Thursday, May 28, 2015

McCune Davis: ‘It’s been a year, are Arizona kids safer?’

McCune Davis: ‘It’s been a year, are Arizona kids safer?’
Legislator calls for faster access to critical reports on child safety

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – During the meeting of the Arizona Legislature’s Child Safety Oversight Committee, Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 30), renewed her call to agency officials and the governor to provide more timely access to information critical for the assessment of the Department of Child Safety’s ability to protect children.

“We are coming up on the one-year anniversary of the creation of the Department of Child Safety,” McCune Davis said. “And we are still hearing truly upsetting reports. For us to best identify and correct any lingering issues that may be jeopardizing the safety of Arizona children, we need an accurate accounting of the situation the department is facing.”

McCune Davis acknowledged the importance of the assessment tool, known as a dashboard, which the committee is developing to measure the progress of the agency based on semi-annual reports. She added that critical information is also needed on a monthly basis.

She and House Democratic Leader Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 28), recently sent two requests to the governor and to the Department of Child Safety director requesting monthly reports to help legislators and the public gain a complete understanding of urgent and critical situations affecting thousands of children. The legislators requested 25 items be reported monthly.  During the hearing, McCune Davis asked the department to prioritize reporting the following 10 items from that initial list:

  • Number of abuse and neglect reports
  • Caseload average per full-time employee
  • Number of children entering foster care
  • Number of children leaving foster care
  • Total number of children in foster care (including unlicensed kinship placements)
  • Total number of families receiving in-home services
  • Percentage of the children entering foster care who are placed in congregate care
  • Total non-active cases
  • Net change in the number of foster homes
  • Number of children sleeping at emergency sites and offices           
“Monthly reporting is a way for us to measure the department’s progress. It is vital for the public and for legislators to know that the department has the resources necessary to protect children,” McCune Davis said. “It’s been a year, are Arizona kids safer?”


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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

This was a choice

This was a choice

The Republican leaders in Arizona continue to blame their decision to gut support for the state’s neediest families on an impending budget deficit. The truth is they could have made other choices in the budget instead of swiping money from single mothers and their children.

The Republicans decided to cap the time that families can receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) support at 12 months during the middle-of-the-night budget debate. Most states offer support for up to five years.  


This will force the Department of Economic Security to drop more than 2,700 children from Arizona’s federally funded assistance program. This move is expected to keep between $4 million and $9 million in state coffers, which is nothing compared to the more than $100 million in special interest tax cuts scheduled to take effect in fiscal year 2016 – including the continued drop in the corporate income tax rate.

TANF provides cash assistance for the most poverty-stricken families. The average benefit people, including children, receive is less than $92 per month. The money is often used to put food on the table. The Republicans have sent a clear message about their priorities.

Based on their other budget decisions, it seems they would rather support tax cuts for insurance companies and big corporations than help our state’s poorest single mothers and children make ends meet. This attack on the poor was not necessary. This was a choice.

To find ways to get involved, have your voice heard and tell your representatives what your priorities are, click here and be heard.

Friday, May 22, 2015

House Dems Make Second Request for Current DCS Info

House Dems Make Second Request for Current DCS Info 

In light of reports of ongoing issues facing the Department of Child Safety, House Democratic Leader Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 28), and Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 30), have called on the governor's office to provide up-to-date and accurate information regarding the department. 

Today, they sent a second request, after a delayed response from the governor's office did not yield current information. Below is a copy of the letter delivered this afternoon. 



This letter follows a request Meyer and McCune Davis sent in April. Below is a copy of the original letter.



Rep. Eric Meyer receives The Delta Kappa Gamma Society Friends of Education Award


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bolding encourages Arizona police departments to utilize new online body-worn camera toolkit

Bolding encourages Arizona police departments to utilize new online body-worn camera toolkit

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Phoenix (District 27), is urging police departments across the state to use a new online body-worn camera toolkit recently published by Arizona State University professors.
 
“This toolkit offers an important opportunity for police departments in Arizona and across the nation,” Bolding said. “The professors who developed it understand this issue well.”

One of the authors of the toolkit was also the primary researcher in a study of the use of body-worn cameras that spanned 15 months. The study’s findings showed that cameras:

  • Increased productivity significantly
  • Decreased the number of complaints against officers wearing the cameras
  • Increased officer accountability
  • Increased the effectiveness of criminal prosecution

Bolding is a vocal advocate for the use of body-worn cameras.

