Monday, June 29, 2015
What should the state do with $250 million? Invest in classrooms, now
Arizona is expecting to end the fiscal year with $250 million more in the budget than initially projected. Our Legislature should be scrambling to get that money into our schools. Instead, Republican leaders continue to drag their feet, leaving schools in dire financial straits.
Arizona has the resources needed to fund education and invest in our future – but the Republican leaders in this state have made a choice not to.
This new money should be used right now to help pay the $330 million that the court says Arizona schools are due for inflation funding. And the governor and other leaders should be working with stakeholders across the state to develop a long-term plan for fully funding education.
If the Republicans continue to neglect funding for education, what should Arizonans expect to see as a result of years of budget cuts to education?
- 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 and effects on teachers - a former Phoenix Elementary School District governing board member said in a recent interview that the state budget cuts did mean schools had to increase their classroom sizes and freeze teacher compensation. A recent report shows that teachers are leaving Arizona “in droves.”
- Student safety impacted – some schools will have to scale back facilities maintenance, security guards and shared nurses.
Funding our schools now is an investment in our future. A strong economic development strategy should include significant funding for education. It’s time to #AskDuceyWhy he and other Republican leaders won’t invest in education funding right now.
Ariz. Legislative Democrats Respond to Supreme Court’s ruling on the IRC
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Arizona House Democratic Leader Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 28), and Arizona Senate Democratic Whip Martín Quezada, D-Phoenix (District 29), made the following statements in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission:
House Democratic Leader Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 28)
“Arizona voters said that they want an open, transparent and fair redistricting process, which is why they established the Independent Redistricting Commission. The Supreme Court decision today protects the will of the voters and will help prevent partisanship and political ambition from influencing the redistricting process. Our state is better served by having a body, independent of the Legislature, in charge of this important task.”
Senate Democratic Whip Martín Quezada, D-Phoenix (District 29)
“Today was a victory for the people of Arizona and for fair representation in Washington, D.C. The court listened to the citizens of Arizona, honored their desire for independent redistricting, and made a decision in the best interest of our state and country that ensures a government of and by the people.
“Having free and fair elections is of the utmost importance to the preservation of our system of government. In light of this decision, I hope to see more states adopting IRCs and putting power into the hands of the people.”
Friday, June 26, 2015
Statement from Steele on U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson (District 9), released the following statement regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which affirmed the constitutionality of marriage equality:
“I am elated with the Supreme Court decision today and believe it brings us much closer to achieving true equality. This victory builds on the momentum of the equality movement, as community members and allies work to ensure that LGBTQ people receive equal protection across the board.
“While this is a momentous accomplishment, our work is not done. Next we must turn our attention to employment and housing issues. In many places in our state, it is still legal to fire someone for being gay. It is still legal to discriminate against people based on who they are and whom they love. And that needs to change. Our fight is not over until we have full, legal equality for all Americans.”
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Meyer: Health care ruling good for Arizonans and for the economy
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democratic Leader Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 28), released this statement regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that people who use the federal health care exchange for insurance are eligible for tax subsidies:
“As an emergency physician, I have a unique appreciation for how important this decision is for the people of Arizona. The Supreme Court ruling means that more than 126,000 Arizonans will keep the federal subsidies that help make access to health care more affordable. Not only is this good for our health care system, which was collapsing under the costs of uncompensated care, but it’s also good for our economy. The health care industry creates quality, high-paying jobs. This is one of the reasons why most hospitals and many in the business community supported Medicaid expansion as well. The money that comes to Arizonans through the exchange subsidies are our tax dollars that we are getting back from the federal government. That system will stay in place and our state will continue to benefit from it.”
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Andrade calls for Schweikert to apologize for comparing unions to Nazis during Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal debate
Andrade calls for Schweikert to apologize for comparing unions to Nazis during Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal debate
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Richard Andrade, D-Phoenix (District 29), wants Arizona Congressman David Schweikert to apologize for comparing unions to Nazis during a House floor debate about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
“Rep. Schweikert’s comment was inappropriate and offensive,” Andrade said. “He should publicly apologize.”
Earlier this month, Schweikert accused “big labor” of being willing to “make up stories” about the trade deal that “Goebbels would be very proud of.”
