Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 28, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

senate President

  |   Video
  • Tim Bee, Arizona State Senate President, joins Ted Simons to talk about legislative accomplishments and the challenges that remain, including efforts to balance the 2009 state budget.
Guests:
  • Tim Bee - State Senate President
  • Dr. Michael Block - Co-founder and Chairman, BASIS Schools
Category: Legislature

View Transcript
>>Ted Simons:
Tonight on "Horizon," Senate President Tim Bee is here to talk about what's happening at the state capitol. And we'll hear from the co-founder of a Tucson high school that's been ranked number one in the nation. That's coming up next on "Horizon."

>>Ted Simons:
Hello and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. It's day 136 of the legislative session. By rule, it should have ended on day 100. But that rarely happens, and this year a weak economy is at least partly to blame for dragging the session out. Facing a $2 billion deficit, lawmakers have not yet adopted a budget for 2009. Here to tell us if they're getting close and to talk about the session so far is Senate President, Tim Bee.

>>Ted Simons:
Good to have you on the program. Thanks for joining us.

>>Tim Bee:
Pleasure to be here.

>>Ted Simons:
Are you getting close to a budget?

>>Tim Bee:
We're making progress. I think one of the important things for us to remember is we're doing two budgets this year, not just one. Last year we didn't get one budget done until the end of June, and so this year we've already solved a $1.4 billion shortfall for the '08 budget. That solution is in place, and we're now working on the '09 budget shortfall which is approaching 2 billion.

>>Ted Simons:
The governor is sounding increasingly impatient. Coming out today and saying that GOP leadership is neglecting the job of approving a budget. Your response.

>>Tim Bee:
Well, we've been working with the Democrats throughout the session on the budget proposal, and a few weeks ago we needed to spend some time working with the Republican caucus to really get a sense for where they wanted to go with this budget proposal. We will be meeting with the governor, the Speaker and I will be meeting with her tomorrow morning, and we have meetings with the Democratic leadership tomorrow as well, and we will be very shortly re-entering negotiations with them with the details of what we have come up with in our small working group.

>>Ted Simons:
Throughout the course of the program here, we have a lot of people on talking about the budget and many folks mostly disapprovingly are saying that GOP leadership is meeting on its own, even some of the rank and file don't know what's going on, Democrats certainly don't know what is going on. Is that an inaccurate description?

>>Tim Bee:
I would not say it is going on quite that way. What has been happening is we have been having meetings with small groups of our caucus to talk about the priorities and the way our members want to address the budget shortfall. And it's very important that we have those conversations. It is difficult to enter into negotiation when you don't have some level of understanding of how you want to proceed with that negotiation and that's what we have been doing, and it's been very productive. I think our members have a much better understanding now of what the challenges are before us, and now we're getting close to be able to take our proposal back to the democrats in response to their proposal.

>>Ted Simons:
Ok, so meeting with the governor tomorrow and after that you'll start mingling and start trying to get something done here.

>>Tim Bee:
Well, it's not like we haven't been working. We have been working all day every day. Things are not always as they appear. We have had meetings on the budgets going on almost nonstop with different members at different times. And even this afternoon conversations with our members talking about the challenges, and so we're now prepared really to move forward with the larger group and get it done. Of all people in the legislature I wanted to have this budget done very early in the session, but it's just a process we have to go through. You have 90 members involved and the Governor, and we have to reach a consensus.

>>Ted Simons:
What are some of the major sticking points?

>>Tim Bee:
Well probably the major sticking points…when you have a $2 billion shortfall, and quite frankly it has been a target that's been moving away from us, so as we have tried to come up with solutions to the problem and the numbers come in each month and they're lower than the month before, you have to find a way to address those problems so some of the larger sticking points, what are the level of reductions that we need to make that will leave us with a sustainable budget in the future? How many one-time solutions do you bring into the process to help solve the shortfall? For example, one of those things is bonding for school construction. That has been a very large sticking point between the sides. Even within our own -- my own caucus, there is disagreements about how to use that and how much and I think one of the concerns we have there is the long-term commitment to the debt that you accrue over time, and the payments that we will be taking on to pay for that debt, and at the same time it is a tool that Republicans have used in the past, and so at this point in time, we don't have conclusion on that point, but it is one that we have been talking about that has brought about quite a bit of concern.

>>Ted Simons:
But when you say how much to use that, and those sorts of things, it sounds like some school bonding is going to have to happen.

>>Tim Bee:
You know, at this point in time, it is likely that it will happen, but I can't say for sure that it is, because there are other options that have been brought forward from some of my members who prefer to see a different solution. So, ultimately, those are the type of things that we will be talking about in the next few weeks as we bring about to find a solution to the budget.

>>Ted Simons:
Any chance of new taxes?

>>Tim Bee:
I do not foresee any tax increases in this budget proposal. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have advocated for that.

>>Ted Simons:
Job losses and cuts though will happen.

>>Tim Bee:
One of the major focuses that we're doing in this budget is with the almost 20\% shortfall, we have to have a plan in place that is sustainable into next year. One of the things we're looking to right away is the state agencies, and we are proposing -- or will be proposing reductions to the state agencies, but we also want to leave as much discretion to the agency heads as possible because they're the ones who have the responsibility for managing those agencies. We want to make sure that we limit the impact to services, at the same time, things such as travel, new copy machine purchases, computer equipment, those types of things can really be set aside until things improve again.

