Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 20, 2007


Host: Jay Lawrence

Iraqi Refugees


  • There is hope for hundreds of Iraq war refugees here in Arizona. The United Nations is screening and registering refugees this month. Joining HORIZON is Jamal Al-Fakhouri, Regional Director from the Tucson area of the International Rescue Committee, which works with placing refugees in our state.
Guests:
  • John Wright - President, Arizona Education Association
  • Tim Keller - Executive director, Institute for Justice
  • Jamal al-Fakhouri - Regional director, Tucson area, International Rescue Committee


View Transcript
Jay Lawrence:
Tonight on "Horizon," a group of education and political organizations filed a lawsuit today to stop the state from paying for some children to attend private or religious schools. We hear both sides of the voucher issue. Plus, there is hope for hundreds of Iraq-War refugees here in Arizona. The United Nations is screening and registering refugees this month. And, do you know for whom the toll road comes? It may for you and me. We look at toll roads and other transportation-related bills as they wind their way through the legislature. Those stories, coming up on "Horizon."

Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Jay Lawrence:
Good evening, I'm Jay Lawrence. Please forgive my cold. Welcome to "Horizon." State-funded scholarships to private and religious K-12 schools are commonly known as voucher programs. Last year, the state legislature passed two bills allowing voucher programs for children with disabilities and children in foster care. Shortly after the law was passed, opponents filed a challenge in the Arizona Supreme Court. In January, the state Supreme Court decided not to act on the case. The coalition opposing the voucher programs filed suit today in Maricopa county superior court. Here with more on the voucher issue, supporting the suit filed today challenging the voucher programs is John Wright, president of the Arizona Education Association. Also joining us is Tim Keller, executive director of the Institute for Justice, who plans to intervene in the suit on behalf of parents and children to defend the voucher programs. We're going to get through this aren't we? I'm so glad you're here today. Tim, give us a thumbnail sketch of the statutes passed by the legislature last season.

Tim Keller:
Absolutely. The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that parents have an absolute right to control and direct the education upbringing of their children. That includes the right to choose the school that best fits their child's educational needs. But for many families that promise rings hollow because they lack the resources to choose a private school. Last session the legislature and the governor signed two scholarship programs that hoped to make good on the promise of an equal education opportunity for Arizona school children. The first is so that parents of children with disabilities can select the environment that best suits their children. That allows them to choose public schools or private schools including a religious institution. The other program allows children who have been in foster care to enroll in the school of their choice and receive a scholarship up to $5,000 to do so.

Jay Lawrence:
John, doesn't the Arizona constitution say you cannot fund religious schools?

John Wright:
It's very clear. And that's the basis for our lawsuit. There is the political and legal. Today we've acted on the legal. In a moment I'd like to talk a little bit about the policy. The constitution very clearly says in two places "no public money shall be appropriated for religious instruction." In the second place it says "no appropriation of any public money shall be made in the aid of any private or sectarian school." That seems crystal clear.

Jay Lawrence:
Who's the coalition filing the lawsuit?


John Wright:
It's a coalition I think is very important to our efforts. As you mentioned, education groups but it also includes parent groups. We have representatives of teachers and support professionals in schools, administrators and school boards as well as parent-teacher associations and other organizations interested in the well-being of all our students including and especially all those in the public school system and the parents who intend to keep them there.

Jay Lawrence:
John, in the A.E.A.'s press release today you were quoted as saying no matter how they are disguised, vouchers threaten the basic right of every child to an excellent public education. The word "disguised" is pejorative is it not?

John Wright:
I think the word scholarship is misleading. This is a voucher to siphon taxpayer money out of our public schools into religious and private schools where there is no accountability for public standards. All of our Arizona public schools work. And our Arizona public school employees step up to be accountable for the product and quality of their work. That accountability does not exist in the schools accepting vouchers, either financial accountability or academic accountability. And there is no accountability for the type of special education programs that students with disabilities really need if their unique needs are going to be met. That only takes place in the public school.

Jay Lawrence:
Tim, who are the groups in your corner?

Tim Keller:
We represent the parents and children who are the primary beneficiaries of this program. The Arizona Supreme Court has repeatedly said with regard to these provisions of the Arizona constitution that their purpose is to ensure that the state remains neutral with regard to religion. And long ago rejected the notion that there is any sort of absolute strict law between using public funds with regard to neutrally-designed aid program for the recipients of that aid to direct that aid to a religious institution.

Jay Lawrence:
How many students do you see qualifying for this program?

Tim Keller:
The programs are both capped at $2.5 million for a total of $5 million. It will be a very small number of students eligible who will be able to participate in the program.

Jay Lawrence:
Why is this -- go ahead, please.

John Wright:
The program actually has a built-in inflation factor so that this amount rises automatically every year, would that public education funding in general rise with inflation every year. If we want to make the right kind of investments in our public schools where 90\% of our children are learning, to have to go and argue and work to get funding each year while the voucher program gets an automatic inflationary increase. I do have to say one thing. The Institute for Justice speaks for their clients. I am a parent and I'm a foster parent. And the Institute for Justice is not representing me in this issue. I think it's a little bold to say they represent this vast population of interested parties.

Jay Lawrence:
Tim, why does the school choice program a good thing?

Tim Keller:
Because school choice works. All of the empirical evidence demonstrates that it's good for parents, for children, as well as for public schools. No less than eight studies, which are -- eight studies demonstrate that students who participate in the voucher program perform better than their public school counterparts who do not participate. And there are also eight studies that demonstrate that public schools that are forced to compete with -- for students under a voucher program also experience increased test scores.

Jay Lawrence:
John --

John Wright:
Isn't the data to demonstrate increased achievement on voucher accepting students?

Jay Lawrence:
What is your major beef? What is the major gripe A.E.A. has with the voucher program?

John Wright:
As I said, there's the legal issue and that's stated so clearly in the constitution "shall not appropriate public money in aid of a private or sectarian school" and there are the policy issues. Bad economic policy, bad education policy, bad social policy. We drain money out of the public school system serving the majority of our children. We don't have any accountability for how that public money is spent outside of the public school system. We don't have data that indicates it improves student achievement. And the real effort here is to return taxpayer money to taxpayer enterprises such as public schools.

Jay Lawrence:
Tim, John says there's no evidence saying that there is an improvement in student achievement under these voucher programs. Can you differ with that?

Tim Keller:
I can differ with. That is I said, there are no less than eight studies, all of which were random assignment studies. This is the gold standard for social science research. All of them demonstrated that the students who participated in the voucher program performed better than their public school counterparts.

John Wright:
Who are the researchers?

Tim Keller:
The researchers were Jay Green is one of the primary authors of the studies; Carolyn Hocksby of Harvard University has studied these programs and founded same result.

John Wright:
You have self--selecting children already exceeding standards moving at public expense from one school to another. That's not a blind study of how children perform as they accept vouchers or not accept vouchers. We don't have the data that shows that that matters. We do have the data that shows investing in our public schools makes a difference for everybody.

Jay Lawrence:
Why do you think you'll be more successful in Maricopa County Superior Court than you were at the state supreme court?

