Friday, October 30, 2015

Larkin: ‘This plan alone absolutely will not provide enough resources for schools’

Larkin: ‘This plan alone absolutely will not provide enough resources for schools’

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX Rep. Jonathan Larkin, D-Glendale (District 30), released this statement on the vote on the K-12 inflation funding lawsuit:

“Weighing the merits of this proposal was challenging, because I know how badly the schools in my district need funding. The fact remains that there are other ways to get money to schools that would not have jeopardized future education resources. The House Republicans wouldn’t allow those options to be considered. Instead, we voted on a controversial compromise. I supported the bill that will provide more funding for our schools and opposed the bills that limit education spending in economic downturns, cap future spending and raid the state land trust fund. I voted against the bills that would jeopardize the sustainability of our state’s economy.

“The conversation about education funding must continue within our community. This plan alone absolutely will not provide enough resources for schools if we expect them to make sure Arizona kids are ready for college and careers.”


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Meyer: ‘Arizona kids deserve better than the Ducey deal’

Meyer: ‘Arizona kids deserve better 
than the Ducey deal’

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democratic Leader Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 28), released this statement on the recent vote on the K-12 inflation funding settlement plan:

“Arizona kids deserve better than the Ducey deal. The legislative proposal to settle the education-funding lawsuit included three bills. House Democrats voted yes on the bill that will increase money for schools. We also stood in strong opposition to the bills that require a costly special election, have economic triggers that will limit education spending during economic downturns, will cap future education spending, and will raid the state land trust fund.

“The money to settle the lawsuit and fund our schools is available in state coffers. We tried to improve parts of the plan so we could get money into schools now instead of next year. Unfortunately, the Republicans blocked these efforts. This settlement cannot be the last word on education spending.  Our schools need more than what this plan provides if we expect them to be able to prepare kids for 21st-century jobs and a global economy.”


Trying to get kids a better deal

Trying to get kids a better deal

House Democrats tried to get Arizona kids a better deal in the K-12 inflation funding settlement.

The agreement was controversial as it puts around $3.5 billion over 10 years into schools but has some serious pitfalls. Along with the money, the plan has constitutional caps on education funding that could keep Arizona buried in the bottom tiers of per-pupil funding in the nation.  The legislation also includes economic triggers that will limit spending on schools during economic downturns and will raid the state land trust. Each of these caveats seriously jeopardizes the resources available to students in the future.

Democrats attempted to amend the plan and protect future education resources.  But these efforts were met with party-line opposition.

The settlement deal was divided into three different pieces of legislation. House Democrats voted to support the bill that would provide money for schools, while rejecting the bills that would have instituted the caps, the economic triggers, a raid on the state land trust and a costly special election.

Although there were differing opinions throughout the process, the one thing all the Democratic members agreed on is that this deal cannot be the last word on education funding.

The recent agreement does not solve all the issues facing Arizona schools.  The legislative session will begin in a few months, and we must commit to doing more for Arizona teachers, students and parents.  Long-term, sustainable funding  for our schools must remain a top priority because Arizona #KidsDeserveBetter. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

This isn’t over

This isn’t over

At the Capitol, right now, legislators are considering a controversial education funding proposal that could affect school spending for generations.

The governor called for a special session to debate the proposed K-12 education funding lawsuit settlement. The details of the deal are complex. The plaintiffs have agreed to receive just over 70 percent of the court-ordered payment for inflation funding. This is not enough money to substantially affect our bottom-of-the-barrel national ranking on per pupil funding. And schools would have to wait until next summer to get the money when there are other options that would provide immediate funding.

While this may be the best deal the organizations involved in the lawsuit could get, it is not enough to fix the funding crisis in our schools. If the deal gets legislative approval, Arizona schools would have to make do with just over 70 percent of what the court says they are owed.  And 70 percent is a C average. Our kids deserve better than that.

This settlement absolutely cannot be the final word on the matter. There is money in the general fund that could go to schools now and could be used to protect resources for future generations. Schools have weathered years of budget cuts which stripped away billions of dollars. We have an obligation and a responsibility to find a long-term funding plan for education. Getting schools the resources needed to prepare Arizona kids for 21st-century jobs and a global economy must remain an ongoing priority.

Monday, October 26, 2015

House Democrats Hold Open Caucus on K-12 Education Funding Lawsuit Settlement

House Democrats Hold Open Caucus on K-12 Education Funding Lawsuit Settlement
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX House Democrats will hold an open caucus meeting to discuss the K-12 inflation funding lawsuit settlement. The public and press are encouraged to attend. This meeting will also be streamed online and available at this link.

Who:               House Democratic Caucus
When:             Tuesday, October 27, 2015
                        2 p.m.

Where:            Arizona House of Representatives
            Hearing Room 1
                        1700 W. Washington St.
                        Phoenix, AZ 85007


Time to Shine A Light on Dark Money in Arizona

Time to Shine A Light on Dark Money in Arizona

Arizonans get another opportunity to stop dark money and provide for fair and transparent elections in our state.

They can demand accountability at the upcoming Citizens Clean Elections Commission on Thursday, October 29, 2015. The Commission will be voting on new rules that will shine light on dark money groups in Arizona.

The Secretary of State’s office, however, opposes the Commission’s efforts to clarify murky laws and provide guidance to organizations and candidates who participate in our elections.

In the most recent legislative session, the Republicans revised Arizona election law regarding who must register as a political committee and disclose where they get their money and how they spend it in elections. That new law allows an organization whose “primary purpose” is not influencing an election to hide its spending from the public. But how do you know what an organization’s “primary purpose” is? The new law doesn’t answer that question. And that’s just the way the Secretary of State’s office wants it.

