The Coercive Power of Taxation

Robert Robb wrote in a recent Op-Ed in the AZ Republic, “The government, through the coercive power of taxation, establishes a central pool of resources for the education of students.” Wow, the “coercive power of taxation.” Now that is some powerful spin. Last time I looked, taxes (that “central pool of resources”) are something we agree to pay. After all, as Jeff Bryant, in his blog OurFuture.org, writes “in a democratic society, “government” is ultimately up to us, and what it does is an expression of what we want to do for ourselves. So what the critics of government are saying, really, is that they have a problem with democracy. It’s important to know government wasn’t turned into a four-letter word by happenstance. It happened by design.” The government isn’t, some outside entity over which we have no say, he government is us! We elect those who make the laws we must follow and set the taxes we must pay. We also have the power to un-elect them. To believe those who would tell us otherwise is to abrogate our rights and responsibilities.

I just don’t get it. If taxes are an evil, coercive power, how does Robb expect a civil society to fund the common needs of its citizenry? Is there no responsibility on the part of that citizenry to contribute to provision for the common good? I suppose he would advocate for business to do it. I hate to break it to him, but business can’t or won’t provide for all our needs. There just are some things that are best provided collectively by government and based on my 22 years in the Air Force and time as a government contractor afterwards, I’ll take a sometimes inefficient government team working for our common good over a profit driven contractor any day!

Unfortunately, our Governor and GOP-led Legislature is dead set on contracting out our public schools. After all, it’s worked so well for our prisons. Those of us who care about the one million plus students in our district schools though, know this will not end well. And it is laughable that those working so hard to push the voucher expansion tout themselves as fiscal conservatives. Maybe the fiscally conservative aspect of vouchers is that they allow those with sufficient fiscal resources to conserve those resources by offsetting them with the welfare handouts taxpayers provide.

Columnist Joanna Allhands, also at azcentral.com, just yesterday urged us all to just “calm down”, reasoning that the expansion of vouchers is not going to produce a mass exodus from our district schools. Know what? I totally agree. After all, parents have had school choice for almost a quarter of a century and yet, over 80 percent of them still choose district schools. Additionally, the vast majority of parents can’t afford to make the choice to take a voucher even if they wanted to. Now worth only $4,400 for a mainstream student, vouchers won’t even begin to cover private school tuition of $6,000 for elementary or $18,000 for high school.

Ultimately though, this fight isn’t about the choice of schools, but rather, what kind of country we want. Do we want one that values all its people and wants each to have the opportunity to reach his or her full potential, or do we believe that only the strong should survive and “to the winner go all the spoils”? Do we recognize all the benefits our district schools – with their locally elected governing boards – bring to our students, families and communities all across America, or don’t communities even matter anymore? Are we destined to continue to segregate and polarize, or can we reconnect with the idea that diversity is our strength and that our public schools are the melting pot that teaches each of us that truth?

Don’t be fooled by all the noise. The expansion of vouchers is not about our kids, but about profit and power. It is part of the systematic destruction of the people’s faith in our institutions and their voice in our democracy. That’s why this fight is far from over. Betsy DeVos may have tweeted congratulations to Governor Ducey last week, but her money fueled ideological agenda won’t win in the end. That’s because our cause is just and we have a much higher purpose than ourselves…we have our children.

President John F. Kennedy said, “A child miseducated is a child lost.” Proponents of public education understand every child is precious and should not have their potential determined by the circumstances of their birth. Public schools offer the best opportunity for all children to achieve the American Dream and the road to that dream is paved by the “coercive power of taxation.” If this is no longer what we want for not only our own children, but all America’s children, let’s quit pretending we either are great, or want to be great again. That time will have passed.

We Do Not Fight Alone!

Arizona enjoys a multitude of great organizations fighting for our public schools  and I have written about some in previous posts. Our public education advocates also have a great friend beyond our state borders, (one the CEO of BASIS calls “one of the most virulent anti-school choice institutions in the country”), the Network for Public Education (NPE).

NPE was founded in 2013 by Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody. For those who may not know, Diane Ravitch is undoubtedly the leading advocate for K–12 public education in the nation. She is a graduate of Wellesley College and holds a Ph.D. in the history of American education. She was a U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education under President George H. W. Bush, and is still an education policy analyst and a Research Professor of Education at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. She is a prolific writer about education both on-line at her blog DianeRavitch.net, and in print with seminal books such as “The Death and Life of the Great American School System” and more recently, “Reign of Error.”

