Friday, April 29, 2016

Democrats standing up for your priorities

During a middle-of-the-night House Appropriations Committee meeting on the proposed state budget last night, House Democrats fought to make critical improvements. Democrats know that moving Arizona forward means prioritizing  schools, students and teachers, and vulnerable populations over tax cuts for wealthy special interests and set asides for private prisons.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Veterans Reach To Teach Initiative


Veterans Reach To Teach Initiative 
Employment Recruitment Program Launches May 4

For immediate release:

Through a strategic partnership directed by the Checkered Flag Run Foundation, veterans and their families throughout the Valley will be supported to become Guest Teacher Substitutes in Arizona. “We want to create an opportunity for veterans who served their country to now have the opportunity to serve in the classroom” said Checkered Flag Run founder Alan “AP” Powell, a U.S.  Army Desert Storm Veteran.

In a recent survey conducted by the Arizona School Administers, 52 school districts reported to have almost 1,700 vacancies for the 2016-2017 school year. This number represents a drastic increase from the 1,200 vacancies reported by 85 school districts in August 2015. 

The Veterans Reach To Teach initiative was created to serve as a resource for local school districts affected by the large number of teacher vacancies, while also serving as a bridge for veterans looking to serve their local communities in education.

The VRtT initiative will assist veterans with a bachelor’s degree in securing their substitute teaching certificates and prepare them for substitute teaching during the summer months. Guest Teacher substitutes are currently in high demand.

Teachers On Call Arizona, a local educational services agency, has partnered with Checkered Flag Run Foundation, the Black Chamber of Arizona, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the American Legion Post 65, and Arizona State Representative Reginald Bolding to connect, engage and prepare veterans for substitute teaching assignments beginning in August 2016.

State Representative Reginald Bolding noted “when a teacher is absent, without a substitute available - classes are frequently combined or other teachers lose their preparation period. This can impact multiple classroom learning environments. Quality substitute teachers can have a direct impact on under-served student populations.”

Teachers On Call Arizona will provide veterans with a wide variety of Professional Development courses, including specially developed coursework, and will work closely with new veteran Guest Teachers to ensure they are well prepared for success in the classroom.  “Children respond well to interesting people in their lives, and we are confident that well-prepared veteran guest teachers will resonate with children. New veteran Guest Teachers will play an important role in meeting the needs of teachers throughout the Valley in the coming school year and beyond,” explained an excited Dan Nienhauser, Executive Director Teachers On Call Arizona.

Veterans Reach To Teach launch event will take place at 10am on Wednesday, May 4th, at the American Legion Post 65 in Phoenix (NE corner of 16th Street and Broadway Rd). Speakers include Arizona State Representative Reginald Bolding, Dan Nienhauser, Dr. Robert Pipkin (veteran and former principal/substitute teacher), and Kerwin Brown (President/CEO, Black Chamber of Arizona). Veterans will be able to meet with school district leaders, learn more about the substitute process, and even apply for an IVP Fingerprint card on site. Several Valley school districts have already expressed an early interest in joining the initiative including Creighton School District, Laveen Elementary School District, Phoenix Union High School District, Tempe Elementary School District, and Tolleson Union High School District.

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About Checkered Flag Run Foundation (“CFRF”): CRFR’s mission is to provide diverse educational programs that impact under-served students. Our belief is access to quality educational opportunities ensures the investment of every student getting to cross the “finish line”.

About Teachers On Call Arizona (“TOCA”): TOCA is a local, Arizona-based educational agency that is committed to the highest quality Guest Teachers and superior direct/temp-to-perm educational services.

About the Black Chamber of Arizona(“BCOA”):  The mission of the Black Chamber of Arizona (BCA) is to improve the economic development of our business entrepreneurs and the communities we serve.

About Arizona State Representative Reginald Bolding: Rep. Bolding represents Legislative District 27 which covers Downtown Phoenix, South Phoenix, Laveen, Guadalupe and parts of Gila River Indian Community. He serves on both the House Education Committee and the Ways and Means Committee. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Democrats call for restoration of KidsCare

Rep. Celeste Plumlee, D-Tempe (District 26)

Rep. Ken Clark, D-Phoenix (District 24)

Rep. Richard Andrade, D-Phoenix (District 29)

Arizona Needs KidsCare

There is no question that KidsCare would help children in Arizona, or that many need help: Arizona has the third highest rate of uninsured children in the United States. And that is not a coincidence, because Arizona is also the only State without an active children’s health insurance program. Legislative Democrats have been pushing to revive KidsCare for years. In fact, restarting enrollment in the insurance program for low-income children was one of our key budget priorities this session. And the Grand Canyon Institute, a bipartisan think tank in Arizona, recently concluded that doing so would be wise.

KidsCare offers health insurance to children in families who earn too much money to qualify for Arizona’s Medicaid program, AHCCCS, but not enough money that they can afford private health insurance through the federal Affordable Care Act marketplace. According to AHCCCS, reinstating KidsCare would extend health insurance coverage to more than 30,000 children. And it would not cost the state a dime until at least 2018, and probably until at least 2020.

Getting children health insurance, for free, should be the least controversial action the legislature takes this session. But the benefits of KidsCare are not limited to children’s health. In addition to costing nothing, restoring KidsCare would also add around $75 million to Arizona’s economy next year alone. The Grand Canyon Institute also found that the long-term benefits of KidsCare include increasing high school and college graduation rates. Both of those translate into economic benefits for Arizona.