>>Ted Simons:
Rainy day fund, will it have to be completely drained?

>>Tim Bee:
I expect that there will be very little left in it even at the end of '08. When we did the '08 proposal, we put a trigger in place that said any additional shortfalls that occur after this budget proposal is adopted, the balance would come from the rainy day fund. If the trend continues now, it is likely that there could be additional money triggered out of that fund at the end of the fiscal year. There could be some money left there. We will be looking at using that as part of the '09 budget solution.

>>Ted Simons:
In general, overall, house and senate, same page?

>>Tim Bee:
Largely, yes.

>>Ted Simons: Ok, let's move on to the transportation taxes and initiatives to raise the state's sales tax by one percent, to I believe 6.6\%, if I'm not mistaken. Your thoughts on that idea for transportation, which I think everyone agrees needs to be addressed somehow.

>>Tim Bee: Well, there's no question with a growing state we need to have a plan in place to address the transportation infrastructure. A few years ago we passed the Stan account, and created some money to accelerate transportation projects, that is happening right now. But we really do have a need. Now, one of the things that we discovered in Pima County is voters will reject any plan that does not lay out what the money is going to be used for. We tried for election after election cycle to pass the transportation funding tax, and until it was specified what those dollars were going to be used for, the voters rejected it. So, I think it is going to be very important that a well laid out plan is put in place, that the voters of Arizona know what they're considering. I think a sales tax is going to be extremely challenging to pass in this economic climate. It faces an uphill battle. There's no question.

>>Ted Simons:
In getting this initiative moving, the governor made a deal with home builders, and the idea of getting some up front money to get the thing going, and then getting the home builders not to go after land trust initiatives and taking away impact fees from home builders. That aspect of this, the argument that developers should be paying for transit as they go, your thoughts.

>>Tim Bee:
Well, I think when they did the -- some early information gathering on the transportation proposal, the one that the public felt perhaps had the most viability was looking at growth paying for itself and to do that through an impact fee. Now, I think there is some real concerns about doing that through an impact fee. Because right now, particularly in the home building industry, it is the major cause of our economic shortfall, downturn that we're facing, and the shortfall we have in our state budget. To further increase the prices of homes, which is essentially what would be happening if you used an impact fee, that would be added on, only further depresses that and so I would not have advocated for using an impact fee to do that, but really the key point in this whole discussion about transportation, is the leaders of the transportation, they have to lay out a plan for the voters so they know what they're buying.

>>Ted Simons:
Ok, you mentioned construction industry, and the universities are now saying a $1.4 billion plan would help boost the construction industry, at the same time take care of renovations, and facilities and such on campuses here in Arizona. Your thoughts on this -- what is being called a stimulus plan.

>>Tim Bee:
We have been working on this for quite a while at the session. Certainly I have been a huge supporter of the universities and a lot of their projects over the years. This one is on life support, I would have to say. We are still waiting for the economic analysis that would demonstrate to the state what the benefit of this package would be. Obviously there will be some jobs, but we need to know as we're making commitments to use general fund dollars to pay off debt, that the stimulus that will occur as a result of this will generate new dollars coming into the general fund to help support it, and that has not yet been demonstrated to us. I know the members have a lot of questions. I am not ruling it out as something that will occur. I think there is even a possibility that parts of it may be singled out for consideration. I know the medical school is one that has already begun the process over the years, but one of the key things we have to look at, we would be looking if we do the bonding package for K-12 construction, and commit to $1.4 billion of bonding for the universities, we would be looking at a commitment of over $200 million in new debt service payments that we would be taking on every year, and before we can agree to do that, we have to know if that is sustainable, and I think that is the question that remains to be answered.

>>Ted Simons:
Is there a better way to take care of facilities that need improvement on campuses here in Arizona?

>>Tim Bee:
Many of these projects that are being talked about in this package are ones that are in the longer range plan for the universities, and their proposal really was to try to use these projects to provide jobs, jump-start the economy and get them in the loop right now. No, I think that at the appropriate times, bonding is an appropriate way to pay for buildings. We just have to make sure that we can afford to do it.

>>Ted Simons:
Okay. A couple of issues and a couple of bills seem to have your names in them as far as the news reports were concerned. Let's get to them real quickly here. The text message ban. What the heck happened with that? And should there be a ban on text messaging in Arizona? Yes or no.

>>Tim Bee:
Well, what's happening, at the end of the session every year, and this year seems to be particularly bad, a lot of bills that never got a hearing in their committees of origin are popping up as amendments on the floor. Unfortunately this one happened in the senate yesterday. They brought the text messaging bill in, they were trying to put it on a bill that is the department of transportation bill. I spoke with the sponsor last night. Certainly it was not an amendment that she felt was a friendly amendment. I know there were a lot of concerns by different members that this was an inappropriate place to put it. I believe that the state law already more or less regulates reckless driving, and putting this in place as a single item, it highlights it, it brings the attention, but I think we can do that without having to put it in as a specific language. It is the responsibility of leaders to get out there and make sure that the people are driving responsibly.

>>Ted Simons:
There was another bill regarding guns on campus, Senator Karen Johnson was sponsoring that one, and did not get a vote in the senate. And she came out with some pretty harsh words against you. Talk to us about it.

