Politics

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Ducey 'Next Step' Watch: Day 235 — State of the State Edition. Great Ideas! Terrific Ideas! Wallet Still Safely Stowed in Back Pocket.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 10, 2017 at 9:00 AM

ILLUSTRATION FROM PHOTOSPIN IMAGE
  • Illustration from Photospin image
Loved the education part of Gov. Ducey's State of the State address—with a few exceptions, of course. Great stuff, mostly. Unfortunately, it'll take lots of money to accomplish even half of what Ducey proposed. Lots and lots of money. And he didn't commit dollar one.

My understanding is, the state is expecting to see about $24 million in revenue that's not already accounted for. Even if all that went to education, it only comes to about 7 percent of the $350 million a year voted in when Prop 123 passed, so it's not a hell of a lot of money. I've read that it'll cost the state about $20 million just to cover the extra costs from the minimum wage hike. And of course, education isn't the only area in dire need of additional funding, or the only sector Ducey made financial promises to. So that puny little $24 million, a tiny fraction of the state's nearly $10 billion yearly budget, will have to be stretched way beyond the breaking point for it to make any kind of a difference anywhere.

Here are some of the education proposals in Ducey's speech. As you read them, count the potential costs on your fingers and toes, with each digit worth $10 million. Warning: pretty soon, you'll need to start in on your neighbor's fingers and toes as well. It's gonna take a lot of "This little piggies" to get us all the way to market.
• Increase investment in public schools above and beyond inflation.
• Raise teacher pay.
• Pay down teachers' student debt.
• Create "Teacher Academies" at our universities and community colleges where prospective teachers' educations are paid for and teaching jobs will be waiting upon completion, debt free.
• Give a $1,000 signing bonus to teachers who commit to work in low-income schools.
• Expand full day kindergarten.
• Connect schools in rural areas and on tribal lands to high speed internet and create a statewide coding and technology initiative.
• Increase per pupil funding at excelling schools, with even more going to excelling schools with low income students.

Continue reading »

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Monday, January 9, 2017

United We Dream National Educators Week

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2017 at 12:00 PM

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United We Dream has asked educators to "come out this January 9 as an unafraid educator and pledge to protect immigrants in your classrooms and community."
Sign this pledge to commit to taking action the week of January 9th - just a few days before the regime of terror of Donald Trump begins.
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You can declare yourself an Unafraid Educator or Unafraid Ally publicly by printing the appropriate sign, putting your name on it and posting it on social media. You can get more information about how educators can help in the detailed and informative #HereToStay Toolkit for K-12 Educators & Schools.

According to the group's website:
United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation. Our powerful nonpartisan network is made up of over 100,000 immigrant youth and allies and 55 affiliate organizations in 26 states. We organize and advocate for the dignity and fair treatment of immigrant youth and families, regardless of immigration status.

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Friday, January 6, 2017

Gabby Giffords: My Pledge

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 10:00 AM

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January is a time for new beginnings and new pledges. But it is also the time of year that I think most about the shooting that killed six of my constituents, injured 12 others, and put a bullet through my head.

Six years ago, on a bright Saturday morning, our community was forever altered by a young, disturbed man who should have never had access to a gun. Innocent lives were taken and countless others will never be the same.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, our city united as one Tucson. People of all different backgrounds came together to cry, to mourn, and to heal. We have bonded over the values we all share. And as a result, our city is stronger than ever.

Like our city, my life has also changed a lot since that horrible day. Speaking is still really difficult for me. My eyesight isn’t very good, and despite hours of grueling physical therapy, my right arm and right leg remain mostly paralyzed. But one thing that hasn’t changed is my desire to help and serve others.

Service has always been an important part of our community’s fabric. We Tucsonans help our neighbors in need, we care for those who are less fortunate, and we all give back to the community we love in our own unique way.

Those values inspired my friend, Judge John Roll, to pursue a law degree at the University of Arizona, join the legal system, and serve our state and country with great distinction for over 35 years.

