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.

Help Stop A Bad, Bad, Bad Budget


The Legislative Republican Leadership plans to vote on a budget tomorrow (Wed., July 29). Though we have not seen the actual budget bills, all the K-12 funding cuts and policy changes found below are said to be included.

K-12 funding cuts

No 2% inflation funding ($102 million cut)

· The Republican Leadership wants to repeal the 2% inflation factor for the base funding level for this school year (the 2009-10 school year). This is the money the legislature gave to school districts on a bi-partisan vote during the special session on July 6. This is a loss of $102 million statewide, which is approximately $102 per student.

· In addition, the legislature wants to refer to the voters the ability to reduce voter-approved expenditures for the next three fiscal years. This means that if approved, the 2% inflation factor will not be funded for the near future.

Soft Capital Reduction ($175 million cut)

· The Republican Leadership wants to reduce $175 million in soft capital funding. Soft capital is the money districts receive to provide classroom support—things like textbooks, technology, library resources, instructional aids, etc. The soft capital dollar amount per student has not increased since 1998, and this budget proposal intends to sweep nearly all the remaining funds for soft capital expenditures. This will leave teachers paying nearly all classroom expenditures out of their own pockets.

No Funding for Actual Utility Costs ($80 million cut)

· There will be no funding provided to pay for the new utility formula that was passed in the 2008 legislative session for “excess utilities” (this is an $80 million cut to school districts that previously levied for “excess utilities”).

Reduced funds for Career Ladder

· Districts with the Career Ladder program will have their overall budget reduced (from 5.5% to 5%), with the potential that no new teachers could be allowed to join this school year.

Policy changes targeted against teachers & association members

Release time and association time

· The Republican Leadership wants to prohibit a school district employment contract from including compensated days for professional association activities. This means all release time and professional association time will no longer be able to be compensated in any way by the district. All bargaining and association time will need to occur outside of the normal school day.

No contract dates

· A school district will no longer have to issue contracts by May 15 to teachers with continuing status.

Salary reductions

· The May 15 statutory deadline for notice of salary reduction will be removed and school districts will now set their own salary reduction deadline.

Teachers with continuing status

· A school district will be prohibited from adopting policies that provide employment retention priority for teachers based on “tenure” or seniority.

· A school district will be able to reduce the salary of a teacher with continuing status in any manner. The statutory protection currently says a salary reduction of a teacher with continuing status can only occur under a general salary reduction.

Provisional teachers

· Provisional teachers will no longer have to be notified of nonrenewal by April 15.

· A school district will no longer have to give a preferred right of reappointment to a job for a teacher who has lost his/her job through the reduction-in-force (RIF) process.



AZ Learns Scores Out July 29

Channel 12 ran a piece on the school ratings which will be released July 29th. They interviewed AEA president John Wright who said we needed to transform what we are doing in schools to stay competitive.


Come Block a Bad Budget

Tell everyone you know to head to the Arizona capitol Wednesday July 29 to help stop a bad, bad, bad budget proposal.

Meet on the capitol lawn by 12:30.

Be there.

Tell everyone.

Help save vital education funding from the chopping block.

Texting While Driving?

OK.. this is not budget related, but I found this information startling.

A new study released by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute indicates texting while driving increases your chances of having an accident by a factor of twenty.

If there were a food which increased the chance of a chronic illness by this factor we would outlaw its consumption (unless, of course, it's cigarettes).

The core concern of the report is that taking your eyes off the road is bad. Go figure.

Drivers take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds when composing text messages. That might not seem like a long time, but cars going 55 miles per hour can travel the length of a football field in 4.6 seconds, and presumably hit many a pedestrian, vehicle, or highway divider in the process.

Drive safely. Text responsibly.

"Bipartisan" Budget?

The Arizona Guardian is reporting that budget talks are in the works again at the capitol. The Republican legislative leaders have been meeting in small, secretive groups to rally support behind a new plan to solve the budget: lower income taxes.

Yeah. Lower taxes to increase revenue. Up is down.

They are also talking about TABOR-style government again. Please see this video for what a debacle that would be.

The Democratic members have not been reportedly involved in any meaningful budget negotiations. They are generally brought in to a later meeting and told what the budget proposal will be and ask if they can agree to it.

It is becoming increasingly clear that when Governor Brewer, Senator Burns, and many of the other Republican leaders say "bipartisan" then really mean "Republican."

