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September 14, 2010

Host: Ted Simons

Ballot Propositions

  |   Video
  • As a public service to voters, ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy has prepared a series of briefings intended to clarify and explain the 10 propositions on November’s general election ballot. Kristin Borns, a senior policy analyst for the Institute, discusses the reports that are available online.
  • Kristin Borns - Senior Policy Analyst, ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy
Category: Elections

View Transcript
Ted Simons: As a public service to voters, the Morrison institute for public policy has prepared a series of briefings intended to clarify and explain the ten propositions on November's ballot. The proposition briefings are available on-line. Here to talk about the project is Kristin Borns, senior policy analyst at the Morrison institute. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Kristin Borns: Thank you.

Ted Simons: What was the goal behind this project?

Kristin Borns: What we really wanted to do was let voters know exactly what it is they're voting on. Here in Arizona we tend to have a really full ballot. Especially from people who come from out of state, it may be unusual to see 10, 12, 15 propositions. This year there are 10 propositions, many that are really critical to Arizona's future. So we wanted to be a nonpartisan rhetoric-free voice that allowed voters to get all the information they needed to make the best decision they could make at the polls.

Ted Simons: You mentioned nonpartisan. Obviously ensuring balance is key here. How do you do it?

Kristin Borns: Certainly we're a research team. We have more than one individual edit. I think the real key here is, when you go to the briefings, we were very thoughtful, one, to take no stance. You'll notice we don't endorse them either way. Also to lay out the pros and cons. When you come to the briefing, you're getting the arguments of both sides of the issue. So by naturally presenting both of those, you sort of head off at the pass any concerns you're weighing your opinion one way or the other.

Ted Simons: We should mention, we do proposition debates here on "Horizon." We always try to make sure both sides get heard even when they're attacking each other which they want to do at times. Is that a challenge? Who writes all of these?

Kristin Borns: I was one of the primary authors. We have a research team, senior researchers were all involved. You know, we are very mindful and thoughtful of our role as a public policy institution. And what our goal is, is to have effective public policy and to have voters be thoughtful, mindful and prepared. So for us knowing that's where we're starting from makes it easier to distill down the factual, nonpartisan information that voters are going to need.

Ted Simons: Yet there's a lot to distill. Sometimes you have charts, graphs, nomenclature that no one can understand. How do you wade through all of that?

Kristin Borns: We're fortunate that we have the research team there to work together. When a voter goes to the ballot, on the ballot is distilled down to a couple of sentences what you're voting on. So we really focused on looking historically, where did this proposition come from? Have voters weighed in on this before? Medical marijuana, voters have seen that twice on a ballot. What are some of the stated consequences? Also, what are maybe some of the unintended consequences? Pulling all of that together in one place, it's on our website, it's very simple, two to three pages and really getting that all in one place for voters.

Ted Simons: I was going to say. Navigate the website. Talking about medical marijuana, somebody says I would like to learn more about that, I've seen it on "Horizon." I would like to learn more about the pros and cons. They go to the website, how many clicks do they have to go?

Kristin Borns: Easy, easy. We have sort of a rotating carousel right on the front. The very first thing you're going to see on the center of our home page is propositions. You can click on that and it will take you to a menu of all ten so you can click from there which ones you want to read. Along the top as well, we have a banner of different places you can go to. Reports, staff. One of those direct links as well, proposition. It's one click no matter where you are on the home page to get to the menu of all ten briefings.

Ted Simons: Has the Morrison institute done this kind of thing in the past?

Kristin Borns: We're certainly vested in public policy, have written on that throughout our entire existence. But really focusing on propositions is something we have taken on strongly this year just because there are so many and there are so many big issues. You know, voters are looking at sun sweeps which could result -- I know you had the growing smarter debate last night. Funds that sweep care and education. These are important things that are going on on the November ballot.

Ted Simons: Obviously because these are public policy issues, you can kind of do a pro and con there and not get too deep into personality. Is there a thought of doing this same kind of thing for political candidates?

