The Farley Report from Phoenix #231: 10-12-15

After reading the last few Farley Reports about our neglect of Arizona’s public school system, many of you have asked me, “What can we do?” By popular request, this report offers solutions, and an opportunity for you to take action.

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—> How can you help restore permanent funding to our K-12 and JTED schools? Get involved and get educated about the issues — and here is the perfect opportunity: 

You do not want to miss this event — on Wednesday, October 21, from 7-8:30 pm, at the Catalina High School Auditorium in Tucson, the Senate and House Democratic Caucuses will be holding our first K-12 Education Town Hall, sponsored by a broad range of community organizations from the Metro Tucson Chamber to the Pima County Interfaith Council. 

Learn about how public education finance in Arizona works (or doesn't work), hear about possible solutions to our K-12 and JTED funding crisis, ask questions of local and state leaders, and share your stories on how the cuts have affected you, your family, and your business.

All are invited, and feel free to email this info and the flyer below to your lists. We are limited to 900 seats in the auditorium, but there will also be an overflow space with video screen in the cafeteria. Bring your friends and arrive early to ensure a seat — your participation is vitally important to the future of our state.

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This is NOT a partisan event, since the issue we are discussing is NOT partisan. Arizonans of all party preferences support adequately funded excellent public schools. We will be presenting facts and solutions, and hopefully we can use this town hall series to come together to pressure our state’s leaders to give our schools the resources they need NOW. 

For those of you not in Southern Arizona, We will also be hosting other K-12 Education Town Halls before the end of the year in other parts of the state so you can have your voice heard as well.

—> One terrific solution is for the Legislature — including Speaker Gowan and President Biggs — to settle the K-12 inflation funding lawsuit NOW.  

A couple of weeks ago, the Arizona Senate and House Democratic Caucuses did just that.  We released our common-sense plan to fully fund the voter-required court-ordered inflation funding for our K-12 public schools IMMEDIATELY without raising taxes. 

The House and Senate Republican plan by contrast raids First Things First and the State Land Education Trust Fund, and plans to spend $8 million on an unnecessary special election. Our plan does none of those things.

For details, click here: https://drive.google.com/…/0Bx76scMjzBtRQWNpb1I2MTM0dGs/view

The Senate and House Democratic plan will be sufficient to settle the ongoing lawsuit and get the money to our classrooms right away (at a special session), permanently, with no fiscal cliff in the future, and provide 50% more money over the next ten years than Gov. Ducey's plan. 

While this is a huge step forward out of the current education funding morass, this is just the first step in restoring funding to our schools, not the only step. Remember, we are still 50th in the country in state support for our schools, and it would take $2000 additional per pupil in order to tie us with Texas for 48th. 

Our plan leaves the $450 million rainy day fund intact, plus around $200 million in cash balance each fiscal year left for additional priorities, including solving our current child safety crisis at DCS and funding universities and community colleges. 

Our revenue projections are based on the fiscally conservative work of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC), the economists who produce the numbers on which the House and Senate majority develop their budgets, so we cannot be accused of fuzzy math and too-hopeful fiscal guesses.

Our plan also puts a cap on the corporate private school tuition tax credit, a program that in current law can expand by 20% per year in perpetuity, the tax giveaway reaching Alt-Fuels proportions in under a decade and continuing to grow thereafter. We instead use that money to fund our public schools, a duty we have been shirking for years.

We believe JTED career and technical education programs should also be restored at the same special session with money from the additional balance in order to forestall their current death cycle -- regular session is too late for that.

Consideration (possibly at regular session) should also be given to community college and university restoration as well as extension of the inflation-funding initiative Prop 301 (without changing current inflation language) which otherwise will expire in 2020. 

Education is the only proven way of reducing poverty, increasing jobs, and raising the standard of living for everyone.

We will need to find more funding to bump us out of 50th place in state support for K-12. Once our initial plan is enacted and the lawsuit is settled, we are willing to work with Governor Ducey and Treasurer DeWit on a responsible version of the land trust proposal for approval at the general election, with no need for special election costs.

My hope is that the Governor and the Legislative Majority recognize that our plan is necessary as a prerequisite to proceed with their plans that require voter approval for additional money. I cannot imagine Arizona voters approving a new school funding plan while the Legislative Majority is still fighting to avoid paying schools for the inflation funding plan voters already approved in 2001. Why would voters trust the Legislature to carry out the new plan?

Settle the lawsuit, then we’ll push together for the other increases we need. Fund our schools NOW out of the money we already have. No gimmicks, no spin, and no sacrificing the well-being of our grandchildren.

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Share this plan, so the whole state knows we have this amazing option to fund our schools, our kids, our economy, and our future NOW. #‎FundEducationNow

—> To end this Report with more good news [Could it be? An all-good-news Farley Report?], you may recall from the last Report that we have finally made it to the final draft phase of our Tucson to Phoenix passenger rail project. While the process took a while, the timing turns out to be good. 

Two other US regions are currently moving ahead with high-speed rail projects funded privately with major investment from foreign companies, including the Texas Central Railway from Dallas to Houston (primarily Japanese investors), and the XpressWest from Los Angeles to Las Vegas (primarily casinos and Chinese investors). We may be able to obtain the huge benefits of great transportation options and sustainable transit-oriented development for smart growth without having to expend large amounts of taxpayer money.

My eldest daughter is currently studying at Fudan University in Shanghai, and my other daughter and I will be traveling to China this week (on my own dime, in case you were wondering) to celebrate her 21st birthday. In order to drum up similar interest in high-speed rail from Tucson to Phoenix to Vegas, I am taking a day out of my schedule to meet with high-ranking officials from a major high-speed rail manufacturer and developer who has a track record of significant international rail investment. 

Please send your positive thoughts with me — I really believe we can get this done, and soon. 

Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Senator. 

Steve

Steve Farley

Senator, District 9, Tucson

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