Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 22, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Education Legislators

  |   Video
  • Members of the House Education Committee discuss the outlook for public education as legislators try to balance the 2010 state budget while facing a $3 billion dollar shortfall.
Guests:
  • Rich Crandall - House Education Committee chairman and Republican State Representative
  • David Schapira,Democratic State Representative
Category: Education

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
In recent weeks school districts have had to lay off thousands of teachers knowing they might have the money to hire some of them back. But they won't know for sure until lawmakers pass a budget for 2010. Schools are waiting to find out how painful budget cuts will be and to what extent federal stimulus money will soften the blow. In just a moment, members of the House education committee tell us what they know, but first here's what State School Superintendent Tom Horne had to say about his expectations for cuts to K-12 education. This was last week on “Horizon.”

Ted Simons:
You have said the districts especially are overreacting to budget cuts. Explain, please.

Tom Horne:
Well, this first came to my attention because we got calls from teachers from a large district that gave layoff notices to 30% of their teachers. 30%. And they cut out all their music teachers, all their arts teachers, all their P.E. teachers. So I looked into it because I have access to easy access to information from the joint legislative budget committee. And under the federal stimulus plan, Arizona can get $1.5 billion if they abide by certain rules. I assume the legislature will not give up $1.5 billion. They will abide by those rules. I don't think it's a reasonable assumption that they'll say good-bye to $1.5 billion. The rules say that the legislature cannot cut more than $800 million from K-12 education, and that the federal funds will backfill 600 million of that. The net cut is $196 million, which is 2%.

Ted Simons:
Joining me now are members of the House Education Committee, committee chairman, Representative Rich Crandall, a Mesa Republican and former school board member and Representative David Schapira, Tempe Democrat and former high school teacher. Thanks for joining us on “Horizon.”

Rich Crandall:
Thank you.

Ted Simons:
A 2% cut likely. A five to six percent cut, perhaps, says Superintendent Horne. Has he got his numbers right?

Rich Crandall:
Maybe for some district out there, but for the majority, no. The bigger reason is if you look at the state's share that may be true. But by the time you add all the cuts that have nothing to do with the legislature unfortunately the cuts will be larger than that.

Ted Simons:
I want to get back to those in a second. Again, when Tom Horne says he adds up the numbers, looks like 2% to him, does it look like 2% to you?

David Schapira:
It doesn't look like anything to me, because we haven't seen anything. Here we are four months into the legislative session and we really have no idea what the budget looks like. There have been no concrete numbers put out. There's been no complete budget package for fiscal year ‘10 introduced and so we really don't know. We've heard all these different ranges of what it can look like, but as Rich said it's going to be different depending on the district. Different districts have different impacts because of utilities costs and other things. We are calling on the majority of the legislature to put out a budget so that school districts will have the information to work on.

Ted Simons:
You referenced here the idea that it's not just what the legislature does that affects school districts. Things like declining enrollment, those sorts of things, talk to us about how that affects a district.

Rich Crandall:
Two of the biggest things we had this year start with the investment return on the state trust land and sales tax dollars, typically referred to as prop 301. $390 per kid last year was the estimate. This year the estimate is $244. If you're my district, Mesa, that's about an $11 million hit. Add excess utilities, declining enrollment, by the time you get all through with everything mesa's facing a $64 million cut this fall with legislative proposals and all these other factors we talked about.

Ted Simons:
These other factors that come in, are they being talked about, negotiated, discussed, when the legislature looks ad education cuts?

Rich Crandall:
Early on, I asked Mesa to prepare a spread sheet for me. Cuts that the legislature can do nothing about and cuts that we can do something about. I spent the last three or four weeks going to legislators saying remember guys, anything we do is piling on to the cuts already there.

Ted Simons:
I want to go back to Superintendent Horne. He was saying school districts were overreacting when, I don't know which district it was, but according to the superintendent was talking about 30% layoffs and cuts, these sorts of things. Were districts overreacting a bit when you got Gilbert with 400 people laid off and Mesa with hundreds, 200 over there. Is that a bit of overreaction here?