>>Tim Bee:
Well, Senator Johnson is a good friend of mine and I love her dearly. That bill is one that I had a number of bills this year, about three of them where members approached me and said Senator Bee, we want to make sure that you have the votes on the bills before they go to the floor. Senator Johnson did bring the laundry list on that bill, that had 16 members on it, but at the same time I also still had some of the members on that list coming and telling me that they really didn't want to see it go to the floor, and they weren't sure that the votes would really be there. So, based on that, I just really felt that there wasn't the support, if I put it out there, for a vote.

>>Ted Simons:
Among the many things the President of the Senate has to deal with are folks that I will vote for this and then come to you later and say oh my god don't make me vote.

>>Ted Simons:
Okay. We will move on. Arizona guest worker program, a state guest worker program, your thoughts.

>>Tim Bee:
I think the main point of this legislation is to try and signal to Washington that they need to address the problem. It's going to be very difficult for us to implement and manage a state only guest worker bill, because there are so many complications with it, but I think it has merit to bring this idea forward and to talk about it and maybe even ultimately pass the legislation. But the main point of that is to say look, congress, you have had the opportunity to address this issue year after year and you have let it slide. We in Arizona want you to deal with this problem.

>>Ted Simons:
Can it be more than a message bill though?

>>Tim Bee:
Well, if we pass the bill, it will still require federal authorization to be implemented. I think it is a long-shot that it would actually make it through either congressional approval or some sort of federal approval to implement in place, and this bill has some problems with it. For example, you would have to work with the U.S. Consulate in Mexico. If you were wanting to come as a guest worker to Arizona from another country the only way to do that would be the U.S. Consular in Mexico. Well if you're trying to come from Africa or you're trying to come from Europe which a lot of our industries in Arizona used visa workers from those countries, it just had some very practical problems that we have to work out, and those are things that will be worked out. Senator Arszberger the sponsor is aware of some of these concerns, and they will most likely be addressed through amendments on the floor when the bill comes up. Ultimately, the United States is going to have to take a look at the guest worker needs of our country and implement a temporary guest worker program that will have some secure I.D. so our employers who are complying with the employer sanctions law will have access to those employees, not meant to displace our workers here, but those employees they need to address their shortages.

>>Ted Simons:
There's a--it seems to be there's a push and pull regarding the governor's office and the legislature regarding emissions standards in particular but the idea of and some folks in the legislature calling the governor dictatorial because of what she wants done gets done and somehow some see it bypassing the legislature. Emissions standards, talk to us about that dynamic.

>>Tim Bee:
Well it's one of those issues that we have to be very careful moving forward on. I know the governor, and I'm not thoroughly familiar with all the details of this, but I know that she's worked towards looking at the California standards for Arizona, and those standards are very restrictive, and I think it would be very appropriate for the legislature to engage on hearings and discussions about what those standards will mean for our state. When executive orders are issued that implement things it kind of bypasses the opportunities for the public to have the opportunity at the legislature to have a discussion about those points, and it's very important that we do, because my understanding is that it could really change the automobile industry in Arizona, what is available to us to drive, and I think it is appropriate that we have conversations about it and implement it at the appropriate time.

>>Ted Simons:
So when the governor says that she's in on this program-that there have been meetings, there's been testimony, the information is out there, it's been very public, you would say --

>>Tim Bee:
Well, that's not the perspective at the legislature that those meetings really haven't occurred. At least not in our arenas, and I think it's important that those happen.

>>Ted Simons:
Ok, A.I.M.s testing, should grades supplement A.I.M.s scores?

>>Tim Bee:
The legislature did pass a bill this year which I supported to do that. I guess I have never been really fond of high stakes exit testing to begin with. My personal preference is if you are trying to measure the progress of a student that the student needs to know at the end of each year whether or not they're making progress. You don't wait until they're almost done with high school to say oops, guess what, you are not going to make it because you didn't get what you needed along the way. Certainly there are other ways of measuring student progress, and teachers have a lot of discretion over that as students pass tests every year, and they achieve grades so I think a certain level of augmentation is appropriate but ultimately I believe Arizona needs to review what it is doing with the A.I.M.s test and needs to look at moving more to grade level testing so that we know students are progressing on an annual basis.

>>Ted Simons:
How do we know teachers are progressing? I know you sponsored a teacher performance pay bill.

>>Tim Bee:
Yes, this year I'm sponsoring a bill that will -you deal with the whole career ladder problem in Arizona. It's an issue I have worked on since I was first down at the legislature. It's been one where we as a state prior to -- many, many years ago, began a career ladder program that allowed teachers to progress in their education and performance and to receive additional compensation for making progress. Well, we didn't open it up to all districts, and so right now there are a large number of districts in Arizona that do not have the opportunity to participate in that program. It creates competition between the districts where teachers may choose to go to one or the other based on potential future pay. I felt it was important that we move toward a system that opens it up and makes it fair to all teachers across the state. So my bill would have a five year implementation of a plan to create a performance pay system. Career ladder districts could choose to opt into it if they so desire. It moves away from property tax reliance, in those districts, and moves to general fund support. So, it is going to take a few years to implement that, but I'm optimistic that we will get it through.

>>Tim Bee:
It will be very exciting to have that.

>>Ted Simons:
Well, it's good to have you on the program. Thank you so much for joining us.

