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July 26, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

2012 KIDS COUNT: Child Well-being Data

  |   Video
  • Dana Wolfe Naimark, President and CEO of Children’s Action Alliance, discusses the 2012 KIDS COUNT report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation that ranks Arizona in the bottom 5 states for child well-being.
  • Dana Wolfe Naimark - President and CEO, Children’s Action Alliance
Category: Medical/Health   |   Keywords: children, health, data, alliance, 2012, kids, ,

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Ted Simons: The 2012 kids count report from the Annie E. Casey shows Arizona ranks 46th overall in terms of the well-being of children. Here to talk about the report is Dana Wolfe Naimark, president and CEO of children's action alliance. Always good to see you. Thanks for joining us. What is kids count data?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: This is an annual report published by the Casey Foundation that measures data that you, compare apples to apples across the states about conditions for kids. And it also gives the states a ranking to see where you are compared to other states around the country.

Ted Simons: What kind of criteria are we looking at here?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: There are 16 indicators. It's everything from percent of children living in poverty, to percent of young children participating in preschool, to single-parent families. So it's a whole range of indicators all the way from birth through high school graduation.

Ted Simons: It sounds like if you could make four big rubrics, economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. Kind of the biggies, there, correct?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: Correct. And in three of those biggies we rank 46th, and in health we rank 36th.

Ted Simons: 46 overall I guess.

Dana Wolfe Naimark: Right.

Ted Simons: What does that mean? What -- 36 sounds not so great, 46 sounds really not so great. But what does that -- the critics of these metrics, these studies say the metrics will indicate 46 is not that different from 6.

Dana Wolfe Naimark: That's true in some of the indicators. But in others, there's a big difference. So for us if you look at fourth graders who are less than proficient in reading, there's a big difference. We're at 74%, almost three-quarters, the U.S. average is 64%. The states that are better than average are better than that. So there is a significant difference. These numbers really do tell us something important about children's lives and futures here.

Ted Simons: How is the data collected, how is it analyzed to get these -- the results and moving the results on to rankings?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: The data is from a variety of sources, including the U.S. census. Some other federal agencies. The Casey Foundation has updated this, they've picked new indicators because they want the most up-to-date information and they specifically look at data where you can compare across states. So it doesn't include data from our own state agencies, because every state collects that kind of thing differently. So it's data that's collected at a national level.

Ted Simons: OK. So conditions worsened in seven of 16 conditions? Teen birthrate and child death rate seemed time prove, what’s going on there?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: Those did improve, our rate improved and our ranking. So those are bright spots in this report. I think with birth-to-teens F. we think about the last five years, seven years, we've had a concerted effort in our communities to focus on that. So everything from parents, to schools, to after-school programs, to cities and communities, we worked on that together to encouraging teens to make responsible decisions, to give them ways to have goals, and we're seeing the results of that.

Ted Simons: How much does funding particular efforts and particular -- the focus onsetter conditions with money, how much does that play into these rankings?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: Funding very directly affects some of the rankings. One example is participation in preschools, which is our worst ranking, we're 49th in the country. We know we've had dramatic cuts, $80 million cuts in child care assistance in this state in the last three years. That has an impact on those numbers. Other states have actually been expanding access to preschool. We've contracted that quite a bit. So there's a very direct relationship there.

Ted Simons: And I know the folks watching this, if we had someone else from -- looking at these numbers and hearing that about funding would say the state simply can't afford the kind of funding that would bump us up in the rankings, and maybe give a better overview. How would you respond?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: We know that every year, and for the long term, we have decisions about our priorities for our budget. Both on the tax side and the spending side. So it's a question of where are we putting priorities? And that has not been for children in the past few years. That's what we're seeing in this data. We absolutely can afford different decisions, it all depends how we dot trade-off and what we're looking at, including what we do with tax cuts, what we do with how we spend the money that we collect.

Ted Simons: Folks who look at tax cuts and say that's an economic engine, that's an economic boost, and that would raise all boats, including some of these rankings, they would say yes, there was a choice, but the choice is to get this economy back and up going so that we can spill some over and help some of these kids and take care of some of these numbers. How do you respond?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: These rankings are very much linked to our competitiveness as a state and to our future economy and prosperity. So if we ignore these rankings and only look at our tax rankings, we're doing ourselves a great disservice. And we're at risk of falling farther behind. We won't get the economy that we want. If you don't pay attention to fourth graders who can't read, you're not going to have the work force who can fill the 21st century jobs that we want to compete for. It simply can't happen.