That’s where the Clean Elections Commission has stepped in and courageously chosen to take action against shady groups that want to influence your vote, not tell you where they get their money or what their agenda is. The Commission is set to adopt a rule that defines “primary purpose” and will require disclosure by organizations who meet that definition. This will allow voters to know who’s playing in their elections.

The Commission needs to hear from you and know that you support its efforts for fair and transparent elections.

To get involved, attend the meeting and make sure your voice is heard:

When:                 Oct. 29, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.
Where:                1616 W. Adams, Suite 110
                            Phoenix, Arizona 85007

Monday, October 19, 2015

No More Waiting

No More Waiting

The headline tells the whole story.

There should be no more waiting – it’s time for the governor to call a special session and #FundEducationNow.

The article shared an experience one parent had attempting to contact her Republican lawmakers to express her concerns about some of the school funding choices – and she never heard back.

Legislative Democrats are listening and we are angry too.  That’s exactly why we’ve proposed a nearly $4 billion education funding plan that will help get money into schools immediately, while protecting future school funding sources. All of this can be accomplished without raising taxes and without taking money away from other priorities like DCS and university funding. To learn more about the Democratic Education funding plan, click here.

The governor’s plan forces voters to go to the polls and reassure the governor that education funding is a priority – again. This is a stall tactic. The voters have already spoken; they want money in schools now. This dicey plan also jeopardizes future education funding by dipping into the principal of the trust fund set up to support public schools.

House Democrats are ready. We are ready for the governor to call a special session so we can get money into schools now. If you’re ready to make your voice heard, contact your legislators and the governor now and tell them to quit stalling. To find out how to do that, click here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

DCS situation remains critical and funding "not well spent"

More upsetting news continues to come out of the Department of Child Safety. Most recently, The Arizona Republic reported that DCS Director Greg McKay admitted that department “money was not well spent.”
Not long after announcing that his agency failed to spend money on the programs it was intended for and that he could not account for all of the agency’s spending, DCS submitted a funding request for the 2017 fiscal year, including a request for an additional $65 million for this fiscal year.

At the last meeting of the Arizona Legislature’s Child Safety Oversight Committee , Director McKay provided shocking testimony.   He said candidly that many employees are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of their caseloads. He shared that an employee confided that many of the staff have boxes under their desks of “abandoned cases that came from the last people that quit,” and that there is pervasive concern that a child in one of the cases in those boxes could die.

He made these comments after a Chapin Hall presentation outlined the findings of an audit of the Arizona child welfare system. The audit showed that the state faces challenges in safety as the number of reports and investigations is much higher now than it was five years ago. It also indicated that family preservation and support, as well as permanency, are problems because the number of children in foster care and the length of time they spend in foster care have both increased in the past five years.
During the hearing, Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 30), asked if the governor or the governor’s staff have requested a briefing on the report– the answer was not reassuring.

Clearly, it is more important than ever that leaders at DCS take steps to protect Arizona’s children. It is also clear that Director McKay and Gov. Ducey are not showing the leadership to make that happen. The agency previously received nearly $30 million to reduce the backlog of cases to 1,000 by June 2015, but instead, the number of uninvestigated cases has grown by more than 1,000 in the last year and is now at least 14,707.  Rep. McCune Davis later said that the Legislature “gave (DCS) extraordinary resources to address the backlog a year ago…and these numbers are still rising.”

The situation with DCS remains critical, although DCS did recently release a new plan with five strategic goals. Child safety advocates recommend a three-tiered approach to translate that plan into action that includes increasing in-home services, developing clear and consistent decision-making protocols for DCS and increasing DCS capacity to match the workload.

The bottom line is that Arizona’s children do not seem to be safer now than they were a year ago. We must #AskDuceyWhy he hasn’t shown the right kind of leadership in protecting some of Arizona’s most vulnerable children and why #Oneyearlater the DCS backlog is higher than before.

To review the entire Child Safety Oversight Committee hearing, click here.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Democratic Education Funding Plan Prioritizes Arizona's Students

Democratic Education Funding Plan Prioritizes Arizona's Students

We all know our schools have been drastically underfunded for the last few years. Our children are studying with outdated textbooks, computers that aren’t up-to-date and in buildings that desperately need repair. Even worse, we are losing good teachers to other states that invest more in public education than Arizona does, which is the lowest in the nation.

To help put our state back on track and to solve this crisis, Democrats in the legislature have released an education funding plan that will provide public schools with nearly $4 billion over the next 10 years, all without raiding funding from future generations and without increasing taxes. Unlike Gov. Ducey’s plan, the Democratic proposal protects the long-term health of the state land trust fund, which is vital to our schools’ long term funding. And finally, the Democratic plan puts dollars in the classroom now.

The Democratic plan provides sustainable funding, unlike other proposals that would create a shortfall in funding for future generations. This plan:
·                     Supports the belief that education is a long-term investment and the foundation for Arizona’s future economic success
·                     Provides nearly $4 billion for public education during the first 10 years and protects funding levels after that
·                     Does not rob future generations by harming the principal of the state land trust fund
·                     Does not raise taxes and can be implemented immediately

Arizona has the resources to fund public education. Our plan shows that. It has always been a matter of making our students a priority. The Republican leaders in the state so far have only offered ideas that jeopardize the future of education funding. We can’t afford to waste time on gimmicks, Arizona needs a sustainable education funding plan now.