>>Tim Bee:
Thank you. My pleasure.

>>Ted Simons:
"Newsweek" magazine has ranked the BASIS charter school in Tucson as the nation's top public high school. We'll hear from one of the schools' founders in a moment but first, here is what Mike Sauceda learned about the basis teaching philosophy during a visit to the Scottsdale campus a year ago.

>>Basis Charter teacher:
Temperature reflects the average kinetic energy of the gas.

>>Mike Sauceda:
This is BASIS Middle School in Scottsdale. Two-hundred fifty students attend the 5th through 8th grade school in North Scottsdale. Basis Middle school is one of three schools founded by former University of Arizona Economics Professor Michael Block and his wife Olga, also an economist from what is now the Czech Republic. Sheri Pierce is the school's director. She says the basis schools teach using a blend of Asian and European methods.

>>Sheri Pierce:
The curriculum is based on--the founders wanted a school that was at world standards so they took a blend of the Asian and the European style and has an American flare. So, what we're trying to create in the classroom is that the students will have a strong knowledge base, factual base, but at the same time when they get older, they will be able to critically think about ideas, they will have a love of learning. They will thrive on knowledge, and so to build that atmosphere we have curriculums that is very factual based. There's a lot to know in that subject. Each teacher creates their own curriculum, so we place a lot of responsibility on the teacher to develop the curriculum.

>>Teacher:
So make your finishing touches on it, please. Remember this is silent time.

>>Mike Sauceda:
The school is a public charter school so it's open to everyone, but it has a tough curriculum, which is explained and demonstrated to students and parents.

>>Sheri Pierce:
We have open enrollment to a certain date. So as long as the parents usually are advocates-- we don't really advertise. You have to hear about our school, and the parents come, and the first thing we do is take them on a tour and actually take them into the classroom. We want them to see what our school is about and the tour talks about our program, and then we also have their child come and shadow for a day. They go a complete day to all of the classes, meet the teachers meet the students to make sure it is a good fit for them, and then we do a series of open houses so the parents are more informed about our program. And then if they decide, usually it's in June, that they want to join basis, they've already gone through this process where they have learned a lot about our school before they make that decision.

>>Ted Simons:
Joining me to talk about the top ranked basis high school in Tucson is Dr. Michael Block, Cofounder and Chairman of BASIS Schools. Thanks for being on the program. We appreciate it, and congratulations, by the way.

>>Michael Block:
Thank you. Thank you for having me on the program.

>>Ted Simons:
Talk to us about basis schools. How did the idea get started?

>>Michael Block:
Well, ten years ago, my wife and I, Olga, started this school in Tucson. That's the school that is award-winning this year, and it began really as an idea of our bringing to Arizona really world standard education. The United States is often sort of pinged for having a relatively poor K-12 education. My wife came here ten years -- 12 years ago now, enrolled her daughter in middle school, actually in Scottsdale at the time, and was astounded at two things. One, the lack of content on the negative side, and on the positive side, the sort of inquisitiveness of the students, the openness of the school, but she really thought it missed something that she was used to in central Europe. So, our idea was to take what content is taught in Europe and in Asia and marry it with really the innovative nature of American schools and to create really an academic powerhouse here in Tucson, Arizona.

>>Ted Simons:
So in real terms, in terms of what is taught during a day, what differs between your school and a public high school that we would be most familiar with?

>>Michael Block:
Well, the high school -- the curriculum is oriented entirely around the advanced placement courses and advanced placement exams, which are exams created by college boards, same people who give us S.A.T. It's very high level. This is the highest level of American education possible. Every major subject that the students take is only available in advance placement. So it's much more rigorous than a normal high school, and we require more time. They take seven subjects a day, and they are real subjects. There are no study halls. Essentially no easy courses in the school. So it is academic. It is really pure academics.

>>Ted Simons:
Do you pay teachers more than we see in other public schools?

>>Michael Block:
We pay differently, and I'd like to say we pay smarter. It is true in our Scottsdale school we probably pay a little more because we have a private fund-raising campaign there, but we don't have that yet in Tucson. We will eventually have it, but we pay smarter. We pay bonuses for essentially teacher accomplishments, that is teachers who really are good at adding value to students' education are rewarded for it. We have a very complicated and well worked out bonus structure.

>>Ted Simons:
It looks as though the Tucson school has little, if any, in the way of E.L.L. students and students from disadvantaged backgrounds, correct?

>>Michael Block:
Well, not correct on disadvantaged backgrounds because we don't really know. We don't serve hot lunches so we don't ask about family income. If you will notice in the "Newsweek" ranking, under percentage free and reduced lunch, we have an n.a., we just don't ask it so we can't report it. Now, I know when I look at the parking lot, it is a lot different than the Scottsdale parking lot. We have students from every zip code in Tucson at that school. It is in the middle of Tucson, it's not in a particularly posh area.

>>Ted Simons:
With other schools with maybe a little bit more in the way of diversity, especially with the E.L.L. factor thrown in there, can those schools learn from what basis is doing, or is basis focused to where the great mass of schools just simply can't get on that level?

