Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 26, 2011


Host: Ted Simons

Legislative Wrap-up: Education

  |   Video
  • We take a look at the impact of budget cuts and other legislation on public education with Senator Rich Crandall, Chair of the Senate Education Committee; Ann-Eve Pedersen, president of the Arizona Education Network; and Chuck Essigs of the Arizona Association of School Business Officials.
Guests:
  • Ann-Eve Peterson - President, Arizona Education Network
  • Sen. Rich Crandall - Chair, Senate Education Committee
  • Chuck Essigs - Arizona Association of School Business Officials
Category: Education

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The Arizona education network describes itself as a parent-founded, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that advocates for public education. Yesterday the Tucson-based group was at the state capital to make sure that the public knows how lawmakers voted on three key education funding bills. David Majure has more.

Ann-Eve Pedersen: This is a voting record people need to see. They will go home, they'll tell their constituents they support public education.

David Majure: The Arizona education network highlighted in red the names of 59 lawmakers it says voted against three major education funding bills this session.

Ann-Eve Pederson: It is these 59 legislators who are voting to close our children's schools, to cram our children into super sized classrooms, to fire teachers, librarians and counselors, to deny children access to all-day kindergarten, to strip schools of basics like paper, pencils and books, and to make our Universities unaffordable to the middle class.

David Majure: The group says lawmakers have other options, like taxing exempt luxury services and equalizing state taxes on liquor.

Ann-Eve Pedersen: That would generate $438 million more dollars a year according to the state department of revenue. The cuts over the past three years to our schools, community colleges, and Universities now total $1.3 billion. With even more cuts guaranteed each year, because these legislators refuse to deal with the fact that our state not bringing in enough revenue to pay for basic needs. And to demonstrate that these cuts about antigovernment ideology rather than a temporary budget necessity, the legislature last week passed a bill called ‘TABOR’ which will lock in these recession level cuts for good, making it impossible for education funding to be restored if the economy rebounds.

Ted Simons: Joining us now to talk about where public education stands after the recent legislative session is Senator Rich Crandall, chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Also joining us is Ann-Eve Pedersen, president of the Arizona Education Network, and Chuck Essigs, director of Government relations for the Arizona Association of School Business Officials. Good to see you all here. Anne, we just saw you up there with your presentation. Let’s talk more. I'm guessing you think the impact of the legislature this session not good on education.

Ann-Eve Pedersen: No. I think it was devastating for education. And I think we're very concerned about what this means for the state's million school children, but we're also very concerned about what this means for the state's economy as well. And so even if you don't have children in school or grandchildren in school, this will affect you and we heard earlier before the legislature voted from Craig Barrett from Intel, and he warned everyone that if the state continues to disinvest in education, it's very bad for the state's business climate. But the legislature and the governor went ahead and passed these very deep cuts anyway.

Ted Simons: Devastating to education in Arizona.

Sen. Rich Crandall: Difficult to deal with, yes. Devastating, no. As we look to the future, there are several options available to us. As we start to look at where we're going with education, are with getting the results we need for the money we put into it? You compare dollar amounts for results across the country, even within Arizona, our highest paid teachers and the mean we see different academic results all the way across.

Ted Simons: We got devastation on one side, we've got, we need to do better with what we've got, and there's a lot of something else in between here. What are you seeing?
Chuck Essigs: First it's probably the most difficult time financially for schools that I remember in my tenure, and I've been around a long time. School districts had cuts before, but they were one year at a time, then the economy would recover. Now we're looking at two, three, four years in a row of cuts and that takes its toll.

Ted Simons: The idea of. Let’s, let’s talk about some of these in particular --

Sen. Rich Crandall: This budget was different in that in negotiations with the governor, they chose specific programs to cut rather than a lump sum cut. What that means is, you had some losers and then had you some big losers. If you're a small rural district that had, Safford, for example, career ladder, over 1100 kids, one of their components I am forgetting about -- ninth grade education, those were specific programs that were cut. Safford are all of those in large numbers. It's bordering on devastating for a rural district like that.

Ted Simons: What had been -- would it have been better to have a lump sum as opposed to targeting these particular programs?