Those values helped shape Dorothy Morris, who is affectionately remembered for her devotion to her family and concern for others.

Those values led Phyllis Schneck to spend hours knitting sweaters for students at nearby Cragin Elementary School because she worried the children would be cold in the winter.

Those values encouraged a courageous nine-year-old girl, Christina-Taylor Green, to step forward and run for student council at Mesa Verde Elementary School.

Those values called Dorwan Stoddard, a retired construction worker, to the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ, where he spent hours volunteering his time to keep the church looking its best.

And it was those values that motivated my friend and former staff member, Gabe Zimmerman, to pursue a career in public service, and courageously run towards me in the face of gunfire, as I lay bleeding on the ground.

Over the past six years, I have thought a lot about why I survived when these wonderful people, who brought so much goodness into the world, did not.

I still don’t have a good answer.

I often remind myself of something Abraham Lincoln used to say: “The Almighty has His own purposes.” While I still cannot make sense of this terrible tragedy, I can only hope that this horrible event was not merely random. That something positive can come from all of this so that no other family or community has to endure another senseless tragedy like ours.

And that is why I wake up each and every day grateful and determined to make the most of my second chance at life and service. Along with my husband Mark Kelly, I have worked to make sure our leaders finally do something about the 33,000 Americans who die every year from gun violence.

Like my recovery, progress has been painfully slow. But regardless of the pace, to me, each small step means more children will be able to enjoy holidays with their parents, and more parents will be able to enjoy seeing their children grow up.

Together, we’ve worked with leaders from both parties to help keep guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill by strengthening the background check system to include more mental health records.

We’ve worked in state houses across the country to pass laws that protect women and their families from domestic abusers with guns.

Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 42 states have passed over 160 new gun safety laws that help protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners, like Mark and me, and keep guns out of dangerous hands.

As I travel across the country to push for responsible laws and support bipartisan leaders who have advocated for commonsense action, I carry the memories of those who were taken in the Tucson shooting with me. And I pledge to do my best, each and every day, to honor their legacy by making our country safer.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords represented Southern Arizona in Congress from 2007 to 2012

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TUSD Magnet Schools, Desegregation, and the Next Step

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 9:00 AM

COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Courtesy of Shutterstock
It's no surprise that a number of TUSD schools lost their magnet status. A magnet school is supposed to have something special about it to attract students who are outside the neighborhood, with the purpose of improving the school's ethnic balance, and the district has failed to meet the court's required goals for the schools. The six schools are Ochoa Elementary, Robison Elementary, Safford K-6, Utterback 6-7, and Cholla and Pueblo high schools. The schools aren't closing, but they will no longer be considered magnet schools.

This is a failure for TUSD and its students, an opportunity lost. Most studies indicate that students achieve at higher levels in more integrated schools, especially minority students. On top of that, society benefits when people learn to know each better other across ethnic lines, and integrated schools are an ideal place for that to happen.

However, there's another side to the story. TUSD is, depending on how you look at it, in good company or bad company in its failure to integrate its schools. The famous 1954 Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education, made it unconstitutional for states to demand that schools be segregated, but across the nation 68 years later, segregation has increased since 1970, and there are few signs that trend will turn around any time soon. Recently I did a reasonably extensive online search looking for urban school districts whose integration efforts could be called successful. Few came even close to qualifying. One of the rare exceptions is the Jefferson County Schools in the Louisville, Kentucky, area. The way it has succeeded is by creating a county-wide school district, then dividing it into 13 separate clusters, each containing an economic and ethnic student mix, and even this successful plan nearly collapsed any number of times due to intense public pressure. There may be a case of an urban district which has successfully desegregated its schools using the magnet school model, but I haven't come across it.

Charter schools, by the way, tend to be more segregated than district schools, so going with charters isn't a deseg solution.