>>Michael Block:
Well, it's probably the reverse case, in that there are probably a few schools maybe who can't learn something from basis, but I think a lot of schools can, and it is the single-minded focus on academics. That is the magic in basis is that we're single-mindedly focused on academic achievement of our students. It is not that our students are necessarily brighter or more privileged than other students, it's that they work harder, and they work a lot harder, they work as hard as students in private or independent schools in the big metropolitan areas of the country. One thing you learn when you get in this business students in exclusive private schools they work harder than public school students. They do four hours of homework a night in high school. That's what our students do.

>>Ted Simons:
Alright. Well, thank you for joining us and again congratulations on the recognition.


>>Michael Block:
Thank you very much.

>>
The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled on lethal injection and a voter I.D. law out of Indiana. It still has some big cases to deal with including one on gun rights. Join ASU law professors for a Supreme Court review Thursday on "Horizon." And that is it for now. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Ted Simons. You have a great evening.

>>
If you have comments about "Horizon," please contact us at the addresses listed on your screen. Your name and comments may be used on a future edition of "Horizon."

Top-ranked Charter School

  |   Video
  • BASIS Charter School in Tucson is ranked by Newsweek as the nation’s top high school. The co-founder and Chair of BASIS, Dr. Michael Block, joins Ted in the HORIZON studio.
Guests:
  • Tim Bee - State Senate President
  • Dr. Michael Block - Co-founder and Chairman, BASIS Schools
Category: Education

View Transcript
>>Ted Simons:
Tonight on "Horizon," Senate President Tim Bee is here to talk about what's happening at the state capitol. And we'll hear from the co-founder of a Tucson high school that's been ranked number one in the nation. That's coming up next on "Horizon."

>>Ted Simons:
Hello and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. It's day 136 of the legislative session. By rule, it should have ended on day 100. But that rarely happens, and this year a weak economy is at least partly to blame for dragging the session out. Facing a $2 billion deficit, lawmakers have not yet adopted a budget for 2009. Here to tell us if they're getting close and to talk about the session so far is Senate President, Tim Bee.

>>Ted Simons:
Good to have you on the program. Thanks for joining us.

>>Tim Bee:
Pleasure to be here.

>>Ted Simons:
Are you getting close to a budget?

>>Tim Bee:
We're making progress. I think one of the important things for us to remember is we're doing two budgets this year, not just one. Last year we didn't get one budget done until the end of June, and so this year we've already solved a $1.4 billion shortfall for the '08 budget. That solution is in place, and we're now working on the '09 budget shortfall which is approaching 2 billion.

>>Ted Simons:
The governor is sounding increasingly impatient. Coming out today and saying that GOP leadership is neglecting the job of approving a budget. Your response.

>>Tim Bee:
Well, we've been working with the Democrats throughout the session on the budget proposal, and a few weeks ago we needed to spend some time working with the Republican caucus to really get a sense for where they wanted to go with this budget proposal. We will be meeting with the governor, the Speaker and I will be meeting with her tomorrow morning, and we have meetings with the Democratic leadership tomorrow as well, and we will be very shortly re-entering negotiations with them with the details of what we have come up with in our small working group.

>>Ted Simons:
Throughout the course of the program here, we have a lot of people on talking about the budget and many folks mostly disapprovingly are saying that GOP leadership is meeting on its own, even some of the rank and file don't know what's going on, Democrats certainly don't know what is going on. Is that an inaccurate description?

>>Tim Bee:
I would not say it is going on quite that way. What has been happening is we have been having meetings with small groups of our caucus to talk about the priorities and the way our members want to address the budget shortfall. And it's very important that we have those conversations. It is difficult to enter into negotiation when you don't have some level of understanding of how you want to proceed with that negotiation and that's what we have been doing, and it's been very productive. I think our members have a much better understanding now of what the challenges are before us, and now we're getting close to be able to take our proposal back to the democrats in response to their proposal.

>>Ted Simons:
Ok, so meeting with the governor tomorrow and after that you'll start mingling and start trying to get something done here.

>>Tim Bee:
Well, it's not like we haven't been working. We have been working all day every day. Things are not always as they appear. We have had meetings on the budgets going on almost nonstop with different members at different times. And even this afternoon conversations with our members talking about the challenges, and so we're now prepared really to move forward with the larger group and get it done. Of all people in the legislature I wanted to have this budget done very early in the session, but it's just a process we have to go through. You have 90 members involved and the Governor, and we have to reach a consensus.

>>Ted Simons:
What are some of the major sticking points?

>>Tim Bee:
Well probably the major sticking points…when you have a $2 billion shortfall, and quite frankly it has been a target that's been moving away from us, so as we have tried to come up with solutions to the problem and the numbers come in each month and they're lower than the month before, you have to find a way to address those problems so some of the larger sticking points, what are the level of reductions that we need to make that will leave us with a sustainable budget in the future? How many one-time solutions do you bring into the process to help solve the shortfall? For example, one of those things is bonding for school construction. That has been a very large sticking point between the sides. Even within our own -- my own caucus, there is disagreements about how to use that and how much and I think one of the concerns we have there is the long-term commitment to the debt that you accrue over time, and the payments that we will be taking on to pay for that debt, and at the same time it is a tool that Republicans have used in the past, and so at this point in time, we don't have conclusion on that point, but it is one that we have been talking about that has brought about quite a bit of concern.

>>Ted Simons:
But when you say how much to use that, and those sorts of things, it sounds like some school bonding is going to have to happen.

