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Fully Funding Education is the Top Issue as LD 18 Democrats look to take both State Representative Seats in 2018

State Representative Mitzi Epstein

State Representative Mitzi Epstein

Education, Education, Education. That is the top issue for all three candidates competing for the two Representative seats for LD 18 as they vie to continue the trajectory of making this district increasingly blue in this year’s election.

As reported in a previous overview of LD 18, it is a district that includes Ahwatukee-Phoenix, Tempe, Chandler, and Mesa. Socioeconomically, it is a mostly upper-middle-class district. It is where the main campus of Mesa Community College is located as well as technology powerhouses GoDaddy and Intel.

Jennifer Jermaine

Until recently, the district has predominately elected Republican candidates for its local seats. Democrats made their first electoral gains in the district this decade with victories for State Senator Sean Bowie and State Representative Denise “Mitzi” Epstein in 2016.

The party hopes to continue this trend by re-electing Bowie and Epstein to their current positions and electing either Jennifer Jermaine or LaDawn Stuben who will run against Republican State Representative incumbent Jill Norgaard.
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Sine Freakin’ Die Already, Why Don’t Ya’?

4EC2FB45-63F4-42DD-AE2A-C4B9A3A2348DEver since becoming involved in Arizona public education in 2012, I’ve heard people ask “why don’t teachers stand up for themselves?” Well, they aren’t asking that now. At about 6 am this morning, Governor Ducey signed the K-12 portion of the Arizona budget into law. It doesn’t contain everything educators wanted, but it contains much more than it would have without the brave, collective action of Arizona teachers.

Here’s a quick summary of some of the key elements of the approved budget with my comments or additional facts, interspersed:
– Increases the base level in FY2019 by a 1.8% inflation increase ($276.80) to $3,960.07 (without teacher compensation).
– Provides for an increase to teacher compensation of $176.2M in FY2019, $164.7M in FY2020, and $124.4M in FY2021.
— Keep in mind that FY2020 and FY2021 are “advance appropriations” which basically means a “promise” made now that future Legislatures are asked to keep.
— And because of the way the funding will flow to districts, Dr. Anabel Aportela, director of research for the Arizona School Boards Association and the Arizona Association of School Business Officials says, “it’s going to be difficult to show that every single teacher received a 9 percent raise,” this year, or a 20 percent raise by 2020. Likewise, an “initial analysis by The Arizona Republic, based on figures provided to the Arizona Auditor General by school districts, shows that 59 districts would not receive enough funding to give all teachers a 20 percent pay raise.” Continue reading

The voters won’t forget!

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

Jon Gabriel, (editor-in-chief of right-wing blog “Richochet.com”), in his “My Turn” on AZCentral.com titled, Gabriel: If Arizona teachers strike now, it’s a war against parents, not politicians, on was right. The voters won’t forget who’s responsible for the teacher walkout. But, I predict it won’t be the teachers they hold responsible. Arizona voters know that it is our lawmakers who have systematically underfunded our public schools over the last decade, creating an almost one billion dollar shortage each year, even after the Prop. 123 settlement.

Voters also know, that district capital funds (used for facility repair and maintenance and to purchase big ticket items such as buses and technology) have been cut 85 percent over that same time. And voters definitely know that we have the lowest paid teachers in the nation. That is one of the primary reasons that four months into the 2017-18 school year, we had 1,968 classrooms without a teacher and another 3,403 with people who aren’t trained to be teachers.

Arizona voters are behind our teachers not only with words and honks of support, but deeds. All across our state, parents, family and community members, civic organizations, school boards members, district staffs, and yes, teachers, have worked hard to provide viable options for families to deal with school closures.