The NPE website states “They are an advocacy group whose mission is to preserve, promote, improve and strengthen public schools for both current and future generations of students. The goal of NPE is to connect all those who are passionate about our schools – students, parents, teachers and citizens. They share information and research on vital issues that concern the future of public education at a time when it is under attack.”

With privatizer Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education, our system of public education is now more under attack than ever. It is clear her intent is the destruction of this system she refers to as “a dead end.” DeVos and her allies have worked for decades to push charters, vouchers, and education tax credits. She even supports virtual charter schools which have the most abysmal track record of all when it comes to student success.

Despite a lackluster track record of producing any improved results and, numerous accounts of fraud, waste and abuse when it comes to charters, vouchers and other school choice options, the general public is still not fully aware of the threat these tools of profiteers pose to our public (district) schools. The mantra of “parents know best and should be free to choose the best school option for their child,” as well as terms such as “Empowerment Scholarship Accounts,” are destined to be not only innocuous sounding, but well…empowering and enticing.

I have been impressed with NPE since I first joined their email list and then attended the first annual conference in 2013 in Austin, TX. The energy at the conference was high; the majority of the people in attendance were there on their own dime and were highly motivated to fight for our public schools. I met Diane Ravitch and Mercedes Schneider (a teacher/advocate/education writer from Louisiana) among many others, and it helped propel my passion for this work.

It was at this conference that I learned about the Education Bloggers Network and I have been a fairly regular contributor, along with some 250 or so other bloggers around the country. There is though, an even closer to home connection as Tucson’s very own Robin Hiller, founder and Executive Director of Voices for Education, was NPE’s first Executive Director. I have now also had the pleasure of meeting and working with her replacement, Carol Burris. You may recognize Carol’s name as she recently took on BASIS in the Washington Post and then in the AZ Capitol Times. She has been very interested in our fight for public education here in Arizona and will no doubt continue to bring national attention to our struggle.

I have watched NPE’s advocacy efforts grow since 2013 and am excited about their latest efforts. Carol has recently led the development of a NPE Action Grassroots School Board Member Network Facebook page and intends to release a toolkit to help encourage advocates to consider running for a seat on their local school board. She also just released a toolkit called School Privatization Explained with 13 fact sheets on a variety of choice issues and an interactive map which allows people to learn how their state stacks up in this area.

I found the information valuable and encourage you to check it out. I also recommend that you sign up for NPE’s email list as well as Diane Ravitch’s blog if you have not already done so.

In her email about the School Privatization Explained tools, Carol writes the following, “Read, share, quote and even copy. They are designed for your use. Most of all, share the truth about school privatization far and wide. We cannot let the pillar of our democracy, our public schools, be destroyed.” Yes, there is much at stake here, and failure is not an option.

The Voucher Expansion is Not About Our Kids!

After I started this post, it was somewhat overcome by events. The preamble below gives the latest and then I dive into my original thoughts.

As of this posting, the AZ Senate had voted for the full expansion of vouchers and the House was on the cusp of doing the same. To all those who voted against our kids, our system of public education, and the foundation of our democracy, just know that public district school parents and advocates will not forget your choice to be on the wrong side of this issue. November 2018 is right around the corner and despite all the dark money corporate profiteers have poured into this fight, we each still have our vote and will use it wisely!

In a futile effort this morning to shift the hearts and minds of my LD11 legislators, I sent the following email to Senator Steve Smith and Representatives Vince Leach and Mark Finchem.

Hello Gentlemen,
I implore you to reconsider your position on the full expansion of vouchers. There is plenty of evidence that they do not produce better results, they do not provide any info on return on investment, they will cost the state general fund more than student attendance at district schools, and 75% of ESAs are used by parents who could have sent their kids to the private schools without taxpayer help. Additionally, as a taxpayer, I object to my tax dollars being siphoned off to private and parochial schools without any information available on return on investment. PLEASE do the right thing and vote NO!

I appreciate Representative Finchem’s reply (his was the only), but have some real problems with much of his response, especially this part:

Thank you for writing to share your thoughts. I think we can all agree that we want to see a quality education for as many children as possible. What I find troublesome is the call for an overwhelming number of parents -as high as 70% according to some polls- who are demanding choices in education. The top reasons for these demands include such feedback as:
* Objectionable content taught ranging from sex ed to Islamic studies
* Poor quality instruction from teachers bent on injecting political ideology into their classrooms
* School district level insistence on adopting the Common Core Standards package

Firstly, I’m wondering if he is conflating his 70 percent statistic. The 70 percentile statistic I know is the Dec 2016 poll that showed 77 percent of Arizona voters believe we need to better fund our public schools. The poll also revealed that 61 percent of voters are willing to pay more in taxes to do that.