Kristin Borns: Really because we focus on the policy, during the legislative session, for example, we're very mindful to focus on the legislation and the budgets. We do a tremendous amount of work around the budget every session. And if you get into sort of the issue of personalities, you miss the bigger story. So we're very thoughtful to focus on what is the bigger story? What is good and smart public policy? And what does Arizona need?

Ted Simons: Continuing effort here, will we see this in upcoming elections as well?

Kristin Borns: I think we've had a tremendous response to this. We've had an opportunity to talk to "Horizon" which we appreciate. This has really been the most popular thing on our website. We've seen an uptick on hits. As we look out for propositions, if this is a benefit to voters having this out there, we want to continue to provide that service.

Ted Simons: While we have you there, talk about the Morrison institute, the history, the goals. What goes on behind the organization? What you're looking to do.

Kristin Borns: We here at ASU, we're a nonpartisan institutional think tank. We're not only providing public policy data information, but also be a part of the public dialogue where these kind of briefings and briefings take it to the next step which is letting folks know. We have a great amount of research. If people aren't using it and reading it, that's kind of that next step. So that's really part of what we do as well.

Ted Simons: I know the engagement is bigger than Morrison institute as well. From where you sit, what needs to be done in Arizona to improve on that? It just seems like folks, a lot of complaining, yelling and shouting. It seems like a lot of folks aren't engaged here.

Kristin Borns: Certainly we've seen voter turnout numbers. It's interesting this primary, we've had the highest numbers we've seen with still 30%. We've recently done a poll that asked voters kind of how they felt about their representatives, how they felt about the state of the state. One thing that did come out of that is a real desire for open primaries. Nonpartisan open primaries. That is what we were told when we put that survey out in the field. So there seems to be from Arizonans maybe a hunger for those kinds of things right now.

Ted Simons: So again, let's get back to the proposition and the website. The web address is --

Kristin Borns: It's Morrison You'll see the prompts on the home page. You'll see them there and you'll get to them immediately.
Ted Simons: Thanks for being here. Good luck with the website and keep fighting the good fight.

Kristin Borns: Thank you.

Cronkite News Website

  |   Video
  • At a time when many newsrooms are downsizing, ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication is expanding its news coverage. Dean Christopher Callahan talks about the schools newly-launched Cronkite News web site.
  • Christopher Callahan - Dean, ASU Cronkite School of Journalism

View Transcript
Ted Simons: At a time when many newsrooms are downsizing, ASU's Cronkiteschool of journalism is expanding its news coverage. The school's multimedia stories and other efforts are now available to the public on the recently launched Cronkite news website. Here to talk about it is Chris Callahan, dean of ASU's Walter Cronkite school of journalism and mass communication. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

Chris Callahan: Thanks for having me on.

Ted Simons: Your quote was this was an unprecedented venture. Talk about that.

Chris Callahan: For the first time ever, we're in the serious content production business. Obviously our real business is ducating young people to be great journalists. We think the best way to do that, especially at the end of their careers here at the Cronkite School, is to have them focus on real serious journalism at the very highest levels. So the outgrowth of that are real products -- TV, print and multimedia.

Ted Simons: So when people go to this site, let's talk about the site in itself. Before we get there, though, student -- people hear student reporters and they go hmm, how much can I trust them? Talk about who is overseeing this, who is editing this, what goes on there.

Chris Callahan: That's the critical point there, Ted. Certainly these are terrific students, but they are edited, produced and directed every day by, quite frankly, some of the best journalists I've ever had the pleasure of working with. People like Steve Elliot, Mark Ludado, Sue Green absolutely first-rate journalists. And nothing goes out without their stamp of approval.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about what goes out. What will visitors see at the site?

Chris Callahan: It's all about serious public policy news. Quite frankly,the issues that you cover here on "Horizon." What you're not going to see is entertainment, sports. There's a place for that and that's great. But we feel there isn't enough serious public policy news out there, so this site really focuses exclusively on that area.

