I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Saturday, October 31, 2009

AEA Legislative Update

AEA Update from Doug Kilgore:

October, 2009

This Week's Issue:

  • Special Session Legislature Voting Records - Take Action
  • Budget Deficit Grows - Solutions Elusive
  • Teachers Reacting to Attack by Burns and Adams
  • Tuition Tax Credit Fraud Studied
  • State Trust Lands Education Funds Raided by New Budget Deal
  • October News Links
Special Session Legislature Voting Records - We Won't Forget Take Action
In August, House Majority Leader Kirk Adams (R-Mesa) convinced 32 members of his caucus to send the Senate a budget that included $650 million in tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Arizonans, $600 million in funding cuts to K-12 education funding, and attacks on the professional rights of teachers. Senate President Bob Burns found 15 members of his caucus to support these same budget provisions, falling one vote short of sending it to the Governor. A modified version of the budget without the huge tax cuts was sent to the Governor. On September 4, the Governor signed much of the budget, but line-item vetoed many of the education cuts and some other harmful provisions while allowing the attacks on teachers to remain. Every legislator who voted for the irresponsible combination of huge tax cuts, massive cuts to public education, and attacks on teachers must be held accountable. View the voting records of each legislator on these issues and be sure to forward this link to your friends and neighbors.

Budget Deficit Grows - Solutions Elusive
Governor Brewer's use of her line-item veto power on the special session budget resulted in an unbalanced budget. That current year deficit has grown from $1.5 billion on September 4 to over $2 billion today. The deficit will force the legislature into another special session to balance the current year budget. Capitol speculation about the timing and subject of a special session includes (1) a November or December special session to balance the current year budget and reinstate funding authority to several agencies that are out of funds, (2) a November or December special session to reinstate funding to several agencies only, or (3) a January special session that will run concurrent to the 2010 regular session.

Again, the call for a special session seems uncertain based on the lack of agreement on the need for additional revenue. The Governor continues to demand a budget that includes a tax increase to help protect funding to public education and programs that protect Arizona's most vulnerable citizens. The Republican legislative leadership has not been able to build support for the additional revenue in their own caucus and appear unwilling to reach out to Democrats to build a bipartisan solution. Wednesday the Governor warned that without additional revenue, cuts to education and the Department of Economic Security would be "devastating" to our public schools and vulnerable citizens.

Once a solution is found for the current years' budget deficit, Arizona must tackle next year's $4 billion deficit. This deficit represents about 40% of the states' general fund, the largest percent deficit in the nation. Massive cuts to public schools will be unavoidable unless there is an increase in revenues. The AEA March4Schools coalition will continue to build public support for a balanced and reasonable solution to our budget deficit that invests in our public schools and vital state services through an adequate and equitable tax structure.

Teachers Reacting to Attack by Burns and Adams
All across Arizona school employees are reacting with outrage and resolve to a blatant punitive attack on the teaching profession by Senate President Bob Burns and House Speaker Kirk Adams. In late August, Senate President Bob Burns and House Speaker Kirk Adams submitted yet another budget proposal to the Governor that included House Bill 2011 which amends school employment law in several areas.  Governor Brewer had vetoed this package back in July.  In early September she vetoed some of the cuts to school funding, but couldn't line-item veto the policy changes - which will become law as of November 24, 2009. Learn more.

Some majority party legislators have regularly expressed their anger about AEA and members lobbying on behalf of school funding.  Some of this legislation is simply to punish this hard work by educators at the Capitol. It is an attempt to silence the strongest organized opposition to the massive cuts to public education advocated by Burns and Adams. But teachers and school employees across Arizona are becoming more organized and committed to joining the fight to protect public education from massive cuts and stand up to these intimidation tactics. A petition drive calling for the repeal of the punitive measures contained in HB 2011 and drive to sign up school employees for the permanent early voter list launched by several local associations is gaining momentum.

Tuition Tax Credit Fraud Studied
Following scathing investigative reports by the East Valley Tribune, Arizona Republic, and Tucson Citizen, two legislative committees are studying reports that include accusations of fraud by school tuition organizations (STO). Both legislative committees met in September promising to make changes to prevent the misuse of tax funds by private schools and the school tuition organizations that provide private schools with taxpayer dollars.

Reports have shown private schools are encouraging parents to violate IRS rules by using multiple publicly funded tuition credits to fully fund their own child's tuition. School tuition organizations are not allocating funds as required by law allowing them to build up excess funds for investments and profit. Tax-exempt school tuition organizations are forming corporations owned by their executives who hire family members and friends who are profiting from payments by the STO.

Proponents of these tuition tax credit programs have claimed the program will allow lower income students to attend private schools and lower state spending on education, but the reports have shown that instead, most of the tax dollars are simply subsidizing wealthy families who were sending their children to private schools anyway and the program is costing the state general fund millions of dollars. The legislature voted to expand tuition tax credits during the last session. View how your legislator voted.

State Trust Lands Education Funds Raided by New Budget Deal
Hidden in this fall's Special Session budget deal was an appropriation of up to $10 million of the state trust lands beneficiaries' annual proceeds to create a special fund to be used by the State Land Commissioner to manage land sales. This act is unconstitutional as the state's Constitution stipulates all financial gains from trust lands sales go to the "beneficiaries" which includes public schools.  The legislature's appropriation reduces the benefit to public schools. Traditionally the state had provided funding for the management of state trust lands through a general fund appropriation. The Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest has sent a special request to Attorney General Terry Goddard to enjoin this illegal payment of public money.

October News Links
Our schools need your vote. With a massive budget deficit this year - and more red ink expected next year - state funding for public education is at risk.
by Heather Price-Wright and John Wright
There is a lesson that UA students can teach our state legislature: Ultimately, you have to stop procrastinating and do your work.   
Tuition tax credits drain state money
One of the most prevalent arguments in support of Arizona's private-school-tuition tax credits is that they save the state money by shifting students from public to private schools.
Loopholes favor well-off, not low-income families as intended
Two sets of state lawmakers are examining how Arizona's private school tuition tax credits are being used - or misused. Legislators must close the serious loopholes. Arizona cannot afford to pay for wealthy students' private school tuition, which was what media outlets discovered.  
Ariz. groups not meeting law that 90% be disbursed
Non-profit organizations have stockpiled millions of dollars in unspent corporate donations that are supposed to provide private-school scholarships for students from lower-income families, state records show.
Public school teachers are expected to be the big winners when states around the U.S. reveal for the first time how many jobs were created or saved during the first months of President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus plan.

Contact Us  
Please contact Doug Kilgore, Government Relations Organizational Consultant, for questions and comments

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