Category Archives: Governor

Education Shorts

Catching up on my “to do” list on education issues in Arizona.

In late November, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a new analysis of school funding in 48 states which shows that funding for Arizona’s kindergarten to grade 12 public school system remains nearly 14 percent below what it was before the Great Recession hit in 2007. The Arizona Capitol Times reports, Arizona school funding still lagging, report shows:

The study by the Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan research institute showed that even with an infusion of money since Gov. Doug Ducey took office in 2016, the state’s per-pupil spending is well below its 2008 funding levels when adjusted for inflation. It also said per-pupil formula spending dropped last year by 1.2 percent.

Ducey has touted his efforts to boost K-12 spending, and laughingly proclaimed himself to be the “education governor.”

“Arizona has put more money into K-12 education over the last three years than any other state in the country, without raising taxes,” he told KTAR radio earlier this month. “It has been the focus of every budget that we’ve had.”

But much of that increase came from settling a lawsuit brought by schools that alleged the state illegally cut spending during the recession. [And that case was settled for substantially less than the restitution actually owed by our lawless Tea-Publican legislature for its theft of education funds.]  The settlement added some state spending but most of the new cash came from increasing withdrawals from the state land trust dedicated to schools.

The study found that Arizona school funding hasn’t recovered from the cuts despite the new spending and could be getting worse, said Mike Leachman, the center’s state fiscal research director.

“It’s clear that Arizona school funding is down significantly and the data we have suggest further worsening at least in terms of formula funding, which is the major source for general support for all school districts in the state,” he said.

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Rep. Trent Franks to resign from Congress, special election to be called

Arizona’s Christian Right congressman Trent Franks (8th Congressional District) unexpectedly announced his pending resignation from Congress on Thursday after creeping out two staff members in his office by talking about surrogate pregnancy for he and his wife.

It is not at all clear from published reports whether Franks approached these two staffers about becoming the surrogate. That would give this story an entirely different context.

Rep. Franks told reporters that he would let his statement speak for him, which attempts to frame the incident in a light most favorable to him. (My Spidey senses are tingling that there is more to this story):

Franks’ full statement:

I have always tried to create a very warm and supportive atmosphere for every last person who has ever worked in my congressional office. It is my deepest conviction that there are many staffers, former and present, who would readily volunteer to substantiate this fact.

Given the nature of numerous allegations and reports across America in recent weeks, I want to first make one thing completely clear. I have absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.

However, I do want to take full and personal responsibility for the ways I have broached a topic that, unbeknownst to me until very recently, made certain individuals uncomfortable. And so, I want to shed light on how those conversations came about.

My wife and I have long struggled with infertility. We experienced three miscarriages.

We pursued adoption on more than one occasion only to have the adoptive mothers in each case change their mind prior to giving birth.

A wonderful and loving lady, to whom we will be forever grateful, acted as a gestational surrogate for our twins and was able to carry them successfully to live birth. The process by which they were conceived was a pro-life approach that did not discard or throw away any embryos.

My son and daughter are unspeakable gifts of God that have brought us our greatest earthly happiness in the 37 years we have been married.

When our twins were approximately 3 years old, we made a second attempt with a second surrogate who was also not genetically related to the child. Sadly, that pregnancy also resulted in miscarriage.

We continued to have a desire to have at least one additional sibling, for which our children had made repeated requests.

Due to my familiarity and experience with the process of surrogacy, I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others.

I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable. I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress.

We are in an unusual moment in history – there is collective focus on a very important problem of justice and sexual impropriety. It is so important that we get this right for everyone, especially for victims. 

But in the midst of this current cultural and media climate, I am deeply convinced I would be unable to complete a fair House Ethics investigation before distorted and sensationalized versions of this story would put me, my family, my staff, and my noble colleagues in the House of Representatives through hyperbolized public excoriation. Rather than allow a sensationalized trial by media damage those things I love most, this morning I notified House leadership that I will be leaving Congress as of January 31st, 2018. It is with the greatest sadness, that for the sake of the causes I deeply love, I must now step back from the battle I have spent over three decades fighting. I hope my resignation will remain distinct from the great gains we have made. My time in Congress serving my constituents, America and the Constitution is and will remain one of God’s greatest gift to me in life.

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Governor Candidates Farley and Garcia Will Restore Education in Arizona

Student moderator Patrick Robles of Sunnyside High School, Candidates David Garcia and Steve Farley, and student moderator Aiselyn Anaya of Amphi High School.

Democrats in Arizona have two outstanding choices in the candidates for Governor: college professor David Garcia and veteran Arizona state senator Steve Farley — both of whom pledged to restore school funding and raise teacher salaries after years of sabotage by the Republican legislature and governor.

They spoke at an education town hall sponsored by the Arizona Education Association at Pueblo High School on the far south side.