Ted Simons: Okay. We're looking at the site right now. We see news watch up there, we see news 21 program. Let's talk about the individual components here. Combines news service with news watch. Describe both.

Chris Callahan: Yes. And these are the full emerging professional programs we've developed over the last few years. Cronkite news watch is a 30-minute nightly newscast that 8 world, 8.3 runs every night. Very much in a commercial TV format but, again, focusing on those serious policy stories that we think aren't covered quite as much in traditional media.

Ted Simons: And Cronkite news service.

Chris Callahan: Cronkite news service covers specific stories in print and digital format. Those stories are distributed to news organizations around the state. So you'll see them in the Arizona republic and all sorts of newspapers and websites all around the valley and the state.

Ted Simons: We saw a tab for news 21. What's all that about?

Chris Callahan: Really interesting program funded by the Carnegie corporation and knight foundation. That focuses on intense in-depth journalism. We had a group of students here this summer doing an investigation on transportation safety in America. A 22-package story that is going to start on the front page of the "Washington Post" this Sunday. They're going to run the entire series.

Ted Simons: Good stuff there. A-Z fact check has a production with the local paper here. Talk about that.

Chris Callahan: Absolutely. This was the brainchild of the Arizona republic. It brings together the republic, Cronkite School and our colleagues at 12News to really focus on campaign statements, things that seem questionable. Basically it's trying to measure the truthfulness of politicians' statements.

Ted Simons: Interesting. One more thing, southwest border lands initiative is included on this website as well. What is that?

Chris Callahan: That's a program run by our Carnegie professor, Rick Rodriguez, who was a long-time editor of "The Sacramento Bee." His students will focus in an in-depth way on issues that affect Latinos and issues that are along the border. He'll have students down on the border all semester to come back and produce multimedia packages.

Ted Simons: How long has the idea of coalescing, for lack of a better word, putting all of these things together on a platform, how long has that been developed?

Chris Callahan: About a year. Yeah. It took us about a year to get all the parts together, to get the design and then to get the work flow. While the stories were all out there, trying to get it all into one place in a professional daily news site was a little bit of an endeavor.

Ted Simons: Yeah. We've been talking about what people will see when they go to the website. Obviously the benefits they get. Talk about the benefits to the students here, because this is different than the old journalism schools. This is getting out there and doing the hard and dirty work out there.

Chris Callahan: That's exactly right, Ted. They're actually producing probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 to 60 original stories every week. And again, very highest quality. As good as anything you'll see out there. And focusing on issues that maybe you're not seeing fully covered in other places.

Ted Simons: The idea -- we've talked about this before and we might as well talk about it again. The idea that the news business itself is changing so quickly, and obviously the high-tech nature of news. We've discovered that here on "Horizon." Something happens on this program, it goes viral, it's all around the world in no time. In terms of kids in school learning to hit that moving target, how difficult is that?

Chris Callahan: I think it makes it much more complicated because they still have to be great reporters, great writers and great producers. Now they have to know a whole other series of things dealing with technology and social media. Much more difficult than when I was in journalism school.

Ted Simons: Are you finding kids that may have a touch of engineering interest moving their way to journalism? It used to be maybe an English student would be there. Are you finding a different kind of student these days?

Chris Callahan: I think it's a different generation. I think all of the students from this generation, they're digital Natives. They get the technology on a level that I never will because I still have to translate it in my head. You know, they're Natives to it. They come to it much more easily. It's not as difficult for them.

Ted Simons: Last question, I think I've actually talked with you about this as well, but the facility is top notch. Everything here is just amazing. From someone who has worked in buildings that were nowhere near this nice in the commercial world, I got to tell you, some of these kids, a lot of their first jobs will be in smaller towns, in buildings, in operations that aren't as high-tech and aren't quite as developed. How do you prepare them for it?

Chris Callahan: The one thing, we're transparent with them. We tell them, in all likelihood, where you go, the technology will not be what you have here and the kind of editing is not going to be what you have here. Our students really do appreciate that and they understand that.

