Thursday, August 27, 2009

Budget: Still Missing

The legislature ended the third(!) special session of the year still with no budget for the state. Few think the governor will sign what the legislature sent her. She vetoed an identical budget back in July.

Republicans want her to sign $400 million in cuts to education and $600 million cuts to taxes. Democrats would rather she veto it and work toward a bipartisan budget.

Interestingly, Secretary of State Ken Bennett-- who Brewer hand-picked for the office she vacated to become governor-- was on the road in Prescott talking about the budget. Will he be the second Republican in high office to toss his hat into the ring for Jan's job?

Also of note, Bennett thinks we should sell off 100,000 acres of our state trust lands to increase school revenue. Gee... organizing school trust lands to make the sale of them more profitable. AEA tried for a decade to get just such legislation passed. Guess who stood in the way of that reform.

Yeah, Ken Bennett.

AZ Panel: Ban Paddling

Yeah, it's still legal here.

Bill Gates: $500 Million to Study Teacher Effectiveness

From the press release:

"It really is about an effective teacher for every student every year of their school career," said Vicki Phillips, director of the Gates Foundation's K-12 education program. "If we did that, we would make the kind of progress that we have all long dreamed about in this country."


Will there be any money set aside to study effective parenting?

The Education Senator?

While Senator Edward Kennedy will be remembered for many, many pieces of legislation passed over the last half-century, one that I would like to forget is No Child Left Behind.

There are murmurings that Congress should unite and pass health care reform-- a long time goal of his-- under Kennedy's name. I hope they don't forget to fix the mess he helped orchestrate in our public schools.

7 of 10 Parents Would Like Their Child to be A Teacher

A new Gallup poll reveals the nation's attitude toward public schools. There are many interesting findings.

Seven in ten parents would like their child to become a teacher.

The starting salary should be increased $10,000.

Seventy-two percent favor merit pay.

Seventy-four percent favor national standards.

And while half of the parents surveyed do not understand what charter schools are, nearly two-thirds of parents like them.

Go figure.

Corporation Commission Still Blocking School Access to Solar Incentives

Few Arizonan's realize how powerful the Corporation Commission is. Recently they doubled the amount of incentives for businesses to use in creating solar energy sources. They have yet to open up those same incentives to public schools.

The End of Textbooks?

A high school in Florence issues laptops instead of textbooks.

Is your school next?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tucson Part of Federal Experiment on Teacher Pay

Instead of increasing pay for the profession-- which might draw more talented teachers who could reach all students-- we are once again seeing how little investment we could make.

Question-- What do the parents in the schools who are losing these good teachers think about this? Are their students not as important?

From the
article:


The study will pay 15 TUSD teachers significant bonuses to leave the high-performing schools where they have been on faculty and spend the next two years in struggling schools that have a hard time attracting teachers. The 15 teachers were selected because their students have consistently high test scores and they will be paid an additional $20,000 over the next two years to change schools.


ASU Grant Promotes Native Educators

Through a grant from the US Department of Education, ASU created a program which helps rural schools "grow their own" educators. The first cohort just graduated.

“There is a severe shortage of American Indian teachers in Arizona, especially in elementary school districts with high American Indian enrollment,” says Franklin Elliott, ASU PDS (Professional Development School) coordinator for the Chinle PDS site. “PDS is playing a critical role in developing outstanding Native teachers to serve as role models for children in our community’s schools. And the program’s format is ideal for adults in rural areas who cannot relocate to a larger metropolitan area to earn their teaching degrees. I view this program as helping to put education back in the hands of the local community.”


Congrats, grads!

Digital Boundaries

I'm sure there will be new state laws regarding this soon. Maybe all teachers will be required to register any Twitter, Facebook, or other websites with the state Department of Education. We already give up our fingerprints.


Duncan, Sebelius Make Recommendations About How To Handle Flu Kids

Most of the ideas presented are common sense, but I wonder how many schools have set aside time to plan for this. My school has been busy with schedule changes for the first two weeks. There has been little time for anything else.

The recommendations suggest that educators prepare take-home assignments in advance for distribution to affected students and use the Internet and telephones to post homework materials, conduct classes, share information and keep teachers, parents and students in close touch.



Do Schools Really Need Principals?

Hard economic times are having some ponder the idea of schools without principals.

Public Wants Quality Teachers

A new Gallup poll (Aug 6-9) shows the number one goal for improving schools is more quality teachers.


Wilson Goes Solar

Solar powered schools in Arizona?

What a bright idea.

(sorry)

Unregulated Charter Schools = Easy Money

Some charter schools do a good job educating kids.

Others are a mess.

Arizona "Bipartisanship"

I can understand that after a longer-than usual regular session and three special sessions that nerves might be a little frayed... but this seems a poor way to move to compromise.

“You’re never going to get a bipartisan budget,” said Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.


Never? I thought the idea was to get people to play ball.

“The Democrats did present a proposal that in our opinion is not even in the same ballpark,” House Speaker Kirk Adams (R- Mesa) said.


Hmm... Pretty strong words from two of the legislative leaders who kept the Democratic half out of budget negotiations the entire year.





Tuesday, August 25, 2009

More Special Sessions?

It is being reported that legislators are already planning on more special sessions, but not necessarily aimed at fixing this year's budget.

