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March 31, 2014

Host: Ted Simons

AZ Giving and Leading: Joe Foss Institute Dinner

  |   Video
  • The Joe Foss Institute is a Scottsdale-based organization that was founded by Medal of Honor Recipient Joe Foss and his wife Didi. It is dedicated to advancing civics education. The "2014 Stars in Service” dinner benefiting the Institute is set for April 6. The event honors some of our Nation’s preeminent heroes, educators, and public servants, and will feature keynote speaker Charles Krauthammer, along with journalist Carl Bernstein and actor Richard Dreyfuss. Local war hero Pat Tillman will be honored posthumously at the event. Event chair Karrin Taylor and Joe Foss Institute executive director Lucian Spataro will discuss the group and its mission.
  • Karrin Taylor - Event Chair, Joe Foss Institute
  • Lucian Spataro - Executive Director, Joe Foss Institute
Category: Giving/Leading   |   Keywords: giving, leading, educators, dinner, institute, civic, heroes, event,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The Joe Foss institute is the focus of tonight's edition of Arizona giving and leading. The Scottsdale-based institute was founded by medal of honor recipient Joe Foss and his wife Didi is dedicated to advancing civics education. Karrin Taylor is the event chairman for the institute's “2014 Stars in Service” benefit, and also with us is the executive director of the Joe Foss Institute, Lucian Spataro. The Joe Foss -- Before we get to the event, what is -- Give me a better definition of the Joe Foss institute.

Karrin Taylor: The mission and goal is to bring civics education back into the classroom. For the last several decades we've had a lot of emphasis on science and math education, which is critically important for America and our role in the global marketplace. But at the same time, we can't lose sight of the fact that civics and civics education and a basic understanding of how our government works is critically important. So the focus of an institute is to get curriculum into the classroom, to get veterans into our classroom, and really make sure that our school kids have a basic understanding of our government.

Ted Simons: I was going to say, how exactly does the institute get to school districts, get to education folks and say, we need more of these kids learning about civics?

Lucian Spataro: Well, that's a visibility issue. As Karrin pointed out, civics has been boxed out by the focus on science and technology, and standardized testing and proficiency testing, and funding tied to the proficiency. So we work with the teachers and we have teacher workshops, and we work with teachers in all 50 states and schools to bring civics back into the classroom. And we're doing a supplemental way because it is part of the curriculum across the country, but it's not on the tests that matters. So we focus on the teacher workshops and the volunteer veterans in the classroom, and we bring it into the classroom and work with the teachers and their curriculum.

Ted Simons: Talk more about the volunteer veterans in the classroom. Give us an example of their presence in the room.

Karrin Taylor: We like to have them in the classroom because they can relate their personal experiences on the frontlines, if you will, to kids that otherwise don't have the opportunity to hear those stories. And over time as the numbers of people in our military shrink in comparison to the growth of the overall population, it's harder to do. So we have that as a particular area of focus because we think that connection to real world examples, people who have served the country make a profound impact on educating the kids.

Ted Simons: Has that always been the primary focus of the Joe Foss Institute and if so, has that focus itself changed over the years?

Lucian Spataro: Initially the focus was to bring veteran volunteers into the classroom and talk to kids about the importance of patriotism and community service and why we need to protect the unique freedoms we have as a country. But then the focus has changed to some extent over the last couple years because we have found that there is an issue in the country, and that is that civics is being boxed out. Citizenship is being boxed out of the classroom to some extent in a real sort of way, and we want to bring that back into the classroom. So we bring the curriculum back into the classroom. We didn't do that before. And we bring a flag and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, a copy of each of those documents, and a flag into the classroom. A lot of states have a provision for having a flag, but they don't fund it all the time. So we bring a flag into every classroom, we explain how to use that, or how to fold it.

Ted Simons: Has this situation occurred -- Is it just difficult to test civics? It's hard to do in A, B, C, or D, is it because of the politics involved? Is it because it's easier to do science, technology, engineering, and math as opposed to something that can be a little amorphous in terms of the aspects of civics.