Ted Simons: Are there states out there that once were ranked in the 40s that are now moved up big-time, or is this somewhat stable year after year? Or whenever this particular report is done?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: There's been a little regional shift, unfortunately to our discredit, so it used to be the Southeast was always at the bottom five. Now we have a mixture of southeastern states and southwestern states in the bottom five. So some of the southeastern states have moved themselves up in the rankings.

Ted Simons: Last question, what good are these rankings? Do they have any impact? Those who have their hands and control the purse strings, are they listening, can they do anything about it?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: They can absolutely do something about it. These rankings, the meaning of them is how we respond. If it causes us to pay attention and redouble our efforts for action and to work together, and really what we're talking about is leadership. So we want every candidate who's running for the legislature all across this state who wants to represent us, we want them to say, what will they do to improve children's education? What do they support for children's health care? And if we focus on it and keep kids front and center, we absolutely can move up.

Ted Simons: Dana, good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Dana Wolfe Naimark: Thanks.

Economic Impact of Science Foundation Arizona

  |   Video
  • Investing in Arizona’s technology sector has a tremendous impact on the State’s economy according to a new report commissioned by Science Foundation Arizona. Margaret Mullen, Chief Operating Officer for SFAz, shares the report’s findings.
  • Margaret Mullen - Chief Operating Officer, Science Foundation Arizona
Category: Science   |   Keywords: economic, impact, science, foundation, technology, ,

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Ted Simons: A new report shows that science foundation Arizona returns over four dollars for every dollar it receives and invests in research grant programs. The group commissioned the report from the Battelle Technology Partnership. Here to talk about the study and its findings is Margaret Mullen, chief operating officer for science foundation Arizona. Nice to see you. Thanks for joining us.

Margaret Mullen: You too, nice to be here.

Ted Simons: Battelle Technology Partnership, who are these folks?

Margaret Mullen: Battelle Technologies is the largest nonprofit research entity in the world. They do a lot of studies for the state of Arizona, so when science foundation was formed in 2006 and our commitment to the governor and legislature was we'd have an independent entity review all of our work, Battelle was hired to produce these reports. Last year we did two report. When we were given the first $25 million from Stardust, he said I'd like for you to also do what he called a report card to see how Arizona is doing with its peer states in growing its technology sector. This year we combined those reports so that you could have a better understanding of not only what science foundation is doing, but how it's impacting the entire sector.

Ted Simons: And how is it impacting, how is Arizona doing?

Margaret Mullen: In a couple of areas we're doing well. And aerospace and defense we're doing well, in biosciences we're doing well and in chip making what we call I.T. industries we're doing well. Unfortunately in education we're not. And we're having a hard time growing companies here. As you heard from the previous speaker, we don't have a well enough educated work force. Our education investments are having a positive impact on that. We've had over 300,000 students in our science and math programs over the last five years. But we still have a long way to go.

Ted Simons: What's the problem? What's the hold-up with education? Are we talking funding for the most part?

Margaret Mullen: My answer to that would be no, we're not talking funding. And I'm not saying you don't need more funding, that's not my area of expertise. In science and math, the problem is we have very few teachers that are experienced in science and math, less than 80% of our teachers have the skill sets to teach modern science. So we're beginning programs that will put retired workers in the classroom, or current engineers and mathematicians, people who want to bring modern science and math to kids. And to make it fun. To get them to understand that it's about teamwork and problem solving, it's not about some geeky thing you don't really want to do.

Ted Simons: And the problems you suggested, the challenges regarding growing firms here in Arizona, that probably won't get better until the education gets better? Does that look to be the case?

Margaret Mullen: I've been in economic development in Arizona for 30 years. The number one issue with every prospect I ever talked to was our education system. And that has not changed in 30 years.

Ted Simons: K-12 and higher?

Margaret Mullen: K-12 and higher. Our universities have improved in research and development but we're still not creating enough high technology workers, we're not generating enough Ph.D. and masters degrees in math, science, and engineering, and we've got to make significant investments in those areas. And science foundation is doing that, but not fast enough.

Ted Simons: Why not fast enough?

Margaret Mullen: Money. It's expensive at that level. And unfortunately our funding from the state was in the budget shortfall, we're now raising funding from philanthropic efforts to increase particularly graduate research fellows.

Ted Simons: Talk about the state funding. 25 million to begin with, or was it cut to 25 million -- 25 million then maybe cut to 10 and now it's at --

Margaret Mullen: It was -- we've had no funding in the last two years. In 2010 the governor gave us $10 million of federal stimulus money for specific projects. And that was the last state funding we've had. So our investments the last year have been from private donors.

Ted Simons: The report seems to indicate that 1,700 some-odd full and part-time jobs through 2011 directly through science foundation Arizona?

