The Farley Report from Phoenix #275: 4-25-18

This is the slowest week yet in this year’s Legislature as we wait for the emergence of majority lawmakers and the Governor from their proverbial smoke-filled rooms where they have been clashing over their own budget priorities behind closed doors.

As is traditional in recent years, their budget will be slammed through in three days with little public input, possibly next week, but those of us in the current minority are ready with amendments that will lay out a better way to govern our state, starting with actual significant teacher raises for public schools. 

Meanwhile today, in a surprise move, Governor Ducey forced through his bill to lower teaching standards in Arizona. Much more after the Pledge Break…

FarleyCactusRoots2.jpg  —> In case you missed it, we’re continuing to grow Arizona's very own version of grassroots action — cactus roots! We need an Arizona Democratic Party to be stronger than ever for success in 2018. We're more than $1,500 along the way to our $5,000 goal. Pitch in what you can today before our end of month deadline.

—> We have a teacher crisis in Arizona with 44% of teachers leaving after just two years because the Governor and the Legislative Majority have slashed state support for schools by 21% since 2008. We have the lowest teacher pay in the country. 

Governor Ducey's solution? SB1042 to lower standards for teaching credentials. The Senate Republicans earlier today passed this abomination on party lines, and Ducey has said he will sign it as soon as he gets it.  

We were voting on other bills on the floor and heading toward adjournment for the day when SB1042 was thrown onto the vote board without warning. The bill guts our teacher credentialing system by allowing people with knowledge in one subject area to teach kids without taking any standardized test, and without training in classroom management or any other subjects. 

I spoke out strongly against the bill, as did most of my Democratic colleagues. I explained the only way to solve a teacher retention crisis is by investing in teacher raises, building maintenance, computers, and textbooks. Attract the best and the brightest, don’t lower your standards to take unqualified jobseekers, insulting the fully credentialed and experienced teachers who are sacrificing to serve our kids right now.

We are witnessing the destruction of our public school system by the current leaders. They have 1) slashed public school funds; 2) stolen public school money to give to private schools; and 3) lowered public school teaching standards.

You want to talk school choice, Governor Ducey? 94% of AZ parents choose public schools.  

We must not let him get away with attacking the choice most of us are making for our kids.

It's time to rise up, Arizona, and elect new leaders. Now.

—> Another education proposal from Governor Ducey is his “results-based funding” program which he is selling to the public as if it will help high-performing schools in low-income neighborhoods.  

Sounds good if it actually did that. The problem is, when you look at the details, it would dole out 2/3 of its funding to schools at the highest income scale. Or as the Arizona Republic points out in their analysis, “Gov. Doug Ducey’s education plan helps AZ’s wealthiest.” This in a state where one in four children live in poverty. 

It is currently being discussed as part of the budget. Its money would better be used to help everyone by increasing teacher raises from his measly 0.4% to a full 4%.

—> Blowback continues from Governor Ducey’s expansion of the private-school voucher system to all students in the state.  The Payson Roundup, hardly anyone idea of a liberal newspaper, lit into its hometown legislators Sylvia Allen, Bob Thorpe, and Brenda Barton, in an editorial entitled, “Enemies of Public Education”. 

The first line reads, “They represent Rim Country. And they’ve apparently decided we don’t need free, universal public schools.” 

This is worth reading all the way through, but in case you are pressed for time (what Farley Report reader is pressed for time?), here’s the conclusion, which almost reads like poetry:  

“And so neglect degenerates into abuse.

But we’ll say one thing for the vote to cannibalize our public schools.

This vote strips away all pretense.

So just make a note.

Senator Sylvia Allen.

Rep. Bob Thorpe.

Rep. Brenda Barton.

They still represent Rim Country.

But make no mistake: They’re now the declared enemies of free, universal, public education.” 

Their voucher-lobbyist friends rode in from out of state to save them: American Federation for Children (AFC), organized and funded by Betsy DeVos and her family, first offered to provide a free lunch as a thank-you for Republican voucher supporters, which was cancelled by Speaker Mesnard due to an optics problem.

Then AFC paid for a series of 60-second TV ads, plus multiple newspaper ads, mailers, and robocalls to publicly thank the Republican voucher supporters for their votes.  