John Wright:
Well, we really tried to fast track it at the Supreme Court level. We wanted to convince the state Supreme Court that this was an issue of such importance, of paramount social issue, that state would be served if the Supreme Court took direct jurisdiction. It was an unusual move and it was intended to save some time and perhaps some money. But it was certainly not a sure thing. So the Supreme Court made no decision about the validity of vouchers and had no judgment about the voucher programs. They simply said, "We're not going to take this case right off the bat. We're going to ask you plaintiffs to go ahead and file your case in superior court. It will work its way through the system." Tim and I both realize whatever the way the system comes out of the box it will be appealed and we look forward to a resolution in the state Supreme Court.

Jay Lawrence:
Tim in other places where the program is successful, are there other states where the voucher program as you've described it are in existence?

Tim Keller:
Yes, they are. This lawsuit is unprecedented in the fact that there are three other programs operating in other states for children with disabilities. Those states are Florida where there are 16,000 students using these types of programs. Also Ohio and Utah have programs for children with disabilities. And the other thing is that Arizona for years has had programs in with which -- programs in which we use public funds to direct children to private institutions for their education, including programs for children with disabilities and children with foster care.

Jay Lawrence:
You keep pointing out the disabilities. The argument probably is the religious aspect of the sending these children to a religious school, John.

John Wright:
That's one key argument. State dollars supporting religious instruction as prohibited by the constitution. But it's a really false hope that -- we have grave concerns for the parents of students with disabilities. Because the public schools, under federal law the individuals with disabilities in education act have to provide certain services and meet very specific needs as they are diagnosed by professionals. And we have to provide professional services. Parents are going to be lulled into a false hope if they think they can get those services at a private school. They're not available.

Tim Keller:
When Jay Green studied the Florida program, what he found is the parents of 16,000 children participated in that program, the parents were far more satisfied than the services they were receiving in public schools. Let me give you an example of one of my clients in Arizona. Andrea Whack.

Jay Lawrence: Is this going to take more than 15 seconds?

Tim Keller:
It probably would.

Jay Lawrence:
Well, tell you what. You can call Tim Keller at the Institute for Justice. Gentlemen, thank you. John, Tim, it's an argument that will go on. And good luck to both of you.

Tim Keller:
Thank you, Jay.

Jay Lawrence:
Refugees have been leaving war-torn Iraq since the Persian Gulf War in 1991. A new United Nations-Bush administration plan is expected to bring several thousand of the refugees to the United States over the next 10 months. Arizona could get 3 to 4 percent of those refugees by September. Earlier I spoke with Jamal al-Fakhouri, regional director from the Tucson area of the International Rescue Committee, which works with placing refugees in our state. Jamal, tell us about the Iraqi refugee program.

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Well, it's part of the U.S. national refugee program. As you know, every year the U.S. admits about 50,000 refugees or the president gives us what we call the presidential determination, authorization to admit about 50,000 refugees are located by region. Iraqis in the near east program which includes Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and other countries in that region.

Jay Lawrence:
How many Iraqis are being included in this group coming to America?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Well, this year there has -- the numbers are actually quite low. The near east program total is 5, 100, which includes like I said refugees from other countries. But just recently, the U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said they would admit 7,000 Iraqi refugees this year.

Jay Lawrence: Alright, so 7,000 are coming this year to America. How are those refugees selected? That must be an amazing process. There must be a lot of volunteers.

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Absolutely. Because of the size of the humanitarian need for refugees in general and now specifically for Iraqis, we're talking about almost two million Iraqi refugees outside of Iraq since 2003. So we're hoping that U.S. would look at the multiple population groups such as those who are associated with the U.S. to work for the U.S. or coalition government as interpreters, drivers and other groups such as religious minorities and those Iraqis living outside of Iraq now and who have relatives living in the U.S. right now who can help with their settlement once they arrive into the U.S.

Jay Lawrence:
Language barriers. Will all of them speak English? Or will there be some language problems?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
I don't think all of them would speak English. However, from visiting to Jordan just last week and interviewing a lot of Iraqi families living there in Jordan, many of them spoke English. But upon arrival they would have English as a second language assistance where they can study English and at the same time we have the opportunity to go to work immediately which should improve their English. And for the children under 18 of course they will be registered in schools.

Jay Lawrence:
Jamal, how many of these people will come to Arizona? Down any idea?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Well, traditionally Arizona accepts about 4 to 5 percent of the total number of U.S. refugee admissions. So if we resettle 7,000 this year, 5 percent of that would be 350. And that's in my estimate a very high number.

Jay Lawrence: Where will they go?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Probably the majority will be in Phoenix, and a small group in Tucson. It will be in many places, neighborhoods that you go to every day for grocery store. They will be next door to you. They will be working in many places in Arizona. And their kids will go to many schools that our kids, you know, in Arizona go to.

Jay Lawrence:
Will there be a job placement program of any kind?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Absolutely. All the refugee agencies such as the international rescue committee, we have local programs that target refugee agencies. Our mandate is to try to get every adult self-sufficient and working within six months of the time they enter the U.S.

Jay Lawrence:
I hate to ask this question but I must: the relationship between the Iraqis and Americans. Do you see any possibility of any kind of tensions between those who come here and the Americans with whom they associate?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
We hope that that won't happen. Americans in general tend to be supportive and welcoming nation, you know. We have a lot of refugees coming to Arizona since 1975. And the support for the refugee program by and large has been very positive. So we have friends, neighbors, volunteers, whether they go to church or they work certain places with the refugees. And they have been supportive. So I'm hoping that there won't be any tension. And from the Iraqi's stance, point of view, they're not here to start any problems. They're looking for a place where they can start their life equally and secure and their kids can go to school and they can go to work, just as you and me, just as anybody else living in Arizona.

Jay Lawrence:
Will their plan be to stay here, or will their plan be to stay here until it becomes more feasible for them to go back to Iraq?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
From my experience, working with the refugees resettlement program for ten years now, most refugees who come here tend to stay here. Because they have a chance of starting a new life. They can apply for U.S. citizenship after five years from the day they arrive, from the day they enter. So it truly is a new life for them. And from my experience, that tends to be the trend.

Jay Lawrence:
The specific needs of individuals coming here.

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Many and wide. Wide array of needs. We need help with the initial resettlement, we need help with finding them jobs, we need help from volunteers, from communities via donations, whether it's household items cash donations. Not just for Iraqi refugees, for all refugees arriving in Arizona and the U.S. in general.

Jay Lawrence:
The organization has been in existence for quite some time. Refugees have been coming here for -- since '73. Do you see any problems? Do you see any, and are you preparing for any?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Well, only the problems we're seeing is in terms of processing. There is a great need for referee resettlement into the U.S. but the processing has not been established yet. So that number, when we need to speed up the process of reset ling refugees from everywhere and security now they're living in other countries in the Middle East with no hope and no services whatever. Once they're here, we have a well-established program that's been in existence since at least 1975 in Arizona. And we have been providing these services and a lot of other agencies we work with. We have a strong program. We have a strong staff and volunteers. And we're ready and we're not anticipating any problems once the refugees are here.

Jay Lawrence:
Jamal, thank you very much. It's a marvelous program. We hope it works well. Thank you for joining us tonight.

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Thank you for having me.

