Well, as one-time acclaimed Arizona prep distance runner Vince Furnier once sang, "School's out ... for summer." But the Arizona Legislature, which hates public schools and which began its marathon session back in the first week of January, is still in session with no end in sight. They're going for some kind of record, apparently unaware that the breaking of certain records is not necessarily a good thing.
(For those of you who saw Almost Famous and learned that there is no limit to just how petty rock musicians can be, it's funny to learn that since "Alice Cooper" was originally the name of the band and not that of the former Mr. Furnier, he has to pay his former bandmates royalties for the rest of his [un]natural life.)
Anyway, the legislators, hooked on the fat per diem and the free lunches and dinners with lobbyists, continue to hang around, trying to see what kind of trouble they can get into. It should be a part of the Arizona Constitution that once the temperature in the Valley of the Sun hits 90 degrees, all further legislative action must be conducted outdoors at midday. Then, once it hits 100 degrees, all out-of-town legislators must be marched to the city limits and sent home. For those who live in the Phoenix metro area, their punishment is that they have to stay there.
As a fiscal deadline nears, the legislators continue to pump out bills that fall into at least one of four categories: Mean, Stupid, Unconstitutional and/or Un-American. The un-American ones are generally an amalgam of the first three categories.
It's sad, really. At a time when most Americans (and Arizonans) should be keeping a close eye on the workings of their respective governments, the average person is so beaten down by having to deal with an economy that has been in the toilet for more than half a decade that one must focus all of his/her energy on just getting by and making it to the next month. Much of the damage done to the economy was the result of direct action and selective inaction on the part of said legislative bodies. But instead of being punished for the havoc they wrought, they now get to go after their pet targets with near-complete impunity.
In places like Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, right-wingers have declared a war on public education. Because, you know, public schools have public-school teachers and those teachers have formed unions and we all know that unions are communists—not that communists actually exist any more—but if you look at history, you'll see that unions led to a middle class in America and as soon as people reach the middle class they start thinking about moving up to the upper class but if too many people reach the upper class, it won't be special any more so we have to keep them down. Beside, they're just teachers. It's not like they're something important like financial advisers or pharmaceutical lobbyists.
Having destroyed the teachers unions and gutted the public-school budget over the past few years, there really wasn't much left for this Legislature to do but maybe look for a dying ember that might be mistaken for a glimmer of hope and then stamp it out, lest an unwelcome gust of popular support for schools come along and fan it back to life.
What they did was really rather pathetic. First, they used your tax money to go to court to keep from having to pay a relatively small amount of money that they are bound by law to pay. When the court smacked 'em around and ordered the money to be paid, the legislators took off the table a sum three times the size of the court-ordered payment, money that has been promised to the schools for the past five years but was never paid because the economy was so bad.
Now that the state is running a surplus, one might think that the lawmakers might keep their word, but such is not the case. Instead, the legislators say that the slashed budget is the "new normal." Some even got pissy that the schools didn't thank the Legislature for handing over the money that they theoretically could have gone to jail for had they not done so.
That's not the worst, however. They did away with the AIMS test, the passage of which has been necessary for graduation from high school. It will be replaced by something that is based on the hot new Common Core craze that is sweeping the nation. However, in their rush to strike another blow against teachers, the Legislature also rushed through a law that requires educators with more than three years in the classroom to be judged by a flawed formula that includes standardized test scores.
With AIMS on the way out (sometime between now and 2017) and the Common Core on the way in, logic would tell you to wait for the new test to be implemented. There's no way that the scores of the two tests can be fairly and reasonably compared. When the changeover takes place, the AIMS results will become null and void, while the first-year Common Core results will become the new base. Apparently, nobody in Phoenix thought about that.
In Arizona, "legislator" is Latin for "moron."