From Boys & Girls Clubs, to YMCAs, to skeletal crews in schools, to expanded before and after school programs, to city programs, to churches, to food banks, to museums and animal rescue groups; our communities have stepped in to ensure the health and welfare of children. In Tempe for example, the city’s “Kid Zone”, a before and after-school program, operated all day during the teacher walkout. Likewise, with volunteer District teachers and staff, Mesa Public Schools opened four community centers to provide breakfast, lunch and free, supervised activities for children from kindergarten through the sixth grade. In southern Arizona, the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona delivered backpacks of food to high-need students, and the Sierra Vista Unified School District, teachers and support staff met at the Mall at the Sierra Vista food court to grade papers and tutor students.

Businesses around the state, such as recreation outlets, dance and martial arts centers, aquariums, sports centers, and grocery stores, have also jumped on-board, offering child supervision, recreation or a limited supply of basic food items. Some businesses, even welcomed employee’s children at work sites and offered flexible schedules to parents.

teachersArizonans are behind the teachers because they know this walkout is not about them, but rather the one million students they serve. We know that teacher working conditions are student learning conditions and that the average teacher spends on average, $500 out of their own pocket each year (some much more), to make those learning conditions as positive as they can. We also know even though quality teachers are the number one in-school factor contributing to student success, they can’t do it on their own. All the staff in a school contribute to a child’s development and education. Finally, we know that despite the fact we overwhelmingly support the better funding of our public schools, our lawmakers are intent on promoting vouchers, tax cuts and tax credits, that continue to divert our tax dollars away from that priority.

Hate to sound like a broken record, but there really is only one way to ensure our public schools and their dedicated teachers are truly valued. We must elect legislators that, well…value them!

Note: I submitted this to the AZ Republic, but it was not published.

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

Kyrsten Sinema is the Democrat who can Beat McSally for US Senate

Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema is running for US Senate.

Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema is running for US Senate.

Congress member Kyrsten Sinema is the odds-on favorite to beat the gaggle of wacky Republicans, including mean Joe Arpaio, kooky Kelli Ward and seldom-seen Martha McSally for the US Senate seat for Arizona.

Sinema spoke at the Democrats of Greater Tucson and was poised, intelligent and articulate. “I launched a campaign for Senate to cut through the chaos and dysfunction in Washington and finally get some stuff done. The enthusiasm on the ground is like nothing like I’ve seen before. Our campaign is building a statewide team we’ll need to reach voters who are more motivated than ever to make a change,” she said.

Sinema is a three-term Congresswoman from the 9th Congressional District in Phoenix, first elected in 2012. A member of the Democratic Party, she served in both chambers of the State Legislature, being elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2004 and the Arizona Senate in 2010.

She has a compelling personal story of growing up homeless in a gas station. Saying, “I knew I could make it if I got a good education,” she went to BYU with the help of student loans, academic scholarships, and financial aid, and then ASU, where she now teaches Legal Issues in Social Work.

The American Dream

“I am a product of the American dream. And my way of paying my debt to society is public service.  It is my commitment as a United States Senator that I will continue to do the work as I have done to be accountable, to listen even to people with whom I disagree, and to make best decisions in the best interests of my community,” she says.
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Barber, Hernandez & Other Gun Violence Survivors Rally Tucsonans (video)

Thousands of Tucsonans participated in the March For Our Lives on Saturday, March 24. The march ended with a rally on the UA Mall.

Many survivors of gun violence and friends and family of the lost gave touching testimonies. Several survivors from the January 8, 2011 Tucson Safeway shooting, when Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was wounded, spoke at the rally, including Congressman Ron Barber and Rep. Daniel Hernandez. Many other spoke of family and friends who had been shot. One young girl was nine when she lost her Mother to a gun shot. Several young UA women gave touching remarks about their friend and recent UA graduate who was shot at the Las Vegas concert. The saddest part was at the end when little Christina Taylor-Green’s friends, now 16, talked about her, while her Mom, Roxanna Green stood by. What tremendous losses this country has experienced. Below are videos of speeches by Barber and Herdandez.

Congressman Ron Barber: March for Our Lives

Rep. Daniel Hernandez: March for Our Lives