Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nuclear Waste for Schools?

Senator Al Melvin (LD 26) has sponsored a bill (SB 1548) that would allow companies from out of state to store nuclear waste in Arizona. Associated fees and proceeds collected from the state would be put toward funding public education.

The bill passed Senate 20 -9.

Speak Up Against Silencing Educators!

While the Arizona House and Senate leadership is said to be negotiating the budget with Governor Brewer, two non-budget related bills are moving right along. If adopted, these bills will effectively silence the voices and participation of citizens in professional organizations who, either by their election by Arizona voters or by paid profession, work in public education.

Below are descriptions and the impacts associated with both bills, as well as what you can do to speak up against this effort to discriminate against teachers and repress the local control voters entrust to their elected school board members.

The first bill is SB 1365. This bill targets public and private school employees (teachers, plumbers, secretaries) to require them to renew their membership fees in professional organizations every year in writing. The professional organizations would likely lose members, as well as incur costs associated with creating a government-imposed bureaucracy to comply with this law.

Why this matters:
  • Membership in professional organizations allows for effective communication about issues. This bill restricts that communication. This bill only applies to professional organizations that have “political purposes” such as communicating to the public how certain laws or proposals would affect schools.
  • This bill targets education employees, but not other public employees.
  • This bill makes government bigger by requiring extra administrative work.

The second bill is HB 2002. This bill would prohibit school districts from paying for membership in an association that attempts to influence the outcome of an election, like the Proposition 100 election for the temporary 1-cent sales tax increase for public education and public safety.
  • This bill targets the Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA).  Arizona voters exercise local control when electing school board members for the school districts in their community. The citizen-elected school board members debate whether or not they will pay dues to ASBA. School board members are not paid. When a board decides to become a member of ASBA, the dues are paid by the school district.

Why this matters:
  • ASBA provides 2 very valuable things to Arizona schools:
  1. ASBA keeps school policies up-to-date with the latest changes in law. If every school had to separately pay lawyers to re-write school policies every time a law changed, it would be a huge amount of redundant work. ASBA lawyers re-write the appropriate school policies to comply with the new laws and suggest those changes to school district governing boards that are members of ASBA. Governing board members may choose to simply accept the suggestions or to modify them for their schools. Local control at work!
  2. ASBA trains school board members. There are hundreds of laws and responsibilities that school board members should know. Having a knowledgeable school board ensures the effective stewardship of district policies and procedures. School board members spend their own personal time and cover their own transportation costs to attend ASBA trainings.
  • ASBA provides information to Arizona voters. Sometimes, school board members elect committees to decide whether ASBA will support or oppose certain election issues, such as Prop 100. When they do decide to support an issue, ASBA communicates its decision, in a straight- forward explanation to the public.
To learn more about ASBA, click here.

What you can do:

Write, email and/or call your elected representatives and urge them to vote "NO" on HB 2002 and SB 1365. Tell them these bills do nothing to balance our state budget. They simply repress the local control voters entrust to their elected school board members, and they discriminate against and silence the voices of our educators, who regardless of their profession, are entitled to the same democratic rights afforded all American citizens.