Lucian Spataro: Science and technology, science and math are -- Because they're data driven, they might be to some extent easier to test or assess, and civics being a softer science might not be because civics is a narrow discipline within the social sciences essentially. And I think that might be one issue. But I think the emphasis is just -- The pendulum has swung too far, and now we've got to bring it back in the middle and broaden the curriculum out a little bit.

Ted Simons: The “2014 Stars in Service” event, what's that all about?

Karrin Taylor: That is this Sunday night, at the Camelback Inn. It's our annual event to raise much-needed funding to operate the institute, and get the veterans into the classrooms and provide scholarships for students. This year we're very excited, we have Charles Krauthammer as our keynote speak speaker, Carl Bernstein, so we've got a great lineup of honorees. General Mosley, Ross Perot Jr, Craig Barrett. For his work in education. So we've got a tremendous lineup, we're going to have seven -- About people there, so great opportunity to share the message and raise much-needed funds for the cause.

Ted Simons: Did I see Richard Dreyfuss will be there as well?

Karrin Taylor: Yes.

Ted Simons: I can see both sides of the aisle happy and frustrated.

Lucian Spataro: This is a perfect example of this not being a left-right issue. This is an American issue. Civics and citizenship are important, and it's not left or right issue, it's all about America.

Ted Simons: Who was Joe Foss?

Lucian Spataro: Joe Foss was an amazing person. Joe started the institute back in 2001, he was the governor of South Dakota. He was, I don't know if you know this, he was the first commissioner of the NFL. He founded the Super Bowl, we understand. That's debatable, but he claims he did. We'll go along with that. And he really did get involved and bring that together. He brought that together. And he was a Medal of Honor recipient, and he had a real interest in giving back to the community. So he thought this would be the best way he could do that. So he founded the institute and brought the first veterans into the classroom, and it all started with Joe.

Ted Simons: Interesting like someone like Joe Foss, military hero, governor, he has his hands in a lot of things, NRA president. Do you find that kind of person is harder to find these days? Or no?

Karrin Taylor: No, I think there are a lot of people who bring a lot of life experiences to the table. And I think the more of this experience you have, the more you understand the importance of the subject.

Ted Simons: And the more you teach civics in the classroom, the more those little minds become bigger folks that wind up being these kinds of folks.

Karrin Taylor: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: So if you had one thing -- We just talked about education and charter schools in the previous segment, if you had one thing to tell educators about civics in the classroom, what would it be?

Lucian Spataro: It would be that you have to have all the disciplines to become a critical thinker. You can't just focus on math and science. You've got to focus on all the other disciplines too. The sciences are important, I'm a stem professor, and my background is biology. I used to be a professor at the University of Arizona. So I understand from a stem standpoint how important those content areas are, but to be a critical thinker you need look at things from multiple disciplines and perspectives. I think that's what bringing the social sciences in is important.

Ted Simons: And we should mention there is a Sunday evening event?

Karrin Taylor: Sunday evening at the Camelback Inn.

Ted Simons: I hope it's a good event. It's good to have you both here.

Thank you very much.

Ted Simons: Tomorrow on "Arizona Horizon," we'll hear why some analysts are saying that the economy might be ready to show some big-time growth. And we'll talk baseball with Diamondbacks general manager Derrick Hall. That's Tuesday evening 5:30 and 10 right here on "Arizona Horizon."

Ted Simons: That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Charter Schools/Budget Battle

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  • Charter schools are being created by traditional public schools and that results in more money per pupil for the schools. The practice is being contested by some lawmakers as they work on the state budget. Chuck Essigs of the Arizona Association of School Business Officials will discuss how the practice works.
  • Chuck Essigs - Director of Governmental Relations, Arizona Association of School Business Officials
Category: Education   |   Keywords: education, budget, schools, charter, state, public, money,

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Ted Simons: Lawmakers at work on a new state budget are debating the practice of school districts converting traditional public schools to charter schools to secure more state financing. Chuck Essigs is the director of governmental relations for the Arizona association of school business officials. It's good to have you here so we can try to make sense of this. Let's start with defining terms. What is a charter school, what is a district charter school?