Hold onto your hats.

They want to offer tax abatements and tax credits to businesses and individuals to increase revenue in the state.

Long Time Capitol Reporter Names Worst Legislator

In an interview with the Arizona Guardian, long-time political reporter Phil Riske offered this gem.

Q. Which lawmakers have stood out to you as either really doing a good job, or just the opposite? Sort of the best and worst of the Arizona Legislature.


A. Jack Harper is obviously the worst.


I could not agree more.

Tribune Cites Poor ACT Scores As Reason for More Charters

Even though a decade with charter schools has not positively impacted ACT scores, the Tribune continues their long march against traditional public education by citing recent ACT scores as reason enough for parents to have more choice in where to send their students to school.

They also assure us that more money is not the answer.

I will say this-- a lack of newspaper funding has not made much difference in the Tribune's ability to bash public education.

What no one has mentioned in any of these reports about the recent ACT scores is that far more students took them this past year than those who are headed to college. At my school every junior took the ACT. The funding was through a grant of some sort, but I hope its intention was not to water down the final scores.

Promises, Promises

Democratic leaders are promising Governor Brewer that if she vetoes the budget sitting on her desk they can bring her a balanced budget which includes her coveted 1% sales tax increase.

Republican leaders are promising the governor they will work hard to get her the sales tax increase after she signs the budget into law.

State Treasurer (and governor-wanna-be) Dean Martin is promising everyone that the state will need to borrow between $1.5 and $3.0 billion to have enough cash on hand to stay in operation.

ASU Students On Deadlines and the Legislature

No excuses.

A different kind of green

While money may be short in Arizona schools, a different kind of green is creeping into some of them.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bipartisan Budget Talks to Resume

The lead paragraph from the Arizona Guardian may explain why we are nearly 60 days into the fiscal year without a budget.

For the first time since she took office, Gov. Jan Brewer sat down Friday with leaders of all four legislative caucuses to talk about the 2010 budget crisis.


Brewer has had since January to call for this meeting.

More:

The elusive “five-party talks” -- which Democrats have been pleading for all session -- came after discussions between Brewer and Sens. Jay Tibshraeny, Barbara Leff and John Nelson. Unable to get her sales-tax plan through the Senate, the trio urged the governor to talk with Democrats about what changes they would need to support it.

Senate Democratic leaders have said at least three of their members are solid no votes on the sales-tax referral. But the GOP moderates believe there’s potential for a deal that could include about eight or nine Republicans and an equal number of Democrats.

But at the very least, Democrats will insist that the bill include language preventing the estimated $2.5 billion in tax proceeds from being used to supplant further cuts in education, health and human services, and to protect low-income taxpayers.


Seriously?

Our schools are facing the largest budget shortfall in the state's history, and Channel 15 found the time to run this story?

A teacher got an unwanted side dish with his McDonald's breakfast on Friday morning.

Inside the bag with his Egg McMuffin, he said he found a scorpion.


Why not follow the teacher to work and turn the camera lens onto his class size?

This Just In

New research shows early education can prevent youth violence.

Who'da thunk it?

Growing Emphasis on Civics Education

From Education Week:

But Mr. Levine says the school climate for effectively teaching civics depends on whether the curriculum has room for discussion of current events. Finding that space in elementary and middle schools has become more challenging since the implementation of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which emphasizes school accountability for mathematics, reading, and science, but not for social studies, he said. The problem with civics education now, Mr. Levine contends, is that it isn’t usually taught in an interactive way. “What we’re interested in is kids’ developing reasoned opinions,” he said.


I could not have said it better. We are too often forced to teach about what dead people did 200 years ago than what is directly impacting students and their parents today. I take a sizable chunk of each period to discuss current events, but it takes a toll on the students' scores on the district-administered final, which focuses much more on events which happened in the first 100 years of our nation's history.

Superintendent of (Driving) Schools

Tom Horne discusses his 6 speeding tickets received in an 18 month spread-- including one in a school zone.

Sheesh.

AWOL

My apologies for being absent for ten days. The start of the school year-- with a greatly increased workload and a greatly reduced support staff and supply budget-- required a good deal of my attention.

Fellow teacher Thomas Murrin of Tucson sums it up nicely. Too bad when a story like his is offered, some continue to see and hear only what they want to.

Friday, August 14, 2009

45

We are 45 days into the fiscal year without a state budget.

Man Begins 59th Year Teaching!

That is Sylvester Franklin, a junior high teacher from the small town of Haskell, Oklahoma.

He is 84 years old.

He just began his 59th year of teaching.


59 years at one job is inspiring, but 59 years teaching math and science to middle school students is impressive.

That's the case for Sylvester Franklin, whose career started shortly after World War II came to an end. The only place he has ever taught is in Haskell, in Muskogee County.

And in all that time... from the end of World War II until now... he has missed two days of work.

Perspective, anyone?

PBS/ASU Horizon Legislative Update

Filmed the day prior to the latest budget failure.



Arizona Budget Coalition - A Look Back

The Arizona Budget Coalition (ABC) proposed $6 billion in options to balance the budget. You can view their menu of items here.

The ABC sent their proposal to the legislature back in May. The legislature paid little attention to it.

Three months later-- and still no budget-- maybe Burns, Adams and Brewer should give it a look.




