiscally sustainable, the Arizona PTA has withdrawn its backing for Gov. Doug Ducey’s teacher pay hike plan. PTA group withdraws support from Ducey’s teacher pay hike plan:

Beth Simek, the organization’s president, told Capitol Media Services this afternoon that her own research shows there is no way Ducey can finance both the pay raise and restoration of capital funding without cutting the budget for other needed programs. And Simek said she believes some of what the governor plans to slice could end up hurting the very children her organization is working to protect.

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Simek said that she was not given all the relevant information about how Ducey plans to finance his plan when the governor first asked for support. So, what she did was strike out on her own and gather as much in specifics as she could from various other sources, including other state agencies.

Most crucial, she said, are the cuts being made elsewhere in the budget.

For example, Simek said, Ducey’s plan cuts $2.9 million that had been allocated for skilled nursing services in both the state Medicaid program and the Department of Economic Security. Also gone is $1.8 million aid for “critical access hospitals” and $4 million that the governor had proposed in additional dollars for the developmentally disabled.

“We can’t support that,” Simek said. “That hurts kids and it hurts families.”

The governor’s plan also cuts back $2 million in arts funding, which arts advocates say would decimate grants that fund programs that benefit pupils.

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