Ann-Eve Pedersen: Well, I think what would be best is to not have had this level of cuts at all. And what we're seeing is the year after year as Chuck mentioned, a cumulative nature this time. Let's say in year one, you lost your librarian and your counselor. Year two you now lose a couple teachers, so your classes are larger. Year three, you're losing any remaining programs, your P.E. teacher, arts teacher. So what we're leaving our school children with is a building, if we even have a building, because we're having to close schools around the state as well, our school district has closed nine schools in Tucson. You're leaving them with a building, a principal, and a reduced number of teachers, and very little enrichment programs.

Ted Simons: Chuck, did the legislature go -- I think given coming from the legislature as we had to cut, we had to do something. Alright, if that is the given, would the lump sum method have been better?

Chuck Essigs: It did get better, because the cuts coming out of the senate originally were $100 million more than where we currently stand. It's always a hard call, because some districts are better off when they cut a program, because they don't have to fight with their community. But I think generally across the board cuts are better for school districts when they give them flexibility into where to make those reductions rather than eliminate any particular program.

Sen. Rich Crandall: For the first time since I've been down there we had balanced budget, a true balanced budget. No rollovers, no gimmicks, no borrowing. What does this mean for next session? I'm extremely encouraged about next year, next January our tax revenues are up, most economic indicators that we're looking at are up. There's still the unknown with houses underwater, but next year could be very encouraged for the first time in four or five years for education.

Ted Simons: But aren't there still rollovers?

Sen. Rich Crandall: We still have over a billion dollars of rollover, but we didn't add to that.

Ted Simons: Are you encouraged for next session?

Ann-Eve Pedersen: I would hope sales tax revenues are going up, but the problem S. the legislature just passed this bill called ‘tabler’, and if the governor approves this, even if our sales tax revenue increases we have locked in these spending levels. So that money goes back to taxpayers. It does not go into the general fund to be able to provide so our schools can rebound as the economy rebounds.

Ted Simons: Why was it necessary to lock those in?

Sen. Rich Crandall: Hold, hold on. I'm laughing because I was one of the only no votes on it. I'm the only CPA down there. ‘Tabler’ is a very bad idea. Colorado repealed it, it was that bad an idea. I'm not sure the governor will sign it there. Were several bills putting caps on spending, some were better than others as far as averaging and smoothing. It will be interesting to watch to see if the governor signs it, because it does lock you into things you may not want to be tied into.

Ted Simons: Especially if the economy does rebound.

Sen. Rich Crandall: One important point, anything passed in statute, it's easy to say notwithstanding in future years, you are not locked in. If the voters approve something, you cannot say notwithstanding. I'm not overly terrified about a statute that passes.

Ted Simons: What do you make of this?

Chuck Essigs: Take tabler, which kind of locks us in at the bottom of our spending patterns, take the sales tax that may go away if some initiative doesn't keep it there, there's about a billion dollars of rollover for schools, so we're going to need a very vigorous almost unbelievable recovery in the economy to work our way out of this in a short period of time.

Ted Simons: Senator, the idea that lawmakers voted to close schools, we're taking from what you said at the conference there the other day, voting to close schools, voting to fire teachers, voting to fire librarians, to fire counselors. Underneath all of that, folks who have jobs. What does that do to the economy?

Sen. Rich Crandall: Let's talk about closing schools first. We talk about districts that have had huge declines in enrollment, and they say we shouldn't be closing schools? Mesa has lost 6,000 students. Tucson, you look at the number of schools Tucson has versus the number of students, they have about 30 more schools than Mesa does with 10,000 fewer students. Would you rather put the money into the classroom or into brick and mortar and lawn care and utilities? We should be closing schools all over the state, but not because of the budget, but because of declining enrollment.

Ted Simons: We would come back to the jobs in a second. How do you respond to that?

Ann-Eve Pedersen: Well, I think that closing a school, especially an excelling school, is just a very sad, sad thing for the state of Arizona. I don't think that we should be closing schools if we don't have to, and I don't think some of these districts would choose to do that. Some of these are in areas where the population will rebound, they're in aging parts of the city and in the past they would not have been closed, but we're being forced to now. Small communities like Sierra Vista, the home of one of our state's primary military bases, is having to close schools. That's not ideal for that community as well. But I would go back, that's one piece of it, there is the jobs piece, and we know we have already fired thousands of educators with this budget we will be firing thousands more. And this makes it even more difficult to pull out much the recession. These are taxpaying Arizonans, they could lose their jobs, they won't be paying taxes while they're unemployed. And that's not good in terms of coming out of a recession.