Chuck Essigs: First thing, they're both public schools. They're treated as public schools, and parents have the options of going to either one of those. Charter schools basically are approved by the majority, by the state charter board, where public schools have been in existence for many years, generally representing communities or certain geographic areas. And this board then if a district wants to convert the elementary school down the street to a charter; the charter board has to approve that?

Chuck Essigs: No, the local district board can approve that. Charter schools can be approved by the local school district, Universities can approve them, community colleges can approve them, state board of education can approve them, so can the charter board. But most of the nondistrict-sponsored charter schools have been approved by the state charter board.

Ted Simons: As far as district-sponsored charter schools, the idea of converting what were traditional schools over to charters because apparently charters get more money per student than the traditionals. True?

Chuck Essigs: Through the state funding they get about $1200 more per pupil than traditional school districts. Traditional districts, take all the revenue, including all federal and voter elected bonds and overrides, districts end up with more resources, but from the state funding formula it's $1200 higher. Our organization has been saying that for many years. I would get phone calls, you're wrong, and I would say where am I wrong. A few years ago the legislative resource people started saying that number and it's the same number, $1200 higher for charters than traditional districts on a per pupil basis.

Ted Simons: Is that by design?

Chuck Essigs: Yeah. In the beginning it wasn't. In the beginning the first year or two they were funded the same. Then they started giving charters money for transportation, even if they didn't transport students. They started giving them additional capital money. And it's in the additional assistance, which is mainly capital money that makes the big difference. The day-to-day operations, districts and charters are funded the same.

Ted Simons: The idea they might get more per pupil, they don't have access to taxes and no ability to borrow?

Chuck Essigs: They can borrow money as any business can through a local bank. But they can't pass a bond election or an override election. Which are in the law for school districts to go beyond what the state funding provides. Charters also get less federal money per pupil, mainly because they don't have some of the programs federal fundings are available and they don't run food service programs.

Ted Simons: So does the senate president have a point? He's really the impetus behind this, he's pushing this idea of districts converting to charters just so they can get the extra $1200, whatever it is per student. That's not fair, that's not right. Does he have a point?

Chuck Essigs: To some extent. But district sponsored charter schools started in the 90s. Vail, cave creek, Benson, Fort Thomas, Payson have had charter schools for many years and got that additional money. It was only the last couple years where additional districts stressed for resources and wanting to offer parents choice said, we're going to sponsor some of our schools to get the additional resources and give parents choice. That would cost the state quite a bit more money, but a group of school districts went to the legislators and said, we understand that difficulty and we're willing to redo the formula, we're willing to phase some things in but no one seemed to be willing to listen.

Ted Simons: It sounds like $150 million something along these lines over three years would occur if this particular practice were to stop. It sounds like the senate idea, is it the senate or house idea for one more year, like $33 million for everyone to get ready, because after that one year, all those district charters are going away.

Chuck Essigs: That's the house budget. It's one year and everybody gets rolled back. And can no longer -- But it's a freeze on any new districts and existing districts get the money for one year and then it's gone.

Ted Simons: And then if you -- I know in the past if you were a district and you went over to charter and said I think I'll go back to district after getting the money, you'd have to repay it.

Chuck Essigs: Probably the only good thing in the legislation, if you to stop your district sponsored charter school because of the legislation you don't have to pay back the additional money. Theoretically you never got it, but would you have had to pay it back.

Ted Simons: If this holds up and the idea, there's a one-year escrow thing happening and boom, everybody has to go back to what they were, impact on districts. Especially those that lost override votes.

Chuck Essigs: They're going to have a difficult -- They'll have one year of kind of reprieve, and then the reality is they'll have to cut their budgets by that same $33 million that they added in for that one year. It's very difficult to do that, but the reality of it that's the only way they would be able to survive.

Ted Simons: Just doing the budgets, right now the uncertainty even knowing what the budgets for the 14, 15 year would be something.

Chuck Essigs: The only good thing is this year or two legislature is ahead of schedule. A lot of times we're having these same discussions in May and June, so it's better to have them in march and April to give districts more time to start their new year July 1st.

Ted Simons: As far as the bottom line, why is this -- The state has had financial trouble for quite a while. Why is this particular issue happening now?

