Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 7, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Legislative Update


  • A reporter from the Arizona Capitol Times brings us up to speed on the latest news from the Arizona State Capitol.
Guests:
  • Jim Small - Reporter, Arizona Capitol Times
  • Cloves Campbell Jr. - Democratic State Representative
Category: Legislature

View Transcript


>>>Ted Simons:
Tonight on "Horizon" we'll take a look at a new law that allows the state to take control of an entire school district for educational mismanagement. Plus a mid-week legislative update on the budget and other news from the state capitol. It's coming up next on "Horizon." Hello and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. After finishing their work today, state lawmakers adjourned until Monday. Here to tell us why is Jim Small, a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times. What happened to Thursday, Jim?

>>Jim Small:
There will not be any work Thursday this week. Which I think is a welcome relief to lawmakers and reporters down there who will have a less hectic day. Many lawmakers said I have to go down there and have meetings and more or less have a regular day without legislative work. Basically what happened was republicans and house and senate have met for three weeks to talk about the budget, trying to figure out what to do for the upcoming fiscal year. They have solved the problem for the current year. They want to focus their entire day tomorrow on just those talks. They don't want to be worried to be pulled out on meetings to go the floor. They will be there all day tomorrow bright and early and met all afternoon after they got on the floor. If they don't get the work done tomorrow, I've been told they will be there all day Friday a well. The idea is to figure out what the republican budget proposal will look like for the next fiscal year and be ready to go Monday.

>>Ted Simons:
This is a supposed gang of 15 republican lawmakers meeting in the windowless room?

>>Jim Small:
Yeah, I think it's nine members from the house and seven members from the senate and members from the leadership and appropriations committee and leadership that wanted to be involved and they have gotten a lot of work done. I've talked to the house majority leader. He's encouraged. He thinks in the end it will speed it up and get a lot of groundwork out of the way as far as finding out what the republicans in the legislature want in a budget package.

>>Ted Simons:
Is there any indication that these meetings are indeed making a difference?

>>Jim Small:
Not yet because they haven't done anything publicly. Hopefully we will find out Monday and some time next week what the end result of this is. We'll see whether or not it leads into the negotiating table with Governor Napolitano and the Democrats.

>>Ted Simons:
Something else of interest here. Russell Pearce, Representative Russell Pearce holding a press conference expressing disappointment with speaker Weirs over his bill giving more leeway to local law enforcement. What's that all about?

>>Jim Small:
What it is he has an item that would be put on the ballot in the fall that says the police departments in Arizona can't have a policy saying they won't enforce immigration or do anything when encountering illegal immigrants. He says it's not a law that would make police departments actively enforce immigration laws, it just says they can't say we are going to stick our heads in the sand and not do anything about it. What happens is this is something that happens every two years. Every year before a fall election, lawmakers figure out which item they want to refer to the ballot. They will get a number passed through to a certain point where there's one more step to go, one more vote to go. The last week of the session leadership and interested parties will get together and meet and figure out which bills will go forward and which will be put on the ballot in the fall and I assume that will happen this year. Representative Russell Pearce is trying to get it moved and make sure it's on the ballot because he's chairing the campaign committee for a ballot initiative that's out there gathering signatures that would do the same thing right now.

>>Ted Simons:
The longer the session lasts, the later they address this, the more difficult it is for him to get the signatures.

>>Jim Small:
Right, the less certain it is for him. They've been collecting signatures for more than a year and pounding the pavement for this one and employer sanctions laws that he and Don Goldwater is working on.

>>Ted Simons:
There's nothing out of the ordinary here? He's expressing disappointment because he wants the speaker to move and now?

>>Jim Small:
Yeah. It didn't seem from my perspective and the perspective of the Press Corp that there's not a lot going on out of the ordinary. There's nothing behind closed doors and Representative Russell Pearce said moving forward and making a public stand.

>>Ted Simons:
Sounds like a public transportation initiative moving forward. Paperwork filed. I know the governor likes this. The business interests like this. Who doesn't like this?

>>Jim Small:
A lot of people who didn't like the transportation plan the Maricopa county voters passed including light-rail and bike paths and bus programs. The main criticism is a lot of money $42 billion in total one cent sales tax for the state but not all the money goes to the freeways. A large contention of people feel freeways are the end all be all in solving the transportation problems. Freeways and toll roads. This plan includes both freeways and toll roads of finding a public-private partnership and rail and light speed and high-speed commuter rail and other pedestrian-bike friendly things. Those are the issues. Things that aren't actually pavement on the ground kind of gets the ire of a number of the people.