Sen. Rich Crandall: Ok. Let's, let’s correct some facts here. There were not thousands fired. There were thousands given notice they might potentially, but most were hired back. Tonight at the Mesa school board meeting there will be 20 riffs. Out of 9,000 employees, there will be 20 riffs. To say we're laying off thousands and thousands, that's not true. It's not true statewide. So we need to make sure we stick with the facts when we are having a conversation.

Ann-Eve Pedersen: We're not just talking about K-12 though, but our community colleges, and our Universities.

Sen. Rich Crandall: Every college and University has added to their payroll in the last four or five years. You talk to any of the presidents or the presidents of the universities --

Ann-Eve Pedersen: I don't think that's true. We had the U of A said they were going to cut at least 600 employees from the first budget round, not even including the additional cuts.

Sen. Rich Crandall: Remember they are cutting over here while they're adding over here. The net effect has been very, very minimal, because we've had record enrollment.

Ann-Eve Pedersen: You cannot cut $450 million and not expect to have job losses.

Ted Simons: Chuck, get in on this now. Can you expect to not have job losses with those kinds of cuts?

Chuck Essigs: There are job losses, but I want to get back on the closing of schools. If the reason a district is closing schools is because they have excess capacity and that school is no longer needed, that's a legitimate reason. If they're being forced to close schools because they don't have the resources to keep all the schools open that are needed in that community, that's not correct. But I agree with Rich, there are some districts that are closing schools directly because of enrollment declines. But some are closing they might not really need to close because the needs of the community are still there, but they just don't have the money to keep them open.

Ted Simons: This business of jobs, because we've got some very different viewpoints here as to whether or not job losses are occurring or will occur. What do you see there?

Chuck Essigs: I see teachers losing jobs across the state. The problem is, nobody is defined what that number is. We hear 50 here, 20 there. Also I believe in some districts like Mesa have you teachers that are retiring that they're not filling their positions.

Sen. Rich Crandall: And that is absolutely true. And that's the big -- the attrition is larger than it has ever been.

Ann-Eve Pedersen: What happens when these teachers are removed, whether fired or retired, is they are not being replaced and so we have much, much larger class sizes. And we're seeing that in schools across the state. And that is not good for learning, at all.

Ted Simons: You had a bill in this session regarding emergency repairs, and medical records. I mean sorry, not medical records, but electronic records as far as education records or concerns. Talk to us about that, and what else -- that's -- it sounds like innovation is happening, sounds like maybe something good is happening. Something good had to happen there as far as building and innovating. Is that one of the things?

Sen. Rich Crandall: We had a couple of big things that happened. The big one, we're waiting for the governor's signature, the education relief act. As you look at what schools are doing, there is so much they do is mere bureaucracy. That doesn't tie into academic achievement. We have a bill that has 24-25 little things in it on the governor's desk, praying she signs that, because it means it's protecting some fund can for schools, that's key. But probably the biggest thing Arizona -- we have no rules that get in the way of technology in the classroom like other states do. So Arizona is poised to take advantage, and you're starting to see incredible programs. Chandler, Madison, down to Yuma, some incredible programs that focus on how to make things work in this environment.

Ted Simons: That particular idea, just in general, anything good from your viewpoint happening down there at the legislature this session?

Ann-Eve Pedersen: I hate to think we have to call something the education relief act. We should not be in the position of trying to provide relief for education, we should be providing funding. And these types of measures, when I worry – what I am worrying about is it's allowing districts to move money around, shift burdens to local property owners, but what happens is legislators go back to their districts and they will tell someone, I voted for the education relief act, but what they don't mention is they voted for half a billion dollars in cuts to education. And that's what I can't -- I don't think we can lose sight of what really happened during this session with regard to funding, because this is what affects everything in our schools, in our classrooms, our schools are at the point now where I don't think they have enough money to function properly and we have cut down to the bare bones where we don't even have the basics that our kids need.
Ted Simons: What do you think?