Chuck Essigs: I think -- My personal opinion is both districts and charters are underfunded. We're 47th in the country, we say that all the time. We're moving fast to the bottom in terms of per pupil funding. Both have financial strains. I can see where the legislature is -- This is the first time that really got a big hit on their budget. In prior years the hits have been small. But I do think they should have at least considered options that districts were presenting to them that could have reduced the cost, but still a will loud the option for districts to have district-sponsored charter schools.

Ted Simons: So just your thoughts here, in another year or so will the concept of district-sponsored charter schools, will that be a memory?

Chuck Essigs: If this legislation goes through, the way -- Eye they're the house or the senate version, basically district-sponsored charter schools end, because the law also says nobody else -- You can't go someplace else, you can't go to the state charter board or a University or community college or state board to get your district sponsored charter school in place. So it would end it.

Ted Simons: Do you think one way or another the one-year reprieve or end it now, that in another couple of years?

Chuck Essigs: In a year there would be no more district-sponsored charter schools, which is too bad. Some of them, like Wickenberg has a fantastic school that has a unique way of teaching math that draws kids from the district, and other places across the state, those will all probably have to end because they took additional resources for the district to put them in place.

Ted Simons: Last question -- Do you think it will likely end? Is that the way the wind is blowing?

Chuck Essigs: Right now, the best deal is one more year. It's likely to go to one doctor says you're going to die tomorrow and the other says you're going to be dead in 12 months. Neither is a very good diagnosis.

Ted Simons: Good information. Thanks for joining us.

Chuck Essigs: Thank you.

New Waddell Dam

  |   Video
  • Lake Pleasant is a water storage reservoir for most of the Valley's cities. The 20th anniversary of the New Waddell Dam at Lake Pleasant is being celebrated. We’ll talk about the importance of the lake and dam to the Phoenix Metro area with Tom McCann, Assistant Director for the Central Arizona Project.
  • Tom McCann - Assistant Director, Central Arizona Project
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: environment, water, dam, phoenix, metro, arizona, project, storage, valley, anniversary,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Lake Pleasant is known by most as a regional center for recreation, but the lake is also an important part of the central Arizona project's diversion and storage of Colorado River water. Joining us now is Tom McCann, assistant general manager for the CAP, it's good to have you here.

Tom McCann: Thank you.

Ted Simons: And Lake Pleasant, let's figure out what Lake Pleasant is before we get too deeply into this. Where is Lake Pleasant? For those who are new to town?

Tom McCann: It's a little ways Northwest of Phoenix. Where carefree highway is, go west of I-17 and carefree highway and it's north of the highway there.

Ted Simons: Back in the old days that was out in the boonies. Not so anymore.

Tom McCann: It's now part of Peoria.

Ted Simons: And the new Waddell Dam, before we get to the new Waddell Dam, what is the Waddell Dam?

Tom McCann: The Waddell Dam was built in the 1920s. It provided irrigation water for-- And irrigation district on the west side of town, Maricopa water district, I think it was probably out in the boonies back then too. But it dammed up the Agua Fria River that comes down from the Bradshaws and that area of the state. And then in the time of C.A.P., there was a decision that we needed a place to be able to park water from the Colorado River. So there's a long story actually as to how that dam site was selected, but we built a new dam that replaced the old dam, effectively.

Ted Simons: Not only placed it, three times the water storage something along those lines?

Tom McCann: Probably more like five or six times the storage.

Ted Simons: And this is Colorado River water that is there for storage in case of what?

Tom McCann: Actually, we use it every year. We raise and lower the level of the lake every year. We pump water from the Colorado River in the winter time when the energy rates are a little lower, because it's uphill from the river, and it takes a lot of energy to move it into central Arizona. So we park the water in the lake, we fill up the lake, and in the summertime we can shut down a lot of our pumping out west from the river, saves electricity, it also allows us to do maintenance on those facilities, and then we release water from Lake Pleasant to serve the needs of Phoenix and people downstream from there.

Ted Simons: And isn't power as well -- Is it power generated in the summer or all year?

Tom McCann: Power is only generated when we release water. So it's only in the summertime. And frankly, it takes more energy to put the water in the lake than we generate bringing it out. But it helps overall with our energy bill.