Balsz Adds 4 Weeks to School Year

Balsz becomes the first Arizona public school to move to 200-day schedule.

Balsz superintendent Jeffrey Smith says the 10% increase in time offset by the 5% increase in funding is a "great bargain."

Kudos to the district for making the change, but will we ever lose the mindset of stretching pennies?

Mesa Teachers: Salary Freeze

As of now, salaries will remain untouched.

Remember, the budget runs out the end of September.

It's A Stingy Heat

A new national poll indicates that Arizonans invest far less of their incomes into education than other states.

It would have been nice for the Tribune to include a link to the report itself. I found it via Google.

Richer Than You Thought

The next time you take a look at your bank balance, don't fret. You are far better off than you may imagine.

According to Justin Olson of the Arizona Tax Research Association, if teachers compare their salaries to other incomes in our state, we have the eighth-highest wages in the nation.


AEA president John Wright may shed some light on Olson's magic math.

"Are we making proportionally more than migrant farmworkers picking lettuce in Yuma? Absolutely," he said.

"Arizona has a disproportionately low income population because of the nature of our economy," Wright continued. "I frankly wouldn't brag about making that comparison."

Gov Brewer Creates New P-20 Council on Education

Governor Brewer signed an executive order creating the P-20 Coordinating Council of Arizona. Its goal-- to devise ways to streamline Arizona’s education system while improving academic achievement.

In other words, spend less money and get better results.

Tucson Educator Calls Out Horne on ELL Policies

Voice from the classroom.

Biased Education Research

A new report indicates that while universities publish 15 times as much research on education as "non-partisan" think tanks (eg Goldwater Institute), the think tanks are in the press half as often.

The problem is that think tank research is rarely peer reviewed before (or after) its findings are released. This allows for some fairly dubious "research" to hit the news cycle.

18 and 50

CNBC ranks the top states for business.

Education Week ranks the top states for education.

Guess which one Arizona is dead last in?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Michael Steele Speaks at NEA HQ

Chairman of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele addressed 150 Republican teachers at NEA's third annual Republican Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C.

“You’re all Republicans?” he joked with the crowd after taking the lectern. “That is absolutely freakin’ awesome.”

John Skarhus, a Spanish teacher from Sierra Vista, attended the event. He described Steele as, "a very gracious, friendly, informative speaker as he addressed us this morning."

John also sits on the Arizona Education Association's board of directors. He and a few others are organizing the AEA Republican Caucus to help organize and reach out to AEA's 8000+ Republican members.

Mp3 High

Do you listen to music?

If so, that might be enough to graduate from one on-line high school.

Laid off to Paid off

The thousands of emails and phone calls in addition to several large pro-education rallies at the capitol looks to have paid off.

Keep up the pressure. The budget is only good until Oct 1.

Brewer Willing to Keep Education Tax in Exchange for Temporary Sales Tax Increase

The Arizona Guardian has the story and the video (below).

The tradeoff is aimed at getting Democratic votes for her "five point" budget package. Governor Brewer stated she is willing to retain the County Education Equalization Tax if enough Democrats will support sending a temporary 1% sales tax proposal to the voters. Republicans have target the Education tax for elimination. At about $80 per $100,000 of home value, it would provide an estimated $250,000,000 in revenue for the cash-strapped state.

Early reactions to the governor's proposal are not good.

The governor’s willingness to keep the county equalization rate in place didn’t sit well with Republican and Democratic legislative leaders.

“Absolutely,” Brewer said of keeping the property tax if it meant Democratic support. “We need to discuss how we’re going to fix the problem and if that’s one of the options.”

If Brewer were to cut a deal with Democrats on the equalization rate, Republican lawmakers warned of a backlash that could ruin her political future.

“What?” said Rep. John Kavanaugh. “Is she planning on running in the Democratic primary next year?”

He went on to say that Brewer’s push for a tax increase has hurt her political reputation, but if she sticks with Republicans “she can still be redeemed.”

On the other side of the political aisle, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the assistant minority leader, wasn’t very enthusiastic about cutting a deal that sends a tax increase to the voters.

“That’s no exchange,” Sinema said.

Testing: Good for Students or Testing Companies?

This 2006 Bloomberg report remains a very good read for anyone who has not taken a close look at the standardized testing world. The same people who we pay to create the standardized tests make twice as much money prepping students to take their tests.