David Schapira:
Let me be clear, the districts are operating on whatever information they have. It's not the district's fault the decisions they're making. They can only base it on what they're hearing from the legislature, expectations as far as the stimulus package. And I felt this on a personal level, because my wife was one of those to receive a riff letter from Kyrene School District. And she is one of many teachers across the state who is uncertain about her future and unsure if she'll have a job next year, but it's not those districts' fault. It's the state legislature which hasn't stepped up to the plate and passed a budget to give these districts the information necessary. You can't say someone's overreacting if they have nothing to react to. They're reacting to what they're assuming is the guess of what's going to happen when we pass a budget.

Ted Simons:
Again, the superintendent says listen to me. Here's what's going to happen, 5%, 6% at the worst. You're overreacting in Gilbert when you tell 400 people might be losing your job.

Rich Crandall:
Here's the challenge. The consequence if you lay off too few is that you have to pay the contracts regardless of whatever additional information comes out as David mentioned. If you lay off too many, you can always hire back. If you lay off too few, you can't do an additional layoff in July or August. You're kind of stuck with what you have. So everybody is probably erring on the side of caution. There are a couple of districts I think went too far. Erred too far and I think Superintendent Horne's talking about those, but the majority have a very good idea where their budget's going to be.

Ted Simons:
Real quickly, the idea that schools have a savings plan, a carry forward idea, where a school has a rainy day fund. There's an idea planned afoot right now as I'm sure you're well aware to maybe use some of that money, as far as backfilling or doing something regarding the cuts. Is that a good idea?

David Schapira:
No. Frankly calling it a rainy day fund is the mislabeling of the purpose of the money. It's money the legislature authorized districts to spend in each given year. It hasn't been a rainy day fund or slush fund as it's called. It's money we've given to districts in the past. If we take that money we're essentially punishing districts that have done well with accounting and made it through the fiscal year still maintain that money. That's a mistake to go and punish those districts by sweeping those funds and really as I'm sure Representative Crandall mentioned, it's an undue burden on the districts and taxpayers, it ends up having a tax impact on our communities.

Ted Simons:
Is it a punishment or using the money for what it was designed to do?

Rich Crandall:
There's two very important concepts here. Number one, it is literally as inequitable cut as possible. Some districts have cash, some don't. We're going to take from those who do? Here's a great example. We have excess utilities that ends June 30, 2009. Tom Boone, the last three years when people talked about extending excess utility, says you know, people knew it was ending June 30, 2009. They need to be responsible and plan for it. He's exactly right. We come along and say all you districts who planned for excess utilities to go away by saving for the dropoff, we're going to take that money you were planning with.

Ted Simons:
I can't let you guys go without a talk about higher education and university tuition and the such. There are concerns that with the surcharge now on top of tuition increases that there might be a constitutional issue here regarding the state's universities and providing this tuition to education as nearly free as possible. Do you see a crisis or perhaps a question coming up here constitutionally?

David Schapira:
Certainly. And this is a question we've been debating for many years now because tuition has gone up in the past few years, as to whether we're meeting our obligation to keep higher education in Arizona as nearly free as possible. Certainly tacking on an extra thousand dollars or whatever it's going to be for next year as well, that raises those questions even more. The courts have decided we have to maintain at the top of the bottom third. We can't have our tuition any higher than that. I'm sure we will be above that. That is not the University's problem. That is not the Board of Regent's problem. These are public universities funded by the state government and if the state doesn't step up to the plate and put the money where the founders intended it to go, we are punishing the students.

Ted Simons:
The legislature, are you guys the ones not making the education as nearly free as possible.

Rich Crandall:
The biggest challenge we face, right now we have stimulus money allowed to be put back into the universities. We do know how much but we don't know when or where it will be placed back so the universities like the districts have to make decisions based on the information they have currently, not what may or may not come six months down the road. So we're watching that closely.

Ted Simons:
Do you see a constitutional question here?

Rich Crandall:
We're definitely butting up against that. But I went to Notre Dame, it was 33,000 a year.

Ted Simons:
All right. We'll stop it right there. Gentlemen, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Rich Crandall:
Thank you.

David Schapira:
Thanks.

Legislative Update

  |   Video
  • Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jim Small brings viewers up to date on the latest from the state capitol.
Guests:
  • Jim Small - Arizona Capitol Times


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening, and welcome to “Horizon.” I'm Ted Simons. The senate appropriations committee had planned to hear budget bills tomorrow, however, that meeting has been canceled. But state lawmakers have not been totally unproductive this week. They voted yesterday to approve emergency bills that will allow the state to get federal stimulus money to extend unemployment and to get more cash for Access. That's the state's health plan for the poor. Here to talk about that and more is Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jim Small. Jim, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

Jim Small:
Thanks for having me, Ted.

