Arizona GOP renews its war on public education . . . who will resist them?


It-is-better-to-die-on-your-feet-than-to-live-on-your-kneesIt is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.” — Emiliano Zapata

For Arizona’s “education leaders” who signed the letters of surrender to Arizona’s lawless Tea-Publican legislature on Prop. 123, this is what you get for your cowardly surrender — they will take away everything else from you now that you have laid down your arms and promised not to fight.

The “We hate Tucson and TUSD” Tea-Publicans in the Arizona legislature are taking away money from school districts this afternoon. House to debate bill taking $200 million from K12 schools:

The House plans to debate a measure that would take more than $200 million a year from school districts that receive funding to provide an equal opportunity education to minority students.

The proposal by Rep. Vince Leach of Tucson would dismantle desegregation funding for 18 school districts over five to 10 years.

Decades ago the federal government ordered 19 school districts to end racial discrimination practices and allowed them to levy higher local property taxes to pay for the changes.

Advocates say the funding is outdated and creates an unfair system that favors some school districts over others.

Opponents say Arizona’s education system is already underfunded and a further reduction would devastate districts that receive the funds.

The House plans to debate House Bill 2401 on Tuesday afternoon.

Previously, Lesko bill would eliminate most school desegregation funding:

Sen. Debbie Lesko is again trying to eliminate a tax mechanism that allows some Arizona school districts to raise millions of dollars in funding allotted for desegregation and student achievement efforts.

The Peoria Republican’s SB1125, which advanced through the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 10 by a 3-2 party-line vote, would eventually leave more than a dozen school districts millions of dollars short of their normal spending levels. It would phase out a funding mechanism that allows district officials to levy property taxes beyond their budget limits, with the caveat that the extra money is used to remedy racial discrimination in schools.

A corresponding bill, HB2401, is awaiting a hearing in the House (above).

Nineteen Arizona school districts levy those extra taxes for desegregation funding. The Phoenix Union High School District alone raised roughly $55.8 million in fiscal year 2015 in additional property taxes thanks to the state- and court-authorized taxing method. And school officials argue that they are under strict scrutiny from courts and the U.S. Office of Civil Rights, and would be thrown into legal trouble if they don’t continue to utilize the taxes.

Lesko said the segregation-related issues are no longer a problem.

“We think this is something that has long since passed needing to be fixed,” she said during the Senate Finance Committee hearing.

Debbie Lesko sounds like Stephen Colbert’s former character who frequently joked, “I don’t see race. People tell me I’m white and I believe them.” Colbert is mocking a very real phenomena: white people feeling that it is virtuous of them to ignore race entirely. “I Don’t See Race”: The Pitfalls of the Colorblind Mindset. “Racism persists in the United States today through structures and institutions that segregate, disadvantage and discriminate against certain races. Such systems do not depend on the active hatred of bigots, but rather the passivity, ignorance, and stereotypes of the masses.”

But wait, it gets worse. Debbie Lesko wants to eliminate public education in Arizona entirely by diverting your tax dollars from the public school system for which the Arizona Constitution provides, and making that money available to private and parochial schools in direct violation of several provisions of the Arizona Constitution.

But who is left to stop the Tea-Publicans from doing whatever they want? Our “education leaders” and opposition political leaders have already surrendered and given up the fight on Prop. 123. They have chosen to live on their knees.

Howard Fischer reports, AZ Senate plan allows school vouchers for all students:

State senators voted Monday to do what opponents have argued has been their agenda all along — allow every one of the more than 1 million students in Arizona the opportunity to attend private and parochial schools with tax dollars.

The 17-13 vote starts the process of removing the restrictions that now exist for vouchers, restrictions that to date limit enrollment in the program to no more than 5,500 students. Current law makes these “empowerment scholarship accounts” available only to students with special needs, those living on reservations and youngsters in schools rated D or F.

By the 2018 school year, all restrictions would be gone. And the following year, the numerical cap on vouchers, currently 0.5 percent of all students in public schools, self-destructs.

The only restriction that would be left is that a student first has to attend a public school. But that need not be for more than 100 days. And it could be in kindergarten.

“It’s a huge step forward for school choice for our parents and students throughout the state,” said Sen. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, the prime sponsor of SB 1279.

[“School Choice” is Tea-Publican code language for tax supported religious education.]

Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, had a different take.

“This is the end of public education in Arizona,” he said, calling it “an abomination.”

Farley pointed out that the first vouchers were approved in 2011 for “a small number of kids with very specific needs.

“Let’s be clear on what this is,” Farley said. “This blows that out of the water.”