Margaret Mullen: Absolutely. 1776 jobs we've created 22 high-tech companies, that's spinning technology out of the universities into companies. And it takes a neutral partner to sort of force that to happen.

Ted Simons: So what happens when you bring this report -- who gets this report? Who do you want to see get this report?

Margaret Mullen: It has gone to all of our donors, it's gone to all the legislators, it has gone to the governor's office. We many use it to raise additional funding after the next election, we'll begin talking to the state if the economy improves enough. I believe there will be additional support for improving education as well as improving the research and development investments.

Ted Simons: For those who aren't familiar with science foundation Arizona, what is it, what does it do?

Margaret Mullen: We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit formed by the business community, in 2006 to diversify Arizona's economy. We are different than any entity in the United States. We invest only in research and education, and we do it through external peer review. Could you call me and say, I have a great friend who wants to start this company, but if it can't compete with the best of the best from around the world, it will never be funded by us. And what the Universities will tell you is, our peer review and oversight has elevated their research dramatically. That's why we've raised almost $300 million in industry and federal funding to match our grants. It's a significant contribution to the state and it's a big asset.

Ted Simons: Is there a way for everyone to take a look at this Battelle report?

Margaret Mullen: Absolutely. It's on our website. WWW.SFAZ for science foundation,.ORG.

Ted Simons: Look for the Battelle technology partner survey report.

Margaret Mullen: And it's on the home page. You can get the summary or the entire report.

Ted Simons: Even us non-scientists will find it.

Margaret Mullen: You'll love it

Education Sales Tax Initiative

  |   Video
  • Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett is asking the State Supreme Court if a state sales tax initiative should be placed on the November General election ballot. Bennett explains why he’s appealing a lower court’s ruling that said the initiative should be placed on the ballot.
  • Ken Bennett - Arizona Secretary of State
Category: Education   |   Keywords: education, sales, tax, initiative, ,

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Ted Simons: Last month, Arizona secretary of state Ken Bennett disqualified a ballot initiative that would effectively make permanent a one-cent sales tax. State sales tax. The reason, language on the circulated petition sheets did not match language provided to secretary Bennett's office. But a lower court judge ruled that the initiative could still appear on the ballot. The secretary of state's office is now appealing that decision to the state Supreme Court here to talk about all this is secretary of state Ken Bennett. Good to have you here, thanks for joining us.

Ken Bennett: Thank you, Ted. Good to be here.

Ted Simons: Why should this initiative not be on the ballot?

Ken Bennett: It should be on the ballot if they have followed the law. That is very specific, is that allows these initiatives to be on the ballot. The initiative process is very important in Arizona, one of the two things that we were held up becoming a state a hundred years ago. But the constitution and the laws are very specific, and one of the main ones says that any organization that's proposing a law before they print origin to circulate it, they have to file an application in our office on a form that we provide that has the text of what the law is going to be. And it's very important that that is filed correctly, and in this case, the committee filed one version of what they wanted to do, and then they unfortunately made a mistake and circulated a different version. And it's not a minor change. It's not a typo or missing word, it changes by hundreds of millions of dollars how the tax money would be distributed. Less money goes to K-12 education in the changed version, and more money goes to infrastructure projects. So fundamentally they filed one version, and then they circulated a different version, and the statutes are very, very clear and precise that you have to file the correct version and you have to attach the correct version to the petition.

Ted Simons: Did they not file that other version on disk with your office?

Ken Bennett: No. There's only one filing. They tried to file on a disk, and two of our employees confirmed to them that the filing is done on paper. It's very important that it's done on paper, because when they give it us the copies, we stamp each page as received, and then we give back to them, in fact it's right here, we give back to them the paper copy. And the most important part of what we give back to them, in addition to the text that they gave us, is a little box that says how many signatures are required, when they have to turn them in, and the serial number that we assign to that petition. So they did not file two versions, even though they have argued that in their pleading.

Ted Simons: The judge seems to suggest nowhere in state law does it say the paper copy is quote unquote official. And that your office could very easily, considering the circumstances, taken that differing copy and swap it out, considering this copy, which was on the petition signatures, that particular version.

Ken Bennett: The law says that this application is filed on a form to be provided by the secretary of state. That's what 19111 says. And we stamp date and go through this very detailed process in order to avoid voter confusion. Because immediately upon accepting the paper copies from them, we put that up on our website and people start to look at that version of a proposal, and maybe begin to evaluate it. Very few people if they're coming out of a grocery store and someone sticks a signature page in front of them, and it's attached to a 14-page proposal, they don't have time to read 14 pages. So they're usually finding out about it and the official place to find out to avoid voter confusion is the paper copy that's filed in our office.