Ted Simons:
The schedules and the budget hearings were on, off, on, off...what's going on with this?

Jim Small:
Well, like you said, there was a meeting scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday, to ostensibly put a budget through and really kind of hit high gear on this process. Senate leadership came out yesterday and said, well, we were hoping to do Thursday but we're not going to. You know, we're still working with our members trying to make sure everyone's clear on what the plan is and I think really what it is is trying to make sure they have the votes they need. I think they really want 16 votes in the senate and 31 republican votes in the house before they move forward. The new date that they're looking at is going to be Tuesday. Senator Russell Pierce, chairman of the senate appropriations committee, said today they're shooting for a Tuesday date to do the appropriations committee and to go ahead and try to move forward with the budget. The house is tentatively planning the same thing although they are still meeting in one on one meetings with their members, members going in and meeting with leadership talking about the budget, continuing through Monday. So depending on how those go and whether they can get through the entire caucus I think might determine how the house acts.

Ted Simons:
As the senate president says, there's a proposal but not necessarily an agreement. Explain.

Jim Small:
Right. What's happened is house and senate leadership have been meeting for months on the idea of the 2010 budget. And they put out a draft proposal about 3 and 1/2 weeks ago that had a several hundred million dollar hole and then a week after that the deficit estimate got revised and it was even bigger, so you're looking at about a $500 million hole they're trying to fill. What happened was leadership came to an agreement on a list of options that they have to fill that hole, so they're going to membership, going to members and saying ok, here what's we have on the table. Here what's we've decided. Here what's this does and this does and this does, and they want them to basically weigh in on the list of options so they can try to figure out how to solve this budget problem without raising taxes.

Ted Simons:
And they think we can get close to a breakthrough by Tuesday?

Jim Small:
Yeah, they're hopeful that they'll, I guess, probably be able to vote on something, not just in committee but move it through to the floor and try to really go the whole way with it.

Ted Simons:
If nothing else it suggests things are getting closer. Is that what the mood is there, that something's finally happening?

Jim Small:
Something's happening, I don't know how close we're really getting yet. The Republican leadership has been meeting with Governor Brewer's office but I don't think they've hit the point in the negotiations you get to every year where you know a deal is in the offing and something's coming down the pike. First things first, they're trying to get their members on board with whatever the plan is they have. I think once they get those votes, we'll see how they handle, whether they go to the floor right away or whether they take it and go to Governor Brewer's office and say look, here's the plan we've got. You know, weigh in on it. And we want to, you know, see what you like and what you don't like so we can, you know, try to hash this thing out.

Ted Simons:
You also wrote for the Capitol Times regarding an apparent challenge to John McCain coming from his right flank. Founder of the Minutemen, huh?

Jim Small:
Yeah, one of the co-founders of the Minuteman Project and founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, Chris Simcox. He is nationally known for his opposition to a lot of border security issues we've had and really trying to get the country to be more secure and fight against illegal immigration. He announced, made it official today. Word kind of leaked out yesterday that he was going to challenge him.

Ted Simons:
Response from G.O.P. lawmakers you talked to? What was the mood there regarding this kind of challenge?

Jim Small:
Certainly a number of conservative lawmakers were in attendance at the press conference today at the capitol, and they support him. Representative Carl Seal from Anthem and Senator Jack Harper from up in Surprise both introduced Mr. Simcox. I think people are still kind of waiting to see exactly what kind of operation he's going to have. And certainly McCain has a large following in Arizona, not just at the capitol, but amongst voters, and so it will be interesting to see how this plays out and interesting to see whether Simcox is able to raise the kind of money that it's certainly going to take to challenge John McCain.

Ted Simons:
The mood you got down there at least from state lawmakers was this is a fellow who could at least bring up issues? Is there an honest thought he could challenge senator McCain?

Jim Small:
In some circles some look at Simcox and say he can operate a grassroots campaign, look at the Minuteman thing, it was all grassroots, no kind of organization or whole lot of money behind that campaign. So they see him as being able to get those voters and collect donations from around the country because he's well-known by people across the United States who are opposed to illegal immigration.

Ted Simons:
Indeed. Can't let you go without finding out who won the softball game?

Jim Small:
The house, as they have for six years in a row, beat the senate.