County Equalization Tax Could Come Back On-line

Unless something significant happens Monday the three-year disruption of the County Equalization Tax will be lifted. This will bring approximately $250,000,000 annually in revenue to the state.

The average homeowner will see a $7-$10 monthly increase in their property tax.

This tax was not collected for three years as part of a deal with then-governor Napolitano. She leveraged the temporary tax decrease in exchange for full implementation of all-day Kindergarten.

The Republicans have made its permanent repeal a major part of their legislative platform for the past two years.

AZ Legislature to Make Daily Show.... Again

The budget fiasco has reached a new milestone.

The Daily Show will air a piece on the proposed plan to sell government assets-- namely the Arizona Capitol buildings.

This would be the second time a legislative bad idea made the Daily Show. The first time was back in 2004 when Randy Graff's "guns in bars" bill was proposed (video below).

That bill was voted down in 2004.

A similar bill passed this session.



The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
A Round of Shots
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorSpinal Tap Performance

Insiders and Outsiders Lament the Budget "Process"

From the Arizona Guardian

"This is the most unusual set of legislative circumstances I have experienced in 4 decades of being down here."

"I've been down here since 1982, and this is the weirdest session I've ever faced."



Senate President Burns Discusses Budget Strategy

Arizona Guardian interviews senate president Bob Burns after another failed budget vote.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Live Action on the Budget

Watch the budget deliberations live here.

Budget Showdown at 1:00 Monday

Republican lawmakers and the governor look to press ahead with their plan of dividing their partisan budget proposal into two separate poisonous pills.

The first, a 1% sales tax referendum, is too toxic for the likes of senators Ron Gould (R-Lake Havasu City) and Pam Gorman (R-Anthem). The second, which contains $650 million in tax cuts, is too implausible for senator Carolyn Allen (R-Scottsdale) to even consider.

But the hope is that each will sign the other.

If they can get either Gould or Gorman to sign the tax cuts and Allen to sign the tax referral-- and the 15 other Republican "yes" votes stay on board-- they will have their budget.

The House will have to work the same magic, keeping 31 of the 32 Republicans who signed the earlier tax proposal.

Not a single Democrat supports this budget proposal.

We will find out this afternoon if this latest Republican plan succeeds.

If it fails, will the Republicans re-engage the Democrats in bipartisan budget talks?

If not, how far can the state go without a plan for the future?

DC Lobbyist Green-Lights Arizona Budget

It's good to know who is running things. Grover Norquist has given his permission to the 38 Republican lawmakers who signed a "no tax pledge" with him to send a 1% sales tax increase to the voters.

And they don't even need to stick a needle in their eye.

Norquist was recently quoted as saying, "We will cheerfully remind everybody who voted for a tax increase," when he first heard about the Republican tax plan.

Suddenly he has changed his mind. What's the payoff?

Six hundred and fifty million pounds of flesh dollars in tax cuts.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Fork in the Road?

Which path?

Competition or Investment?

At What Cost?

The New Times gives a short and snappy take on the increasing number of valley schools who are now charging a fee for students to play sports.

Nice closing:

Many districts, like Mesa, still have free athletic programs, but say that they considered tacking on a fee this year to help deal with budget constraints.


On the up-side, joining a gang is still free.



KidsCare

Ten years ago the Arizona legislature created a program called KidsCare.

And then expressly forbid anyone from telling people about it.

CDC Says "No" to Flu Days

Schools should work on prevention, says the Centers for Disease Control.

1. Teach them how to cough.

2. Wash hands often.

3. Only close schools in extreme situations.

It's a shame so many districts have been cutting nurses and health officials in their schools.

Tombstone State?

EJ Dionne suggests that Congress stop alienating its citizen's right to bear arms by allowing Americans to carry guns into the Senate and House chambers.

Isn't it time to dismantle the metal detectors, send the guards at the doors away and allow Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights by being free to carry their firearms into the nation's Capitol?

Arizona has yet to discuss a responsible budget, but they did have time to pass a new law allowing guns in bars and restaurants. Surprisingly, you still cannot carry down at the capitol. Well, former Republican Karen Johnson always could.

Why not the rest of us?

Instead of The Heat Wave, next summer's effort could be Bringing the Heat.

Budget Casualty: Less Safe Schools

The recent budget cuts to the Department of Education have resulted in the canceling of grants which funded 12 school resource officers and probation officers in various state schools.

I worked in one of the affected schools for 10 years. Riverview High School (known then as Mesa Vista) is a Mesa school for reluctant and resistant learners. That is a fancy way of saying students who often have a history of gang affiliation, violence, truancy, or drug use. Students who do not have school as their top priority.

Many of the kids I taught were on probation for a variety of offenses. The probation officer was a tremendous support-- sometimes a needed hammer, sometimes a needed positive role model.

Their work was necessary and appreciated. Their efforts kept many of these teenagers in school-- and off the streets where they would be far more trouble and costly to society.

And now these officers are gone. Rationale?

"The thought was (the cuts) would have less of an impact in smaller schools," said state schools Superintendent Tom Horne.


My school only had about 250 students, but as I said, we had an extremely high (30-50%) number of kids on probation.

Here is yet another example of poor decision making by Horne. Another example of how the budget cuts are affecting real people and the jobs they can do.