Jay Lawrence:
If you find yourself creeping in your automobile at some point along Arizona's metro area freeways today, this next discussion will interest now. State lawmakers and Arizona transportation officials are working to find funding options to expand our traffic-bound highways. So far funding methods for freeway construction projects continue to lag behind our state's needs. If that's taking a toll on you, you might agree to pay a toll to drive more freely on the freeway. Senator Jay Tibshraeny joins us to talk about current legislation dealing with transportation. Welcome, senator.

Jay Tibshraeny:
Thanks for having me today.

Jay Lawrence:
I'm glad you're here. Before we talk about toll roads, the Arizona state legislature approved a bill to impose new restrictions on drivers 18 and under. Could you explain that please?

Jay Tibshraeny:
Briefly in a nutshell, that is when you just get your license and you are under 18, that first six months that will impose restrictions that aren't currently imposed on teenage drivers. It's similar to restrictions that are adopted in 45 other states. We were one of five states without any restrictions. What those do, one of the restrictions is night-time driving. It limits that for six months, driving between 12:00 midnight and 5:00 a.m. subject to certain circumstances. You can be going with a parent, back and forth to work or coming from a school event. The other restriction is during the day. It limits the amount of other teen passengers in the car with that teen driver. It limits it to one. Obviously that doesn't apply to siblings or if the parent's in the car. But it does restrict the amount of night-time driving for a teen driver and also the number of teens in that car during the day.

Jay Lawrence:
When will this go into effect?

Jay Tibshraeny:
The bill was voted out of the senate yesterday. It's headed over to the House of Representatives for a hearing. It has to go through their committees. If it passes out of the house then it will go up to the governor's desk for signature. So it has a few more hoops to go through. But I think it's a good bill. I signed on to the bill as a cosponsor. Senator Leff is the prime sponsor of the bill. But I think it's needed in the state. 45 other states have proved successfully that it does have an impact on teen accidents and teen fatalities.

Jay Lawrence:
All right. So we wait for the legislation to be signed by the governor. Then it goes into effect and we know that it works. That's a good thing.

Jay Tibshraeny:
That's the game plan.

Jay Lawrence:
All right. Toll roads. Are toll roads an answer to our expanding traffic in the Valley?

Jay Tibshraeny:
I think to a limited extent, toll options should be in the tool box for A-DOT
As they're trying to build the freeway system and the highway system in the state. My particular proposal was on a very limited toll basis. That was for segments of freeway and highway that are not currently funded, not in any 20-year plan, and normally would not be built under the current scenario; those particular roads I would like the private sector to come, in make bids to the state, and be able to toll them. Tolls are controversial but I think if it's a road that's not going to be built that will relieve congestion on roads that we're traveling, taxpayer-funded road it could be a win/win for everybody.

Jay Lawrence:
Toll lanes wouldn't give us new places to travel. Toll lanes would be existing traffic lanes. Your plan would be to build all new freeways, freeway lanes.

Jay Tibshraeny:
There was a couple of scenarios, a couple of bills going through. H.O.V. lanes and allow pay as you go type drivers in those lanes. I don't think that does much for congestion in the long-term. My proposal again is for new freeways such as Gateway out in the east part of the Valley. That's a freeway not funded. The Hassayampa in the west part of the Valley. The corridor in Maricopa and Pinal counties. Those are corridors where there's no highway or freeway planned that we need because of the growth in those areas. And also there is an I-10 reliever down to Tucson that we could also utilize for tolls. But there are freeways that there's other ways to go currently. But if we built these roads, the private sector, it would help relieve some congestion.

Jay Lawrence:
Senator, we must talk about money. This is money. A toll road brings money for the state. Are there revenue projections of any kind yet?

Jay Tibshraeny:
It's very preliminary. We don't have any revenue projections. That would obviously be based on the market, how much the market would bear and what kind of return on investment the private sector would need. We don't have any figures on that yet.

Jay Lawrence:
One of the suggestions we've heard, expanding the Broadway curve area to 24 lanes at I-10.

Jay Tibshraeny:
I've heard that. I know A-DOT is working on that scenario. I don't know if that's -- that's not the total answer. Maybe that would help. Maybe it wouldn't. All I know is that our needs in this state are in the billions and billions of dollars for transportation. And every day that we don't do something we fall further and further behind. So we need to be fairly aggressive as a legislature.

Jay Lawrence:
Senator Jay Tibshraeny, thanks for joining us, sir.

Jay Tibshraeny:
Thank you.

Jay Lawrence:
Appreciate your visit. To watch video of tonight's program and get information about upcoming horizon stories visit our website, azpbs.org.

Larry Lemmons:
Changes are ahead for Patriot Square in the heart of downtown Phoenix. But just how to change it is the issue. On the next horizon, find out what's being discussed for the area where the park sits. And what is it about the school superintendent that has so many teachers upset? "Horizon," Wednesday at 7:00 on eight.

Jay Lawrence:
Thanks for joining us on this incredible evening. I'm going to go cure. I'm Jay Lawrence. And I'll see you again on "Horizon." Good night.

school Vouchers


  • A group of education and political organizations filed a lawsuit Tuesday to stop state scholarships, which pay for some children to attend private or religious schools. We hear both sides of the school voucher issue from John Wright, President of the Arizona Education Association which supports the lawsuit filed against school vouchers. Also joining us is Tim Keller, Executive Director of the Institute for Justice, which plans to intervene in the suit on behalf of parents and children to defent the voucher programs.
Guests:
  • John Wright - President, Arizona Education Association
  • Tim Keller - Executive director, Institute for Justice
  • Jamal al-Fakhouri - Regional director, Tucson area, International Rescue Committee
Category: Education

View Transcript
Jay Lawrence:
Tonight on "Horizon," a group of education and political organizations filed a lawsuit today to stop the state from paying for some children to attend private or religious schools. We hear both sides of the voucher issue. Plus, there is hope for hundreds of Iraq-War refugees here in Arizona. The United Nations is screening and registering refugees this month. And, do you know for whom the toll road comes? It may for you and me. We look at toll roads and other transportation-related bills as they wind their way through the legislature. Those stories, coming up on "Horizon."

Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Jay Lawrence:
Good evening, I'm Jay Lawrence. Please forgive my cold. Welcome to "Horizon." State-funded scholarships to private and religious K-12 schools are commonly known as voucher programs. Last year, the state legislature passed two bills allowing voucher programs for children with disabilities and children in foster care. Shortly after the law was passed, opponents filed a challenge in the Arizona Supreme Court. In January, the state Supreme Court decided not to act on the case. The coalition opposing the voucher programs filed suit today in Maricopa county superior court. Here with more on the voucher issue, supporting the suit filed today challenging the voucher programs is John Wright, president of the Arizona Education Association. Also joining us is Tim Keller, executive director of the Institute for Justice, who plans to intervene in the suit on behalf of parents and children to defend the voucher programs. We're going to get through this aren't we? I'm so glad you're here today. Tim, give us a thumbnail sketch of the statutes passed by the legislature last season.

Tim Keller:
Absolutely. The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that parents have an absolute right to control and direct the education upbringing of their children. That includes the right to choose the school that best fits their child's educational needs. But for many families that promise rings hollow because they lack the resources to choose a private school. Last session the legislature and the governor signed two scholarship programs that hoped to make good on the promise of an equal education opportunity for Arizona school children. The first is so that parents of children with disabilities can select the environment that best suits their children. That allows them to choose public schools or private schools including a religious institution. The other program allows children who have been in foster care to enroll in the school of their choice and receive a scholarship up to $5,000 to do so.