Ted Simons: Very good. Congratulations. Good luck on the site. I notice that "Horizon" is linked on the site as well. That's always good to see.

Chris Callahan: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: Thanks, Chris. Good to see you.

Federal Education Fund

  |   Video
  • Arizona Education Association President Andrew Morrill discusses the nearly $212 million Arizona has been awarded from the federal government to help keep teachers employed.
  • Andrew Morrill - President, Arizona Education Association
Category: Education

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. A judge today ordered the release of criminal records of Governor Jan Brewer's son. The records were sealed right before the governor took office at the request of her son Ronald who was found not guilty because of insanity in a 1989 rape and kidnapping case. But a judge ruled today that Ronald Brewer's request for privacy did not outweigh the public's right to know about the case, which had been open to public inspection before 2009. Also from the courts -- a judge today ruled that so-called sham candidates can stay on the ballot. 11 people were allegedly recruited by Republicans to run as green party candidates to siphon votes from Democrats. The judge found that the contested candidates were recruited in bad faith to cause voter confusion, but ruled that they could stay on the ballot because of the short time left until the election. Arizona is getting $212 million in federal funds to help keep teachers in the classroom. Here to talk about how the money will be distributed and how long it will last is Andrew Morrill, President of the Arizona Education Association.

Andrew Morrill: Good evening.

Ted Simons: Good to see you here. Are we really getting this money?

Andrew Morrill: Looks like it's there for the taking and we have applied for it here in Arizona. The question will be, what exactly are we going to do with it? How much are the fields? How much will the districts see?

Ted Simons: The other question would be, when will we get the money?

Andrew Morrill: The D.O.C. is anticipating 45 days from the time they receive the application and our application is in.

Ted Simons: That means relatively soon.

Andrew Morrill: Relatively soon.

Ted Simons: How are they going to distribute it?

Andrew Morrill: That's the question, Ted. There's already some work done that about half of that 210, 212 million may go to backfill a hole in our K-12 education. Arizona continues to suffer from a really tragic structural deficit. From the last time our deficit from K-12 funding has increased. Some of that will go to that.

Ted Simons: Maintenance requirements not necessarily a factor here.

Andrew Morrill: Maintenance efforts had to be satisfied. That means the State of Arizona had to show commitment to use these funds for what they'll be intended for. The feds gave a little latitude as to how a state would show that. We've qualified.

Ted Simons: The idea is these should be education jobs. What does that mean, teacher jobs, straight to the classroom?

Andrew Morrill: That's interesting. It is very specific coming from Duncan and Douse. This money is to be used for jobs keeping education in or bringing back some of those from terrible cuts that happened the last couple of years. This is not to be saved for a rainy day fund. It's clear that this is to stimulate the economy one community at a time to put teachers back to work.

Ted Simons: If teachers are watching this, what does it do for teachers? What does it not do for teachers?

Andrew Morrill: It's not a guarantee for what the state will do with the money. It's not a mandate to release all of it now into the field for creation of jobs. What it means is talks will happen in the districts to find out what the best use is for that money. Are we going to bring back in our districts -- of course the answers will vary. Are we going to bring back important positions that have been cut due to the budget cuts? Are we going to bring back programs? But through people that bring those to students. Are we going to bring back paraprofessionals? Because the money can be used for that to help students. A lot of questions.

Ted Simons: If the district is concerned that a state is behind a billion dollars and come next budget they're worried about future cuts, they can't sit on it, bank it, or save it.

Andrew Morrill: You bring up an interesting point. This is one-time money. A lot of critics out there will say, see, this is going to leave school districts high and dry after a year. We have options. We have districts cut by one or two days, their contract days with employees in order to save money. This money could be used to restore what's called a furlough day and put people back at work.

Ted Simons: Again, there are assurances, the DOE, Department of Education, there are requirements and assurances that the money will be used as the department sees fit?