Ted Simons:
What’s going on with that, is there some sort of dynasty? Were there any Donny Brooks, or melees, or brushbacks?

Jim Small:
No, I don't think there was anything like that this year.

Ted Simons:
That's a shame.

Jim Small:
The house has had the senate's number for a number of years now.

Ted Simons:
Okay. Jim, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Jim Small:
Thanks, Ted.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalists

  |   Video
  • The East Valley Tribune won a Pulitzer Prize for “Reasonable Doubt” a series of reports about Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration enforcement efforts. Reporters Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin are named as the award recipients. Giblin and his editor, Patti Epler, talk about the work that went into this award-winning series. The East Valley Tribune’s “Reasonable Doubt” Web site
Guests:
  • Paul Giblin - Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
  • Patti Epler - Editor, East Valley Tribune


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
It's the prize that every newspaper journalist dreams of winning, the Pulitzer. The award was given this week to two local reporters and their editor for a series they did on the impact Maricopa county sheriff Joe Arpaio's immigration sweeps were having on regular patrol duties. I'll talk with journalists involved with the Pulitzer Prize-winning series. But first here's a remark from Sheriff Joe Arpaio about the East Valley Tribune series shortly after it was published last summer.

Ted Simons:
Viewers of the program, those of us who live in Maricopa County, you're our sheriff. We want to make sure day-to-day police operations are not compromised by too much of an emphasis on this aspect of illegal immigration. Reports are out that response times are down and arrest rates are down, especially since your emphasis on illegal immigration. That has to be a concern.

Joe Arpaio:
No, that's a report by the Mesa Tribune. That’s their idea, if you want to get more, I can have Larry address that. That's their idea, but I'm not going to criticize another news agency through this news agency. I'll deal with the Tribune in their five-part series myself directly with them regardless of, you know, what the circumstances are.

Ted Simons:
Well that being said, I appreciate that, the fact is if people hear or get the impression that in El Mirage, for example, if a certain number of serious crimes had little or no investigation, if they see and hear that, confidence wanes a little bit.

Joe Arpaio:
Don't believe it.

Ted Simons:
So you're saying it's not true.

Joe Arpaio:
Don't believe it. I'm not going to go any further than that. This is an agenda, I hate to talk about the paper. This is an agenda they had. I opened up all the books. What agency will let them look at everything? I have nothing to hide. They spent days and days and days in my office going through everything. If I had something to hide, you think I'd be stupid enough to let them see everything that we are doing on illegal immigration?

Ted Simons:
Here now is Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Paul Giblin and Patty Epler who served as his editor for the award winning “Reasonable Doubt” series. Both were employed by East Valley Tribune, but ventured out and created the web based Arizona Guardian after being laid off by the Tribune. The other Pulitzer Prize winner, Ryan Gabrielson, who still works for the Tribune, was unable to make it to the show tonight. Congratulations first to both of you. Paul, are you grounded yet or still a whirlwind for you?

Paul Giblin:
No, it's really been a whirlwind, a lot of fun. Patty called Monday five minutes after the announcement and I had a heart attack on the scene and the phone's been ringing ever since. It's been a lot of fun.

Ted Simons:
How did this series start? Was it an obvious thing or was it something everyone got together and said we need to dig deeper here?

Patty Epler:
I think it was an obvious thing. Immigration was clearly the issue of the moment when we started this back in November of '07 and we really wanted to look at how the Sheriff, who’d made quite a point out of immigration enforcement, was spending his money and what that was costing on another end.

Ted Simons:
Did the original idea, original goal, the paths you saw when you first started, did they change much during the course of the investigation?

Patty Epler:
I think the original premise was to see how is his operation working and what is it costing, both in social costs as well as actual financial costs and I think we stuck close to that.

Ted Simons:
Sometimes a fiction writer will start with characters and they’ll just go off and do crazy things he's not even aware of. Did this story move in ways that surprised you?

Paul Giblin:
I don't think so, Ted, because as we worked through it we figured out where we were going with it. It seemed to follow a logical progression in that way.

Ted Simons:
Talk about the challenges now as far as the investigation was concerned and again, where it led you.

Paul Giblin:
The first challenge was getting through the public records. There had been 669 arrests during the first year and a half of this immigration enforcement operation, and the Sheriff's office didn't have that on a database, so we went through that and had to make sense of that. That took several weeks to do it. From there we did a couple ride-alongs and went that direction and ended up doing nearly 100 interviews, all sides of the issues, everyone from Arpaio, those arrested for smuggling, advocates on both sides, federal government.