>>Ted Simons:
Senator Gould I saw a quote saying the rail line from Phoenix to Tucson was elitists because those who can afford gas will drive because the rest of us are taking the train.

>>Jim Small:
Senator Gould is never short on opinions. I imagine that's not the last we will hear from him and other critics of this plan.

>>Ted Simons:
Good to see you again.

>>Jim Small:
Thank you for having me.

>>>Ted Simons:
Just over a week ago Governor Napolitano signed a bill allowing the state board of education to take control of a school district for academic mismanagement. The Roosevelt Elementary District in South Phoenix fits the bill's profile. In a moment, I'll speak with a representative of the Roosevelt District and a sponsor of the bill. But first David Majure shows us why Roosevelt is a target for the new district takeover law.

>>Teacher:
Click here.

>>David Majure:
These third graders attend Sunland Elementary School in South Phoenix. It's one of 21 in the Roosevelt school district and they are meeting the Arizona's academic standards and scored well enough from the aims test to eastern their school a performing label. Sunland isn't the district's only performing school. A total of 10 schools are rated performing or better. But the Roosevelt district isn't known for good schools but earned a reputation where kids are failing academically and a district that could find itself under state control now that the governor signed house bill 2711 authorizing the state board of education to take control of the school districts for systemic education mismanagement. That can only happen to half of which is labeled underperforming with one school labeled as failing.
The Roosevelt District qualifies. Perscy L. Julian is one of seven schools in the Roosevelt district labeled as underperforming. When it has underperformance for three years, it becomes a failing school. The Roosevelt District that is four of those for a grand total of 11 of 21 schools labeled as underperforming or failing. Even governing board president Norma Munoz doesn't argue the board's history of poor academic performance.

>>Norma Munoz:
No. I wouldn't argue too much. I would say I guess what people are thinking that the school is not doing enough for the students, that the administration is failing them somehow. There's more to it.

>>David Majure:
Munoz says the district is improving. Last year including Sunland met the adequate yearly progress up from six the year before.

>>Norma Munoz:
The state should not take this district over because we are on an upward move. We are showing strong, strong indications of improvement. We have made huge strides. Last year our third graders out-tested a lot of our surrounding schools. We've implemented a whole extra hour of reading for the third graders at no cost to the district. We have made many changes that are showing progress.

>>David Majure:
That progress she says comes despite the challenge of low-income district with a population of English learner's. But on past appearances of Horizon, State Superintendent of Schools Tom Horne says it's not about the types of students the districts have.

>>Tom Horne:
I showed them it's not the demographics. There's other districts that have poor kids but they are doing well because they have good leadership in the district.

>>David Majure:
Horne continues to blame the district's academic troubles squarely on the governing board.

>>Norma Munoz:
Yes, he seems to blame it mostly on the board. And he's partly right in some ways. I think for many years the board was very political. And board members perhaps had other agendas. But that is not the case today.

>>David Majure:
However just last week, Horne appeared on "Horizon" and blamed the board again.

>>Tom Horne:
The districts that do well have school boards that function well. In the Roosevelt District as example you had a toxic political atmosphere. They were poor neighborhood and people ran for the board and got jobs for friends. They were not choosing structural leaders but getting the jobs for the wrong reasons.

>>Norma Munoz:
One of the things that tom horn has brought up is hiring practices. Two years ago we totally dismantled the way we are hiring here at Roosevelt and began and put in a new process that eliminated Roosevelt on having any hands-on hiring. We hired the Arizona School Board Association to do the prescreening interviewing and selecting the top three candidates and presenting it to the district without any board interference or administration interference or community interference.

>>Tom Horne:
Notoriously racial issues predominated, personal issues predominated and no leadership to get academic achievement. It was a pilot-less airplane flying in the dark and a lot of mountains around.

>>Norma Munoz:
I think Mr. Horn is using the old race card to make it seem like Roosevelt is engaging in the old-time games. It's not true. Not a bit true. There's nothing racial about the problems we're having. We have--we are a very diverse district including our employees. We have many of our staff people live in this community, many don't. But we have no problems in race. I don't see it. I was here when there were race tensions, racial tensions years ago. That is not the case today.

>>David Majure:
What is true today is half of Roosevelt's schools are underperforming or failing. An invitation for the state to take control of the district and try to turn it around.

