It's time for your September Farley Report. And I have to talk about education again. I'm going to be very direct.
Yesterday, thanks to super-teacher Beth Slaine, I had another tour of Tucson High (my daughter's school) along with my colleagues Dave Bradley, Bruce Wheeler, and Stefanie Mach. Alongside dedicated overworked and underpaid teachers changing kids' lives for the better, here's what we saw:
More than ten percent of Tucson High's classrooms are closed by OSHA as a danger to students and faculty due to lack of state funding. This post-apocalyptic scene was photographed in one of these 23 hazardous and unusable classrooms, in a school of 3,500 with class sizes currently in the mid-30s.
There are not enough textbooks for students, and many are outdated. There are six counselors on staff with a caseload of 600 students each. There are only computers available for around 20% of the students, and many of those are more than 10 years old. Teachers who started seven years ago making $33,000 salaries are still making the same salary. While many brilliant and committed instructors remain, many great talents have already fled the low pay and tough working conditions.
Why are we doing this to ourselves? Why are we destroying the future of our kids and our economy by refusing to invest in education? Could anything be more important? Or more nonpartisan?
These are all good questions to ask the current legislative majority before you mark your ballots as they arrive in your mailbox starting October 9.
Why ask the legislative leaders and their supporters? Because the legislative majority decided to cut building maintenance funds and soft capital (textbook and computer) funds, and steal voter-approved education inflation funds since 2009 to the tune of more than $300 million a year, money they said we couldn't afford. They then turned around and handed it out to big out-of-state corporations as tax giveaways, claiming that these companies might increase wages.
What was the result? Our schools are entering crisis mode while average wages in Arizona have continued to fall. It turns out that businesses looking to relocate and/or grow here need a good education system more than they need yet another tax giveaway. They want good transportation infrastructure, a trained workforce, and good schools for their kids and their employees' kids to thrive in an increasingly competitive global economy.
If we don't fund our schools, then we are heading toward the decline and fall of the American empire, starting right here in Arizona.
The State Supreme Court has now ordered the Legislature to repay that $1.3 billion stolen from our schools, and current legislative leaders are considering whether or not to obey the court order. That's right -- WHETHER OR NOT TO OBEY. This from a group that keeps talking about the rule of law.
Here's the bottom line. Their corporate tax giveaways and loopholes have proved themselves useless. Our schools, our kids, our future workforce, and our future economy are in grave danger. Repeal the tax loopholes and giveaways, and fund our schools. Now.
This is a democracy, and we have the ability to change the people who hold the legislative majority and the governor's chair -- in just a few weeks. I urge you to do so. There are excellent candidates running for the legislature all over the state challenging entrenched incumbents who are complicit in this educational theft, and I urge you to consider voting for these new voices, all of whom are as incensed by this public vandalism as you and I.
If we and our friends and family wield our vote wisely, we can crawl out of this abyss and construct a future that works for all of us. There is a different way where schools and families and businesses can thrive together, and I ask you for the opportunity to enact that future.
Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Senator.
Senator, District 9, Tucson
Paid for by Friends O'Farley