And a clear example of how this budget is making some schools-- and some neighborhoods-- less safe.

Duvall to Lead AZ in Race to the Top Grants

Governor Brewer named former Mesa Superintendent Dr. Debra Duvall as a "special advisor" to oversee the state's participation in President Obama's new Race to the Top grants for charter schools.

Arizona received $54 million in initial grants from the $4.35 billion dollar program.

The governor's newly formed P-20 Coordnating Council (P-20 means preschool through a 4-year degree) will also assist with participation in the grant. Oddly enough, not a single public school employee sits on the P-20 Council.

Kudos to Duvall (in the Cat in the Hat suit, right) for her new position.

Solomon Budget

The latest "11th hour" GOP budget strategy is to split the tax referral bill (part of the 10 bills which make up what is commonly called "the budget"). One piece would include the governor's demand for a 1% sales tax increase in addition to the GOP's proposal of a state budget cap for 3 years (TABOR with a few exceptions), and the repeal of voter-protected initiatives.

The other half would include the reduction of business taxes, the reduction of income tax, and the permanent repeal of the county equalization (property) tax. This half includes the GOP's main belief that to reduce a budget gap you must decrease revenue -- which will likely increase that very gap.

This intent of this latest change is to bring senator Carolyn Allen (R-Scottsdale) on board for the 16th vote for the 1% sales tax increase, and at the same time having senators Ron Gould (R-Lake Havasu City) and/or Pam Gorman (R-Anthem) sign on for the tax cuts.

The problem is that in order to do this in the senate, the bills must be changed and then passed in the same manner in the house. Many, many Republican house members signed "no-tax" pledges and would be in clear violation of that pledge if they pushed a tax increase to the ballot.

To understand how important this pledge is to Republican lawmakers, one only needs to ask Ahwatukee senator John Huppenthal. He suggests they each ask D.C. lobbyist Grover Norquist's on how they should vote.

Will an out-of-state lobbyist play the role of King Solomon in this state budget fiasco?

Will education be the baby?



Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tibshraeny a 'Yes' on the Budget?

I can find no published source which says Jay Tibshraeny (R-Chandler) is opposing the budget.

Senator Jay Tibshraeny jtibshraeny@azleg.gov

phone 602-926-4481


Quote of the Week

When told that Mesa senator Russell Pearce was confident he could win her support for the Republican budget proposal, Scottsdale senator (and budget holdout) Carolyn Allen had this to say:

“I don’t know what they’re smoking,” Allen said Tuesday. “But if it’s marijuana, we ought to be taxing it.”

Senator Allen has said the budget cuts too much from education and reduces taxes to the point that we will be in a bigger budget crisis next year.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Whip It

With all the frustration of the budget and the numerous (maybe countless?) days some of you have spent at the capitol, we need to remember to step back and have a little fun every once in a while. With that in mind-- a video tribute to our new AZ Senate Majority Whip, freshman senator Steve Pierce.


video

Crack that whip
Give the past a slip
Step on a crack
Break your momma's back

[ Ah, the awkward '80s... ]

Budget: Public Opinion



Remember this public opinion poll from June 23, 2009?

Tuesday at the Capitol

Be a presence at the capitol today.

Senate meets at 1:00 pm

Senate Republicans will caucus afterward.

Education rally at 4:00 pm

If you cannot be there, email the following two senators and ask them to support public education.

Senator Jay Tibshraeny jtibshraeny@azleg.gov

phone 602-926-4481


Senator Carolyn Allen callen@azleg.gov

phone 602-926-4480


The governor might need to hear from you as well.


Governor Brewer 602-542-4331


Gould Wants the Whip

The Arizona Guardian has the email senator Gould (R- Lake Havasu City) sent to his fellow Republican senators after senator Gorman resigned her post as Majority Whip.

Dear Senate Republican Members,


Due to Senator Pamela Gorman’s recent resignation of the Republican Majority Whip, I would like to express my interest in running for this vacancy. I believe collectively we can put together a budget that will reflect the shared values of the citizens and tax payers of our great state of Arizona.

Thank you for your consideration as we elect a new Senate Majority Whip.
Ron Gould


Senator Gould is an interesting person. I hear he is a very polite person to speak to, and he is very consistent in his very Libertarian/John Birch leaning (minuscule government) in his political views.

Which is why his comment to a reporter while he was being investigated for violating Clean Elections rules back in 2005 seems so, well, not nice.

"If I were a baby-killing left-winger this would not be happening to me."

I looked far and wide for the source of that quote, but could only come up with a reference. I DO remember it, though.

I don't see his appointment to Majority Whip as a move toward a bipartisan budget.

Senate GOP Infighting Continues

Leadership in the Arizona senate consists of seven positions. The most important is senate president. This office wields considerable power over the entire chamber by assigning bills to committee-- or not assigning them, which effectively kills them.

The political party with a majority of the seats elects the senate president at the start of each two-year term. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes campaigning for this seat of power. This year's senate president is Bob Burns (R-Glendale).

The senate president then hand picks the other three majority leadership positions. At the start of the session, Burns chose Thayer Verschoor (R-Gilbert) as Senate Pro Tempore (sort of a vice president), Chuck Gray (R-Mesa) as Majority Leader (leads debate on the senate floor) and Pamela Gorman (R-Anthem) as Minority Whip (rounds up, coerces, and counts votes for bills).


