by David Safier
Hat tip to Steve Muratore for his post in the Arizona Eagletarian digging deeper into the background of Carlyle Begay, who was appointed as LD-7 state senator when Jack Jackson Jr. resigned to join the Obama adminstration. I recommend the post for those who want to know more about Begay.
Muratore found a press release from the Arizona chapter of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) praising Begay and referring to him as "a member of the DFER-AZ advisory board." Begay isn't included in the DFER-AZ's online list of Board members, which may just be an oversight — though the list included Julie Erfle at one point, who doesn't support DFER and demanded that her name be removed, so there's no telling whether DFER put Begay's name on the Board without his permission.
DFER is a part of the well funded conservative education privatization movement. It goes beyond advocacy for charters and deep into voucher territory. It's closely connected to the very right wing American Federation for Children (AFC), with overlapping staff and a similar agenda. Both DFER and AFC endorse and fund pro-privatization candidates, and they're very fond of supporting the most educationally conservative Democratic candidates in safe Democratic districts. Other than Begay, the two current Democratic legislators who have benefitted from AFC/DFER support are Rep. Mark Cardenas (LD-19) — a DFER Board member — and Sen. Barbara McGuire (LD-8). McGuire is famous for recently changing her vote on the expansion of Arizona's educational savings accounts — our vouchers on steroids legislation — from No to Yes at the last minute, which was the swing vote needed to pass the bill. McGuire received high praise from both the AFC and the Goldwater Institute for her Yes vote.
Assuming Begay isn't booted from the lege because of residency problems, he's likely to be a third Democratic vote Republicans can count on to further their conservative "education reform" agenda. Democratic legislators need to be aware that these three folks might couch their pro-privatization agenda in Democrat-friendly terms, but they're part of the push to dismantle public education.