“Goebbels was a Nazi propagandist. The inference is appalling,” Andrade said.
Andrade, who has been a member of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Union for 21 years and is veteran, added that many of his fellow union members are also veterans.
“I took this comment personally, both as a union member and as a veteran,” he said. “And I know many other union members, who are also veterans, feel the same way. It was a callous and insulting comment that undervalues our service to our country.”
Andrade also called for more civility in political debate.
“Many unions oppose this trade deal because of concerns that it will make it easier to move jobs overseas,” Andrade said. “American jobs should stay in America. It’s as simple as that. There was no need for Rep. Schweikert to resort to name-calling because he disagreed. He crossed a line. Arizonans should expect more from their congressional representatives.”
Monday, June 22, 2015
Ducey’s Education Funding Plan is Just a Drop in the Bucket
Gov. Ducey recently announced a new ballot proposal for school funding that – if it passes – could put about $320 more per student into schools in 2017.
Since our schools have been struggling after years of systematic budget cuts, this funding plan is just a drop in the bucket. Overall, the governor’s idea would give schools $360 million a year for five years. That’s not a bad first start but it doesn’t get close to what our schools actually need. In reality, schools are owed more than a billion dollars annually because Republican-controlled legislatures have withheld that money for years.
To get our schools back on track, we need a plan that would provide schools with at least an additional $1,300 per student. And that money is needed immediately.
Some school facilities remain in disrepair, classrooms are crowded and teacher pay is at the lowest in the nation. A recent report from the Arizona Department of Education shows that thousands of teachers have left the state and that we can expect more to leave this year. If the governor is serious about investing in the future of our kids and our state, he should commit to getting money into classrooms now. There is about $460 million available in the Rainy Day Fund and state revenues are about $250 million higher than projected so far this year. The Republicans have the resources available to fund education and invest in the future of the state – they’ve made a choice not to. The governor should agree to pay the $330 million that the court says Arizona schools are due for inflation funding right now. And he should be working with stakeholders across the state to develop a long-term plan for fully funding education.
We can’t afford to wait. And we need to #AskDuceyWhy he won’t fully fund our schools now.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Bolding concerned that appellate court decision will increase state’s education achievement gap
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Phoenix (District 27), released this statement after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit against the state regarding English “immersion” courses.
“I fear that this decision will ultimately expand the achievement gap in our state. We should ensure that all students have access to the same academic resources and content, and that segregation, in any manner, is not tolerated.
“Additionally, the Arizona Department of Education is negotiating with the U.S. Department of Education regarding the state’s use of four-hour English courses. While the appellate court did not recognize this as segregation, I disagree and I urge those involved in these negotiations not to further jeopardize the success of Arizona students. We should not be supporting actions that push our students further behind.”
Monday, June 08, 2015
Republicans put Kids' School Funding in Last Place
Thanks to years of Republican cuts to the state’s K-12 education budget, Arizona just won the race to the bottom. We are now officially last in nation for K-12 on per student instruction. We pay our teachers the least and we spend the least per pupil on administration. Every other state in the nation spends more on their students.
The governor recently announced that he will ask the Legislature to put a measure on the ballot to direct money from the state land trust to classrooms in 2017. Arizona schools need money for classrooms, students and teachers now. This could be one part of a comprehensive plan to increase education funding, but it is not a solution in and of itself. The issues our schools, children and teachers are facing will require a long-term plan to increase investment in our classrooms.
What does that say about the priorities of the Republican leaders in this state? And what can Arizonans expect to see as a result of years of cuts?
Lower test scores – “The more money invested, the higher the test scores,” said ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy Senior Policy Analyst Dan Huntington.
Changes in classroom sizes and effects on teachers - a former Phoenix Elementary School District governing board member said in a recent interview that the state budget cuts did mean schools had to increase their classroom sizes and freeze teacher compensation.
Student safety impacted – some schools will have to scale back facilities maintenance, security guards and shared nurses.
This news was released around the same time that the Arizona Board of Regents announced that tuition could increase as much as 4 percent for some new college students, after the Republicans passed a budget that cut $99 million from university funding. A news article quoted Board President Eileen Klein as saying the state budget cuts equaled almost $1,000 per student.