Jay Lawrence:
John, doesn't the Arizona constitution say you cannot fund religious schools?

John Wright:
It's very clear. And that's the basis for our lawsuit. There is the political and legal. Today we've acted on the legal. In a moment I'd like to talk a little bit about the policy. The constitution very clearly says in two places "no public money shall be appropriated for religious instruction." In the second place it says "no appropriation of any public money shall be made in the aid of any private or sectarian school." That seems crystal clear.

Jay Lawrence:
Who's the coalition filing the lawsuit?


John Wright:
It's a coalition I think is very important to our efforts. As you mentioned, education groups but it also includes parent groups. We have representatives of teachers and support professionals in schools, administrators and school boards as well as parent-teacher associations and other organizations interested in the well-being of all our students including and especially all those in the public school system and the parents who intend to keep them there.

Jay Lawrence:
John, in the A.E.A.'s press release today you were quoted as saying no matter how they are disguised, vouchers threaten the basic right of every child to an excellent public education. The word "disguised" is pejorative is it not?

John Wright:
I think the word scholarship is misleading. This is a voucher to siphon taxpayer money out of our public schools into religious and private schools where there is no accountability for public standards. All of our Arizona public schools work. And our Arizona public school employees step up to be accountable for the product and quality of their work. That accountability does not exist in the schools accepting vouchers, either financial accountability or academic accountability. And there is no accountability for the type of special education programs that students with disabilities really need if their unique needs are going to be met. That only takes place in the public school.

Jay Lawrence:
Tim, who are the groups in your corner?

Tim Keller:
We represent the parents and children who are the primary beneficiaries of this program. The Arizona Supreme Court has repeatedly said with regard to these provisions of the Arizona constitution that their purpose is to ensure that the state remains neutral with regard to religion. And long ago rejected the notion that there is any sort of absolute strict law between using public funds with regard to neutrally-designed aid program for the recipients of that aid to direct that aid to a religious institution.

Jay Lawrence:
How many students do you see qualifying for this program?

Tim Keller:
The programs are both capped at $2.5 million for a total of $5 million. It will be a very small number of students eligible who will be able to participate in the program.

Jay Lawrence:
Why is this -- go ahead, please.

John Wright:
The program actually has a built-in inflation factor so that this amount rises automatically every year, would that public education funding in general rise with inflation every year. If we want to make the right kind of investments in our public schools where 90\% of our children are learning, to have to go and argue and work to get funding each year while the voucher program gets an automatic inflationary increase. I do have to say one thing. The Institute for Justice speaks for their clients. I am a parent and I'm a foster parent. And the Institute for Justice is not representing me in this issue. I think it's a little bold to say they represent this vast population of interested parties.

Jay Lawrence:
Tim, why does the school choice program a good thing?

Tim Keller:
Because school choice works. All of the empirical evidence demonstrates that it's good for parents, for children, as well as for public schools. No less than eight studies, which are -- eight studies demonstrate that students who participate in the voucher program perform better than their public school counterparts who do not participate. And there are also eight studies that demonstrate that public schools that are forced to compete with -- for students under a voucher program also experience increased test scores.

Jay Lawrence:
John --

John Wright:
Isn't the data to demonstrate increased achievement on voucher accepting students?

Jay Lawrence:
What is your major beef? What is the major gripe A.E.A. has with the voucher program?

John Wright:
As I said, there's the legal issue and that's stated so clearly in the constitution "shall not appropriate public money in aid of a private or sectarian school" and there are the policy issues. Bad economic policy, bad education policy, bad social policy. We drain money out of the public school system serving the majority of our children. We don't have any accountability for how that public money is spent outside of the public school system. We don't have data that indicates it improves student achievement. And the real effort here is to return taxpayer money to taxpayer enterprises such as public schools.

Jay Lawrence:
Tim, John says there's no evidence saying that there is an improvement in student achievement under these voucher programs. Can you differ with that?

Tim Keller:
I can differ with. That is I said, there are no less than eight studies, all of which were random assignment studies. This is the gold standard for social science research. All of them demonstrated that the students who participated in the voucher program performed better than their public school counterparts.

John Wright:
Who are the researchers?

Tim Keller:
The researchers were Jay Green is one of the primary authors of the studies; Carolyn Hocksby of Harvard University has studied these programs and founded same result.

John Wright:
You have self--selecting children already exceeding standards moving at public expense from one school to another. That's not a blind study of how children perform as they accept vouchers or not accept vouchers. We don't have the data that shows that that matters. We do have the data that shows investing in our public schools makes a difference for everybody.

Jay Lawrence:
Why do you think you'll be more successful in Maricopa County Superior Court than you were at the state supreme court?

John Wright:
Well, we really tried to fast track it at the Supreme Court level. We wanted to convince the state Supreme Court that this was an issue of such importance, of paramount social issue, that state would be served if the Supreme Court took direct jurisdiction. It was an unusual move and it was intended to save some time and perhaps some money. But it was certainly not a sure thing. So the Supreme Court made no decision about the validity of vouchers and had no judgment about the voucher programs. They simply said, "We're not going to take this case right off the bat. We're going to ask you plaintiffs to go ahead and file your case in superior court. It will work its way through the system." Tim and I both realize whatever the way the system comes out of the box it will be appealed and we look forward to a resolution in the state Supreme Court.

Jay Lawrence:
Tim in other places where the program is successful, are there other states where the voucher program as you've described it are in existence?

Tim Keller:
Yes, they are. This lawsuit is unprecedented in the fact that there are three other programs operating in other states for children with disabilities. Those states are Florida where there are 16,000 students using these types of programs. Also Ohio and Utah have programs for children with disabilities. And the other thing is that Arizona for years has had programs in with which -- programs in which we use public funds to direct children to private institutions for their education, including programs for children with disabilities and children with foster care.

Jay Lawrence:
You keep pointing out the disabilities. The argument probably is the religious aspect of the sending these children to a religious school, John.

John Wright:
That's one key argument. State dollars supporting religious instruction as prohibited by the constitution. But it's a really false hope that -- we have grave concerns for the parents of students with disabilities. Because the public schools, under federal law the individuals with disabilities in education act have to provide certain services and meet very specific needs as they are diagnosed by professionals. And we have to provide professional services. Parents are going to be lulled into a false hope if they think they can get those services at a private school. They're not available.

Tim Keller:
When Jay Green studied the Florida program, what he found is the parents of 16,000 children participated in that program, the parents were far more satisfied than the services they were receiving in public schools. Let me give you an example of one of my clients in Arizona. Andrea Whack.

Jay Lawrence: Is this going to take more than 15 seconds?

Tim Keller:
It probably would.

Jay Lawrence:
Well, tell you what. You can call Tim Keller at the Institute for Justice. Gentlemen, thank you. John, Tim, it's an argument that will go on. And good luck to both of you.

Tim Keller:
Thank you, Jay.

Jay Lawrence:
Refugees have been leaving war-torn Iraq since the Persian Gulf War in 1991. A new United Nations-Bush administration plan is expected to bring several thousand of the refugees to the United States over the next 10 months. Arizona could get 3 to 4 percent of those refugees by September. Earlier I spoke with Jamal al-Fakhouri, regional director from the Tucson area of the International Rescue Committee, which works with placing refugees in our state. Jamal, tell us about the Iraqi refugee program.

