Crossposted from DemocraticDiva.com
It has long been my understanding that business leaders care deeply about education. They want skilled workers and the quality of school systems is a major factor in decisions about where they will locate new plants and corporate headquarters, so the conventional wisdom goes. But this must not be true for some of them, because this Saturday AZ Republic oped by Glenn Hamer, President of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, was strangely querulous and snide in response to a report that Phoenix was turned down by at least one company due to Arizona’s poor reputation in education.
A recent report that two companies passed over the Phoenix area for relocation is raising big questions about our state’s economic development strategy and our education system.
What can we do better to land top employers? Is our K-12 system up to snuff to attract the most demanding firms? Do we have enough quality schools?
The central question we should be asking, however, is whether these companies had access to Google. A simple search would have revealed that Arizona is an excellent place to invest and grow for a number of reasons, including our educational system.
Ooh! Sick burn, Hamer! Glenn quickly pivoted from negging prospective businesses like a creepy Pick-Up Artist to defending Arizona’s worst-in-the-nation education funding by extolling the sheer amount of “school choice” we have here (we’re the choice-iest!) and cherry-picking examples of individual schools and districts attaining good results (mainly because students from affluent homes tend to have better education outcomes wherever they are in the country, duh).
We have schools that are the envy of states around the country. BASIS Oro Valley, for example, is ranked by The Washington Post as the nation’s most challenging high school, and it’s joined by three other Arizona schools in the top 10 alone.
Students at the Great Hearts network of schools score 300 points above the national average on the SAT and 100 percent of its students leave the 12th grade to attend a two or four-year college.
WE’VE GOT HIGH RANKINGS, TOO
Looking for something else? Arizona families have access to outstanding schools whose emphases range from the arts, to agribusiness to Montessori models. Some K-12 schools meet entirely online. Unique and plentiful educational offerings with excellence and rigor abound.
All of this adds up to make the off-the-record claims by company executives a head-scratcher, implying that Arizona has somehow put one over on the nation’s leading companies.
Wow, there Hamer goes with the negging again! Are the executives of the many companies that belong to the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, whose dues pay what I am sure is Hamer’s generous salary, paying attention to his condescending tone toward their peers? Is this really the guy who should be the top lobbyist for Arizona business interests? Those disdainful digs make it appear as if Hamer is more committed to defending conservative ideology and maintaining the status quo than to advocating for what is necessary to improve Arizona’s reputation as a destination for businesses.
Speaking of which, the report that Hamer was so derisive of came from that bastion of leftist hippies known as the Phoenix Business Journal and as it turns out, shockingly, Arizona’s schools are not the only problems that potential business site locators have with our state:
The other decision-maker said Phoenix is a strong competitor, but some of the management team were concerned about how welcoming the market would be to attracting a diverse workforce.
“We hire foreign nationals, too, and we don’t want to see them feel like they are not welcome in the city where we build,” he told me. “Your sheriff puts a bad face on your brand out here (in the business world).”
I’m just going to mention what I will mention on this blog forever and in perpetuity: The April 23, 2010 edition of the Arizona Capitol Times featured an interview with none other than Glenn Hamer of the AZ Chamber where he bragged about extracting some immigration enforcement concessions for business owners from then-Senator Russell Pearce in SB1070, which then cleared the path for its passage and signature by then-Governor Brewer:
As the largest business association in the state, the Arizona Chamber has considerable lobbying power. Even though Pearce was unable to gain the group’s support, he neutralized an influential opponent that otherwise would have used its lobbying efforts to convince lawmakers to vote against the bill.
Although it’s unclear whether business interests, acting alone, could have killed S1070, the Arizona Chamber is closely aligned with a handful of state senators who could have shattered the fragile Republican majority in that chamber. All 12 Democrats in the Senate had lined up against the bill, which meant that three opposition votes from Republicans would have kept the bill from advancing.
Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber, said the smart move this year was to seek changes to the bill rather than oppose it. By removing the provisions that would have caused the most problems for businesses, Hamer averted another confrontation with Pearce that would have further damaged relationships within the Republican Party…
…“We’ve had considerable interaction with immigration bills in the past, to put it mildly, and we had serious concerns about the subpoena power this bill originally contained,” Hamer said. “If we didn’t take this approach, there would be a bill sitting on the governor’s desk that would have created all sorts of new problems for businesses playing by the rules.”
The Chamber, it should be noted, went on to endorse every statewide pro-SB1070 candidate that election year. Hamer and his organization put the short-term interests of a small number of business owners and the Republican Party (wouldn’t want to damage those relationships!) ahead of the long-term interests of the state. How did you enjoy the boycotts, Glenn? Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio used the law to go on a rampage against Latino residents, leaving a lasting stain on Arizona’s reputation* and causing at least one corporation to take a pass on us.
In 2014, the AZ Chamber did oppose the religious bigotry bill SB1062 vigorously enough to kill it, but not until it got all the way to the Governor’s desk and became a national embarrassment. Again, I must ask, are the dues-paying members of the AZ Chamber really still confident in that organization’s competence in representing their interests?
*Which, obviously, is nothing compared to how it has devastated real people.