Andrew Morrill: That's right. They were very prescriptive about this and kept it in a pretty narrow range. They offered districts some flexibility over the next two years for how they want to use it or when. They did say attach this to job creation or job investment right now.

Ted Simons: Was this a surprise?

Andrew Morrill: You know, an awful lot of work went into it in Congress. You know, this is a political football. There are folks that look at any expenditure from the government as -- as, I don't know, waste. It's hard for me to imagine coming out of public education. I see this as an investment. Teachers, educators, all those roles in our districts, you know, those are taxpayers, too. When they're employed, they contribute to an economy also.

Ted Simons: I mention surprise, because apparently not every state is going to be getting some of this money and Arizona is right there. I know Arizona did very well in race to the top which I'll mention in just a moment. Was that a factor in our race to the top?

Andrew Morrill: I think this is a little bit different. The intent, however, is to stimulate the economy through public education, through all of those positions in a local community that are so important. We have to remember that the down road effect of public education is more degreed people with a larger impact and an ability to be mobile and be a contributing factor to all kinds of things including the economy.

Ted Simons: I mentioned race to the top. Real quickly, describe what it is and how well we did in this latest go-around and what that means as far as a blueprint or guideline for education in Arizona.

Andrew Morrill: I think that's it exactly. The short answer is, the second round was much better facilitated. We had folks coming in talking to the major stakeholder groups. Here is what race to the top is now in Arizona. It's a blueprint that can be studied, regarded, revised again, but really this is an opportunity for us to finally have a compelling vision for public education. It's going to require investments. It's also going to require groups to put aside certain differences and figure out where we want public education to go in this state. I would be happy with a commitment that we actually want public education in this state. I've seen things in the last couple of years to doubt that and it troubles me.

Ted Simons: What happened to career ladder?

Andrew Morrill: Career ladder still exists. It's really an irony associated with race to the top. Here we have a better than 20-year-old program which research says allows students in career ladder districts to outperform their counterparts. It's a research-based program that ties in professional development, leadership roles, student achievement and a compensation structure. And the state is having trouble finding its commitment to back that program. So it's a little bit on hiatus. It looks like it's in danger of being underfunded.

Ted Simons: Why? Because it sounds like accountability is a factor here and accountability seems to be a buzz word these days.

Andrew Morrill: It was. I hear a lot of talk around the capitol about advantages of performance-based pay. Here Arizona had a performance-based pay plan. Instead of expanding that and make it available to every district, instead the legislature claims it's an inequity and we can't sustain this. I think that's unfortunate. It went away simply because we don't have the political will in this state to get serious about the investment in public education.

Ted Simons: That said, we just got some S.A.T. scores. I know the test, the variable is large in number of folks taking the test. What do you make of the numbers? What do you make of the test?

Andrew Morrill: I would make of it that I would of any other standardized test. It's a point of data. You can't read too much into data. It's great that we're in a slight uptick in performance but not enough students are taking that test. I would like to see more ethnic minority students taking that. It's a composite of where we are in Arizona. I'm not going to turn down good news.

Ted Simons: We need to realize the students taking that particular test are the kids that have the initiative to take such a test. You kind of get the top of the barrel there anyway, right?

Andrew Morrill: You would think that the student taking the SAT with investment of time is positive about his or her prospects after school. There might be a particular group that’s represented there.

Ted Simons: Not bad news. We'll also take $212 million even though it's backfill. Sounds like race to the top folks back in Washington sees like something is going on in Arizona that we should pay attention to. Generally, the state of education in Arizona.

Andrew Morrill: Still too much chaos, confusion and uncertainty frankly. We've seen some, you've identified some small pieces that in a week's time or two-week window look like indications of good news. Look, Arizona is ready to make a commitment. Our families voted for prop 100 overwhelmingly. Arizonans get the priority that ought to be on public education. We have to have the political will to be bold enough to say yes, public education is going to be a priority because it leads to good things for students, families and the economy. We don't see enough of that right now.

Ted Simons: Andrew, thanks for being here.

Andrew Morrill: Thanks for having me here.