Looks like it’s not only Governor Ducey more focused on pleasing their DC friends at the expense of AZ kids.

—> So why is all this happening? Why are we sliding headlong into the wholesale privatization of public education?  

Governor Ducey and his legislative supporters claim these moves will help our public schools, a patently absurd proposition. The goal now seems to be unconnected to whether public schools succeed or not. Rather, the goal may be to eliminate the largest portion of state budgets here and around the country — public education — in order to dramatically decrease corporate taxes for Governor Ducey’s primary political patrons, a couple of midwestern oil billionaires named Koch. 

A recent story in the Arizona Capitol Times on a new scheme by Arizona’s Sith Lord of dark money, Sean Noble, together with some other investigative reports (like this excellent one from ProPublica) on the complex web of dark money spending published over the past several years, helped me to connect the dots. Allow me to lay it out for you. Bear with me, this stuff is the opposite of transparent.

Sean Noble is a Show Low native and former staffer for Congressman John Shadegg who, through connections to the Goldwater Institute, became acquainted with the Koch Brothers and landed a job with them in 2009. He started to work against the Affordable Care Act via a Koch-funded group called the Center to Protect Patient Rights. Once the Citizens United decision was laid down, his workload exploded — setting up LLCs which had the effect of hiding cashflow to conservative causes. 

Noble then became director of American Encore, which funneled $137 million in Koch Brothers cash to various anti-public education and other conservative dark-money groups, including a dark-money group called Americans for Responsible Leadership, which was run by his friend, the former Speaker of the House Kirk Adams, who used that money in 2012 to support Arizona Treasurer Doug Ducey as he worked to defeat the extension of the one-cent sales tax for public education, thus ensuring that public schools would never recover the funds it lost to legislative cuts since 2008.

Noble’s American Encore is reported to have spent $1.4 million in dark money to help Doug Ducey’s Governor campaign in 2014.

Doug Ducey is now Governor, and Kirk Adams is now his chief of staff.

Now the Capitol Times reports that Sean Noble states he is working with “a couple wealthy Arizonans” to put two Legislature-referred initiatives on the 2018 ballot — sharing the ballot with Ducey’s re-election — to add more regulations to public district schools only. These attacks on district schools will be cloaked in the faulty concept often repeated by Ducey of “directing more money into the classroom” using a definition of classroom spending that excludes librarians, janitors, nurses, lunches, transportation, counselors, and many other vital school support staff and services. 

This is a clear attempt to distract voters from and compete with the most important issue that may be on the ballot — the renewal and possible increase of Prop 301, the current 6/10 cent sales tax for schools that is due to expire in 2020 if voters don’t extend it. If this renewal is defeated, the dire funding situation or our schools declines to utter disaster. 

I would hate to think that Governor Ducey would put the future of our schools at risk once again for his own political purposes with the help of his political friends, but he’s done it repeatedly this session already, on the heels of his attacks on JTED career and technical education in his first year. So it looks like he may be doing it again next year. 

Stay alert, and be ready to resist. I will be there with you.

—> I’ve been all over the state talking with folks about my possible run for Governor, and the response continues to amaze me.  

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I spoke to a great crowd of dedicated citizens at Indivisible Phoenix and out in Peoria at the Legislative District 21 Democrats meeting, supported U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (NM) at a Phoenix event hosted by my longtime mentor Ann Kirkpatrick, and shared with the annual meeting of the Arizona Optometrists Association that optometrists have always had my back since I was in Kindergarten and asked my parents why the tops of trees were blurry. I will always have their backs, too. I'm also grateful for the standing ovation they offered when I mentioned I was considering running for Governor.

Change is coming.

GiGITucsonHighLR.jpg —> Finally tonight, please allow me to be a bragging dad for a moment. I’m so freaking proud of my youngest daughter GIGi who was honored last Saturday as one of the top 25 of her senior class of 755 students at Tucson High. 

She is going to Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts in the fall (I'm driving her there in an epic road trip) and I know there are no limits to where she can go in life.

I believe in Arizona public schools. I'm so grateful to the dedicated public school teachers who helped her become the amazing young woman she is today. We must make sure this system is fully funded and available for everyone for as long as we live.

Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Senator. 

Steve

Steve Farley

Senator, District 9, Tucson

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