Again, not sure where he is getting his facts, but Arizona requires board and parental approval for district schools to teach sex ed, so parents have control of whether this is taught to their children. As for his reference to “poor quality instruction from teachers bent on injecting political ideology into their classroom”, I would love to see his data and learn where it is coming from. I’m sure there are parents who feel this way (Finchem would no doubt be one of them), but I refuse to believe there are a significant number of them.

Finally, his assertion that school districts have taken it upon themselves to adopt Common Core is ludicrous. The Legislature after all, originally mandated districts implement the Common Core before they renamed them the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards. They then essentially worked to rescind the mandate but districts had already fully implemented them. To change again, would have wasted resources and wreaked havoc on student learning.

Finchem then asked why aren’t parents choosing to stay at public schools? Well, actually, over 80 percent of Arizona students have chosen to stay in public district schools. This, despite a quarter century of charter schools in our state. He also surmised district schools are inattentive to the customer. District schools though, with their locally elected governing boards, are the only schools that are completely transparent and fully accountable to all their customers, i.e., parents, voters, taxpayers and community members. Additionally, he writes “Parents have been very clear that they do not want their children to be treated or referred to as ‘human capital’.” I have to say that I’ve never heard a student referred to as human capital, at least not in our district schools. The “churn and burn” environment of some “high performing, no excuses” for-profit charter chains might think of them this way, but district schools, who take all comers, want to educate each child.

Finchem also wrote:

“So again I have to ask the question that nobody is asking but for me, and it is a critical policy question, why aren’t parents rushing to public schools? If the matter is rooted in a call for competition to be the best, then ESA’s are one tool to draw public schools into the arena of excellence. I am interested in knowing your thoughts on how public schools can move away from delivering what parents know intuitively is wrong, and toward what parents expect? This is not a question of money; it is a question of performance.”

To the above, let me just say that I’ll concede some competition is good to help fine tune our districts, but ultimately competition is about producing winners and losers. Shouldn’t we want all our students to be winners? As for “Parents know what public schools are delivering is inherently wrong?” REALLY???. Who says? And on what parents expect from public schools, I think it looks something like: a safe environment; a full curriculum to include art, music, language, and physical education; highly effective teachers; sufficient support staff to meet student needs; reasonable class sizes; up-to-date technology; reliable buses; and well-maintained facilities conducive to learning. What parents know about what is wrong in district schools is that over 2,000 classrooms are without a teacher and another 2,000 are without a certified teacher; that being forced to rely more heavily on locally supported funding means some districts can’t afford music or art or physical education; and that maintenance and repair funding for infrastructure is woefully inadequate.

Finally, Finchem tries to make the point that this is not a question of money, but of performance. But, all of the above inadequacies are a result of inadequate funding. And that inadequate funding is due to decisions made by the Arizona Legislature. They are the ones after all, who affected the highest cuts in per pupil funding in the nation from 2008 to 2014. They are also the ones who seem to think that having an educational performance ranking between 38th and 44th (depending on who you ask) is a good enough return on investment for a 48th investment in per pupil funding and 50th in teacher salaries. But I really doubt the majority of parents think either the investment or the return is “good enough.”  I certainly don’t, nor do I think many of our legislators are…starting with Smith, Leach and Finchem. #TimeForChange

 

 

ESA (Voucher) Vote Tomorrow!

Arizona’s public district school children (all one million plus), need your help! Both chambers of the AZ Legislature are scheduled to vote on the full expansion of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) tomorrow and district school advocates aren’t sure we have enough votes to kill the bills (SB1431 and HB2394.)