>>Norma Munoz:
I don't think there's anything they can do different. We are doing everything that they have asked us to do and more on our own. So we are implementing all our improvement plans to the tee. Let us continue the upward trend. Let us continue going forth without interruptions so that we can finish this job and do it right for our community, for our children. We deserve a chance.

>>>Ted Simons:
Joining me to talk about the district takeover law is Representative Cloves Campbell Jr. of Phoenix, a democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, and John Loredo of Tequida and Gutierrez who is representing the Roosevelt District. Mr. Loredo is a former state representative and house democratic leader. Thank you both for joining us on "Horizon." What can the state do better in the local school district and particular Roosevelt School District?

>>Cloves Campbell Jr.:
Well a couple of things can happen. The issues at hand and failing schools, lack of support through the community and lack from the district level and administrative level from the principal to the teachers and students. The biggest thing is to get some continuity. I think that's the biggest issue at hand right now.

>>Ted Simons:
Consistency. It sounds as though things are on the up and increasingly getting better and inconsistency if you bring the state in.

>>Cloves Campbell Jr.:
If you listen to the people on interview, it sounds great. That's not the case. Over the past several years there's been a continuing decline in the performance of the schools. A couple of years ago there were six or seven schools underperforming. Now we have 11 schools. We are not just looking at not just snapshots but the entire district issue.

>>Ted Simons:
John, Roosevelt's a troubled district. Why is it wrong for the state to take over?

>>John Loredo:
Because they are looking at it from a historical perspective. What they do not realize and Tom Horne hasn't taken time to realize is things have changed in the Roosevelt District. The racial divisions and those things happened with former board members who are no longer there. One of whom is state representative and sponsor of the bill. He was the representative and chairman of the board. When he was chair, there was racial tension in the district. The district got sued several times because of racial things he himself did in the district. He is no longer there. When he left morale improved and it ended. Roosevelt can show on state's statistics from the third grade to fifth grade to eighth grade that there's steady improvement in reading and math.

>>Ted Simons:
I want to get the racial divide of the black-brown tension in the district. A, is it getting better? B, if so, is that an encouraging sign that the district is getting its act together?

>>Cloves Campbell Jr.:
It's definitely getting better and it's an encouraging sign that the district is getting the act together. However that's not the motivating sign of this piece of legislation. What we are looking at are we care about the students. There are a number of students who are not going to the school in the district that live there. Over 3,000 students get bused out and charter schools everyday that should be going to the Roosevelt school district. We spend a lot of money and numbers as far as the education and academic performance doesn't show that.

>>Ted Simons:
You're a parent and your kids don't go to the Roosevelt District, why?

>>Cloves Campbell Jr.:
Because of the reason we put the legislation together. The academic standards are not there. The supplies that the students should have are not available to them and the way the things are run at the school district is not what I want my children part of.

>>Ted Simons:
John, mention the tests. We were talking about reading and math aims scores?

>>John Loredo:
Yes. The legislation says that Tom Horne has to go before the state board of education and prove that Roosevelt School District is not following their improvement plans. They will be able to show on paper they are in fact following the plans. They will show a variety of things from civic engagement to outside programs. They will be able to show that they have been increasing their academic achievement over the last three years. That is not an accident. In 2005 you had a changeover in the school board and you had a new superintendent. Since that superintendent and this school board have been in place, the numbers have gone from going straight down to going straight up. That is not an accident. That is a big change and it didn't happen today. It happened two years ago.

>>Ted Simons:
Why should the state, though, and why should parents and people in the community say, well, things might be a little bit better but there is such a history and some of the schools are still underperforming. Why should they say let's go ahead and do what we're doing and instead of trying something different?

>>John Loredo:
Because they have new people at the school and a new vision at the school and results to show things are improving. Let's make one thing clear. Tom Horne is the last person that should be taking over the Roosevelt school district. He has a long story and poor history with the Hispanic students. He wound up on the wrong side of the office of civil rights violations in which the feds agreed he was undeserving Hispanic students. This is the same guy who is low-balling the ELL estimate for Roosevelt school district and every other school district in the state. Roosevelt has 30\% ELL population at its school. He had control of school in school district. Has he shown he has turned the school around? Absolutely not. There's nothing to show that Tom Horne can do the job better than the people in the district.

>>Ted Simons:
Are you suggesting an ethnic blind eye by tom horn?

>>John Loredo:
I think he doesn't have a clue how to educate Hispanic students and made policy decisions not in the best interest of kids in the Roosevelt School District.