Ted Simons:
The award mentions an adroit use of limited resources. What does that mean?

Patty Epler:
That means the East Valley Tribune was, you know, basically kind of short of cash I guess is how I would put it. At the time we started this project, we'd already had some layoffs. In January of '08 we had a wage freeze. We weren't allowed to replace folks who left, who quit. There was hardly any money even for public records, you know. So we just really did it on a shoestring.

Ted Simons:
The reaction, the local reaction you got from this story, I would imagine you heard from all sides?

Patty Epler:
Yes, definitely. The folks -- I have to say to be honest, most of the people who called or wrote in or posted online comments are absolute supporters of Sheriff Arpaio. They think illegal immigration is wrong and that he's doing absolutely the right thing. On another hand that's not unusual to hear from people who are critical of the story and not hear from the ones who are supportive of it. We did get a lot of support for the story too, but the overwhelming response was the opposite.

Ted Simons:
Is that what you feel as well?

Paul Giblin:
It ended up being that in the end but started out actually with a lot of the positive comments first, people who took the time to read the whole series and they thanked us for spelling it out in detail, then later on it shifted more that direction where a lot of Arpaio supporters who I kind of had the feeling didn't read it because they weren't talking about the facts in the series, they came out and were criticizing the series, but I think without a factual basis for the criticism.

Ted Simons:
What kind of response did you get from the Sheriff?

Paul Giblin:
I spoke to the Sheriff about an hour ago. He called me up and he said he wanted to commend me on the project and the work and said he didn't necessarily agree with everything, but he was a cordial guy and has been cordial ever since.

Ted Simons:
Does it surprise you that the Sheriff feels this way about a report that really kind of went after him?

Patty Epler:
He commended Paul, he didn't congratulate him on it would be the way to put it. The initial response from the sheriff's office was pretty much nothing. And they initially criticized it, telling us that it was full of lies and that the people we'd interviewed were saying they hadn't said what they said. We invited them to come down a number of times and talk to us and go over details, point out factual errors and they just couldn't do it because one of the things that we did with this project was we laid out all of our findings to them in advance. We took all the numbers, all the details, the premise, sat down with them in an hour-long meeting, laid it out and said tell us what you think. A week later we got back together and they gave us their response. We adjusted our stories to reflect that and so they really didn't have much of anything to criticize.

Paul Giblin:
Absolutely. It was no surprise when the story came out. They had previewed all the findings, as Patty said. They weren't surprised. They knew exactly what was coming. We didn't hold anything back.

Ted Simons:
Has anything changed because of this series?

Paul Giblin:
I can tell you some things that have happened since the series was published, Ted. The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation. The U.S. House judiciary committee has launched an investigative series of hearings. Those are two important things that the have happened since the series and I'll leave it at that.

Ted Simons:
Ok. Bittersweet this award, considering you don't work for the paper anymore?

Patty Epler:
You know, not really, because we left the tribune on January 4th. We started the Arizona Guardian on January 5th, and we have just been totally immersed in the legislature and budget and all of the stuff that's going on there and it's kind of almost hard to remember ever working at the Tribune now because we're so deep into this really great website and it's been so successful for us and it's just been great.

Ted Simons:
Is great though is knowing that the paper you just won a Pulitzer for decided that we don't need you anymore? That's got to be a little bittersweet.

Paul Giblin:
Ted, it's a tough time in the news industry. I don't have to tell you that. You're well aware of it. I had a good run for 14 years at the Tribune and there’s a lot of good people I had the opportunity to meet along the way and it was a good experience there and as Patty said, we're having a good experience with the Arizona Guardian right now.

Patty Epler:
And I think the Tribune was probably my fourth or fifth newspaper. I've been there four years. So it's a great newspaper. It was a great newspaper. We had a lot of success there. But, you know, we had to move on so that's all right.

Ted Simons:
You moved in a pretty good direction, congratulations on the Pulitzer Prize. Son of a gun, are you big timers coming on the Friday round table now? Still going to show up every once in a while?

[Laughter]

Ted Simons:
Congratulations to both of you.

Paul Giblin:
Thank you.

Patty Epler:
Thank you so very much.

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