>>Tim Bee:
You know, at this point in time, it is likely that it will happen, but I can't say for sure that it is, because there are other options that have been brought forward from some of my members who prefer to see a different solution. So, ultimately, those are the type of things that we will be talking about in the next few weeks as we bring about to find a solution to the budget.

>>Ted Simons:
Any chance of new taxes?

>>Tim Bee:
I do not foresee any tax increases in this budget proposal. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have advocated for that.

>>Ted Simons:
Job losses and cuts though will happen.

>>Tim Bee:
One of the major focuses that we're doing in this budget is with the almost 20\% shortfall, we have to have a plan in place that is sustainable into next year. One of the things we're looking to right away is the state agencies, and we are proposing -- or will be proposing reductions to the state agencies, but we also want to leave as much discretion to the agency heads as possible because they're the ones who have the responsibility for managing those agencies. We want to make sure that we limit the impact to services, at the same time, things such as travel, new copy machine purchases, computer equipment, those types of things can really be set aside until things improve again.

>>Ted Simons:
Rainy day fund, will it have to be completely drained?

>>Tim Bee:
I expect that there will be very little left in it even at the end of '08. When we did the '08 proposal, we put a trigger in place that said any additional shortfalls that occur after this budget proposal is adopted, the balance would come from the rainy day fund. If the trend continues now, it is likely that there could be additional money triggered out of that fund at the end of the fiscal year. There could be some money left there. We will be looking at using that as part of the '09 budget solution.

>>Ted Simons:
In general, overall, house and senate, same page?

>>Tim Bee:
Largely, yes.

>>Ted Simons: Ok, let's move on to the transportation taxes and initiatives to raise the state's sales tax by one percent, to I believe 6.6\%, if I'm not mistaken. Your thoughts on that idea for transportation, which I think everyone agrees needs to be addressed somehow.

>>Tim Bee: Well, there's no question with a growing state we need to have a plan in place to address the transportation infrastructure. A few years ago we passed the Stan account, and created some money to accelerate transportation projects, that is happening right now. But we really do have a need. Now, one of the things that we discovered in Pima County is voters will reject any plan that does not lay out what the money is going to be used for. We tried for election after election cycle to pass the transportation funding tax, and until it was specified what those dollars were going to be used for, the voters rejected it. So, I think it is going to be very important that a well laid out plan is put in place, that the voters of Arizona know what they're considering. I think a sales tax is going to be extremely challenging to pass in this economic climate. It faces an uphill battle. There's no question.

>>Ted Simons:
In getting this initiative moving, the governor made a deal with home builders, and the idea of getting some up front money to get the thing going, and then getting the home builders not to go after land trust initiatives and taking away impact fees from home builders. That aspect of this, the argument that developers should be paying for transit as they go, your thoughts.

>>Tim Bee:
Well, I think when they did the -- some early information gathering on the transportation proposal, the one that the public felt perhaps had the most viability was looking at growth paying for itself and to do that through an impact fee. Now, I think there is some real concerns about doing that through an impact fee. Because right now, particularly in the home building industry, it is the major cause of our economic shortfall, downturn that we're facing, and the shortfall we have in our state budget. To further increase the prices of homes, which is essentially what would be happening if you used an impact fee, that would be added on, only further depresses that and so I would not have advocated for using an impact fee to do that, but really the key point in this whole discussion about transportation, is the leaders of the transportation, they have to lay out a plan for the voters so they know what they're buying.

>>Ted Simons:
Ok, you mentioned construction industry, and the universities are now saying a $1.4 billion plan would help boost the construction industry, at the same time take care of renovations, and facilities and such on campuses here in Arizona. Your thoughts on this -- what is being called a stimulus plan.

>>Tim Bee:
We have been working on this for quite a while at the session. Certainly I have been a huge supporter of the universities and a lot of their projects over the years. This one is on life support, I would have to say. We are still waiting for the economic analysis that would demonstrate to the state what the benefit of this package would be. Obviously there will be some jobs, but we need to know as we're making commitments to use general fund dollars to pay off debt, that the stimulus that will occur as a result of this will generate new dollars coming into the general fund to help support it, and that has not yet been demonstrated to us. I know the members have a lot of questions. I am not ruling it out as something that will occur. I think there is even a possibility that parts of it may be singled out for consideration. I know the medical school is one that has already begun the process over the years, but one of the key things we have to look at, we would be looking if we do the bonding package for K-12 construction, and commit to $1.4 billion of bonding for the universities, we would be looking at a commitment of over $200 million in new debt service payments that we would be taking on every year, and before we can agree to do that, we have to know if that is sustainable, and I think that is the question that remains to be answered.

>>Ted Simons:
Is there a better way to take care of facilities that need improvement on campuses here in Arizona?

>>Tim Bee:
Many of these projects that are being talked about in this package are ones that are in the longer range plan for the universities, and their proposal really was to try to use these projects to provide jobs, jump-start the economy and get them in the loop right now. No, I think that at the appropriate times, bonding is an appropriate way to pay for buildings. We just have to make sure that we can afford to do it.

>>Ted Simons:
Okay. A couple of issues and a couple of bills seem to have your names in them as far as the news reports were concerned. Let's get to them real quickly here. The text message ban. What the heck happened with that? And should there be a ban on text messaging in Arizona? Yes or no.