Please act now to help! Here’s information on how from the Arizona School Boards Association:

This is It! ESAs Going to a Vote

SB1431 and HB294 empowerment scholarship accounts; phase in
 The ESA expansion bills are going to a vote tomorrow. ESAs may have the one vote they need to pass the Senate but we still have a chance to stop them in the House. If we can help the House hold strong, it will be a victory for education advocates. Below are our friends and potential supporters who should know their constituents are watching! Take a moment to call and/or email and let them know:

  • Arizona cannot afford universal ESAs
  • ESAs are not a savings and will take general fund dollars away from all other state priorities, not just education.
  • No amendments will make universal ESAs an acceptable use of public funds. Tax dollars are still diverted for private use
  • ASBA considers this a fundamental indication of which members truly support public education

Thank/Stay Strong/Continue Support

LD 15 Rep. Heather Carter hcarter@azleg.gov 602-926-5503

LD10 Rep. Todd Clodfelter tclodfelter@azleg.gov 602-926-4850

LD 5 Rep. Regina Cobb rcobb@azleg.gov 602-926-3126

LD 16 Rep. Doug Coleman dcoleman@azleg.gov 602-926-3160

LD14 Rep. Drew John djohn@azleg.gov 602-926-5154

LD25 Rep. Michelle Udall mudall@azleg.gov 602-926-4856

LD28 Sen. Kate Brophy-McGee kbrophymcgee@azleg.gov 602-926-4486

Potenial No Votes

LD13 Rep. Darrin Mitchell dmitchell@azleg.gov 602-926-5894

LD28 Rep. Maria Syms msyms@azleg.gov 602-926-4840

LD8 Rep. David Cook dcook@azleg.gov 602-926-5162

ASBA *can* help stop ESAs. These members need to know that they will be supported for doing the right thing! Call and/or email now!

Trump reverses stand on EPA, orders trillion dollar investment in solar energy

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com

April Fool!

(I wrote most of this post yesterday – April 1.)

Let’s try a different headline. China, Chile, America – which does not belong?

If you picked America, you would be correct. China and Chile are leading the way in solar energy investment. This is another way in which Trump’s MAGA is a race to the bottom.

The Washington Post reports that While Trump promotes coal, Chile and others are turning to cheap sun power. Chile, the main focus of the report, aims to be “A solar Saudi Arabia.”

The Atacama desert in Chile is possibly the driest, sunniest place on the planet. It also is a popular tourist destination being home to some of the most interesting geological formations and ecologies: check out flocks of flamingos in the high plains salt flats, volcanoes, valley of the moon, the Andes, and more things to do in San Pedro de Atacama.

The Atacama is also interesting because of Chile’s immense national copper mine. Chile put this mine in place where no rational person would want to live – and then built a whole city to house the (well-paid) miners.

In addition to tourist cash and copper, the Atacama is an ideal place to situate massive solar arrays. No rain means no atmospheric interference with sun light. And that means super efficient solar production.

The sun is so intense and the air so dry that seemingly nothing survives. Across vast, rocky wastes blanched of color, there are no cactuses or other visible signs of life. It’s Mars, with better cellphone reception.

It is also the world’s best place to produce solar energy, with the most potent sun power on the planet.

So powerful, in fact, that something extraordinary happened last year when the Chilean government invited utility companies to bid on public contracts. Solar producers dominated the auction, offering to supply electricity at about half the cost of coal-fired plants.

It wasn’t because of a government subsidy for alternative energy. In Chile and a growing list of nations, the price of solar energy has fallen so much that it is increasingly beating out conventional sources of power. Industry experts and government regulators hail this moment as a turning point in the history of human electricity-making.

“This is the beginning of a trend that will only accelerate,” said Chilean Energy Minister Andrés Rebolledo. “We’re talking about an infinite fuel source.”

President Trump ordered U.S. regulators this week to reverse Obama-era policies aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and he has promised to “bring back” the U.S. coal industry. But construction of coal-fired power plants dropped 62 percent over the past year worldwide, according to a survey by the Sierra Club and other activist groups. In China last year, the number of new permits for coal-fired plants fell by 85 percent.

More worldwide generating capacity is now being added from clean sources than coal and natural gas combined, according to a December report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which closely tracks investment in renewables.

An investor in Chile wanting to build a hydroelectric dam or coal-fired plant potentially faces years of costly political battles and fierce resistance from nearby communities. In contrast, a solar company can lay out acres of automated sun-tracking panels across an isolated stretch of desert and have them firing quiet, clean electricity in less than a year, with no worries about fluctuating fuel prices or droughts. The sunlight is free and shows up for work on time, every morning.

Long dependent on energy imports, Chilean officials now envision their country turning into a “solar Saudi Arabia.” Chile’s solar energy production has increased sixfold since 2014, and last year it was the top-scoring clean-energy producer in the Americas, and second in the world to China, according to the Bloomberg rankings. (China is the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases but also the leading investor in renewable energy.)