The U.S. is in a testing frenzy. Students in the 92,816 American public schools will take at least 45 million standardized reading and math exams this year [2006]. That number will jump to 56 million in the 2007-2008 school year, when states begin testing science as part of the 2002 federal No Child Left Behind law, the most comprehensive education overhaul in half a century. Beyond No Child, tens of millions of additional tests assess college hopefuls, certify future stockbrokers and even evaluate preschoolers.

And many are highly critical of their effectiveness.

Gerald Bracey on Standardized Tests

This article is very interesting.

"There is only one misperception, really," Bracey said, "and that is that standardized tests are scientific and objective and are adequate instruments to evaluate children, teachers, schools, districts, states and nations."

The companies who create and grade the tests would disagree. I wonder if the multi-billion dollar market created by NCLB has anything to do with their stance?

Where's the Controversy?

Some are fighting to continue a "controversial" program in San Diego schools that reduces elementary class size to 15.

It's controversial because they do not have enough money to do it in all of the elementary schools in the district.

It is also seen as controversial because they must convince Sec of Ed Duncan that reducing class size is innovative so they can use ARRA (federal stimulus) money.

Supt to New Teachers - Find Your Voice

From the AZ Republic:

New teachers urged to lobby

CHANDLER - When the Chandler Unified School District's new teachers reported for orientation last week, they were given an assignment: Become politically engaged.

"I'd like you to find your voice and let it be heard at the state level," Superintendent Camille Casteel told them.

Casteel said it is an understatement to call today the "most turbulent time for public schools" in recent history.

She told the teachers that it is crucial for them to tell their state legislators why it's important to fund public education.

School districts throughout the state have been forced to make cuts as the state faces a budget shortfall. Chandler Unified School District has cut its spending by 3 percent from last year and district officials anticipate losing an additional $4 million in state funding.

Casteel said given the large number of educators in Arizona, teachers could have an incredible degree of influence if they would just get involved.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Goldwatered Down

The Goldwater Institute recently released a "study" which they claim indicates public schools are not doing a good job educating kids about civics. The scores were pretty poor, with only 1 in 10 students passing the "test" which was administered over the phone.

Guess who else doesn't know much about about civics.


The Intercollegiate Studies Institute also released a report. They found that seventy-one percent of Americans fail the test, with an overall average score of 49%.

You can take their test on-line.

Go take the test and see how well you do. Now, decide if that score is solely due to your schooling or did your parents, friends, experiences play in a role in it as well.

Or did you sleep through history class?

I scored a 90%, getting 30 of 33 correct. That is pretty good, because I teach government. Two of the questions I missed were on economics, which thankfully I do not teach.

Kudos to Kyrene, Tempe, Tempe El!

Newly released state Department of Education data show that the majority of students in Kyrene, Tempe Elementary and Tempe Union school districts met or exceeded state averages.

Republican Teachers

...and association members.

Follow them at their new blog:

AEA Republican Caucus

Double Down on Education

Maybe they weren't "clever" accounting tricks after all.

PHOENIX -- Arizona schools are going to get twice as much in stimulus cash as they expected -- at least for the time being -- all because federal officials say someone at the state didn't follow instructions.

The governor's office put $250 million into the budget for K-12 education for the fiscal year just ended, a figure based on the amount of money Arizona anticipated in its first "draw' on federal stimulus funds. Gubernatorial press aide Paul Senseman said the plan was to reimburse the state treasury once the check came from Washington.

Only thing is, that's illegal according to Sandra Abrevaya, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Education. She said any cash received has to go directly to schools.

I am sure they will find a way to correct this. After all, Arizona is home to school tuition tax credits, one of the better tax money laundering schemes ever devised.

If this report is accurate, it deals another blow to Governor Brewer's ability to manage effectively. I do not envy her position, but to be seen as a leader she must be seen as competent. Out-dueling the legislature is a good start, but a $250,000,000 accounting error will not sit well with her base.

NEWS FLASH: NCLB Sets Schools Up to Fail

New Sups in Higley, Paradise Valley, Tolleson

The AZ Republic gives a snapshot of each new superintendent, but the comments go directly to their salaries.


Would this charter school face the same scrutiny if Christianity were central to the allegations instead of Islam?

It Takes One To Know One

Former Governor Fife Symington says Governor Brewer has "damaged herself politically" and should be beaten in any re-election bid.