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Grijalva Blasts GOP Plan To Use Fuzzy Math To Justify Federal Land Sales

Posted By on Wed, Jan 4, 2017 at 1:13 PM

Congressman Raul Grijalva: "The House Republican plan to give away America’s public lands for free is outrageous and absurd.” - TRICIA MCINROY
  • Tricia McInroy
  • Congressman Raul Grijalva: "The House Republican plan to give away America’s public lands for free is outrageous and absurd.”
While most of the focus on the Republican-controlled Congress' new set of rules focused on the gutting of the Office of Congressional Ethics, there was another provision that could lead to the fleecing of taxpayers: A new way to value federal land if its sold off to states or local governments that would hide how the sale increases the deficit.

Basically, to hide the true cost of selling off federal land, the Congressional Budget Office has been instructed to no longer consider the revenues that the federal land brings in via leases, recreational fees

The Hill has details:

House Republicans are endorsing a procedural change to make it easier for Congress to transfer federal land to state or local government agencies.

The provision in the package of House rules due for a vote Tuesday would prohibit the Congressional Budget Office from taking into account lost federal revenue from energy production, logging, recreation or other uses when it decides whether a piece of legislation is revenue-neutral or would contribute to the federal deficit.
Southern Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ03) blasted the plan in a statement to the press:

“The House Republican plan to give away America’s public lands for free is outrageous and absurd,” Grijalva said. “This proposed rule change would make it easier to implement this plan by allowing the Congress to give away every single piece of property we own, for free, and pretend we have lost nothing of any value. Not only is this fiscally irresponsible, but it is also a flagrant attack on places and resources valued and beloved by the American people.”

Grijalva added that state and local governments often don't have the financial resources to purchase the land, so vast tracts would likely be snatched up by private developers.

“The proposal is one more example of the Trump Republican’s plans to use federal resources to enrich wealthy developers by making it easier for them to get their hands on invaluable federal lands currently owned by, and open to, all Americans,” Grijalva said.

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Private School Vouchers Are Bad For Arizona. Discuss.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 4, 2017 at 11:18 AM


It's almost a sure thing that the Republican-led AZ legislature will try to add more funding and more students to our two private school voucher systems this year. They try it every year, and they usually succeed. The only questions are, what will their additions look like, and will they make it to Gov. Ducey's desk?

The Arizona School Boards Association has put together a three minute primer on the state's two voucher systems: Student Tuition Organizations (aka backdoor vouchers) and Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (aka Educational Savings Accounts, also aka Vouchers on Steroids). The information in the video is pretty accurate, though it's possible to quibble around the edges. As for its anti-voucher slant, which I agree with, you don't have to agree to learn more about how the two programs work.

Remember, vouchers have nothing to do with charters. Charters are publicly-funded, privately run schools which get more-or-less the same amount of tax dollars per student as district schools. Vouchers are about using tax dollars to pay for tuition to private schools.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Looks Like the Office of Congressional Ethics Is Still in Business—For Now

Posted By on Tue, Jan 3, 2017 at 2:10 PM

You know the GOP-controlled Congress is off to a embarrassing start when members are called on ethical grounds by President-elect Donald Trump.

If you haven't already heard, the GOP caucus last night, behind closed doors, came up with a a plan to gut the the Office of Congressonal Ethics by eliminating its ability to investigate anonymous complaints and blocking it from releasing results of investigations to the public.

When news of the changes broke today, the GOP caucus changed course in the face of public outrage—not to mention the Donald's tweet—and decided to leave the ethics office as it is—for now.

Politico has the basics:

Following a public outcry, and tweeted criticism from President-elect Donald Trump, House Republicans reversed course Tuesday on a proposal to gut their own ethics watchdog.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called an emergency House GOP conference Tuesday around noon to scrap a proposed House rule that would have effectively declawed the Office of Congressional Ethics. The proposal, which House Republicans approved behind closed doors Monday night, would have defied Trump’s “drain the swamp” mantra aimed at making Washington more transparent and less cozy.