Driving the global shift to cheap sun power is a dramatic decline in the cost of the photovoltaic (PV) panels that can be used to create giant desert solar farms or rooftop home installations. China produces more than two-thirds of the world’s PV panels, and their price has fallen more than 80 percent since 2008.

Unlike many of South America’s other major countries, Chile has virtually no oil or gas deposits. With a heavy dependence on imported fuel, Chileans have been paying some of the highest electricity rates in the region, but prices are falling as renewable sources come online.

The Atacama is well-suited to solar energy production for the same reasons astronomers put high-powered telescopes in northern Chile for the clearest possible Earth-based views of the cosmos.

In nations such as Japan and Germany, which are some of the world leaders in solar energy production, the sun’s rays are partly diffused by water molecules floating in the air, even on days when it isn’t cloudy.

But in the super-dry Atacama, where it virtually never rains, the photons beam straight down. Put a solar panel beneath them and it’s like plugging into the sun.

At the Finis Terrae solar plant near the tiny town of Maria Elena, more than 500,000 PV panels blanket the desert. The 160-megawatt plant was the largest solar installation in Latin America when it went online last summer, capable of powering nearly 200,000 homes. Since then, another Chilean plant has surpassed it.

I am skipping over some of the hassles Chile faces because of the harsh conditions – the extreme radiation – in the Atacama. But the biggest problem with solar is what to do when the sun goes down. Chile is working on it. “Chile could generate all of its electricity with about 4 percent of the desert’s surface area, if there were a way to efficiently store and distribute that energy.”

A company looking to bridge this gap in Chile is building Latin America’s first solar thermal plant. You can see its solitary tower rising from the desert for miles around, like some sort of alien religious shrine. At nearly 700 feet, it is the second-tallest building in Chile.

Instead of PV panels, the solar thermal plant will have 10,000 giant, rotating mirrors set in concentric circles around the tower. They will concentrate the sun’s rays on a huge boiler at the top, filled with molten salts, that reaches more than 1,000 degrees and glows like the Eye of Sauron in “The Lord of the Rings.”

The superheated salts ooze downward to steam turbines at the base of the tower, retaining enough energy to generate electricity all night. It’s essentially a giant, rechargeable $1.4 billion battery.

The plant’s owner, Cerro Dominador, a subsidiary of U.S.-based EIG Global Energy Partners, says it will be completed in 2019. Larger solar thermal facilities based on the technology are in operation in California, and Chile has issued permits for others.

Ivan Araneda, the company’s top executive, said such solar thermal facilities can transform the industry.

“The attack on renewables is that they’re too expensive, but this is efficient, proven technology,” Araneda said. “On an even playing field, renewables can compete with anything.”

AZ Legislators: Listen Up or Get Out!

Night before last, at the West Campus of the Pima Community College in Tucson, AZ Schools Now held the second of three statewide Community Budget Hearings. I’m guessing over 100 people attended the Tucson event, including teachers, administrators, school board members, faith leaders and community advocates. AZ Senator Dalessandro and Representatives Friese, Gonzales, and Engle, and Pima County Schools Superintendent Williams were also in attendance to hear from their constituents.

AZ Schools Now is a coalition of public education advocate organizations from around the state focused on reinvesting in public schools to boost student achievement. The members are Support Our Schools Arizona, Pima County and Valley Interfaith organizations, Friends of Arizona School Boards Association, Christine Marsh (Arizona 2016 Teacher of the Year), Children’s Action Alliance and the Arizona: Education and Business Coalition, Center for Economic Progress, Education Association, School Administrators, Education Network, and Parent Teacher Association.

Moderators Julie Erfle, Jen Darland, David Lujan and Michelle Crow opened up the hearing aand provided information comparing the 2018 budget proposals from Governor Ducey, AZ Schools Now, and the Legislative Democrats prior to opening up the hearing to well…hear what the attendees had to say. All statements were being videotaped as part of the public hearing, so the attendees words could eventually be shared with AZ legislators.

David Lujan of the Arizona Center for Economic Progress gave a detailed description of the three proposals and told the audience that 65 percent of the Governor’s FY2018 education budget goes to high performing schools and 12 percent goes to two charter operators. Of the $10 million Ducey sets aside for kindergarten/early literacy for schools with highest percentage of low-income students, only one school in Pima County qualifies.

As far as funding sources go, Ducey proposes all of it to come from the General Fund and still wants to give a $3 million tax corporate tax cut. Republican legislators on the other hand, are looking to give $11 million in cuts to their corporate benefactors. This, despite 77 percent of Arizona voters wanting (in a Dec 2016) poll, to better fund education and 61 percent willing to pay more taxes to do end.