If anyone would know political damage, it would be Symington.

He's also an expert on UFO's.

Forgotten fact? President Bill Clinton pardoned him.

Note: The first link is to the main page of the Arizona Guardian who has the Symington-Brewer story. The on-line newspaper requires a subscription to view articles. It is not cheap ($10 - $30 per month for individuals), but it is a great source of information if it fits your budget.

Supreme Courts ARE Political

Don't ever let anyone fool you. When a president or a governor fills a court vacancy... and their political party has a majority of votes needed for confirmation... they pick someone from their same political party.

You can cache it as a "liberal" judge or a "conservative" judge, but judges vote just like anyone else. They contribute to campaigns just like anyone else. They belong to political parties just like anyone else.

Governor Jan Brewer will be selecting someone to fill a vacancy left by retiring Arizona Chief Justice Ruth V McGregor. She will select a Republican. This is not good or bad, necessarily. People just need to understand that it is what happens.

The AZ Republic documents this neatly:

...if the appointment records of recent past governors is any indication, Brewer's first choice will be a Republican. That would help the chances of Republicans Pelandar and Timmer. Johnsen is a Democrat.

While Republican Jane Hull included one Democrat - McGregor - among her three Supreme Court appointments, Janet Napolitano picked two fellow Democrats for hers and Republican Fife Symington picked three fellow Republicans.

Tom Horne Pushes Nutrition, Exercise Standards for Students

There's a joke in there, somewhere.

It is a good idea, but where will we find time to fit it in? There isn't a lot of "fat" left in the school day's schedule, so what will we trim away to
make time for this?

Odd that many schools had to cut recess to "help" kids to study for the state-mandated AIMS test, and now the state is creating exercise standards to test kids on.

What if we got rid of some of the testing and brought back recess?

Nah... too simple.

Arne Duncan: A Moral Obligation

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke to the delegates to the NEA Representative Assembly recently. It was part of his "Listening and Learning" tour. It's a curious title. To his credit he did field some pretty tough questions after he spoke, but he did do most of the talking.

[Above: Arne Duncan (center) answering questions from a panel before taking questions from the 5,000 or so in attendance. AEA President John Wright is two seats to the left of Duncan. You can watch the entire speech here. There is a link on the right side of the page which will open.]

Duncan spoke about the need to reform not only No Child Left Behind, but also tenure and the ways in which teachers are evaluated and compensated (read: merit pay). He also dropped in a nugget about who should lead schools:

I told the charter schools they need to police themselves or their progress will be stalled. I told the school boards that if they can't improve student achievement - they have a moral obligation to consider mayoral control.

What is mayoral control? It means weakening the powers of your elected governing board-- or getting rid of them altogether-- and handing over control of schools to the mayor of the town or city.

Imagine your mayor running your city and running your school district at the same time. Some people may think this is already how things are done and might not see the risk of having one person in complete control of a school district.

Could you trust a school governing "board" with only one member?

Noted education writer and Gerald Bracey disagrees with Duncan, calling "mayoral control" a weakening of democracy and nothing more than a fancy name for privatization.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fwd: azcInsider: In an apparent violation of Senate rules, Republicans closed their caucus after Jack Harper and Sylvia Allen started arguing.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Brewer's Broad Brush: Taxes Good, Public Schools.. Not So Much

Governor Brewer told a "packed house" at Gilbert's East Valley Bible Church last Thursday the following:

1) Arizona must pass a 1 cent sales tax increase to balance the budget

2) Arizona needs a voucher system so parents can send kids to any school (private or public)

3) Arizona teachers should be paid more

4) Her rationale for #3 and #4 is that private school and home-schooled kids do better than public school kids.

Her reasoning behind supporting the tax increase is as dubious as her belief that public schools are inferior.

"It sure doesn't help my career," Brewer said. "It's not an easy thing, but it has to be done."

That "selflessness" had its desired effect on at least two voters in the crowd.

"When I came in here, I told my friends, she was not going to get my vote," said Steve Pass, 60. "I truly believe she wants to do what's right for Arizona. She's willing to take on the legislature, and they're her own party."

"She convinced me that this isn't something she's doing to try and extend her career," said Colleen Pardo. "A lot of that information was very fascinating."

Governor Brewer may turn out to be a more shrewd politician than most had expected.

Guns or Schools

Bob Lillie, a retired Illinois educator who now lives in Arizona, has an interesting point.