“I’ve had many conversations with people in my district who are concerned about the number of police-involved shootings,” Bolding said. “And I have talked to law enforcement officers who want the public to be more engaged in protecting their communities. The use of body-worn cameras helps foster a more trusting relationship between law enforcement officers and the community.”

Earlier this year, Bolding introduced a bill, HB 2511, that would have required local and state law enforcement officers to wear body cameras while on duty, to ensure both their own safety and the safety of the communities they protect. It would have also established a study committee for law enforcement officer use of body-worn cameras.  While Bolding’s bill did not pass, the Legislature did approve a Senate bill that created a study committee similar to the one Bolding proposed. Bolding said he expects the committee will recommend the use of the new toolkit.

“The practice of wearing body cameras speaks directly to the safety and accountability needs of both community members and law enforcement officers,” Bolding said. He added that he intends to offer a bill to require the use of body-worn cameras again next year. 


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Monday, May 18, 2015

Republicans put AZ in first place for funding education last

Republicans put AZ in first place for funding education last

Arizona has the dubious distinction of being first in the nation for college budget cuts and tuition hikes. So once again, the state is garnering national attention for the wrong reasons. The headlines could have been different. For years, Republican leaders chose to cut education – showing that they have no real plan to invest in the future of our children or our state. 

A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that when states divest from universities they make college less accessible for students and jeopardize economic stability.  The report identifies Arizona as the worst offender.  

From the report:

“These (budget) cuts led to steep tuition increases that threaten to put college out of reach for more students. They also raise concerns about diminishing the quality of education at a time when a highly educated workforce is more crucial than ever to the nation’s economic future.”

According the study, Arizona’s in-state per student spending dropped 47 percent, the most in the nation, between 2008 and 2015.  And this finding does not include the $99 million cut from Arizona universities or the more than $15 million cut from community colleges that Republicans served up in the budget they passed this year.  

This news comes shortly after an announcement that Arizona dropped to 41st in the nation for per capita personal income – with no indication that will change soon.  There is so much research pointing to a relationship between education and economic opportunities.  Clearly, any real economic recovery plan must include a substantial investment in education.

Instead of slashing education funding in an attempt to balance the budget, Republicans could have stopped special interest tax credits and closed tax loopholes that cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars. Most Arizonans disapprove of the governor’s decision to gut education funding. Maybe that’s why a recent poll shows that his approval ratings are not good…  

We must hold the Republican leadership accountable for their choices. To learn how to get involved to make education a priority at the Legislature, click here

Monday, May 11, 2015

Republicans might want to put the party hats away for right now …

Republicans might want to put the party hats away for right now …

Arizona’s Republican leaders spent a good amount of time patting themselves on their backs after Moody’s Investors Service, a credit rating provider, increased the state’s credit outlook last week to “stable.” The governor celebrated this news, calling it a “testament to the good work we’ve done.”

He has said repeatedly that they had to make tough choices  to balance the budget. He and legislative Republicans did have to make choices. They chose to rush the budget process, and they chose to try to balance the budget on the backs of Arizona’s school kids.


Instead of slashing education and social safety net programs, Republicans could have stopped special interest tax credits and closed tax loopholes that cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars. If they had done that, they could have invested more in education, which is the real solution for economic recovery. Research shows a positive relationship between education and economic opportunities . Education is the best way to build a foundation for economic success.

So we think the Republican celebration may be a little premature. In their descriptions, they seemed to have left out the part of the Moody’s report indicating that the credit rating could go back down if:
  • The budget is not structurally balanced and/or the reserves are further depleted
  • The state faces a significant increase in funding requirements for Medicaid, education or other mandated services
  • The state’s economic recovery stalls
Arguably, the state’s budget is not actually structurally balanced. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) reported that a law the governor signed after the budget will leave the state’s budget structurally imbalanced for years. The Legislature also passed several other bills after the budget was signed that will affect the General Fund.

Moody’s report also listed the state’s ongoing K-12 inflation funding litigation as a potential challenge. The Republicans included $74 million for this obligation in the budget but a judge ruled the state owes the schools more than $300 million. This would impact the state’s reserves.