He also said the timing could not be worse.

Farley pointed out the legislation comes ahead of a May 17 special election for Proposition 123. Voters are being asked to divert money already in an education trust account to make up for the fact that lawmakers failed to comply with a voter-approved law to increase state aid to public schools annually to account for inflation.

“If we think we’re going to get voters to vote on (Proposition) 123 at the same time as we’re gutting our public school system with bills like this that would devastate the public school system, I don’t know how we think we’re going to make that sale,” Farley said.

* * *

And Farley said all that ignores the fact that there will be children for whom going to a private or parochial school is not a realistic option.

Those schools generally do not provide transportation. And Farley said not all parents make the right decisions for their children.

He said that leaves those children in a system with “decaying infrastructure, lack of computers, lack of teachers, lack of books.”

“And we end up with the ghettoization of public education,” Farley said.

Farley said the empowerment scholarship program has had problems with fraud and the lack of accountability in ensuring that parents are spending the money properly.

He said the Department of Education, which is supposed to monitor the outlays, cannot keep pace with what is already out there. Farley said there is no way it will be able to track the dollars once the program is open to everyone.

The original 2011 law — the one giving vouchers to special-needs students — was challenged by the Arizona Education Association as violating a state constitutional provision that bars public funds from being used for religious worship or instruction. But the state Court of Appeals created a legal fiction that it is the parents who decide where to spend the dollars, not the state. The judges ruled that makes who ultimately gets the dollars irrelevant.

This opinion was wrongly decided on B.S. logic and should be reversed on a new legal challenge to this “voucher” bill if it becomes law. As I explained at the time, Arizona Courts disregard the Constitution, authorize the privatization of public education:

[T]he evil bastards at the Goldwater Institute instead decided to bypass the voters and opted for a plan to convince just a majority of a panel of judges to accept their legal legerdemain (slight of hand) that by giving state money to taxpayers who then give the money to private and parochial schools, it’s not really giving state aid to private and parochial schools. (Wink, wink.)

Because this sophisticated scheme to fleece Arizona taxpayers is set up for individuals to access an account — a “pass-through” to the private education corporations that financially benefit — the Arizona Court of Appeals accepted the Goldwater Institute’s legal legerdemain that this somehow is not really a direct taxpayer subsidy, in Niehaus v. Huppenthal, No. 12-042 (Ariz. App. Ct., Div. One Oct. 1, 2013) (.pdf).

The appellate court distinguished Cain v. Horne (Cain II), 220 Ariz. 77,  202 P.3d 1178  (2009), in which Arizona’s Supreme Court struck down the legislature’s previous attempt at a voucher program.  Under that law, state funds were issued by check to a parent who had selected a private school, and the parent was required to restrictively endorse the check to the private school.  Interpreting Cain II, the Neihaus appellate court said the voucher program was struck down “because, essentially, the voucher programs transferred state funds directly from the state treasury to private schools…. In the programs disapproved in Cain II, the state was paying money directly to the institutions; although the payment first went to parents, they then went ineluctably to private schools.”  The appellate court found that the holding in Cain II did not render the ESA program unconstitutional because “unlike in Cain II, in which every dollar of the voucher program was earmarked for private schools, none of the ESA funds are preordained for a particular destination.”

See discussion at Arizona Court of Appeals upholds private school scholarship.

[T]he Arizona Supreme Court has effectively endorsed the Goldwater Institute’s legal legerdemain to effectively render two constitutional provisions null and void Sub Silentio.

The Arizona Supreme Court has made a momentous decision to judicially amend the Arizona Constitution to authorize the privatization of public education — the power to amend the Constitution is a power reserved exclusively to the voters — removing this decision from a vote of the people, and without any opinion explaining or justifying its momentous decision. This is a major scandal.

The Arizona Court of Appeals and the Arizona Supreme Court have effectively rendered two provisions of the Arizona Constitution mere artifacts and Dead Letter Law:

Article 2, Section 12: “No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise, or instruction, or to the support of any religious establishment.”

Article 11, Section 7: “No sectarian instruction shall be imparted in any school or state educational institution that may be established under this Constitution, and no religious or political test or qualification shall ever be required as a condition of admission into any public educational institution of the state, as teacher, student, or pupil;”

We have a serious scandal here, folks. For those of you who ignore the “judicial retention” portion of your ballot, it is time for you to start paying attention. It is time to send a message to the Court of Appeals Division 1 (Phoenix), and the Arizona Supreme Court that they will not be retained because of their disregard of the Arizona Constitution and their overreaching judicial activism.