Ted Simons: The new Waddell Dam, again, it's an earthen structure.

Tom McCann: That's right.

Ted Simons: This is much bigger than the old -- The old Waddell Dam is under water now isn’t it?

Tom McCann: It's almost 100 feet under water. Still there, has a hole in the middle, but still there.

Ted Simons: Flying over the new one, looking at this -- I remember the story, like 20-some-odd years ago when this happened, that was a big expansion of Lake Pleasant. And things -- I'm guessing the lake has survived and folks have figured out how to enjoy it.

Tom McCann: Oh, absolutely. There are two marinas, a lot of recreational use. The water level does fluctuate during the year, but the marinas are built to accommodate that with floating docks that allow them to go up and down.

Ted Simons: As far as the cost for the new dam, what are you looking at here? Just in generalities?

Tom McCann: That's a good question. I don't know if I remember the total cost. I know what we had to kick in, the state, to provide the up front funding to build that was about $750 million, I think.

Ted Simons: And that's probably all still being repaid in one way, shape, or form?

Tom McCann: No, it's still being repaid. There were bonds issued and the bonds have since been paid off, but the cost of that dam is part of our repayment obligation to the United States.

Ted Simons: So the C.A.P., how important is Lake Pleasant, and the new Waddell Dam, but Lake Pleasant of itself, how important is that to the C.A.P.?

Tom McCann: I'd say it's really important. We don't like to highlight this particular instance, but about a year and a half ago we had an accident out west, a breach in our canal, and we were unable to deliver and move water through that segment of the canal for about three weeks. But our customers didn't see any reduction in flow because we could just turn around and take water back out of Lake Pleasant, the water we had parked there. So we were able to have uninterrupted deliveries to our customers, even though we had a canal outage that lasted three weeks.

Ted Simons: And as far as the water levels, you say they fluctuate every now and then. How much do they fluctuate?

Tom McCann: It can be as much as 100 feet in the course of the year. We usually try not to be that much. Usually try to keep it at 50-60 feet.

Ted Simons: As far as the drought is concerned, is that impacting what's happening at Lake Pleasant like it is other areas, or because it's a storage reservoir is it a whole different dynamic?

Tom McCann: It's different. Most of the water that's in there is water we put in there from pumping it from the Colorado River. We've had a few times we've had some really good runoff into the lake from the Agua Fria River, but it's not been as much in recent years.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about what happens if we get a La Nina this winter. Which they're talking about. They're looking at it. We get a lot of rain, we get overflow here and there. How does that work into it? If the Agua Fria River overflows, what happens?

Tom McCann: Well, we actually had that situation back when the dam was first being completed. It was finished in the fall of '92, but the bureau of reclamation that built it had some pretty strict criteria about how quickly to fill it up, so in '93 if you might remember there were floods on the Salt and Gila River system and there was a lot of water that came in the Agua Fria and we had to release water out of it. But we haven't had to do that since. We adolescent to release any water into the Agua Fria river since 1993.

Ted Simons: And as far as water levels right now, are they up, down? How --

Tom McCann: We're in the -- Toward the tail end of the period where we fill the lake, so we're almost to the top of where we're going to be.

Ted Simons: When you mention the lake filling and the fluctuations, do rules on the lake change when those water levels change?

Tom McCann: Hmm.

Ted Simons: Probably not --

Tom McCann: If it is, it would be the recreational folks. That would be the county.

Ted Simons: The shoreline of that cactus, watch out for the cactus-- I always thought that was fascinating. Sometimes you look under water and you're seeing the desert. At least back in the 90's. Can you still do that?

Tom McCann: Probably. My guess is since it gets covered with water once a year, it's probably not a lot of things that like that and stay growing.

Ted Simons: Last point 20 years now, is there a celebration for this?

Tom McCann: There is. I think Thursday morning.

Ted Simons: And they're basically going to say in 20 years we've -- Five to six times water capacity?

Tom McCann: We filled it and emptied it and filled it and emptied it probably about 20 times.

Ted Simons: All right. Good stuff. It's good to have you here. It's nice to learn about Lake Pleasant and the new and old Waddell Dam.

Tom McCann: Thank you.