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Well, it's part of the U.S. national refugee program. As you know, every year the U.S. admits about 50,000 refugees or the president gives us what we call the presidential determination, authorization to admit about 50,000 refugees are located by region. Iraqis in the near east program which includes Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and other countries in that region.

Jay Lawrence:
How many Iraqis are being included in this group coming to America?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Well, this year there has -- the numbers are actually quite low. The near east program total is 5, 100, which includes like I said refugees from other countries. But just recently, the U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said they would admit 7,000 Iraqi refugees this year.

Jay Lawrence: Alright, so 7,000 are coming this year to America. How are those refugees selected? That must be an amazing process. There must be a lot of volunteers.

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Absolutely. Because of the size of the humanitarian need for refugees in general and now specifically for Iraqis, we're talking about almost two million Iraqi refugees outside of Iraq since 2003. So we're hoping that U.S. would look at the multiple population groups such as those who are associated with the U.S. to work for the U.S. or coalition government as interpreters, drivers and other groups such as religious minorities and those Iraqis living outside of Iraq now and who have relatives living in the U.S. right now who can help with their settlement once they arrive into the U.S.

Jay Lawrence:
Language barriers. Will all of them speak English? Or will there be some language problems?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
I don't think all of them would speak English. However, from visiting to Jordan just last week and interviewing a lot of Iraqi families living there in Jordan, many of them spoke English. But upon arrival they would have English as a second language assistance where they can study English and at the same time we have the opportunity to go to work immediately which should improve their English. And for the children under 18 of course they will be registered in schools.

Jay Lawrence:
Jamal, how many of these people will come to Arizona? Down any idea?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Well, traditionally Arizona accepts about 4 to 5 percent of the total number of U.S. refugee admissions. So if we resettle 7,000 this year, 5 percent of that would be 350. And that's in my estimate a very high number.

Jay Lawrence: Where will they go?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Probably the majority will be in Phoenix, and a small group in Tucson. It will be in many places, neighborhoods that you go to every day for grocery store. They will be next door to you. They will be working in many places in Arizona. And their kids will go to many schools that our kids, you know, in Arizona go to.

Jay Lawrence:
Will there be a job placement program of any kind?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Absolutely. All the refugee agencies such as the international rescue committee, we have local programs that target refugee agencies. Our mandate is to try to get every adult self-sufficient and working within six months of the time they enter the U.S.

Jay Lawrence:
I hate to ask this question but I must: the relationship between the Iraqis and Americans. Do you see any possibility of any kind of tensions between those who come here and the Americans with whom they associate?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
We hope that that won't happen. Americans in general tend to be supportive and welcoming nation, you know. We have a lot of refugees coming to Arizona since 1975. And the support for the refugee program by and large has been very positive. So we have friends, neighbors, volunteers, whether they go to church or they work certain places with the refugees. And they have been supportive. So I'm hoping that there won't be any tension. And from the Iraqi's stance, point of view, they're not here to start any problems. They're looking for a place where they can start their life equally and secure and their kids can go to school and they can go to work, just as you and me, just as anybody else living in Arizona.

Jay Lawrence:
Will their plan be to stay here, or will their plan be to stay here until it becomes more feasible for them to go back to Iraq?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
From my experience, working with the refugees resettlement program for ten years now, most refugees who come here tend to stay here. Because they have a chance of starting a new life. They can apply for U.S. citizenship after five years from the day they arrive, from the day they enter. So it truly is a new life for them. And from my experience, that tends to be the trend.

Jay Lawrence:
The specific needs of individuals coming here.

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Many and wide. Wide array of needs. We need help with the initial resettlement, we need help with finding them jobs, we need help from volunteers, from communities via donations, whether it's household items cash donations. Not just for Iraqi refugees, for all refugees arriving in Arizona and the U.S. in general.

Jay Lawrence:
The organization has been in existence for quite some time. Refugees have been coming here for -- since '73. Do you see any problems? Do you see any, and are you preparing for any?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Well, only the problems we're seeing is in terms of processing. There is a great need for referee resettlement into the U.S. but the processing has not been established yet. So that number, when we need to speed up the process of reset ling refugees from everywhere and security now they're living in other countries in the Middle East with no hope and no services whatever. Once they're here, we have a well-established program that's been in existence since at least 1975 in Arizona. And we have been providing these services and a lot of other agencies we work with. We have a strong program. We have a strong staff and volunteers. And we're ready and we're not anticipating any problems once the refugees are here.

Jay Lawrence:
Jamal, thank you very much. It's a marvelous program. We hope it works well. Thank you for joining us tonight.

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Thank you for having me.

Jay Lawrence:
If you find yourself creeping in your automobile at some point along Arizona's metro area freeways today, this next discussion will interest now. State lawmakers and Arizona transportation officials are working to find funding options to expand our traffic-bound highways. So far funding methods for freeway construction projects continue to lag behind our state's needs. If that's taking a toll on you, you might agree to pay a toll to drive more freely on the freeway. Senator Jay Tibshraeny joins us to talk about current legislation dealing with transportation. Welcome, senator.

Jay Tibshraeny:
Thanks for having me today.

Jay Lawrence:
I'm glad you're here. Before we talk about toll roads, the Arizona state legislature approved a bill to impose new restrictions on drivers 18 and under. Could you explain that please?

Jay Tibshraeny:
Briefly in a nutshell, that is when you just get your license and you are under 18, that first six months that will impose restrictions that aren't currently imposed on teenage drivers. It's similar to restrictions that are adopted in 45 other states. We were one of five states without any restrictions. What those do, one of the restrictions is night-time driving. It limits that for six months, driving between 12:00 midnight and 5:00 a.m. subject to certain circumstances. You can be going with a parent, back and forth to work or coming from a school event. The other restriction is during the day. It limits the amount of other teen passengers in the car with that teen driver. It limits it to one. Obviously that doesn't apply to siblings or if the parent's in the car. But it does restrict the amount of night-time driving for a teen driver and also the number of teens in that car during the day.

Jay Lawrence:
When will this go into effect?

Jay Tibshraeny:
The bill was voted out of the senate yesterday. It's headed over to the House of Representatives for a hearing. It has to go through their committees. If it passes out of the house then it will go up to the governor's desk for signature. So it has a few more hoops to go through. But I think it's a good bill. I signed on to the bill as a cosponsor. Senator Leff is the prime sponsor of the bill. But I think it's needed in the state. 45 other states have proved successfully that it does have an impact on teen accidents and teen fatalities.

Jay Lawrence:
All right. So we wait for the legislation to be signed by the governor. Then it goes into effect and we know that it works. That's a good thing.

Jay Tibshraeny:
That's the game plan.

Jay Lawrence:
All right. Toll roads. Are toll roads an answer to our expanding traffic in the Valley?

Jay Tibshraeny:
I think to a limited extent, toll options should be in the tool box for A-DOT
As they're trying to build the freeway system and the highway system in the state. My particular proposal was on a very limited toll basis. That was for segments of freeway and highway that are not currently funded, not in any 20-year plan, and normally would not be built under the current scenario; those particular roads I would like the private sector to come, in make bids to the state, and be able to toll them. Tolls are controversial but I think if it's a road that's not going to be built that will relieve congestion on roads that we're traveling, taxpayer-funded road it could be a win/win for everybody.