Chuck Essigs: School districts are grateful for anything the legislature can do to help them get through these difficult times. The problem is the difficulty is so much greater than the relief. But the relief helps. It makes it somewhat easier, but the public should understand that the relief that is being given to schools may be helps with 10% of the problem, the other 90% of the laws of revenue is still impacting.

Ted Simons: last question, Chuck, the impact of cuts on attracting business on keeping business, I'm talking K-12 cuts, University cuts. Talk to us about that. How does that come into play?

Chuck Essigs: Craig Barrett always made a lot more money than I have, so would I rely on his statement better than mine. I thought it was very revealing. If he was looking at coming to Arizona today or Intel was -- they wouldn't come. And that's a pretty strong statement.

Sen. Rich Crandall: It is. Eight of us had lunch with Craig last Friday to talk about that specific issue. We just had the education innovation summit at ASU three weeks ago. The top education reformers in the entire U.S. came here to talk about what can we do. Part of the reason is, Arizona leads the nation in school choice and lack of red tape for blended learning, digital learn can.

Ted Simons: I guess we'll stop it there. Thank you so much. Great conversation, good to see you all.

Ann-Eve Pedersen: Thank you.

National Institute for Civil Discourse

  |   Video
  • The UA School of Government and Public Policy is home to the new National Institute for Civil Discourse. Learn about the Institute from its director, Brinton Milward.
Guests:
  • Brinton Milward - Director, UA School of Government and Public Policy
Category: Government

View Transcript

Ted Simons: University of Arizona is home to the national institute for civil discourse. The institute was formed after the Tucson shootings that claimed the lives of six people and injured 13 others, including congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The institute will try to provide a counter balance to what many see as the mean spirited rhetoric that seems to be a growing part of our political system. The institute boasts an impressive board of directors that includes Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and General Colin Powell, Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton serve as honorary chairmen. The idea for the institute came to Fred Duval, member of the Arizona board of regents, after President Obama gave a speech in Tucson days after the shootings.

President Barack Obama: At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized --

Fred DuVal: Although the Tucson shooting was not caused by politics, it did give us a teaching moment to say, maybe our culture and our political life really has gotten to a point where it's destructive to the democracy, where our ability to engage in conversations that can move people of different points of view to a common American bipartisan outcome has been lost. And you see that in Washington. Congress isn’t incapable of solving problems, and that's because all the political rewards in the political system are extremist oriented. The incentives are to shout, to demean, that's where the media incentive is, where the fund-raising is, the political base response is. And the purpose of the institute in a word is to try and create a counter balance where we can't control what anybody speaks. It's the first amendment issue. But we can create political reward for speaking in more measured tones, reaching across the aisle, and change the political calculus in the choice of vocabulary.

President Barack Obama: It's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we're talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.

Fred DuVal: It really was inspired by Obama's speech, and by the discussion that was taken around the country, there was a lot of conversation, is this a calming moment, will this change politics? And I thought that day and a number of other people agreed, it may change. But in order to make the change, sustaining and permanent, it may need the injection of the moral authority of people of both parties and journalists, which is what we put together on our board. To either call people out of bounds when they are really over the edge, or to create examples and positive incentives for people who are showing really positive constructive and I would even say patriotic behavior.

Ted Simons: And joining me now is Brinton Milward, the director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse. Milward is also the director of the University of Arizona's school of government and public policy, which houses the institute. Good to have you here. Thank you, Ted.

Ted Simons: We just heard from Fred. I wanted to ask you, maybe from a different angle, why is this institute necessary?

Brinton Milward: Well, I think institute is necessary because we've come to a place in the United States where we've stopped listening to one another. That it's not just enough to oppose ideas, but we have to oppose individuals that propose them. And one of the things you have in a democracy is if you are a democracy, you have to grant other citizens the right to say what they believe. And I think we just need to remind people of this. This is something that there's a first amendment. You can say anything you want to. But one of the things that we view our mission as, is serving as an advocate for people who want and respect facts, people who want to listen to their opponents, even though they desperately disagree with what they say.