The AZ Schools Now proposal advocates for a 4 percent raise versus the 0.4 percent Ducey desires. The proposed raise cost of $134 million plus $2 million for building maintenance and repair would be paid for by shifting funding from Ducey’s Credit Enhancement District (which provides tax dollars as collateral for lower cost loans, primarily for charters), freezing growth in corporate tax credits which have grown from $12 million in 2009 to $127 million today, and a pause on new tax cuts.

Legislative Democrats want $136 million for teachers, $38 million for classroom funding and $14 million for building maintenance and repair, the latter two both phasing up over 10 years. They propose paying the bill with $56 million from the General Fund, along with all the methods AZ Schools Now favor plus $50 million in General Fund lottery revenue and $61 million in revenue from additional tax collections. Interestingly, we learned this revenue would come from rehiring 70 or so Department of Revenue tax collection staff who prior to their release by the current administration, each brought in about $1.2 million dollars a year in outstanding tax collections.

Once the microphones were passed to the audience, those wishing to speak lined up behind them and the floodgates opened. First up was a music teacher from Tucson Unified (TUSD) who wondered why our legislators continue to cut funding unless their intent is to kill public education. Needless to say, the audience immediately shouted in unison that is exactly their intention.

Next up was Judith, a grandmother and Pima County Interfaith leader who expressed concern about teachers buying their own supplies and needing second jobs to pay their bills. She said we don’t need more choice and instead of small increases, we should stop tax cuts, give teachers pay increases, stop vouchers, roll back tax credits allowed to School Tuition Organizations (STOs), and just stop taking any of her tax dollars to privatize our public education.

Elizabeth, a teacher, says she is just scraping by with one of her two monthly paychecks dedicated to her rent. She expressed great pride in her students saying they aren’t any less intelligent than others, they just don’t have the same background that initially sets them up for success.

A local business owner, Nicole, said the state should invest in teachers for the long-term because retention will produce the best return on investment (ROI). She talked about how teacher salaries have not only kept up with inflation, but have lost ground. Robert, an Oro Valley taxpayer and Interfaith community leader, said the problem is that the state’s tax structure has been systematically hollowed out and we must get back to collecting the taxes that are owed.

Ceasar, a parent who is a member of the newly formed Tucson Unified Parent Action Council (TUPAC) said parents need to be engaged. On his daughters’ school site council, he said it was a shock to have to deal with a 66 percent cut in funding. He also said he gets really tired of hearing old timers talk about “back in the day.” It’s not your day he said, it’s my kid’s day.

Rebecca, a teacher from Sunnyside Unified said she took a $35K pay cut when she moved here as a teacher from another state and to those who want to blame it on cost-of-living, said she pays more rent in Tucson. She doesn’t teach for the money, but for the love of her students — 90 percent of whom quality for free and reduced lunch and may not be highly proficient on AzMERIT, but have grown three grade levels in reading this year alone.

Another member of TUPAC and a resident of the Catalina Foothills Unified District, Lisa said it wasn’t until she open enrolled her gifted autistic child in TUSD that she was able to get him the type of help he needs to thrive. She appreciates her son’s teachers and wants them to be able to afford a house and a car and not have to get another job to do it.

Nate, a 6th grade ELA teacher in Sahuarita Unified, said 30% of his school’s teachers are in their first year of teaching, there are 35 kids in his 6th grade class, he often doesn’t have enough supplies in his classrooms, and he tires of having tiles fall down from his classroom ceiling when it rains. He also said he is sad to see the 21st Century Classroom program defunded just when they are starting to see tangible benefits to the district.

Another teacher in Sunnyside Unified, April, said her priorities for additional funding are teacher salaries and building maintenance and repair. As an example, her school has had to do away with the rule against traveling during basketball at their school because the gym floor is so worn students can’t stop as they should.

Jennifer, a third grade teacher from Sunnyside, said at the age of 47, that she is just getting too tired to work two jobs to make ends meet. She said she isn’t asking for a life of luxury, just the ability to pay her bills.

A retired kindergarten teacher who taught in Cave Creek for 20 years, Ann said she received no pay increase during the last 10 of those years. During her tenure, her class size increased from 20 kids to 29, she lost some of her support staff, and she gained more special needs students. She said she has friends at Raytheon and through them, understands the company is very pro-education, but very concerned about the education of Arizona’s workforce. Her personal concerns about the direction of Arizona education has caused her to get political for the first time in her life. She said the walking and calling for candidates and causes was not initially easy, but now she finds it empowering.