Jay Lawrence:
Toll lanes wouldn't give us new places to travel. Toll lanes would be existing traffic lanes. Your plan would be to build all new freeways, freeway lanes.

Jay Tibshraeny:
There was a couple of scenarios, a couple of bills going through. H.O.V. lanes and allow pay as you go type drivers in those lanes. I don't think that does much for congestion in the long-term. My proposal again is for new freeways such as Gateway out in the east part of the Valley. That's a freeway not funded. The Hassayampa in the west part of the Valley. The corridor in Maricopa and Pinal counties. Those are corridors where there's no highway or freeway planned that we need because of the growth in those areas. And also there is an I-10 reliever down to Tucson that we could also utilize for tolls. But there are freeways that there's other ways to go currently. But if we built these roads, the private sector, it would help relieve some congestion.

Jay Lawrence:
Senator, we must talk about money. This is money. A toll road brings money for the state. Are there revenue projections of any kind yet?

Jay Tibshraeny:
It's very preliminary. We don't have any revenue projections. That would obviously be based on the market, how much the market would bear and what kind of return on investment the private sector would need. We don't have any figures on that yet.

Jay Lawrence:
One of the suggestions we've heard, expanding the Broadway curve area to 24 lanes at I-10.

Jay Tibshraeny:
I've heard that. I know A-DOT is working on that scenario. I don't know if that's -- that's not the total answer. Maybe that would help. Maybe it wouldn't. All I know is that our needs in this state are in the billions and billions of dollars for transportation. And every day that we don't do something we fall further and further behind. So we need to be fairly aggressive as a legislature.

Jay Lawrence:
Senator Jay Tibshraeny, thanks for joining us, sir.

Jay Tibshraeny:
Thank you.

Jay Lawrence:
Appreciate your visit. To watch video of tonight's program and get information about upcoming horizon stories visit our website, azpbs.org.

Larry Lemmons:
Changes are ahead for Patriot Square in the heart of downtown Phoenix. But just how to change it is the issue. On the next horizon, find out what's being discussed for the area where the park sits. And what is it about the school superintendent that has so many teachers upset? "Horizon," Wednesday at 7:00 on eight.

Jay Lawrence:
Thanks for joining us on this incredible evening. I'm going to go cure. I'm Jay Lawrence. And I'll see you again on "Horizon." Good night.

Transporation Legislation


  • The way Arizona funds our highway construction projects continues to fall behind the state's needs. Lawmakers are working to seek funding options for highway expansion projects. Senator Jay Tibshraeny, (R) Chandler, joins us to talk about current legislation dealing with transportation.
Guests:
  • John Wright - President, Arizona Education Association
  • Tim Keller - Executive director, Institute for Justice
  • Jamal al-Fakhouri - Regional director, Tucson area, International Rescue Committee


View Transcript
Jay Lawrence:
Tonight on "Horizon," a group of education and political organizations filed a lawsuit today to stop the state from paying for some children to attend private or religious schools. We hear both sides of the voucher issue. Plus, there is hope for hundreds of Iraq-War refugees here in Arizona. The United Nations is screening and registering refugees this month. And, do you know for whom the toll road comes? It may for you and me. We look at toll roads and other transportation-related bills as they wind their way through the legislature. Those stories, coming up on "Horizon."

Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Jay Lawrence:
Good evening, I'm Jay Lawrence. Please forgive my cold. Welcome to "Horizon." State-funded scholarships to private and religious K-12 schools are commonly known as voucher programs. Last year, the state legislature passed two bills allowing voucher programs for children with disabilities and children in foster care. Shortly after the law was passed, opponents filed a challenge in the Arizona Supreme Court. In January, the state Supreme Court decided not to act on the case. The coalition opposing the voucher programs filed suit today in Maricopa county superior court. Here with more on the voucher issue, supporting the suit filed today challenging the voucher programs is John Wright, president of the Arizona Education Association. Also joining us is Tim Keller, executive director of the Institute for Justice, who plans to intervene in the suit on behalf of parents and children to defend the voucher programs. We're going to get through this aren't we? I'm so glad you're here today. Tim, give us a thumbnail sketch of the statutes passed by the legislature last season.

Tim Keller:
Absolutely. The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that parents have an absolute right to control and direct the education upbringing of their children. That includes the right to choose the school that best fits their child's educational needs. But for many families that promise rings hollow because they lack the resources to choose a private school. Last session the legislature and the governor signed two scholarship programs that hoped to make good on the promise of an equal education opportunity for Arizona school children. The first is so that parents of children with disabilities can select the environment that best suits their children. That allows them to choose public schools or private schools including a religious institution. The other program allows children who have been in foster care to enroll in the school of their choice and receive a scholarship up to $5,000 to do so.

Jay Lawrence:
John, doesn't the Arizona constitution say you cannot fund religious schools?

John Wright:
It's very clear. And that's the basis for our lawsuit. There is the political and legal. Today we've acted on the legal. In a moment I'd like to talk a little bit about the policy. The constitution very clearly says in two places "no public money shall be appropriated for religious instruction." In the second place it says "no appropriation of any public money shall be made in the aid of any private or sectarian school." That seems crystal clear.

Jay Lawrence:
Who's the coalition filing the lawsuit?


John Wright:
It's a coalition I think is very important to our efforts. As you mentioned, education groups but it also includes parent groups. We have representatives of teachers and support professionals in schools, administrators and school boards as well as parent-teacher associations and other organizations interested in the well-being of all our students including and especially all those in the public school system and the parents who intend to keep them there.

Jay Lawrence:
John, in the A.E.A.'s press release today you were quoted as saying no matter how they are disguised, vouchers threaten the basic right of every child to an excellent public education. The word "disguised" is pejorative is it not?

John Wright:
I think the word scholarship is misleading. This is a voucher to siphon taxpayer money out of our public schools into religious and private schools where there is no accountability for public standards. All of our Arizona public schools work. And our Arizona public school employees step up to be accountable for the product and quality of their work. That accountability does not exist in the schools accepting vouchers, either financial accountability or academic accountability. And there is no accountability for the type of special education programs that students with disabilities really need if their unique needs are going to be met. That only takes place in the public school.

Jay Lawrence:
Tim, who are the groups in your corner?

Tim Keller:
We represent the parents and children who are the primary beneficiaries of this program. The Arizona Supreme Court has repeatedly said with regard to these provisions of the Arizona constitution that their purpose is to ensure that the state remains neutral with regard to religion. And long ago rejected the notion that there is any sort of absolute strict law between using public funds with regard to neutrally-designed aid program for the recipients of that aid to direct that aid to a religious institution.

Jay Lawrence:
How many students do you see qualifying for this program?

Tim Keller:
The programs are both capped at $2.5 million for a total of $5 million. It will be a very small number of students eligible who will be able to participate in the program.

Jay Lawrence:
Why is this -- go ahead, please.