>>Tim Bee:
Well, what's happening, at the end of the session every year, and this year seems to be particularly bad, a lot of bills that never got a hearing in their committees of origin are popping up as amendments on the floor. Unfortunately this one happened in the senate yesterday. They brought the text messaging bill in, they were trying to put it on a bill that is the department of transportation bill. I spoke with the sponsor last night. Certainly it was not an amendment that she felt was a friendly amendment. I know there were a lot of concerns by different members that this was an inappropriate place to put it. I believe that the state law already more or less regulates reckless driving, and putting this in place as a single item, it highlights it, it brings the attention, but I think we can do that without having to put it in as a specific language. It is the responsibility of leaders to get out there and make sure that the people are driving responsibly.

>>Ted Simons:
There was another bill regarding guns on campus, Senator Karen Johnson was sponsoring that one, and did not get a vote in the senate. And she came out with some pretty harsh words against you. Talk to us about it.

>>Tim Bee:
Well, Senator Johnson is a good friend of mine and I love her dearly. That bill is one that I had a number of bills this year, about three of them where members approached me and said Senator Bee, we want to make sure that you have the votes on the bills before they go to the floor. Senator Johnson did bring the laundry list on that bill, that had 16 members on it, but at the same time I also still had some of the members on that list coming and telling me that they really didn't want to see it go to the floor, and they weren't sure that the votes would really be there. So, based on that, I just really felt that there wasn't the support, if I put it out there, for a vote.

>>Ted Simons:
Among the many things the President of the Senate has to deal with are folks that I will vote for this and then come to you later and say oh my god don't make me vote.

>>Ted Simons:
Okay. We will move on. Arizona guest worker program, a state guest worker program, your thoughts.

>>Tim Bee:
I think the main point of this legislation is to try and signal to Washington that they need to address the problem. It's going to be very difficult for us to implement and manage a state only guest worker bill, because there are so many complications with it, but I think it has merit to bring this idea forward and to talk about it and maybe even ultimately pass the legislation. But the main point of that is to say look, congress, you have had the opportunity to address this issue year after year and you have let it slide. We in Arizona want you to deal with this problem.

>>Ted Simons:
Can it be more than a message bill though?

>>Tim Bee:
Well, if we pass the bill, it will still require federal authorization to be implemented. I think it is a long-shot that it would actually make it through either congressional approval or some sort of federal approval to implement in place, and this bill has some problems with it. For example, you would have to work with the U.S. Consulate in Mexico. If you were wanting to come as a guest worker to Arizona from another country the only way to do that would be the U.S. Consular in Mexico. Well if you're trying to come from Africa or you're trying to come from Europe which a lot of our industries in Arizona used visa workers from those countries, it just had some very practical problems that we have to work out, and those are things that will be worked out. Senator Arszberger the sponsor is aware of some of these concerns, and they will most likely be addressed through amendments on the floor when the bill comes up. Ultimately, the United States is going to have to take a look at the guest worker needs of our country and implement a temporary guest worker program that will have some secure I.D. so our employers who are complying with the employer sanctions law will have access to those employees, not meant to displace our workers here, but those employees they need to address their shortages.

>>Ted Simons:
There's a--it seems to be there's a push and pull regarding the governor's office and the legislature regarding emissions standards in particular but the idea of and some folks in the legislature calling the governor dictatorial because of what she wants done gets done and somehow some see it bypassing the legislature. Emissions standards, talk to us about that dynamic.

>>Tim Bee:
Well it's one of those issues that we have to be very careful moving forward on. I know the governor, and I'm not thoroughly familiar with all the details of this, but I know that she's worked towards looking at the California standards for Arizona, and those standards are very restrictive, and I think it would be very appropriate for the legislature to engage on hearings and discussions about what those standards will mean for our state. When executive orders are issued that implement things it kind of bypasses the opportunities for the public to have the opportunity at the legislature to have a discussion about those points, and it's very important that we do, because my understanding is that it could really change the automobile industry in Arizona, what is available to us to drive, and I think it is appropriate that we have conversations about it and implement it at the appropriate time.

>>Ted Simons:
So when the governor says that she's in on this program-that there have been meetings, there's been testimony, the information is out there, it's been very public, you would say --

>>Tim Bee:
Well, that's not the perspective at the legislature that those meetings really haven't occurred. At least not in our arenas, and I think it's important that those happen.

>>Ted Simons:
Ok, A.I.M.s testing, should grades supplement A.I.M.s scores?

>>Tim Bee:
The legislature did pass a bill this year which I supported to do that. I guess I have never been really fond of high stakes exit testing to begin with. My personal preference is if you are trying to measure the progress of a student that the student needs to know at the end of each year whether or not they're making progress. You don't wait until they're almost done with high school to say oops, guess what, you are not going to make it because you didn't get what you needed along the way. Certainly there are other ways of measuring student progress, and teachers have a lot of discretion over that as students pass tests every year, and they achieve grades so I think a certain level of augmentation is appropriate but ultimately I believe Arizona needs to review what it is doing with the A.I.M.s test and needs to look at moving more to grade level testing so that we know students are progressing on an annual basis.

>>Ted Simons:
How do we know teachers are progressing? I know you sponsored a teacher performance pay bill.