Sandy, President of the Marana Teacher’s Association, said she is in her 15th year of teaching. She is now within six years of retirement and worries about teachers coming behind her. She then read a letter from a high school teacher who loves her job but now $20,000 in debt, has made the tough decision to leave the career field for better pay. She wrote that by paying teacher wages that are less they could get in most other jobs, the legislature has shown they don’t really care about our kids.

Kevin, another Interfaith leader, teacher, and grandparent, said the hearing had been a good public processing of pain. But, he said, we need to do more than process. We are at a point in this nation that if we don’t come together to save our Democracy, we are going to lose it. If we allow that to happen, we will only have ourselves to blame for the untenable, unethical and immoral state of our affairs.

There were a few other speakers, but Judy, a librarian in three different school districts, was the last. She expressed great concern about our students’ literacy and lack of critical thinking skills. She then looked into directly the camera and told legislators she hopes will eventually listen, “if you are not moved by what you heard tonight, shame on you!”

Kudos to AZ Schools Now for holding these important hearings. Not only does the public need to be much better informed about the issues challenging our district schools, but they also need to be heard. It was great to see all the teachers in the house. They, along with the parents are really the ones who have the loudest megaphones to spur action. That action, retired Air Force Colonel Holly Lyon said, is to elect more pro-district education candidates to the Arizona Legislature.

That is the real bottom line. If the voters of Arizona really do support district education, the choice of over 80 percent of our students, they must look beyond the party and vote for pro-district education candidates. Two more Democratic Senators will bring parity to that chamber and hopefully the need to compromise for the best solutions. As Martin Luther King said, I have a dream…”

Nobody can beat McSally … until we find the right Nobody

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com

Blake Morlock writes a column “What the Devil won’t tell you” for the Tucson Sentinel. His latest is an argument that the Dems’ best hope to beat McSally could be a complete nobody. However, goes the subtitle, Harnassing midterm anger isn’t in establishment Democrat DNA.

So. Let’s do some genetic engineering. Here are snippets.

[Republicans] whiffed on doing something — anything — to Obamacare because apparently drafting a ready-to-go bill was too much work for Republicans during the seven years they railed against the Affordable Care Act as a freedom-destroying, job-killing socialism. I guess they had other things to do.

It’s going to take more than a golden retriever in a pickup truck to get U.S. Rep. Martha McSally out of this one. We can all agree that Boomer is, in fact, “a good boy,” but Obamacare was supposed to be the easy victory.

Republicans run the risk of failing to get any real changes through Congress before the 2018 midterms as President Donald Trump seems to prefer pissing off the losers across the country who don’t see his genius.

They would be smarter to move the goal posts to the 45 than try to deliver “comprehensive tax reform.” The idea of border adjustment tax is likely political hokum at best and the trigger of a trade war at worst. They gotta win something so they might just pass a standard-issue tax cut and call it The New Deal.

If they don’t, then they’re looking at an 0-Fer and they can’t be (deep breath) that stupid. The 2018 midterm was going to be hard for McSally when it looked like the GOP could run the legislative table. Political failures only make her prospects worse.

McSally is in trouble but to do something about it, the Democrats – the national Democratic establishment – may have to break form and follow their base. By national Democrats, I mean the big Washington money and shiney-shoed consultants who decide what’s what out here where plants bite.

The obvious candidates don’t yet inspire much fear in the GOP. Former state Rep. Matt Heinz suffered a double-digit loss to McSally and former state Rep. Victoria Steele couldn’t raise any money or beat Heinz in the primary. State Rep. Randall Friese might be an interesting choice but he’s just in his second term.

Why does it have to be a state lawmaker? Because that’s a safe bet and national Democrats will only dance with a safe bet.

I guarantee you that D.C. establishment looks at Martha McSally and doesn’t see a woman who won her seat in 2014 by a few hundred votes. They don’t see her serving a district Hillary Clinton won by five points. They see a congresswoman who raised a stupefying $7 million in 2016.

Then they look at the Democratic landscape and see no obvious candidate who can raise enough money to match because all the obvious candidates can be “called a liberal.”

They may try to coax Green Valley pecan grower Nan Walden to run for office (again). She’ll probably play coy and then say no (again). They may even try to get Ann Kirkpatrick to move from Flagstaff to Tucson to take on McSally (a lot of Dems seem giddy about this possibility). In which case, McSally may just be able to land this thing on autopilot.

