Monday, August 03, 2015

Some good news, some bad news…and some more bad news

Some good news, some bad news…and some more bad news

Arizona continues to collect recognition for being at the bottom of the education barrel. A recent U.S. Department of Education report announced that in 2013 Arizona tied with Alaska for the dubious distinction of having the lowest college completion rate in the country. Only 29 percent of students completed a four-year degree within six years.  The report stated the national average is 55 percent.

The report also said Arizona students face the highest student loan default rate in the nation. Arizona is at 18 percent compared to the national average of 11 percent. 

While this information is disheartening, digging into the data a little more does provide some positive information.  The overall college completion rate includes students from public, private and for-profit universities. The report lists each separately, and the good news is that Arizona’s public universities have a 57 percent graduation rate – two points higher than the national average. An Arizona Board of Regents spokesperson recently told a reporter that the current completion rate is nearly 60 percent for 2014-2015.

This encouraging news is tempered by reports that all three of Arizona’s public universities are considering layoffs and the University of Arizona is already laying people off after Republicans passed a budget that slashed $99 million from all public universities. Prior to these most recent budget cuts, Arizona universities were already shouldering some of the deepest budget cuts in the nation, while students faced some of the highest tuition hikes.  

Let’s #AskDuceyWhy he expects our public university students, who are currently completing college at rates above the national average, to continue this positive trend amidst university layoffs and tuition hikes.  #AskDuceyWhy he and other Republican leaders are trying to balance the state budget on the backs of students. And let’s #AskDuceyWhy the Republicans won’t invest in higher education now.

Monday, July 27, 2015

#AskDuceyWhy teachers are 'fleeing' Arizona

We need to #AskDuceyWhy he and other Republican leaders aren’t doing more to keep teachers from leaving Arizona. Headlines proclaim teachers are “fleeing” the state “in droves.” This could lead to a shortage of experienced teachers.

Some of the reasons teachers are leaving are included in a report the Arizona Department of Education recently released. It states, “Without immediate attention to ensure that all Arizona classrooms are guided by effective teachers, who are properly prepared, compensated and respected, our students will not meet their full potential.”

The report further highlights the potential economic impact if this trend continues, stating, “Arizona will not be able to ensure economic prosperity for its citizens and create the workforce of tomorrow.”

In an interview with KJZZ, a Mesa Public School teacher and the Arizona Education Association vice president recently said that he has heard teachers say that they can’t afford to teach here and “districts in other states are recruiting because they know the crisis that we are having.”

It appears that teacher pay is part of our crisis.  

The Phoenix Business Journal reported last month that Arizona spends the least amount of money on teacher pay in the country, and Arizona is also at or near the bottom of national lists for classroom instruction spending, per pupil spending and school administration spending.

The ongoing cuts to education funding have already taken a toll that goes beyond teachers leaving the state. If the Republicans continue to neglect funding for education, what might Arizonans expect to see?

  • Lower test scores – “The more money invested, the higher the test scores,” said ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy Senior Policy Analyst Dan Huntington.
  • Increase in classroom sizes - a former Phoenix Elementary School District governing board member said in a recent interview that the state budget cuts meant schools had to increase their classroom sizes and freeze teacher compensation. 
  • Student safety impacted – some schools could have to scale back facilities maintenance, security guards and shared nurses.

With so much at stake, why aren’t Republican leaders investing more in education now? We can’t afford to wait. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Larkin: ‘Paid sick leave is a key component of a livable wage’

Larkin: ‘Paid sick leave is a key component of a livable wage’

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Jonathan Larkin, D-Glendale (District 30), released this statement regarding the recent ruling in Piccioli v City of Phoenix in the Superior Court in Maricopa County.

“I believe paid sick leave is a key component of a livable wage, and any unused sick time should be available to city employees for their pension calculations. The city employees should have been able to use sick leave in calculating their pensions since 2012, when it was frozen, and a judge recently agreed. I think he made the correct decision, and I hope it sends a message throughout the state to employers in both the government and private sectors. I have been an advocate for workers’ rights, including paid sick leave and retirement benefits, since before I came to the Capitol. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of Arizonans, regardless of political party, support paid sick leave and an employee’s rights to utilize unused leave time when they retire. They know it should be on everyone’s agenda.”


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Will AZ Attorney General Support Efforts to Protect Service Members from Predatory Lending?

Today, the president announced expanded protections against predatory lending for members of the military. Rep. McCune Davis called on Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich to support a bill earlier this year that would have allowed for better enforcement of similar protections for military families.  

The Federal Military Lending Act protects military families by setting a cap on lending at 36%, with any transaction above that amount considered predatory. The Federal Act anticipates local enforcement of the act. Arizona has never put the enforcement language in the law and that needed to change quickly with HB 2258, auto title loans; military members.  

The bill was held in committee during the legislative session and never received a full vote. Rep. McCune Davis is still waiting for the attorney general to reply to this request and he has not given her any indication that he will support similar legislation in the future.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Arizonans Demanding For-Profit Prison Accountability

On Monday morning a group of community leaders, advocates and legislators met at the Capitol for a press conference and rally demanding more accountability and an independent investigation of the for-profit, private prison system.

People from across the state joined a growing chorus calling for the governor and the Department of Corrections to cancel the bidding process for the new private prison beds that Republicans in the state have committed to build.

This news came after Democrats in both the Arizona House and the Arizona Senate called for a delay in this process, but community leaders and advocates remain skeptical that 60 days is enough time to complete a thorough investigation. Additionally, the governor is allowing the DOC to investigate itself.  This is unacceptable; especially since the riot, which left 16 people injured, occurred in the same facility that allowed three inmates to escape who then went on to kill two people.

People are publicly expressing doubts about the DOC’s ability to investigate itself - and for good reason. For years, House Democrats have urged for more accountability for all prisons including private facilities. Republicans instead have pushed for more facilities while reducing oversight by repealing a state law that required a comparison of state and private prisons every two years to ensure that private prisons were providing the same quality of services as state prisons at a lower cost. 

The for-profit, private prison system clearly has problems. And Arizonans are demanding accountability. People across the state continue to #AskDuceyWhy these profit-driven facilities are still getting state support from Republicans despite ongoing concerns about safety and responsible use of taxpayer money.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

House Democrats call for independent investigation of private prison riot

Today House Democrats sent a letter to the governor calling for an independent investigation of the recent riot in the for-profit prison complex outside of Kingman, a full review of the private prison system, and to extend the delay on the new private prison RFP until the investigations are complete. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Legislative Advocacy Trainings: Learn How to Make Your Voice Heard