Highlights:

Farley pledged to give teachers a 20% pay raise, to fully fund education, to sponsor a constitutional amendment to allow collective bargaining by teachers, and to block deportation of DACA recipients.

Best quotes by Farley:

  • “Every time President Trump tweets, another Democratic activist is born.”
  • When Governor Ducey tell you we don’t have enough money for education, he’s lying.”

Garcia called for an end to reliance on standardized testing, restoring ethnic studies in schools, paying teachers as professionals, revising the public school funding formula, and going to teachers’ unions first to formulate school policy.

He repeatedly spoke in Spanish to the standing-room only audience, emphasizing his Latino heritage, and referring to himself as “The anti-Ducey.”

Best quotes by Garcia:

  • “My goal is to have Arizona be one of the best places in the country to be a kid.”
  • “The legislature looks at teachers like missionaries, as people who would teach just for the good of the kids. The reality is we must pay our teachers as professionals.”

Teacher salaries
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The Budget Shows What We Value

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

In reading a story today on Tucson.com, I learned about how the Vail Unified School District is thinking about building tiny homes for “cash-strapped teachers.” Although I laud their innovative approach, I can’t help thinking that to some degree, the culpability we all have in creating the need.

The reality is that the starting base salary for a teacher in Vail is about $36,000 in an area where the “household income is $83,000 and the median home sale price is about $260,000.” It also is reality that there is “not a single apartment complex anywhere in the district’s 425-square-mile boundary.”

This situation is not isolated. Vail might be the first district in the country to bring the tiny house concept to fruition, but they aren’t the only ones considering such an option. A charter school in Sedona and school district in Colorado are also looking at it, for example. And, offering housing as part of teacher’s contracts has long been a strategy employed by rural school districts. The Baboquivari Unified School District on the Tohono O’odham Nation has dozens of rental units for teachers and Patagonia Public schools turned an old school building into apartments for teachers.

What I find truly ironic, is that our lawmakers, Governor Ducey included, continually push for a greater percentage of education dollars to be spent in the classrooms, when the inadequate funding they provide for education actually forces energy and funding to be spent outside the classroom – as in creating cheaper housing for teachers ? Truth is, Arizona district schools already have the lowest administrative costs in the U.S. and those costs, are half those of charter schools in our state. That narrative though, doesn’t serve lawmakers’ purposes, so they continue to rail about the inefficiencies of our public district schools, all while doing what they can to try to make it true. Continue reading

Suffer the Children: Congress jeopardizes CHIP funding

It has been almost two months now since Congress allowed the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to expire at the end of September.

As Joan McCarter at Daily Kos recently noted:

This is unprecedented. It’s obscene and unconscionable. Never before has Congress allowed funding for children’s health and community health center expire—even when they were playing games with debt ceilings and government shutdowns, Republicans funded health care for kids and for the underserved. Not this year, not when they have tax cuts for rich people and corporations to focus on.

When last we visited this controversy, Tea-Publicans in Congress were holding CHIP funding hostage as leverage in their never-ending sabotage of “Obamacare.”

Earlier this month, House Passes Children’s Health Insurance Bill, But Kids Are No Closer To Health Insurance:

The House passed a bill Friday reauthorizing the lapsed Children’s Health Insurance Program. But instead of a bipartisan affair that Democrats and Republicans could pat themselves on the back for, the bill became a partisan fight over offsets that ultimately moves Congress further away from renewing CHIP.

The bill that passed Friday 242-174 ― with 227 Republicans and 15 Democrats voting yes, and 171 Democrats and 3 Republicans voting no ― almost certainly won’t become law. Instead, Congress will likely wait for an end-of-the-year spending bill to reauthorize the program, which covers roughly 9 million low-income children and pregnant women.

According to Democrats, the problem with the bill, which would extend CHIP for five years and reauthorize community health centers and other public health programs for two years, is that it would pay for children’s health insurance by taking money from a preventive care fund. The GOP bill would also use new Medicare means-testing to partially pay for CHIP.

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Arizona Supreme Court upholds Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion

Finally, some good news today! The Arizona Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the Court of Appeals in a decision, Biggs v. Betlach Opinion (.pdf), that  Governor Jan Brewer’s Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion plan is not a tax and is excepted from the two-thirds supermajority vote required by Prop. 108 (1992), the “Two-Thirds for Taxes” Amendment (aka the GOP’s weapon of mass destruction).

This is a major defeat for the “Kochtopus” Death Star, the Goldwater Institute, which represented the GOP legislators who voted against the Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion plan.

Boom! goes the Death Star! The Rebellion has won!

The Arizona Capitol Times reports Arizona Supreme Court upholds Medicaid expansion:

The state’s high court this morning upheld the legality of an assessment on hospitals that helps pay for health care for 400,000 Arizonans.

In a unanimous decision, the justices rejected arguments by the attorney for some Republican lawmakers that the levy, approved by the Legislature in 2013, was illegally enacted.

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