A nobody may be their best bet but “nobody” will be a tough candidate for the D.C. types to swallow.

If that does not kickstart your depression, then you are the emotional equivalent of a cinder block. So let’s get over the get-mad and do the get-even.

The first step out of the downer mode, Morlock continues, is to understand mid-term elections.

Midterm elections with an unpopular president turn on one message: Wrath.

Voters don’t want to hear about a 10-point plan for inter-modal transit that moves Southern Arizona forward again. They want to hear “I’m pissed too and I’ll stand up to Donald Trump in Congress.”

Democrats have long preferred the resume to the voice and that has cost them.

So we need a candidate who will broadcast the Greats of Wrath.

An improving economy would improve the 2018 climate for the GOP, if Trump could stop creating his own weather. Yet all he seems to know is how to be a one-man pressure front happiest in storm and squall.

Those are the elements McSally is left to and her tenure in Congress could fall victim to the exposure.

Democrats don’t need a Latina, business-owning combat veteran who “can’t be called a liberal” who will drive out the base on identity alone. What they need is The Voice promising to be The Wrath. See: Sanders, Bernie.

Who can beat McSally? It may be a nobody out there thinking “I’m sick of this … I’m gonna run without apology" because no Democrat will beat McSally.

Donald Trump might.

[Especially] … If [McSally] keeps supporting him 100 percent of the time …

The obvious candidate? Sure, maybe a guy like Randy Friese could make a go of it. But anyone who says a loudmouth outsider channeling voter anger can’t win federal office against an establishment type has been living in a glass jar the last two years.

And voters have a lot to be angry about. All the BS spouted by Trump and defended by McSally’s 100% votes just got proven to be empty promises by the failure of the GOPlins to pass their own health care bill. That hurts. Health care is a very personal thing. McSally was poised to vote for that atrocity. Will she vote to support a budget that cuts cancer research in favor of a not-so-beautiful wall that will screw things up with Arizona’s southern trading partner? And, BTW, said research is the hope that Uncle Joe will get some life-saving treatment. Not to mention the economic injustice of Trumpcare being a transfer of working class wealth to Trump’s billionaire BFFs. Voting for this stuff is a slap in the face of CD2 voters. Take that, McSally.

And, let’s not forget that there is a scandal dominating the nightly news that is not going away – the Trump connection to Russia. For example, check out AZBlueMeanie’s report today Follow the money: USA Today’s investigation into Donald Trump’s Russian mob money connections. Will McSally vote against our national security?

Probably. Check out this Letter to the Editor by Kathy Krucker in this morning’s Daily Star.

Re: the March 26 letter “Where is McSally on Trump’s Misbehavior”

Excellent point about Rep. Martha McSally ignoring our Commander-in-Chief’s shameless history of denigrating women! McSally is an Air Force Academy graduate and served our country with honor. Hopefully, her Academy oath would carry over into Congressional governance: not tolerating those who lie and cheat.

Why won’t McSally call out the President on his denial of facts reported by our intelligence agencies and reputable news outlets? McSally is silent on the tweets of a president who accepts as true what he learns from Brietbart, Fox News and conspiracy outlets. She is silent about the ethical violations of her own chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (Devin Nunes), who seems more interested in protecting the president than conducting a bipartisan investigation into Russia’s interference in our democracy and elections. She is silent about a president, White House, and a cabinet with significant financial and ethical conflicts of interest.

The questions raised in the letter may not in themselves be enough to win the midterm but it might not hurt to pile on.

Below is a copy of a comment in response to Morlock’s column by “bettsph.” I edited it to flip the gender. Assume that the “I” in this comment is me.

I know of a “nobody” that I think would be perfect for the job, frankly… She is an ex military person (such an obviously better choice for rural arizona than an anti-gun female or a gay guy: apologies for stereotypes here but the margins seem to indicate that at least SOME thought needs to head in that direction….) with good solid values that are accessible to both sides, and is unabashedly AGAINST TRUMP. She has run a political campaign before and lost, despite being a fantastic communicator. She has a little more recognition than nobody, but a) she could do the job and b) she could win the district if she had some money and professional campaign consultants who wouldn’t try to get her to sell herself down the river in order to win. She is authentic. I am not interested in outing her if she doesn’t choose to run, I’m just saying’, keep your eyes open for Nobody. She’s out there!