And Let’s not forget our lawless Tea-Publican legislature. Authoritarian Tea-Publicans deem themselves to be above the law and to not be answerable to the courts, the law, or to the citizens of this state.

There is no justifiable reason to believe that these reprobates will comply with Prop. 123, should the spirit move them.

As long as the voters of this state continue to return these lawless reprobates to office by failing to turn out to vote, they will continue to undermine our constitutional form of government and the rule of law and we will drift into authoritarian tyranny.

Only you the voters can end this long-standing GOP culture of political corruption in Arizona. Throw these Tea-Publican reprobates out of office. The future of this state depends on you.


  1. How about some facts? The true status of public education in Arizona from the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP measures all states at 8th and 4th grade). We select 8th grade because it reflects 9 years of exposure to our public schools while 4th grade reflects only 5 years of exposure. We also select math because of the consensus that math achievement is much more an achievement of school while reading achievement is much more an achievement (or lack thereof) of the home.
    Rank of Arizona Black Students: 1st in the nation
    Rank of Arizona Hispanic Students: 11th in the nation
    Rank of Arizona White Students: 6th in the nation

    Now, I am going to assume that the typical reader of this blog can meet the sixth grade standards for weighted averages, proportions and fractions and can understand how a 1st, 6th and 11th place ranking can result in a weighted average test score which ranks Arizona 27th overall. If you understand that, you understand the challenge to education overall.

    Our schools do not rank 49th or 50th. They rank somewhere between 1st and 20th. Unfortunately, the great RAND ranking studies ($10 million dollars a throw) have never been replicated in the last decade.

    Let it be known, that if this study were to be done, there is at least a fighting chance that Arizona would rank first in quality of education.

    • We? Are you more than one person?
      I’ve spent 27 yrs working in AZ schools. You have no idea what you are talking about. AZ schools are ranked 49th or 50th in per pupil funding. Because AZ teachers work their tails off, with limited resources, we’re not 49th in achievement, but where could we be if the state actually invested in public education?
      Here’s two concrete examples of how slashed funding affected a school. At one time the Title I elementary school where I worked had nine kindergarten classes with no more than 18 students and a teacher’s aide. The state paid for all day Kinder. Now there are only four classes and one class has 27 ELLs and no aide. For the last six years, the state has only funded 1/2 day K. Not too long ago, we had six reading teachers who taught reading and tutored students in reading all day long. Now there are none.
      Heck of a job, AZ. You have the money, but you won’t use it for education.

    • “Let it be known, that if this study were to be done, there is at least a fighting chance that Arizona would rank first in quality of education.” So, in some imaginary study that exists only in the deeply disturbed mind of John Huppenthal, Arizona schools are doing awesome! Dude, how many times do I have to tell you to seek professional help?

      • Hey, Blue, don’t be a moron. Go out to the NAEP site yourself and check the rankings. The last RAND studies had Arizona ranked 19th and that was 2000 data. Since then, our test scores have gone up steadily despite an increasingly at-risk population.

        And, yes, our 8th grade African Americans are ranked 1st in the nation in math.

        And, yes, our 8th grade math gains from 2011 to 2015 overall were second highest in the nation.

        • There’s the rub. “Test scores have gone up…”

          Thankfully, test scores as a measure of success are going out of style.

          Make our children be test taking machines doesn’t make them ready to succeed in society.

          Try again, John.

        • For God’s sake John, and the rest of us by the way, could you please change records? This piece of vinyl is definitely worn, if not broken. I’m thinking you worked on that RAND study you continually quote even though it is now 16 years old. Next slide already!

  2. Now remember this bunch want inoculate anything they do from referendum. They will put on the ballot some convoluted idea that essentially lets the legislature negate almost anything the voters do. Don’t trust ANYTHING they do. Their actions remind me of 1984, their actions the opposite of their rhetoric or Oz, pay no attention to the nonsense behind the curtain.

  3. It is disgraceful how the democratic process and rule of law that our government relies on has been subverted. The worst part is how little the voters actually know about what has taken place. I cannot see this changing anytime soon. The coruption now runs so deep that the state of Arizona is begining to look like a weak democracy resembling unstable third world democracies.

    Where is the great eaqualizer in all of this? The lack of quality reporting and reliable sources has turned our media into a mockery that is spoon-fed quotes and stories. I fear there is no longer the accountability to drive the debates that once held our fragil nation together during times such as these.

  4. certainly not the arizona democratic party. they are to busy raising money from fat cats so the paid staffs pay checks don’t bounce.

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