There is another similarity between Arizona and Illinois. Both of our legislatures are more concerned with guns and gun owners' rights than they are with the rights of our minor children to a good education.

Arizona passed at least four laws which expanded the "rights" of gun owners to 1) wave a loaded gun at someone they feel is threatening them, 2) keep a loaded weapon in their car where they work, 3) allows members of a sheriff's "volunteer posse" to carry concealed weapons without a permit, and 4) allows weapons in restaurants and bars.

While charter schools and private schools made out like bandits in the budget, traditional public schools lost considerable funding.

One proposed law (SB 1270) which did not muster enough votes (although it was sponsored by 22 Republican legislators) would have allowed anyone with a gun to carry it in a concealed manner without a "concealed carry weapons" (CCW) permit.

Even gun rights people are happy it failed.

Is the priority an armed, less-educated society?

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Senator Verschoor knows what they do to "you and me."

And he's talking to YOU, Senate President Burns.

Teaching To Stay Poor?

ABC News 15 has a piece on the recent budget fix featuring Deer Valley teacher Paul Strauss. Paul does a good job speaking to the issues as a Republican educator-- yes, there are many Republicans teaching in public schools.. But most I know are not understanding why the elected "Republicans" are not supporting public education.

In the ABC report Representative Patricia Fleming (D- Sierra Vista) states the following:

“I want to encourage them to stick with their chosen profession,” said Democratic Representative Patricia Fleming, about Arizona's teacher shortage. “We sympathize with you. We know that you're teaching because you love to teach, not because you're going to become wealthy, and in many instances these teachers are taking on second and third jobs just to survive.”

I am certain Rep. Fleming meant it as a compliment. Her voting record shows her as a strong advocate for public schools. Would you feel complimented if the prevailing thought about your chosen profession was that you would always struggle financially?

Teachers graduate from college with a degree and also must successfully complete a teaching internship. In most states (if not all) teachers must also pass a content area test and a pedagogy (teaching skills) test. Lawyers do this. Doctors do, too.

But no one says doctors and lawyers (whose years of education are very similar to a teacher with a master's degree) do their job out of love without expectation of being compensated for their hard work.

No, we save that "compliment" for teachers.

I did not become a teacher to work long hours (for free) at home and through most weekends.

I did not become a teacher to chaperone the prom, time track and field events, or sponsor the "anime club" during my "duty-free" lunch.

I did not become a teacher so I could work a second or third job "just to survive" as Rep. Fleming stated.

And I most certainly did not become a teacher to stay poor. I'd like my kids to have the opportunity to attend college, too.

I became a teacher because I believe it is an important profession-- easily as important as a doctor you might see once per year or a lawyer you might see once in a lifetime. The 180 days I spend with students each year (that is one out of two days) teaching them to read, compute, and reason are far more important.

Far more important.

This phrase, this language no matter how good-intentioned must change. If we talk in terms of teachers "teaching for love" instead of money, then we will always be "complimented" and not compensated.

No one else would stand for that. Why do we?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Walk the Talk?

Democratic leaders say the governor talks a good game:

“I am eager to work with both sides to design a revenue solution that balances the budget wisely, prudently and without delay,” Brewer said.

But fails to back it up with action:

“I have repeatedly asked Gov. Brewer, including both yesterday and late last week, to call a bipartisan meeting with all leadership teams to develop a comprehensive budget solution for a stronger Arizona in terms of public safety, health care and the state’s most vulnerable populations,” said House Democratic Leader David Lujan. “She still has not called all five parties to negotiate.”


Another post from the AZ Capitol Times' blogger Matt Bunk is worth a look.

He gives a little insight into the life of a political reporter.

In this case, two reporters staking out the governor on the last day of the fiscal year.

Legislators MIA at Special Session

Matt Bunk over at the AZ Capitol Times posted a list of the legislators who were absent and therefore unable to vote on the four emergency budget bills which sailed unanimously out of the AZ House and Senate.

One person-- Senator Russell Pearce (R-Mesa)-- was in attendance, but refused to vote on the two education bills. One would assume he was in the restroom or (more likely) did not want his vote registered.

Why would such a fervent advocate of representative government skip a vote?

Here is the list of absences. It should be noted that some of them were excused.