But McCarthy's motion to restore the current OCE set-up was adopted by unanimous consent after Trump himself got involved — an intervention that irritated a number of House Republicans who supported the move to neuter the ethics office.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who said the ethics snafu was an unnecessary self-inflicted wound. “Sometimes people have to learn the hard way.”
Yesterday's vote on the amendment to the House Rules was anonymous, so we don't know how many of the members of Congress voted, although Talking Points Memo is keeping a scorecard of representatives who have disclosed how they voted. So far, Southern Arizona Rep. Martha McSally has not answered. The Weekly has reached out to McSally's office ask how she voted and whether she'd support future changes to how the Office of Congressional Ethics operates.

UPDATE: McSally spokesman Patrick Ptak tells the Weekly that McSally voted against the amendment to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics and "believes that any approach to reform the OCE should be bipartisan."

Newly elected U.S. Rep. Tom O'Halleran, who campaigned on pushing a better ethical culture in Washington, was out the gate early today with a statement condemning the proposed changes.

“It is simply unbelievable that the first thing some of my colleagues want to do in this Congress is gut the independent ethics watchdog,” said O’Halleran. “This is the exact opposite of what we should be doing. Congress needs greater accountability and transparency.”

The Weekly has contacted O'Halleran's office for a response to the GOP's reversal. We're also waiting to hear back from Southern Arizona's other congressional representative, Democrat Raul Grijalva, who is supposed to have a statement later today. We'll update as we hear more.

UPDATE: O'Halleran promised to pursue legislation to protect the Office of Congressional Ethics in a statement to the press:

I am glad to see Republican leaders chose to reverse the proposed changes to the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) that would weaken the independent watchdog group that holds Congress accountable. The American people deserve a transparent and accountable government. I will be introducing legislation in the coming weeks that funds the Office of Congressional Ethics and gives the Committee the power to fully investigate cases of fraud, conflicts of interest, and other ethics violations.

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Has Arizona Reached Peak Charter?

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2016 at 1:01 PM

ILLUSTRATION FROM WIKIMEDIA.ORG GRAPHIC
  • Illustration from wikimedia.org graphic
I've been wondering lately, has the growth in the number of students in Arizona's charter schools slowed significantly? This is just speculation, built on wisps and indications I've noticed over the past few years. But it may be that our charter schools have completed their rapid expansion and reached something like an equilibrium in their percentage of the overall student population.

I've been sensing this for awhile, but a possible confirmation came from an article titled Charter School Enrollment Continues To Rise In Arizona. It sounds like it should be an affirmation of the continued growth in the number of students in charters, but a bit of number crunching makes it seem like it's damning the increases with faint praise.
About 180,000 students currently attend charter schools in Arizona. That’s an increase of 8,000 students in the last year.

At the same time, district school enrollment has stayed the same.
Let's look at those numbers. Adding 8,000 students amounts to a 4.7 percent charter enrollment increase across the state. That's not bad, adding a little under five percent in a year. But with 180,000 students, charters have less than 20 percent of the state's total student enrollment. Over a million students attend district schools. The 8,000 student increase amounts to less than one percent of the district school population.

That 180,000 student, number is on the Arizona Charter Schools Association website. But the association's 20 Years of Charters publication says the charter population was 190,000 in 2013-14. If that figure is correct, charters have actually lost 10,000 students from a few years ago. If it's a projection, it means the association was far too optimistic about enrollment growth. An enrollment chart in the publication shows increases have slowed since charter schools first opened in the mid-1990s.

Continue reading »

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Staff Pick

Frida: Portraits by Nickolas Muray

Tucson Botanical Gardens and Etherton Gallery are collaborating to bring the photography show Frida: Portraits by Nickolas… More

@ Tucson Botanical Gardens Oct. 10-May 31, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 2150 N. Alvernon Way.

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