Ted Simons: OK. The judge in this case said that basically your decision undoes the validity of 290,000 signatures over a photo copy error.

Ken Bennett: It's not a photocopy error in our opinion, because they added two whole paragraphs after the version they filed with us, and those two paragraphs change how the money is distributed by hundreds of millions of dollars. And yes, we're respectful of the 290,000 that signed the petitions. But there's another 3 million voters in our state who are going to probably find out about what does the initiative do, the entire legislative analysis process. There's a joint legislative budget office that reviews the official version that's on our -- in our office, there's the alleged council that reviews it. So again, this whole process is to avoid voter confusion so that organizations aren't filing one copy, or one petition and submitting another one at the end of the three months they have to summit.

Ted Simons: But as far as the judge's decision was concerned, his ruling, he called it I think he used the word capricious and arbitrary in not taking what they submitted on disk, which is what was on the signatures, the petitions, that's what folks read or supposedly were supposed to read before they signed. That same thing was on the disk, you had the disk, it's obvious that's what was out there. I think the judge's ruling was that, hey, it's there, why don't you swap them out there's nothing that says you can't do that.

Ken Bennett: If you do that, the whole process becomes suspect that a committee could essentially come in, file multiple versions or file one version and then come later in and say, what we had the signatures collected on, what the voters signed on was a different version. To avoid that bait and switch, whether it's intentional or not, the committee made a mistake and they gave us one copy and they circulates a different copy. And the state law says an organization intending to propose a law before causing the petition to be printed and circulated, shall file with the secretary of state an application on a form to be provided by the secretary of state. We do that on paper, because we have to give them back on the paper how many signatures they need, when they have to turn it in, and the serial number that has to be attached. I thought it interesting the judge said, I don't see anything in the law that says it has to be on paper. And yet on the ruling that he issued, on the third page where he signed, at the bottom it says "alert -- according to Arizona Supreme Court administrative order, civil cases must still be initiated on paper."
Ted Simons: I think -- trying to figure out what the judge was trying to say, let me try to paraphrase what I think he was trying to say. That is that you were trying to guard against voter confusion and that's the goal of what you're doing. Voters supposedly read what they read, signed it or didn't sign it, that was offered to your office by way of disk, and yes, the paper that was submitted was not the same thing, but you had on disk what was the same thing. If anything, you could have diffused voter confusion by simply using the disk copy that they signed anyway out there in the field.

Ken Bennett: The disk copy that was not filed. They tried to file it, we said no. The paper copy is the official version. They said we'll keep that, didn't even go into the file we gave to it a person who later might have been able to use it in the publicity pamphlet. The key is that we have to avoid voter confusion, and we have to make sure that there's one official version. The constitution and the state statutes say a full and correct copy has to be attached to the petition pages. For there to be a full and correct copy, there has to be a full and correct original, it can't be an almost full and pretty much correct --

Ted Simons: And what you're saying is, even if that full and correct copy they signed, they summited on disk, that doesn't matter because the original one submitted on paper did not match.

Ken Bennett: Correct. What they filed was the paper version, that's what we gave them a receipt back to. Yes, some people may have read the version that they circulated with the petition, but there were hundreds maybe thousands of others that looked at the version that was on our website, and decided to or not to sign or started evaluating what the initiative did based on the official version that was on our website.

Ted Simons: Do you think -- two questions -- Arizona Daily Star you wrote a piece, the quote was if the judge rules the initiative can be placed on the ballot, our office will complete our work and place the measure on the ballot. You're not doing that. What changed?

Ken Bennett: What I -- what we said when I was responding to people was that if a judge or judges, the copy that went to the daily sun or whatever it was, omitted the judge or judges, because I have always, as is now playing out, anticipated this would end up at the Supreme Court level. No one knew how the superior court judge would rule, and if he had ruled the other way I'm 1,000% confident that the quality education and jobs committee would be appealing it to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the highest court of our state, they are the ones that should make a decision of this importance.

Ted Simons: Last question, folks will be hearing this, some will agree, and those that disagree will say, this is a technicality from someone who doesn't like this initiative, pushed by people who don't like this initiative, you're looking for a way out as opposed to the general overview, even the judge was saying, substantially voters were not confused. They knew what they were signing. How do you respond?

Ken Bennett: Something that changes how the money goes out by hundreds of millions of dollars. For a permanent forever tax, is not a technicality. And however we feel, our office doesn't take a position on whether we support an initiative or not. We get some we like we get some we might not like, but that has nothing to do with how we process it. Our job is to follow the law precisely. We believe we did that. We disagree with the lower court judge's ruling and the Supreme Court justices will say whether they agree with us or him.

Ted Simons: Indeed. It's good to have you here. We appreciate it.