A budget is a statement of values. But despite the many benefits of KidsCare, a few Republican leaders are still not convinced it is a program they should value. Senate President Andy Biggs recently told the press why he doesn’t: “When people say it’s free, it really isn’t free, is it? Because it’s a taxpayer-funded program.” But the Arizona Republic recently reported that, like many state legislators, President Biggs uses state health insurance. Which is taxpayer funded. Is he saying that taxpayer funded insurance is appropriate for himself but not for Arizona’s most vulnerable children?

We will soon find out what legislative Republicans value. Will they place children above special interest tax cuts? Legislative Democrats certainly do. We have been fighting for KidsCare for years, and we will continue to do so.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Democrats push for step two in education funding

Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 28)

Rep. Randall Friese, D-Tucson (District 9) 

Rep. Ken Clark, D-Phoenix (District 24)

Rep. Lela Aston, D-Phoenix (District 24)

Rep. Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma (District 4)

Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Phoenix (District 27)

Rep. Lisa Otondo, D-Yuma (District 4)

A real second step is a real investment in our schools

Arizona Democrats will continue to be the champions of public education, teachers and students. Since the start of the year, the governor and Republican leaders have promised that Prop. 123 (the proposed settlement in the public school inflation funding lawsuit that began in 2010) would be the first step in restoring deep budget cuts to education. The state’s budget is pending, and we must hold them accountable.

Over the past few years, Republicans have held budget votes late at night. We’re prepared for that—we’re ready to stay late and fight for the second step in funding our schools. Arizona’s budget is a statement of priorities, and House Democrats want to make it clear that education remains at the top of our list.

It looks like Arizona will have about $200 million more in sustainable funding in next year’s budget, according to estimates from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. House Democrats are proposing that we invest more than 80 percent of that money in education – both K-12 and universities. This is the best way to ensure a strong economic future for our state.

We think the next step should be restoring money cut from K-12 public schools so that we can increase teacher salaries and keep them from leaving the state, reduce class sizes and get supplies into classrooms. We also want to get money to universities so that they can reverse the latest round of tuition increases recently proposed.

It’s time for Republicans to make good on their commitments and to prioritize our schools and our students over special interest tax cuts and corporate welfare. This is especially true now that we are hearing that attempts to stimulate the economy with these kinds of tax cuts during the recession will cost the state about $350 million.

It’s time to do this the right way – by putting money into our schools and attracting business here by making Arizona an even better place to live and learn.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Rep. Clark Proposes Five Policy Changes to the Arizona Elections Process

Five Policy Changes that the Arizona Legislature
Can Take Before End of Session to Reform our Elections Process

At a press conference, Rep. Ken Clark, D-Phoenix (District 24), introduced a plan for reforming the elections process in Arizona. The recent Presidential Preference Election saw a 70 percent decrease in the number of polling centers compared to the previous election, which forced thousands of voters in Maricopa County to wait hours in long lines before casting their ballots. The difficulties those voters experienced demonstrate that common-sense but significant changes to the elections process are necessary. To ensure that all Arizona voters have the opportunity to participate in their state’s future elections, Rep. Clark proposed the following five policy changes:

1.) Amend state statute so that, like other counties, Maricopa County must have one polling place for no more than ever 2,000 voters.

Currently, Arizona law allows a county with over 200,000 active registered voters to have no more than one-half of the number of precincts as of January 1st of a presidential election years. A.R.S. § 16-248(C). Counties with a lower number of active registered voters are required to have no more than one polling place for every 2,000 active registered voters. Larger counties should have to meet the same standards for polling places as are smaller counties so that every voter, regardless of county residence, should have the same ability to access the polls as any other voter in the state.

2.) Allow registered Independent voters to vote in the Presidential Preference Election in future years. 

State law limits voter participation in the Presidential Preference Election to voters who have a political party preference indicated on their voter registration record, which excludes independents and voters who chose not to designate a political party preference. We can reverse that policy very easily and open the Presidential Preference Election to all registered voters in Arizona.

3.) The legislature should fully fund a sufficient number of polling locations to meet the demand, as well as providing funding for elections officials to educate the public about important voting regulations, such as the deadlines to register to vote, polling places locations, and information about ID requirements for in-person voting, including in our high schools so that young people will be informed and excited about participating in our democracy. 

The Arizona Legislature knew that it did not provide sufficient funding for this year’s Presidential Preference Election, but legislation to fix that funding shortfall stalled in the Senate and that left counties scrambling the cover the costs.

4.) Create a five-member panel of retired judges to review state election law changes and elections administration plans against the Voting Rights Act and advise and recommend action in cases where changes might violate the Act and infringe on voters’ rights. 

This panel could be appointed by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, to include at least one registered independent. Like many boards and commissions, this panel would have limited staff and a limited scope of authority. It would not have enforcement or law-making capabilities, but it could investigate, report and recommend.

5.) Allow automatic voter registration when residents obtain or update their drivers’ licenses at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Legislation to implement this change was introduced during this legislative session, but it never received a hearing. Oregon and California have already implemented automatic voter registration, and a dozen other states have introduced similar legislation. Oregon is already seeing an increase in the number of registered voters.
See Rep. Clark’s comments at the press conference: