Monday, March 8, 2010

AEN's Recent Legislative Update ~ March 8, 2010

Budget Special Session Starts Today: The Writing is on the Wall for Public Education in Arizona

The Arizona Legislature meets today to consider an alternative budget if voters do not pass Prop. 100 - the temporary 1 % sales tax referendum - in a special election on May 18. For more information, see Prop. 100 - Your Questions Answered .

Cuts to K-12 education since the beginning of the 2009 fiscal year total $424 million, which means our schools have already been cut to the bone. Many Arizona schools are dealing with the loss of teachers; increased class sizes; cuts to extra-curricular activities and athletics; and the loss of P.E., music, librarians, counselors, books and even paper.

If the Sales Tax Passes

Even if the sales tax passes, there will still be further cuts to K-12 education, based on the budget being considered by the Legislature. These include:

  • The loss of funding for all-day Kindergarten; gifted programs, summer school, after-school programs and preschool programs.
  • Reduced funding for the second consecutive year for basics such as textbooks, computers and equipment for students. 
  • Suspension of funding for school building maintenance and repair for the fourth year in a row.

The Alternative Budget

If the Prop. 100 does not pass, additional state budget cuts starting in July could total $900 million, including an additional $400 million in cuts coming from K-12 schools and $100 million from universities and community colleges. For more, see the Arizona Daily Star, Ariz. lawmakers to consider budget-balancing plan.

Are Arizona Legislators Following Their Oath?

With cuts to education this deep, it is questionable whether legislators are following their oath to uphold Arizona's Constitution, which calls for the "development and improvement" of public education.

The Arizona Constitution ensures the funding of public education:

Aricle 11, Section 10 states that the "legislature shall make such appropriations, to be met by taxation, as shall insure the proper maintenance of all state educational institutions, and shall make such special appropriations as shall provide for their development and improvement."

Arizona Auditor General Report on Classroom Spending 2009: A Closer Look

AEN has analyzed the recently released Auditor General's Report on Arizona Classroom Spending for 2009. Classroom spending has become a "hot potato" issue because of the restrictive definition of "classroom spending". While classroom teachers, instructional supplies, and aides are included in the classroom spending figures, positions such as librarians, counselors, and nurses are not. Also the inclusion of Proposition 301 money for teachers is disputed.

The Auditor General's Report leaves out two important factors - cuts by the Legislature to K-12 education funding and a precipitous fall in the Proposition 301 sales tax funds available for the Classroom Site Fund (CSF) To read more click here.

News Under the Radar

House Rejects Private School Tax-Credits Income Limits; Drops Attempts to Increase Dollar Amount

The House rejected an effort to put income limits on the private school tax-credit program, refusing to establish a "means test" or income requirement for those applying for private school scholarships paid for by the tax-credit program. The private school tax-credit program, which was established to create choice for those with limited means, starts to run the risk of looking like, as Representative Steve Farley called it, "welfare for the rich". Click here for the full article.

Arizona Doesn't Make Race to the Top Cut

The Department of Education announced on March 4, 2010 that Arizona was not chosen for the first phase of the federal Race to the Top grant, resulting in the loss federal funds to benefit Arizona public education. Click here for details.

Four steps you can take to support public education in Arizona: Vote, Vote, Vote, Vote!

  1. Vote YES if your district is holding an override or bond election on Tuesday, March 9th (tomorrow).
  2. Vote YES on Prop. 100, the sales tax referendum, Tuesday, May 18th.
  3. Vote for pro-education candidates in the Primary Election, Tuesday, August 24th.
  4. Vote for pro-education candidates in the General Election, Tuesday, November 2nd.

Helpful Links:

AEN Voter Guide

Find your Legislator

Take care,
Melissa, Ann-Eve, MaryLee and your AEN team

PS. Check us out at:

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• Join us on Facebook!

AEN is a non-partisan, all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that exists to provide factual information and advocacy for public education.

Flowing Wells Parent Finds D.C. Special Interest Group Lobbying Neighbors to Vote against School District Override

"Passion and Purpose"

I recently marked my first anniversary as a Parent Advocate for Public Education. For 12 months, I have operated with passion and purpose in my unwavering support of Public Education in Arizona. I am the father of three young boys who attend an elementary school within the Flowing Wells school district in NW Tucson.

Despite what you have been told or what you have heard, public education is alive and well in Arizona. My three boys are in good hands with a team of career educators second to none. Four hundred and fifty little boys and girls are welcomed with open arms each and every day to our school.
Despite increased class size, despite less resource and despite reduced salaries this year, it is business as usual across the Flowing Wells School District. Our educators are maintaining a strong presence and effort for all of our children.

In support of their stand, I was all too quick and ready to join the citizen committee for the current override initiative. On March 9th, we will be asking voters across the district to dig deep and affirm their support of public education. Over the last sixty days, at the side of our committee president, Wendy Effing, we have stood in front of groups large and small. Along the way, we have spoken to hundreds of respectful ears. With passion and purpose, we have given freely of our time to to continue our advocacy of public education and more specifically our support of this all important override.

Just when you think that you are making a little progress, the opposition rears its' ugly head. This week, we were made aware of an uneducated and vastly uninformed statement from Americans For Prosperity. From his perch in Maricopa County, Tom Jenney issued an all call to his supporters to NOT support our override. I am pained that someone 150 miles away has literally declared war on our effort to support our children and their education. I believe it is safe to say that Tom has never been in any of our classrooms, never met any of our staff, much less, set foot within any part of our school district. Best is, this same letter was also posted for our neighbors and friends in Marana and Sahuarita. I find it curious that Tom is so well versed on the inside track of public education in Pima County.

Nonetheless, our advocacy continues. Parents statewide represent an extremely large and potent pool of voters. We will continue to educate and inform folks about what is at stake for the public education of our children. We will spread our message for our children each day with passion and purpose.

Tim Derrig
Flowing Wells Unified School District
Unwavering and unrelenting advocate for public education

Goldwater Institute's New "Word of the Day" Drives Arizona in an Intellectually Dishonest Direction

"Stop This Train!"By Philip Keuter, A public school teacher at Magee Middle School

A trainload of bad information is barreling down the track and needs to be stopped. Darcy Olsen, President and CEO of the Goldwater Institute, was all over the media yesterday, March 4th, propounding preposterous propositions that some state legislators are unwisely accepting as accurate and useful. First, 104.1 FM talk radio, then 1330 AM, and then Arizona Illustrated with Bill Buckmaster on PBS. Same assertions, all day long, in a well-orchestrated media blitz. This train needs to be stopped; it’s going the wrong way for Arizona.

Three times I heard Darcy Olsen repeat the same preposterous claim - that there is a 1-to-1 ratio between teachers and bureaucrats in Arizona's school districts, and that's one of the reasons our students are “struggling so much to keep up with students in other states."

This is incredibly misleading and intellectually dishonest. First, “bureaucrats” is a very loaded word, with myriad negative connotations. But what’s insidiously dishonest is her implied assertion that bus drivers, custodians, attendance secretaries, food service and maintenance workers are dreaded bureaucrats who waste public money - like they sit around desks pushing paper for no real purpose or no real benefit at great expense. This “wasted” money spent on “bureaucrats” is keeping our students far behind students in other states? So the solution is to cut this wasted funding?

A plethora of other equally preposterous assertions were made during this media blitz. For example, Darcy Olsen said education funding has gone up in Arizona 20% since year 2000 without any gains or improvement in test scores. She said Florida spends same amount and their scores improved because of certain innovations. She said charter schools accomplish same results as public schools for 75% as much money, and more. A quick fact check shows how misleading and intellectually dishonest a majority of her assertions are. For example, we spend more on education in Arizona since 2000 because our population grew by 26.7%, not because we spent money on decreased class sizes or more advanced math classes. A couple minutes on Google shows Florida spends almost $2,000 more per pupil than we do on education, and it’s quite easy to learn that charter schools do not perform as well as she advertises. Even worse, an analysis by the Arizona Education Network of classroom instruction statistics recently published by the Auditor General reveals that, contrary to the picture Darcy Olsen wants us to buy into, Arizona spends less on administration (9%) than the national average (10.8%), and district schools spend about 8% more in the classroom and a whopping 12% less on administration than charter schools do.

Some in the state legislature are using her ideas to craft legislation, like Russell Pearce and his new bill SCR 1008. She got a free pass during her media blitz yesterday, but legislators need to fact check her information and critically examine the underlying philosophical beliefs. Besides working to dismantle much of state government, Darcy Olsen is endeavoring to turn our public education system into a competitive free-market where charter schools compete with one another for students and dollars. Trouble is, in competitive markets, businesses keep their trade secrets and compete to put the other guy out of business. Rather than a competition, public education should be a collaboration where trade secrets and good ideas are shared and put to the best use by the largest group possible.

Let’s turn this train around and work on ideas that serve the public interest.


For more information on how much Arizona is spending compared to the national average, visit
AEN's recent analysis of the 2009 Auditor General's Report.