And Arizona’s economic recovery is in a precarious position – because Republican leadership refuses to invest in education.  A recent report indicates that Arizona dropped to 41st in the nation for per capita personal income – with no indication that will change soon.  Any real economic recovery plan must include a substantial investment in education. The Republicans’ most recent budget cuts $115 million from higher education and $117 million from K-12 education.

Arizona’s economic future will remain in jeopardy until funding education becomes a priority for the Republicans. So while the news from Moody’s is positive, it comes with a number of caveats. When the Republicans attempted to balance the budget by sacrificing support for education, they set the state up for future failure.


Those who are touting this as proof of “The Great Recovery” may want to put the party hats away… at least for right now. There is still a lot of work to do. To learn how to get involved to make education a priority at the Legislature, click here

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Larkin applauds judge and ABOR for decision to provide in-state tuition for ‘dreamers’

Larkin applauds judge and ABOR for decision to provide in-state tuition for ‘dreamers’

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Jonathan Larkin, D-Glendale (District 30), released this statement after a judge and the Arizona Board of Regents decided that “dreamers” are eligible for in-state tuition at state universities and Maricopa Community Colleges.

“I commend Judge Anderson and the Arizona Board of Regents for making a fair decision. This should immediately clear the way for other community colleges to offer in-state tuition rates for dreamers. These decisions send a symbolic message that the young immigrants granted deferred deportation status have proven they are productive members of our communities.  They have embraced our country’s ideals of hard work and service. We should ensure they are able to maximize their potential. Arizona can only benefit from a more educated workforce.

“Making college more accessible to dreamers will strengthen Arizona, as it will allow them to pursue careers and continue to contribute to our economy. I call on other community colleges in the state to follow suit immediately.”



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Rep. Steele Discusses Arizona's Credit Rating & CPS on the John C Scott Radio Show


Friday, May 01, 2015

Higher Education Trends Spell Trouble for Arizona’s Economy

Higher Education Trends Spell Trouble for Arizona’s Economy

Last week, Northern Arizona University President Rita Cheng announced that the university would eliminate 60 positions and that all academic departments would have to cut their spending by 4.5 percent.  “There is no way around it,” The Daily Sun quoted her saying.

There is no way around it for NAU, despite the four percent increase in tuition approved by the Board of Regents (ABOR) on Monday, because of the staggering disinvestment from higher education since 2008 on the part of Arizona’s Republican leaders.  ABOR’s explanation of the tuition changes can be found here.  Here are some highlights:
  • Arizona State University: A new, one-time fee raises the cost of attending to $10,478 for Arizona residents, about 3 percent higher than last year.
  • Northern Arizona University: New Arizona resident undergraduates will pay $10,358, about 4 percent higher than last year.
  • University of Arizona: New Arizona resident undergraduates will pay $11,403, about 4 percent more than last year.
You can also see the Arizona Republic’s reporting on the tuition increases here.

Between 2008 and 2014, state spending per student in higher education dropped more than 48 percent, the highest decrease in the U.S.  And the tuition increases at Arizona universities have been even more astonishing: the cost of attendance has increased by almost $4500 dollars, or more than 80 percent.  This session alone, the Republican Legislature cut another 13 percent—$99 million—from state university budgets.

But what does all this mean for students in Arizona’s universities?

Average student debt has risen by almost 20 percent since 2008, when the Arizona Legislature began cutting university budgets, and recent estimates suggest Arizonans with student loan debt owe an average of more than $25,000.  The costs of higher education have fallen more and more heavily on Arizona’s students, and this has harmful consequences for the students’ and the state’s economic future.

The trends in state funding, tuition rates and student debt demonstrate that higher education opportunities are not a priority for Arizona’s Republican leaders. This disinvestment is bad news for the entire state: according to a recent study, 68 percent of all jobs in Arizona will require post-secondary education by 2020.  Yet only about 54 percent of high school graduates go directly to college and even fewer, less than 25 percent, earn degrees within six years of finishing high school.  Moreover, research has repeatedly demonstrated that the consequences of student loan debt include lower household net worth and reduced rates of home ownership.

Republican leaders attempted to justify the most recent round of education budget cuts by claiming they had no other options.  That is simply not true and Arizona deserves better.  If you would like to get involved in protecting Arizona’s economic future, click here to find ways to ensure your voice is heard.