John Wright:
The program actually has a built-in inflation factor so that this amount rises automatically every year, would that public education funding in general rise with inflation every year. If we want to make the right kind of investments in our public schools where 90\% of our children are learning, to have to go and argue and work to get funding each year while the voucher program gets an automatic inflationary increase. I do have to say one thing. The Institute for Justice speaks for their clients. I am a parent and I'm a foster parent. And the Institute for Justice is not representing me in this issue. I think it's a little bold to say they represent this vast population of interested parties.

Jay Lawrence:
Tim, why does the school choice program a good thing?

Tim Keller:
Because school choice works. All of the empirical evidence demonstrates that it's good for parents, for children, as well as for public schools. No less than eight studies, which are -- eight studies demonstrate that students who participate in the voucher program perform better than their public school counterparts who do not participate. And there are also eight studies that demonstrate that public schools that are forced to compete with -- for students under a voucher program also experience increased test scores.

Jay Lawrence:
John --

John Wright:
Isn't the data to demonstrate increased achievement on voucher accepting students?

Jay Lawrence:
What is your major beef? What is the major gripe A.E.A. has with the voucher program?

John Wright:
As I said, there's the legal issue and that's stated so clearly in the constitution "shall not appropriate public money in aid of a private or sectarian school" and there are the policy issues. Bad economic policy, bad education policy, bad social policy. We drain money out of the public school system serving the majority of our children. We don't have any accountability for how that public money is spent outside of the public school system. We don't have data that indicates it improves student achievement. And the real effort here is to return taxpayer money to taxpayer enterprises such as public schools.

Jay Lawrence:
Tim, John says there's no evidence saying that there is an improvement in student achievement under these voucher programs. Can you differ with that?

Tim Keller:
I can differ with. That is I said, there are no less than eight studies, all of which were random assignment studies. This is the gold standard for social science research. All of them demonstrated that the students who participated in the voucher program performed better than their public school counterparts.

John Wright:
Who are the researchers?

Tim Keller:
The researchers were Jay Green is one of the primary authors of the studies; Carolyn Hocksby of Harvard University has studied these programs and founded same result.

John Wright:
You have self--selecting children already exceeding standards moving at public expense from one school to another. That's not a blind study of how children perform as they accept vouchers or not accept vouchers. We don't have the data that shows that that matters. We do have the data that shows investing in our public schools makes a difference for everybody.

Jay Lawrence:
Why do you think you'll be more successful in Maricopa County Superior Court than you were at the state supreme court?

John Wright:
Well, we really tried to fast track it at the Supreme Court level. We wanted to convince the state Supreme Court that this was an issue of such importance, of paramount social issue, that state would be served if the Supreme Court took direct jurisdiction. It was an unusual move and it was intended to save some time and perhaps some money. But it was certainly not a sure thing. So the Supreme Court made no decision about the validity of vouchers and had no judgment about the voucher programs. They simply said, "We're not going to take this case right off the bat. We're going to ask you plaintiffs to go ahead and file your case in superior court. It will work its way through the system." Tim and I both realize whatever the way the system comes out of the box it will be appealed and we look forward to a resolution in the state Supreme Court.

Jay Lawrence:
Tim in other places where the program is successful, are there other states where the voucher program as you've described it are in existence?

Tim Keller:
Yes, they are. This lawsuit is unprecedented in the fact that there are three other programs operating in other states for children with disabilities. Those states are Florida where there are 16,000 students using these types of programs. Also Ohio and Utah have programs for children with disabilities. And the other thing is that Arizona for years has had programs in with which -- programs in which we use public funds to direct children to private institutions for their education, including programs for children with disabilities and children with foster care.

Jay Lawrence:
You keep pointing out the disabilities. The argument probably is the religious aspect of the sending these children to a religious school, John.

John Wright:
That's one key argument. State dollars supporting religious instruction as prohibited by the constitution. But it's a really false hope that -- we have grave concerns for the parents of students with disabilities. Because the public schools, under federal law the individuals with disabilities in education act have to provide certain services and meet very specific needs as they are diagnosed by professionals. And we have to provide professional services. Parents are going to be lulled into a false hope if they think they can get those services at a private school. They're not available.

Tim Keller:
When Jay Green studied the Florida program, what he found is the parents of 16,000 children participated in that program, the parents were far more satisfied than the services they were receiving in public schools. Let me give you an example of one of my clients in Arizona. Andrea Whack.

Jay Lawrence: Is this going to take more than 15 seconds?

Tim Keller:
It probably would.

Jay Lawrence:
Well, tell you what. You can call Tim Keller at the Institute for Justice. Gentlemen, thank you. John, Tim, it's an argument that will go on. And good luck to both of you.

Tim Keller:
Thank you, Jay.

Jay Lawrence:
Refugees have been leaving war-torn Iraq since the Persian Gulf War in 1991. A new United Nations-Bush administration plan is expected to bring several thousand of the refugees to the United States over the next 10 months. Arizona could get 3 to 4 percent of those refugees by September. Earlier I spoke with Jamal al-Fakhouri, regional director from the Tucson area of the International Rescue Committee, which works with placing refugees in our state. Jamal, tell us about the Iraqi refugee program.

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Well, it's part of the U.S. national refugee program. As you know, every year the U.S. admits about 50,000 refugees or the president gives us what we call the presidential determination, authorization to admit about 50,000 refugees are located by region. Iraqis in the near east program which includes Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and other countries in that region.

Jay Lawrence:
How many Iraqis are being included in this group coming to America?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Well, this year there has -- the numbers are actually quite low. The near east program total is 5, 100, which includes like I said refugees from other countries. But just recently, the U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said they would admit 7,000 Iraqi refugees this year.

Jay Lawrence: Alright, so 7,000 are coming this year to America. How are those refugees selected? That must be an amazing process. There must be a lot of volunteers.

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Absolutely. Because of the size of the humanitarian need for refugees in general and now specifically for Iraqis, we're talking about almost two million Iraqi refugees outside of Iraq since 2003. So we're hoping that U.S. would look at the multiple population groups such as those who are associated with the U.S. to work for the U.S. or coalition government as interpreters, drivers and other groups such as religious minorities and those Iraqis living outside of Iraq now and who have relatives living in the U.S. right now who can help with their settlement once they arrive into the U.S.

Jay Lawrence:
Language barriers. Will all of them speak English? Or will there be some language problems?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
I don't think all of them would speak English. However, from visiting to Jordan just last week and interviewing a lot of Iraqi families living there in Jordan, many of them spoke English. But upon arrival they would have English as a second language assistance where they can study English and at the same time we have the opportunity to go to work immediately which should improve their English. And for the children under 18 of course they will be registered in schools.

Jay Lawrence:
Jamal, how many of these people will come to Arizona? Down any idea?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Well, traditionally Arizona accepts about 4 to 5 percent of the total number of U.S. refugee admissions. So if we resettle 7,000 this year, 5 percent of that would be 350. And that's in my estimate a very high number.

Jay Lawrence: Where will they go?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Probably the majority will be in Phoenix, and a small group in Tucson. It will be in many places, neighborhoods that you go to every day for grocery store. They will be next door to you. They will be working in many places in Arizona. And their kids will go to many schools that our kids, you know, in Arizona go to.

Jay Lawrence:
Will there be a job placement program of any kind?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Absolutely. All the refugee agencies such as the international rescue committee, we have local programs that target refugee agencies. Our mandate is to try to get every adult self-sufficient and working within six months of the time they enter the U.S.