Ron Gould, a Republican from Lake Havasu City

Pamela Gorman, a Republican from Anthem

Richard Miranda, a Democrat from Tolleson

Meg Burton-Cahill, a Democrat from Tempe

Ken Cheavront, a Democrat from Phoenix

Jim Waring, a Republican from Phoenix


Doug Quelland, a Republican from Phoenix

Daniel Patterson, a Democrat from Tucson

Vic Williams, a Republican from Tucson

Ed Ableser, a Democrat from Tempe

Steve Montenegro, a Republican from Litchfield Park

Chris Deschene, a Democrat from Window Rock

Eric Meyer, a Democrat from Paradise Valley

Debbie Lesko, a Republican from Glendale

Phil Lopes, a Democrat from Tucson

Rich Crandall, a Republican from Mesa

Russ Jones, a Republican from Yuma

Olivia Cajero-Bedford, a Democrat from Tucson

Andy Biggs, a Republican from Gilbert

Senate Shakeup

The Arizona Guardian and Arizona Capitol Times are both reporting that Senate President Bob Burns (R-Glendale) has relieved Senator Thayer Verschoor (R-Gilbert) of his duties as Senate President Pro Tempore.

Burns replaced the 4-term veteran and former Senate Majority Leader with freshman senator Steve Pierce (R-Prescott).

Burns has also reportedly removed both Verschoor and Senator Pamela Gorman (R-Anthem) from the powerful Rules Committee. Gorman also serves as the Senate Majority Whip.

update: The EV Tribune has more information

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

New, 3-month AZ K-12 Budget

Education Budget: July 6, 2009
Information compiled by Jennifer Loredo, AEA lobbyist

2% Inflation Factor
• Fully funds the 2% inflation factor based on the January 2009 revised base support level. (This means that $110 million is added to the base for inflation, but the new baseline amount has been reduced by the $119 million cut made to the education budget on January 31, 2009.)

• Here is the amount of the base level per pupil funding as reflected from the past two school years:
o 2007-08 school year (FY08): $3,226.88
o 2008-2009 school year (FY09): $3,291.42
o 2009-2010 school year (FY10): $3,267.72
(this is the actual base level amount per student that a school district will receive for this next school year). (Note, the budget that was passed and vetoed on July 1, 2009, set this level at $3,201.89; therefore this budget increases this funding by $65.83 per student. However, the amount is $23.70 less per student than districts had at the start of school last year.)

Soft Capital
• Reduces, until October 1, 2009, the basic state aid soft capital budget capacity and budget limits for all school districts by $175 million in FY10 (2009-2010 school year).

Career Ladder
• Until October 1, 2009, a school district with Career Ladder funding is not permitted to exceed the amount that was budgeted for FY09 (the 2008-2009 school year).

Utility Funding
• Until October 1, 2009, a school district is not permitted to adjust its revenue control limit (RCL) in FY10 for actual utility costs.

• Caps, until October 1, 2009, school district desegregation budgets at the FY09 level (the 2008-2009 school year).

Early kindergarten
• Prohibits state aid for the second year of kindergarten if a school district or charter school admits a child to kindergarten, after the effective date of this bill, who has not reached the required age and readmits the child to kindergarten the following school year. Allows the school district or charter school to charge tuition for students who repeat.

Monday, July 6, 2009

NEA Bob Chanin Farewell Address

NEA Education Support Professional of the Year

NEA Teacher of the Year on "The Business of America"

NEA's Outreach to Teach: San Diego

Budget Deal Reached, Sort Of

The legislature has reached a bipartisan budget agreement on K-12 education.

Public education will be funded at the level it was in '08-'09 which includes hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts.

The legislature agreed to fund the 2% automatic inflation called for in statute.

The legislature dropped all anti-teacher policy changes included in the budget vetoed by the governor.

But... the budget only funds 1/4 of the year. It expires October 1.

And... Career Ladder is NOT protected, nor are Excess Utilities (electricity, Internet, water, waste) funded at all.

So, it is bipartisan, but it is not a real budget since it only affects three months, instead of all 12.

Also conspicuously absent is any language about a 1% sales tax increase which the governor has said is a necessity of any budget for her to sign.

This puts the governor in a tight spot. Does she go against her word and sign a partial budget with no sales tax increase? Or does she risk over a billion dollars in federal assistance by vetoing it?

OR... does the legislature have "20 and 40".. meaning they can pass this piece of the budget with a veto-proof two-thirds majority in each chamber?