[ L-R Pamela Gorman, Bob Burs, Chuck Gray... in better times? ]

Soon after the last ditch June 30th budget failed, senate president Burns ousted Verschoor as Pro Tempore, replacing him with freshman (first term) senator Steve Pierce (R-Prescott). Burns also took Pamela Gorman off the all-important Senate Appropriations committee (they appropriate money). Finally, he said he had a frank discussion with Chuck Gray, and that they had come to terms.

Fast forward one month.

Today, Senator Pamela Gorman "resigned" her leadership post as Minority Whip citing a "fractured GOP" and their reliance on a sales tax referendum to close the budget gap.

"I believe our ideological and philosophical differences on important issues like taxes and spending make it necessary for me to resign my position," Gorman, R-Anthem, said in an email addressed to Senate President Bob Burns and sent to all Senate members.


I type "resigned" because often these political maneuverings are actually "firings" but everyone involved looks better if the undesirable one resigns instead. Regardless, Gorman herself calls the majority party "fractured."

Anyone wanting to get a comment from senator (and presumably still Majority Leader) Chuck Gray on this development would have to dial the Princess Cruise Lines as Chuck is enjoying the cooler weather and reggae tunes of the Carribean this week.

Yes, he is on vacation leaving a $3 billion dollar budget behind for everyone else to figure out.

Senator Burns had asked Gray to reschedule the trip or return early from it. Senator Gray declined to change his travel plans.

Maybe Senator Gray will bring Burns (or all of us) a nice souvenoir from his trip.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Two Eye-Opening Articles About School Tax Credits

Soliciting tax credits so that wealthy kids can go to private, religious schools is hard work. Just look at poor Arizona senator Steve Yarbrough (R-Chandler) who is unable to stay awake at his day job.

Steve earns $24,000 as a state legislator and over $100,000 for his work with the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization, a group which has siphoned away over $27 million on tax dollars for "poor" students. I wonder which job he takes more seriously.

The Arizona Republic has two must-read articles for anyone who wants to understand how the back-door voucher scheme known as "tuition tax credits" works here in Arizona.

First, when the average income of the donor is $141,000 and 83% of those receiving scholarships were already enrolled in private schools the program helps the wealthy, not the poor.

[Clint] Bolick said the worst abuse of the tax-credit scholarship donation is something he calls "the swap." Because parents cannot give a tax-credit donation to a scholarship organization in the name of their own child, two parents agree to donate, naming each other's child.


"It's not a charitable purpose to contribute to your own child's education," Bolick said. "I support comprehensive school choice in Arizona, but we don't have it. And it's frustrating to see these programs manipulated to try to achieve goals they are not intended to achieve."


The attorney wasn't sure "the swap" even existed until he attended a meeting to enroll his child in a private kindergarten. The school instructed parents on how to use the tax-credit swap.


"It was just shocking to me how open it was," Bolic said. "I don't think the school thought there was anything wrong with it. They think that's how the system works."


You can also "bank" tuition money ahead of time and have it waiting for your child once they are old enough to attend school.

In 2008, $55.3 million in tax money was diverted to private schools. This source of funding will not be touched in the current budget negotiations. Instead, Steve Yarbrough (who runs a School Tuition Organization) was able to expand the pool of donors via HB2288 this year.

The second article details many of the ethical problems for those associated with the collection agencies, known as School Tuition Organizations. While representative Steve Yarbrough's antics have been well documented over the years, it might be news to you that Congressman Jeff Flake and Corporation Commission Bob Stump have also run into problems shilling for this back-door voucher scheme.

When Jeff Flake was running for the Congress in 2000, he quit his post with the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank. He took a job with the Arizona School Choice Trust, a school-tuition organization. The Arizona School Choice Trust still shares several board members and staff with the Goldwater Institute.


After Flake came on board, Phoenix developer Ira Fulton, who was co-chairing Flake's campaign, gave a tax-exempt donation of $50,000 that helped pay Flake's $72,000 consulting fee. Critics cried foul, accusing Flake of picking up a campaign contribution without exceeding campaign-contribution limits.


Odd that a person so devoted to ending "pork" and "ear marks" at the federal level gives them the thumbs up at the state level.


A Budget for All Arizonans

In a state with the voter make-up shown at the right, why are we seeing a Republican-only budget negotiated?

Should the values and priorities of only 37% of the state be reflected in the next fiscal year?

Is this how we want our government to operate?

Will Arizona Become The FOR SALE State?

As Republican lawmakers try to do everything in their power to avoid raising taxes, they have now turned to the idea of selling off state assets.

Assets YOU own as a citizen and taxpayer in this state.

Assets like Kartchner Caverns.

Yes... Kartchner Caverns, the popular tourist attraction owned by the state which has generated millions of dollars in revenue. It is on a list to be sold.

They are also considering selling the capitol buildings themselves. While jokers will say, "Why not, the politicians have been for sale for years," the idea of an outside entity owning a state seat of government seems overly creepy and just a bit irresponsible.

Other state properties being considered include the state fairgrounds, the Arizona State Hospital, the Florence maximum security prison, and the Phoenix and Tucson schools for the blind and deaf. There are 32 properties in all.

