Funding for education at all levels — but particularly for k-12 public education — has been a HOT button issue in Arizona since Governor Jan Brewer and her henchman, ousted Senate President Russell “SB1070” Pierce, started mercilessly slashing education in 2010, at the dawn of the Tea Party Revolution in Arizona.
After six years of Tea Party cuts to public ed and six years of legislative gifts to private schools, charter schools, and big corporations, in general, Arizona’s education system is on the ropes– demoralized and penniless.
Frustrated parents are angry. Demoralized teachers are leaving Arizona in droves. Aging school buildings are crumbling and dangerous. Contentious schools boards are arguing over how to spend the scraps.
Although some come to school hungry, our children soldier on everyday. Are they learning in this financially and emotionally stressed environment?
No one can pretend that this scenario is anywhere near optimum. Why has this situation been allowed to develop? Our current education system was created by budget cuts based upon right-wing, anti-government ideology and not on what is best for the families and children of Arizona– or what is best for our state as a whole.
At the Pima County Interfaith Council (PCIC) candidate forum on October 2, I asked the audience, “What is our goal for public education?” and rattled off a short list of facts that show we are short-changing students and families. Here is an expanded version of what I said…
What is our goal for public education?
If our goal is to educate as many residents, children and adults, as possible in order to help them become responsible, self-reliant, financially stable, successful people, then we are failing the citizens of Arizona.
Too many little children don’t have access to affordable preschool or all-day kindergarten.
Too many third graders can’t read English.
Too many teenagers are getting pregnant.
Too many high school students drop out.
Too many students don’t have access to affordable vocational education.
Too many college students take on massive debt to get a college degree at one of our universities.
Too many adults are not fluent in English.
And too many of our citizens are in jail.
This is a dismal picture, and it doesn’t have to be this way. When people scratch their heads and ask how can we pay for education? I say, “Arizona has plenty of money. It’s just being misspent.”
Austerity is a lie. It’s time to end austerity for the 99% and largesse for the 1%. Trickle down economics doesn’t work. It’s time to end these failed economic policies.
We spend $4 billion per year on corporate tax cuts (and this is scheduled to increase through 2019); $400 million in tax credits (the biggest two chunks going to vouchers for private school tuition and to big corporations); $312 million in interest on our debt to Wall Street; and God only know how much on unnecessary lawsuits to defend unconstitutional laws passed by the Legislature. So– our current fiscal policies are purposefully wasting ~$5 billion of taxpayer funds per year.
Obviously, this should be our goal for public education:
To educate as many residents, children and adults, as possible in order to help them become responsible, self-reliant, financially stable, successful people.
But it’s not.
It’s time to turn this state around. Together we can build a stronger Arizona for future generations.
P.S. The PCIC candidate event was one of many voter events that our Republican opponent has chosen not to attend. In the video above, you can see the empty seats– one is mine and the other is Ana Henderson’s. There are videos, debates, blog posts and Tweets out there that tell voters where I stand on the issues. You may not always agree with me, but you know where I stand, and I’m always will to talk. Where does Ana stand? Who knows.