Jay Lawrence:
I hate to ask this question but I must: the relationship between the Iraqis and Americans. Do you see any possibility of any kind of tensions between those who come here and the Americans with whom they associate?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
We hope that that won't happen. Americans in general tend to be supportive and welcoming nation, you know. We have a lot of refugees coming to Arizona since 1975. And the support for the refugee program by and large has been very positive. So we have friends, neighbors, volunteers, whether they go to church or they work certain places with the refugees. And they have been supportive. So I'm hoping that there won't be any tension. And from the Iraqi's stance, point of view, they're not here to start any problems. They're looking for a place where they can start their life equally and secure and their kids can go to school and they can go to work, just as you and me, just as anybody else living in Arizona.

Jay Lawrence:
Will their plan be to stay here, or will their plan be to stay here until it becomes more feasible for them to go back to Iraq?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
From my experience, working with the refugees resettlement program for ten years now, most refugees who come here tend to stay here. Because they have a chance of starting a new life. They can apply for U.S. citizenship after five years from the day they arrive, from the day they enter. So it truly is a new life for them. And from my experience, that tends to be the trend.

Jay Lawrence:
The specific needs of individuals coming here.

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Many and wide. Wide array of needs. We need help with the initial resettlement, we need help with finding them jobs, we need help from volunteers, from communities via donations, whether it's household items cash donations. Not just for Iraqi refugees, for all refugees arriving in Arizona and the U.S. in general.

Jay Lawrence:
The organization has been in existence for quite some time. Refugees have been coming here for -- since '73. Do you see any problems? Do you see any, and are you preparing for any?

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Well, only the problems we're seeing is in terms of processing. There is a great need for referee resettlement into the U.S. but the processing has not been established yet. So that number, when we need to speed up the process of reset ling refugees from everywhere and security now they're living in other countries in the Middle East with no hope and no services whatever. Once they're here, we have a well-established program that's been in existence since at least 1975 in Arizona. And we have been providing these services and a lot of other agencies we work with. We have a strong program. We have a strong staff and volunteers. And we're ready and we're not anticipating any problems once the refugees are here.

Jay Lawrence:
Jamal, thank you very much. It's a marvelous program. We hope it works well. Thank you for joining us tonight.

Jamal al-Fakhouri:
Thank you for having me.

Jay Lawrence:
If you find yourself creeping in your automobile at some point along Arizona's metro area freeways today, this next discussion will interest now. State lawmakers and Arizona transportation officials are working to find funding options to expand our traffic-bound highways. So far funding methods for freeway construction projects continue to lag behind our state's needs. If that's taking a toll on you, you might agree to pay a toll to drive more freely on the freeway. Senator Jay Tibshraeny joins us to talk about current legislation dealing with transportation. Welcome, senator.

Jay Tibshraeny:
Thanks for having me today.

Jay Lawrence:
I'm glad you're here. Before we talk about toll roads, the Arizona state legislature approved a bill to impose new restrictions on drivers 18 and under. Could you explain that please?

Jay Tibshraeny:
Briefly in a nutshell, that is when you just get your license and you are under 18, that first six months that will impose restrictions that aren't currently imposed on teenage drivers. It's similar to restrictions that are adopted in 45 other states. We were one of five states without any restrictions. What those do, one of the restrictions is night-time driving. It limits that for six months, driving between 12:00 midnight and 5:00 a.m. subject to certain circumstances. You can be going with a parent, back and forth to work or coming from a school event. The other restriction is during the day. It limits the amount of other teen passengers in the car with that teen driver. It limits it to one. Obviously that doesn't apply to siblings or if the parent's in the car. But it does restrict the amount of night-time driving for a teen driver and also the number of teens in that car during the day.

Jay Lawrence:
When will this go into effect?

Jay Tibshraeny:
The bill was voted out of the senate yesterday. It's headed over to the House of Representatives for a hearing. It has to go through their committees. If it passes out of the house then it will go up to the governor's desk for signature. So it has a few more hoops to go through. But I think it's a good bill. I signed on to the bill as a cosponsor. Senator Leff is the prime sponsor of the bill. But I think it's needed in the state. 45 other states have proved successfully that it does have an impact on teen accidents and teen fatalities.

Jay Lawrence:
All right. So we wait for the legislation to be signed by the governor. Then it goes into effect and we know that it works. That's a good thing.

Jay Tibshraeny:
That's the game plan.

Jay Lawrence:
All right. Toll roads. Are toll roads an answer to our expanding traffic in the Valley?

Jay Tibshraeny:
I think to a limited extent, toll options should be in the tool box for A-DOT
As they're trying to build the freeway system and the highway system in the state. My particular proposal was on a very limited toll basis. That was for segments of freeway and highway that are not currently funded, not in any 20-year plan, and normally would not be built under the current scenario; those particular roads I would like the private sector to come, in make bids to the state, and be able to toll them. Tolls are controversial but I think if it's a road that's not going to be built that will relieve congestion on roads that we're traveling, taxpayer-funded road it could be a win/win for everybody.

Jay Lawrence:
Toll lanes wouldn't give us new places to travel. Toll lanes would be existing traffic lanes. Your plan would be to build all new freeways, freeway lanes.

Jay Tibshraeny:
There was a couple of scenarios, a couple of bills going through. H.O.V. lanes and allow pay as you go type drivers in those lanes. I don't think that does much for congestion in the long-term. My proposal again is for new freeways such as Gateway out in the east part of the Valley. That's a freeway not funded. The Hassayampa in the west part of the Valley. The corridor in Maricopa and Pinal counties. Those are corridors where there's no highway or freeway planned that we need because of the growth in those areas. And also there is an I-10 reliever down to Tucson that we could also utilize for tolls. But there are freeways that there's other ways to go currently. But if we built these roads, the private sector, it would help relieve some congestion.

Jay Lawrence:
Senator, we must talk about money. This is money. A toll road brings money for the state. Are there revenue projections of any kind yet?

Jay Tibshraeny:
It's very preliminary. We don't have any revenue projections. That would obviously be based on the market, how much the market would bear and what kind of return on investment the private sector would need. We don't have any figures on that yet.

Jay Lawrence:
One of the suggestions we've heard, expanding the Broadway curve area to 24 lanes at I-10.

Jay Tibshraeny:
I've heard that. I know A-DOT is working on that scenario. I don't know if that's -- that's not the total answer. Maybe that would help. Maybe it wouldn't. All I know is that our needs in this state are in the billions and billions of dollars for transportation. And every day that we don't do something we fall further and further behind. So we need to be fairly aggressive as a legislature.

Jay Lawrence:
Senator Jay Tibshraeny, thanks for joining us, sir.

Jay Tibshraeny:
Thank you.

Jay Lawrence:
Appreciate your visit. To watch video of tonight's program and get information about upcoming horizon stories visit our website, azpbs.org.

Larry Lemmons:
Changes are ahead for Patriot Square in the heart of downtown Phoenix. But just how to change it is the issue. On the next horizon, find out what's being discussed for the area where the park sits. And what is it about the school superintendent that has so many teachers upset? "Horizon," Wednesday at 7:00 on eight.

Jay Lawrence:
Thanks for joining us on this incredible evening. I'm going to go cure. I'm Jay Lawrence. And I'll see you again on "Horizon." Good night.

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