The plan is to sell the properties for immediate cash, then sign long term contracts to buy the properties back. These sale-and-lease-back options will cost the state more money in the long run, something Republicans are normally against. And that is why is it so interesting to hear Republican leaders say things like this:

"What are our choices?" asked McComish, a Phoenix Republican. "We could cut more, or we could raise taxes more. Borrowing over the long term, we think, is better for the people, better for the economy."

Republicans never think it is better to borrow money for the future-- especially to cover the day-to-day costs of running government. They railed against borrowing money when Napolitano suggested it in past budget negotiations. They called it irresponsible and "bad government."

Why do they change their tune now? Why, suddenly, do they say it is "better" to do this? Well, it is probably better for their wealthy friends who will make a pretty penny off the state in this buy-and-lease-back scam.

Not so good for us.

Budget Deadlines

Important Dates

Lawmakes originally had until July 31 to refer ballot measures for a Nov. 3 special election regarding the 1% sales tax increase. Friend of the governor and Secretary of State Ken Bennett granted a reprieve and moved the date to Wednesday, August 3.


County treasurers say they must know if the state equalization tax (formerly known as the education equalization tax) will be permanently repealed by mid-August so they can properly prepare property-tax bills. The tax was not collected for three years, costing the states about $750 million. It is back on the books now, but Republicans have targeted it for extinction.


The partial budget passed June 30th (or July 1st if you actually looked at the clock) expires September 30th. Lawmakers still need to put together a budget for the remaining 9 months of the fiscal year.

Will Tibshraeny Be The 16th Vote?

From the AZ Republic:

"It got crazy down there," said Sen. Jay Tibshraeny, R-Chandler. "Just the waiting and the waiting and the arm twisting."

Tibshraeny got into shouting matches with fellow Republicans Sylvia Allen and Steve Pierce. But Tibshraeny insists he supported the overall budget and would have voted for the tax referral, if there had been a vote.


Is he saying he would have voted yes only on the bill to send the tax referral to the voters? Or is he saying he supports all the budget bills?

Is he the 16th vote the Republicans need to pass their budget?

Senator Jay Tibshraeny - 602.926.4481 or jtibshraeny@azleg.gov

Friday, July 31, 2009

Frustrated Brewer Budget Guru Resigns

Governor Brewer's deputy director of finance Tom Manos announced his resignation on Friday, effective immediately.

He cites a desire to spend more time with his family, an often used rationale for leaving office amid scandal. The only scandal here, though, appears to be the behavior of the state GOP regarding the budget. Manos has a long career in public service at both the county and state levels.

The Republic is reporting that Manos planned on resigning in June, but stayed on in hopes of ending the budget drama.

"I'm personally not willing to spend this much time away from my family," said Manos, 56. "I would have preferred that we get a budget out some time in June. Then that didn't happen. ... So, I'm disappointed."

Eileen Klein will take over for Manos, adding to her responsibilities as the Director of the Governor's Office for Strategic Budgeting and Planning.

Will she see a third failed attempt at a Republican-only budget? Or will she convince GOP leadership to renew negotiations with Democratic leaders to hammer out a bipartisan budget?

Jack the Salesman

Jack Harper (R-Surprise) switched his "no" vote on the budget package to a "yes" vote for various revenue-cutting concessions including a 5% across-the-board reduction in the state's workforce.

In other words, he sold his vote in exchange for an estimated 1,700 people becoming unemployed. This move will likely increase the unemployment and/or welfare rolls, which is ironic given Harper's documented stance on "trough-feeders."

He gave no credible reason for why 5% was necessary.



Partisan Politics

The Arizona Guardian sums up the budget debacle quite nicely:

The meltdown early Friday morning illustrates the problems that leadership is having trying to appease conservative Republicans who want a systemic reduction of government and no new taxes while holding on to moderate GOP members who are wiling to let voters decide the sales tax hike but worry that the cuts are just too deep to adequately pay for education, health care and public safety.

From most reports, the bipartisan group working on the budget was making progress. One has to wonder why that pursuit was suddenly changed. Was it abandoned because they were about to succeed?

Surely, that is too cynical a thought...


From Rep Sinema: Hs adj'd to Tue, Senate back to floor at 130 today but no vote bc Waring is gone. They'll try again Tuesday but they're still 2 votes short.

A Voice from the Inside on the Budget

Representative Steve Farley (D-Tucson) describes his experience over the past couple of weeks working toward a bipartisan budget with the Republicans only to see that progress tossed aside for a new, secretive deal with the governor.

At the very start of those talks, Republican leadership made us promise that there would be no side deals with the Governor, unless all parties agreed to it. We invited her to take part, but she repeatedly refused.


For the last few weeks, we legislators had been making good progress in those talks, coming up with a reasonable compromise. We had reached agreement on about three-quarters of the budget.


A few days ago, it became clear that Republican leadership had intentionally misled us. They went behind our backs and worked out a secret deal with the Governor, leaving us--and most reasonable Arizonans--hung out to dry in the Phoenix heat.


As I write this, the Republicans are moving forward a package of bills to reflect those agreements. In order to win support from the far right, this package does exactly what the Governor has repeatedly said she did not want to do -- decimate K-12 education.