Ted Simons: The idea that the Tucson shootings inspired this, and I think Fred said the Obama speech, President Obama's speech was there as well, critics will say that civil discourse has nothing to do with those shootings. How do you even get past that starting point?

Brinton Milward: I think you -- there is no evidence that it did. I think what it did was open up a space for conversation. We've come out of some incredibly very, very difficult electoral cycles. If you take a look at the Giffords shooting, one of the last things she did before she was shot was she sent an email to Trey Grayson, who had just lost a bitter campaign in Kentucky, to Rand Paul in the Republican primary, and she said I've been through a terrible campaign, and I know you have too. We've got to do better. We've got to find ways to reach across the aisle, in which we can collaborate for the long run good of the country. It's very difficult to have winner take all politics and then you throw the bums out, and then it just starts all over again.

Ted Simons: So how do you create political reward for measured speech? How do you do it?

Brinton Milward: I think that's -- that is a very, very good question. One of the things we have -- that's happened because we have a -- two former presidents as head of this institute, we have got organizations all over this country who are calling us about 100 different organizations of have contacted us, many working in conflict resolution, some of them working on curricula in schools to promote civil discourse, civic engagement. One of the big problems we have is just people not being engaged in the political process, so only the activists on the extremes are involved. And so one of the things we hope to do is to be able to use our bully pulpit with our presidents, with Justice O'Conner, Tom Daschle, former senate majority leader, and others who are on the board like Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright, to use that as a way to really call this country back to - let's focus on governing. That's what it's all about. It's not just winning and losing, it's governing a great democracy.

Ted Simons: I can already hear the criticism that this is artificial. This is pushing the boulder up the hill, needlessly. People right now, their mind-set the way they live life, the way America is right now, talk radio and cable TV news networks and the whole nine yards, right now that kind of vitriolic speech seems to be what draws people and is what interesting people in the political process. How do you get past that?

Brinton Milward: It's a very interesting question. One of the things that we have, because this is at a University, we're looking at a number of things from a research standpoint. There are about 50 different scholars that have come together, some are looking at the organization of the media industry, and I had an interesting call from the White House reporter for Fox news, right after the announcement that the institute was created. And he said, so, Professor Milward, if your institute is successful, then business models like ours won't work. And I said, not necessarily. You'll create a new business model. One of the things about industry, business models work until they don't. General Motors had a great one until it didn't work anymore. You have to take a longer view. Other people say, well, times in history have been worse. Look at cane cans on the floor of the senate in the 1850s. There's some pretty vitriolic rhetoric too. The answer is yes, we had a civil war to end that.

Ted Simons: How do you differentiate between impassioned speech and the kind of vitriol you want to see disappear from public discourse?

Brinton Milward: That's a really great question Ted. I think one of the things you have to -- civil discourse is something you note when you see it. Like when Justice Stewart said of pornography, you know it when you see it. You want to create a debate around what is and what is not civil. What's in bounds and what is not? And I think that's one of the things, we have a forum to do that with the kind of attention we're getting. We're going to have meetings in Washington. In September we'll have a national meeting in Washington. We would like to work with groups in Arizona in this area. And we're going to have an inaugural conference in Tucson in January, probably late January of next year.

Ted Simons: Last question. Does it seem as though the rhetoric has cooled a bit since the Tucson shootings?

Brinton Milward: You know, that's really an interesting question. There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that it has, and I talked to a person yesterday who is in charge of an organization called America speaks. And one of the things they're doing is monitoring sort of Congress on your corner, like Gabby Giffords was engaged in, where you go out and meet your constituents. Because most of the sort of heated rhetoric comes from clips that you see on cable news. And one of the things they're doing is trying to measure sort of how many of these are really civil, and it turns out quite a lot of them are. Now, it may just be, we're not debating health care right now and we're not in an election cycle right now, but it seemed to be not too bad.

Ted Simons: All right. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Brinton Milward: Thank you very much. I've enjoyed it.

Ted Simons: Tomorrow on "Horizon," the Sierra Club reports on this year's legislative record regarding bills related to the environment. And an update on how budget cuts are affecting Arizona's state parks. That's Wednesday at 7:00 on "Horizon."


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