All of this will affect the future of our state, which continues to trudge behind the country in economic recovery. Any real plan for lasting economic stability must include a substantial investment in education. Instead, Republicans are protecting and expanding special interest tax cuts and attempting to balance the budget on the backs of Arizona’s kids.
It’s time to demand accountability. It’s time to #AskDuceyWhy he hasn’t given us a long-term solution for the education funding crisis.
Thursday, June 04, 2015
Ducey plan may help short term but isn’t a permanent fix
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senate and House Democratic leaders released statements on Governor Ducey’s proposed plan to distribute more money from the state-land trust.
Senate Democratic Leader Katie Hobbs:
“This week the U.S. Census released a report showing Arizona spends less on K-12 education than any other state. The source of our education funding crisis is the systemic failure of Republican legislative leadership and the governor to fully fund education at the level dictated both by the people of Arizona through Prop 301 and by the constitution of our state,” said Sen. Hobbs. “While Governor Ducey's proposal could put much needed dollars in Arizona schools in the short term, it is yet another band-aid on our kids' schools unless part of a broader, permanent solution to their funding woes. His plan only covers ten years and only works if the economy is stable over that time. What's more, if next year's budget looks like this year's, any gains from this plan could be negated by discretionary funding cuts made by Republican leaders.
“The negligence of Republican leaders to fulfill their responsibility to Arizona children can only be remedied through an honest settlement to the ongoing inflation funding lawsuit and a consistent and sustainable source of sufficient funding for our schools.
“Our priority should be to settle the lawsuit first, then consider this proposal. We certainly hope Governor Ducey honors his commitment to collaborate with education stakeholders, public school districts, charters and all members of the legislature to craft a plan on which we can all agree.”
House Democratic Leader Eric Meyer:
“Arizona schools need money for classrooms, students and teachers now. We can’t afford to wait until 2017. If the governor is serious about getting resources into classrooms, he should agree to pay the more than $330 million in inflation funding that the courts have ruled our schools are due,” said Rep. Meyer.
“The governor’s plan might be part of a broader solution, as long as the money goes to classrooms and does not deplete the state’s constitutionally protected school funding nest egg for future generations. If this is the best option the governor can come up with, it’s not enough. It could increase per pupil funding, but after years of Republican education cuts, it will only be a drop in the bucket. This could be one part of a comprehensive plan to increase education funding, but it is not a solution in and of itself. The issues our schools, children and teachers are facing will require a long-term plan to increase investment in our classrooms.”
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
Monday, June 01, 2015
On May 30, Rep. Mark Cardenas, D-Phoenix (District 19), Rep. Diego Espinoza, D-Tolleson (District 19), and Sen. Lupe Contreras, D-Avondale (District 19), partnered with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to host a free fishing clinic at the Desert West Park and Sports Complex.
Arizona Game and Fish Department waived fishing license fees for the clinic
and will provided rods and reels for use at the event. Here is some video from that event:
Ask Ducey Why
The only thing more shocking than the number of Arizona children still in crisis is the governor’s failure to develop a concrete plan for fixing the year-old Department of Child Safety. The Brewer administration created this department after disbanding the overwhelmed Child Protective Services, which left more than 6,000 reports of abuse and neglect uninvestigated.
The creation of the Department of Child Safety was supposed to ensure that child safety was a priority in the state. It was tasked with reviewing the uninvestigated reports and working through a 14,762-case backlog and then focus on prevention services that help keep families from moving into crisis. A year later, child safety services in Arizona remain in critical condition. And some argue the situation has actually gotten worse:
As long as the Department of Child Safety stays in crisis itself, it will never be focused on prevention, and the number of at-risk children in our state will continue to rise. The governor, so far, has not provided a meaningful plan for getting this department on track. House Democrats have asked repeatedly to receive regular updates about the department, so they can ensure it is getting the resources needed to keep kids safe. Those requests have not been answered sufficiently. But we will continue to ask.
To find ways to get involved, call for more accountability and demand a plan from the governor, click here. It’s time to #AskDuceyWhy things are still this bad #OneYearLater.
 Division of Children, Youth and Families Case Count Summary Report Data for February 2015
 DCS oversight committee meeting 5/28/15 Dashboard – Context Statistics and Outcome Data, video available at http://azleg.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=22&clip_id=16068