There is more to read. Very informative.

Senate May Meet Today

I've heard an early report that the senate may go into session at 1:00pm today for a final arm-twisting to see if they can get a budget package passed.

Today is crucial in that it is the last day a tax referral could be sent to the citizens for a November vote. There is no telling what deals could be struck to make that happen.

And... if nothing is passed today, how does that change the governor's stance? She has put a lot of political capital into getting a 1% sales tax referral. If she cannot muster the votes, will she cave in to the demands of the extremists in her party?

If the senate does meet, your presence will be necessary as much as ever. Call (602.542.4331), email, or go attend a session so you can come back and tell your colleagues and friends what really passes for state government in Arizona.

Two Thirds of Arizonans Unhappy With Budget

From a just-released Morrison Institute poll:

Two-thirds of Arizonans who participated in the latest Arizona Indicators panel survey are dissatisfied with how the Arizona Legislature is dealing with the state budget and tax issues. And of those respondents who keep close tabs on current news about the Arizona state budget, 80% disapproved of the legislature’s handling of the situation. In the past 12 months, attitudes about job security have shifted significantly, and for some panelists, so have worries about a declining quality of life.


Here is the report, Arizonans on Edge.

AEA Members Crash Legislature's 'All-Nighter'

While you and I slept last night about 50 members of the Arizona Education Association sat through an all-night session of the Arizona Legislature. The legislature adjourned just after 7:00 am this morning, July 31.

There is still no budget.

The House passed a budget--with Repbulicans in favor and Democrats against-- that would immediately pull millions of dollars back from public education and severely reduce future revenues in the state...which would guarantee another "crisis" for the next several years.

The Senate was unable to pass a budget. As the picture below shows, there were more far more AEA members present in the gallery than senators on the floor. In fact, the senate failed a "quorum call" which is used to see if a quorum (50% + 1) is present so they can legally conduct business. It was interesting to watch the few members present look around the room at all of the empty seats for 15 minutes while staffers ran to retrieve any stray senators walking the halls.

[photo Mark Henle/The Arizona Republic]

It is widely believed the Republicans have 14 votes, but cannot muster the final two necessary for passage of the budget. Holding out are Ron Gould (R-Lake Havasu City), Pamela Gorman (R-Anthem), Jay Tibshraeny (R-Chandler), and Carolyn Allen (R-Scottsdale). The first two are uber-conservative the latter two do not want to see such tremendous cuts to education.

Most of the newspapers went to print before the House and Senate adjourned, so the stories will slowly come out this morning. One story I do know is that from dusk to dawn while deals were made and arms were twisted, members of my Association were there watching, providing witness to what was occurring.


[Jack Kurtz/The Arizona Republic]

House Gallery -- Notice the "Heat Wave" stickers. They became a daily sight for legislators during June and July.



[Michael Chow/The Arizona Republic]

AEA Members constantly updated Twitter and Facebook accounts keeping others aware of what was occurring.



[Jack Kurtz/The Arizona Republic]

Members leave the House gallery shortly before midnight. The House passed their half of the revenue slashing budget along party lines, R's in favor and D's against.



[Michael Chow/The Arizona Republic ]

AEA VP Andrew Morrill holds a press conference immediately following the legislature's adjournment. Love the sign.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

AEA President John Wright Discusses The State of Education on Horizon






John Wright:

"The issue is that schools began-- charter or traditional-- based on a budget that was passed in the first week of July. And that budget included funding for inflation and funding for a number of other programs. Districts hired employees and started their school year-- or are preparing to-- based on that information. And that's about to get pulled away at the whim of legislators who really don't understand the impact on children, on students, and on teaching and learning."

Huppenthal: Teachers Embarrass Us

Arizona senator John Huppenthal (R-Ahwatukee) thinks teachers are an embarrassment.

In a recent ABC 15 "investigation" he was asked if an education conference held at one of Arizona's 4-star hotels was an appropriate venue. He was quoted as saying:

“Well, it sends a horrible message," said John Huppenthal, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. "How in the world could they think this was appropriate to go to a four-star resort?"

ABC Channel 15 ran with a dubious, fact-free piece attacking teachers, and John (who LOVES cameras) fell for the bait.

I will spend the whole weekend debunking both the "investigation" and Huppenthal's ill-thought-out comments about it--- and the teachers who attended.

If you are unfamiliar with him, that's senator Huppenthal (right) hard at work during Arizona's special session convened to fix the budget crisis.

No doubt he is dreaming of becoming Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Dream on, John. Dream on.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wrong Name?

Seeing as we still do not have a budget, should I have called the site 31 Days In July?

BTW, we leapt passed 2000 visitors today.

Thanks for reading!

Governor Waves "Bye Bye" to Education Funding

You know those summer performance-pay checks (Prop 301) you used to get? If the governor and legislative leaders get their way, you won't see that check for at least three years. Once they suspend it, though, it will never come back.

That is how they operate.


[video courtesy of the Arizona Guardian]

This is Transparency?

The Arizona Guardian summed it all up in one line.

After weeks of closed-door meetings, GOP legislative leaders are trying to rush through a package of budget bills so fast that adequate public notice and participation will be all but impossible.

This is not how government is supposed to be. They put this budget together out of the public's eye because they know it would not stand up to public scrutiny.