>>Ted Simons:
I don't want to go back to the racial divide. We are hearing that Tom Horne doesn't understand how to educate Latino students. I can see this is a problem in the district.

>>Cloves Campbell Jr.:
This is not a problem. This is not a Tom Horne bill. This is a student bill about people in the Roosevelt School District who are not getting the proper education that they should get. Tom horn will not be running the school district. There will be an independent running it selected from a pool of 100 candidates. The candidates will be selected from three finalists going through the state board and they will select the candidate. This candidate has a certain amount of time to put a program in place, look around and make sure he has a program to fit the diversity of the district. Once that's in place, the entire community will see what their involvement should be. Once that happens, everything will flow smoothly. When you talk about Tom Horne issues, the farthest thing in my mind is a Tom Horne issue. This is not about Tom Horne. This is about students of the Roosevelt School District getting a proper education in the district they live in.

>>Ted Simons:
Why has the Roosevelt District historically been an underachieving district, why?

>>Cloves Campbell Jr.:
I'm a product of Roosevelt School District and been there all my life. It was created because African Americans could not live north of the river bottom in the '40s and '50s and created schools for African Americans to go to. They were not spending a sufficient amount of money to educate them. There was a divide driven through the district immediately and not enough funding available. Despite all of that Roosevelt has excellent teachers and students coming out of the district. We have Harvard students and graduates and everybody coming out of the Roosevelt school district in spite of what happened in the '50s and '60s.

>>John Loredo:
Roosevelt School District historically has been the largest employer in South Phoenix. Politicians have used Roosevelt school district to hand out jobs to friends, political supporters, relatives. Nepotism is the name of the game here. That is what has harmed Roosevelt School District in the past. That is not the case anymore. This is a new board. This is a new superintendent. Prior to this superintendent being in place, Roosevelt School District went through a series of superintendents. One after another after another. It's simply getting rid of the head was the solution; their problems would have been solved a long time ago. This is not a technical issue. This is an adaptive challenge. The only people solving the problems of Roosevelt School District are the people who live there, the parents and teachers and administrators working together and that are what they have been doing the last couple of years and they have the results to show.

>>Ted Simons:
Will the people in the community feel left out? Will they feel less ownership of the district once the state takes over and as john says people who otherwise show input sits back and says the state will do it?

>>Cloves Campbell Jr.:
Not at all. This is an opportunity for everyone to get involved in the process. There's been no communication from the school. Until the threat of this piece of legislation came forward, there was nobody doing anything. All of a sudden we see test scores and information that we haven't seen before. Why is there a threat that something is going to happen and the change of need comes about, all the information shows up? When we talk about the school district performing or underperforming when the new superintendent got in the office we lost performance from the school districts to four or five schools. We went from some performing to underperforming in the last year itself.

>>Ted Simons:
How soon would the takeover happen if the board of education says let's do it tomorrow, how long does it take?

>>Cloves Campbell Jr.:
They are meeting later this Month. There's an opportunity for the board to say, okay, we see a need to do this. Go ahead. Once the board does that and gives the approval for the state to go through the process. The process begins. It depends on how long the search takes. It could take 30 days. Once we have a person in place, he has 120 days to look over the district, see what ideas he has, how he wants to implement the program and report back to the state board.

>>Ted Simons:
John, do you think the timetable makes sense?

>>John Loredo:
I don't think there will be a hearing on this until the end of June to be honest. All it is a hearing. Tom Horne has to come in as equal party to the Roosevelt School District and has to prove that Roosevelt is not following the plan. Roosevelt will have an opportunity to defend themselves and are following the plan. The state board will look at the evidence and decide whether or not a takeover is an appropriate thing for the district and we don't believe it is.

>>Ted Simons:
Very quickly, what are you hearing from residents?

>>John Loredo:
You know, I think it's pretty clear. When the governor had this bill on her desk for all of three business days, there were 380 phone calls to her asking her to veto the bill with only 64 supporting the bill. I think they are very opposed to this. They don't want their Accountability taken away.

>>Ted Simons:
10 seconds, what are you hearing?

>>Cloves Campbell Jr.:
Just the opposite. There's as many people that want the bill in the place and the schools are going in the positive direction and the kids get the positive education they deserve.

>>Ted Simons:
Thank you for joining us.

>>>Ted Simons:
Thursday on "horizon," he's been called Darwin's rottweiler. Celebrated author and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins talks about the beauty of evolution and his promotion of atheism. That's it for now. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

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