Things must change.

Liquidating the State

This is what happens when you elect the "I-hate-government" crowd to state office.

They are not only talking about selling our state government to the highest bidder, they are selling the Arizona State Hospital and the state schools for the blind and deaf.

YOU own those buildings. Why do THEY get to sell them?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One Legislator' View of the Budget Process and Proposed Budget

Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) wrote the following piece about the recent budget maneuverings. It will shed some light on how quickly we moved from "bipartisan" budget talks to a Republican-only budget which will be proposed tomorrow-- and will cut heavily into public education.


=============
Sinema's Update on the Budget.

The last time I wrote about the budget, House and Senate leadership were sitting down in bipartisan talks to solve the budget crisis. For three weeks, we met to find agreement and forge a solution. The first two weeks of talks were fairly slow, but then last week was, in my opinion, quite productive.

On Monday of last week, we had a deficit of 3.45 billion. By Thursday afternoon, only 500 million of that deficit remained. We'd agreed on everything else. Speaker Adams requested that House and Senate Democrats take time over the weekend to craft a new proposal to reduce that 500 million dollar deficit with increased cuts to education, AHCCCS, DHS, and DES. We agreed to do so, and asked that House and Senate Republicans also use the weekend to craft their own new proposal that decreased their cut levels - so that we'd meet in the middle. Both sides agreed to work and meet again today at 11 am.

Yesterday morning we watched Republican leadership as they walked up to the Governor's office. Later, they told us that no progress had been made with the Governor and that we were "still on" for today's meeting to swap proposals and negotiate this last 500 million dollars, plus work to get agreement on a revenue source. Meanwhile, we'd heard from Republican members that their leaders had proposed a budget to the Governor and were now seeking to get their members support for their budget.

Still, we worked over the weekend and yesterday to create a new proposal, increasing our cut levels in education, health care, and social services. It wasn't easy to propose cuts to things we care deeply about, but we understand that finding agreement with Republicans in the Legislature means that both sides have to compromise. House and Senate Democratic leadership agreed on a proposal yesterday afternoon.

This morning, House and Senate Democratic leadership held a conference with our members to tell them about our proposal and get their approval to move forward. All agreed, even though we knew it'd be hard to see these cuts. We believe that our proposal, while cutting more than we would like to, is responsible given our deficit. It also protects the things we value most - k-12 and higher education, services for the most vulnerable, and protections for children who are abused or disabled.

Early this morning, we received a copy of the Republicans' proposal to the Governor. At our 11 am meeting with the Republican leadership, they admitted that they were working to get votes for this proposal and planned to pass this new proposal through both chambers tomorrow evening. Our bipartisan talks are apparently over - they've decided to go out on their own instead.

Here's what their budget does:

- Reinstates the June 30th budget, including deep cuts to education, health care, public safety, and social services.

- Creates TABOR (tax payer bill of rights) law that prevents the state from paying for growth, that includes enrollment growth in schools and natural growth of health care (because we have a growing population). TABOR would result in massive, mandatory cuts to education, public safety, health care, and social services in the coming years.

- Refers a question to the November 2009 ballot (a special election costing taxpayers over 10 million dollars!) that asks the voters to suspend Prop 105. Basically, this means that if the voters approved the referendum, the Legislature could take money that is currently safeguarded for k-12 schools, health care, and early childhood programs and spend it on other things in the state budget. The voters would then have no way to protect funding for their priorities.

- Reduces taxes for corporations and the wealthy by up to 650 million dollars per year, starting this very year. This will cost the state $1.175 billion over three years. After that, it's 650 million out of the state coffers every year for ever.

- Refers a question to the November ballot that asks the voters to approve a temporary sales tax increase: 1 cent for the first 5 months, then .75 cent for a year, then .5 cent for a year. All total, if the voters approve this, it will generate about $1.25 billion over three years.



Did those last two points seem strange to you? They should have. Let's do the math.

If the voters approve the sales tax on the ballot this November, then we'll get $1.25 billion in the next three years. If not, then there will be no money to help fill the hole created by our failing economy. Regardless of whether or not the voters approve the sales tax, the tax cuts will occur once the Legislature approves them tomorrow, and they will be permanent. That's $1.175 billion out of the state coffers over the next three years. So, assuming the sales tax passes the ballot in November, that means we'll have just $75 million of new money over three years. That's NOTHING in the context of a $10.2 billion budget (Arizona's normal budget cost). So this is a really, really, really bad deal. It doesn't solve our state's problem because it doesn't make more money during these tough times. We won't have money to fund schools. We won't be able to protect abused kids. We won't be able to help the severely disabled. In fact, we'll have to cut those things even more because we'll have basically no new money, plus that TABOR thing that forces us to cut, cut, cut more.

This deal is much worse than the June 30th budget. It's actually the worst thing I've ever seen.

And they're planning the vote for tomorrow night.


If the Republicans pass this budget and the Governor signs it, we'll see massive hits to our state's vital infrastructure. And even if this sales tax passes at the ballot, we'll see massive cuts to education, public safety, health care, and social services.

Some teachers and friends of education are coming to the capitol tomorrow at 12:30. Come if you can. If you can't, please call your legislators and tell them you know how bad this budget is for Arizona. Ask them to stop it.