>>Tim Bee:
Yes, this year I'm sponsoring a bill that will -you deal with the whole career ladder problem in Arizona. It's an issue I have worked on since I was first down at the legislature. It's been one where we as a state prior to -- many, many years ago, began a career ladder program that allowed teachers to progress in their education and performance and to receive additional compensation for making progress. Well, we didn't open it up to all districts, and so right now there are a large number of districts in Arizona that do not have the opportunity to participate in that program. It creates competition between the districts where teachers may choose to go to one or the other based on potential future pay. I felt it was important that we move toward a system that opens it up and makes it fair to all teachers across the state. So my bill would have a five year implementation of a plan to create a performance pay system. Career ladder districts could choose to opt into it if they so desire. It moves away from property tax reliance, in those districts, and moves to general fund support. So, it is going to take a few years to implement that, but I'm optimistic that we will get it through.

>>Tim Bee:
It will be very exciting to have that.

>>Ted Simons:
Well, it's good to have you on the program. Thank you so much for joining us.

>>Tim Bee:
Thank you. My pleasure.

>>Ted Simons:
"Newsweek" magazine has ranked the BASIS charter school in Tucson as the nation's top public high school. We'll hear from one of the schools' founders in a moment but first, here is what Mike Sauceda learned about the basis teaching philosophy during a visit to the Scottsdale campus a year ago.

>>Basis Charter teacher:
Temperature reflects the average kinetic energy of the gas.

>>Mike Sauceda:
This is BASIS Middle School in Scottsdale. Two-hundred fifty students attend the 5th through 8th grade school in North Scottsdale. Basis Middle school is one of three schools founded by former University of Arizona Economics Professor Michael Block and his wife Olga, also an economist from what is now the Czech Republic. Sheri Pierce is the school's director. She says the basis schools teach using a blend of Asian and European methods.

>>Sheri Pierce:
The curriculum is based on--the founders wanted a school that was at world standards so they took a blend of the Asian and the European style and has an American flare. So, what we're trying to create in the classroom is that the students will have a strong knowledge base, factual base, but at the same time when they get older, they will be able to critically think about ideas, they will have a love of learning. They will thrive on knowledge, and so to build that atmosphere we have curriculums that is very factual based. There's a lot to know in that subject. Each teacher creates their own curriculum, so we place a lot of responsibility on the teacher to develop the curriculum.

>>Teacher:
So make your finishing touches on it, please. Remember this is silent time.

>>Mike Sauceda:
The school is a public charter school so it's open to everyone, but it has a tough curriculum, which is explained and demonstrated to students and parents.

>>Sheri Pierce:
We have open enrollment to a certain date. So as long as the parents usually are advocates-- we don't really advertise. You have to hear about our school, and the parents come, and the first thing we do is take them on a tour and actually take them into the classroom. We want them to see what our school is about and the tour talks about our program, and then we also have their child come and shadow for a day. They go a complete day to all of the classes, meet the teachers meet the students to make sure it is a good fit for them, and then we do a series of open houses so the parents are more informed about our program. And then if they decide, usually it's in June, that they want to join basis, they've already gone through this process where they have learned a lot about our school before they make that decision.

>>Ted Simons:
Joining me to talk about the top ranked basis high school in Tucson is Dr. Michael Block, Cofounder and Chairman of BASIS Schools. Thanks for being on the program. We appreciate it, and congratulations, by the way.

>>Michael Block:
Thank you. Thank you for having me on the program.

>>Ted Simons:
Talk to us about basis schools. How did the idea get started?

>>Michael Block:
Well, ten years ago, my wife and I, Olga, started this school in Tucson. That's the school that is award-winning this year, and it began really as an idea of our bringing to Arizona really world standard education. The United States is often sort of pinged for having a relatively poor K-12 education. My wife came here ten years -- 12 years ago now, enrolled her daughter in middle school, actually in Scottsdale at the time, and was astounded at two things. One, the lack of content on the negative side, and on the positive side, the sort of inquisitiveness of the students, the openness of the school, but she really thought it missed something that she was used to in central Europe. So, our idea was to take what content is taught in Europe and in Asia and marry it with really the innovative nature of American schools and to create really an academic powerhouse here in Tucson, Arizona.

>>Ted Simons:
So in real terms, in terms of what is taught during a day, what differs between your school and a public high school that we would be most familiar with?

>>Michael Block:
Well, the high school -- the curriculum is oriented entirely around the advanced placement courses and advanced placement exams, which are exams created by college boards, same people who give us S.A.T. It's very high level. This is the highest level of American education possible. Every major subject that the students take is only available in advance placement. So it's much more rigorous than a normal high school, and we require more time. They take seven subjects a day, and they are real subjects. There are no study halls. Essentially no easy courses in the school. So it is academic. It is really pure academics.

>>Ted Simons:
Do you pay teachers more than we see in other public schools?

>>Michael Block:
We pay differently, and I'd like to say we pay smarter. It is true in our Scottsdale school we probably pay a little more because we have a private fund-raising campaign there, but we don't have that yet in Tucson. We will eventually have it, but we pay smarter. We pay bonuses for essentially teacher accomplishments, that is teachers who really are good at adding value to students' education are rewarded for it. We have a very complicated and well worked out bonus structure.

>>Ted Simons:
It looks as though the Tucson school has little, if any, in the way of E.L.L. students and students from disadvantaged backgrounds, correct?

>>Michael Block:
Well, not correct on disadvantaged backgrounds because we don't really know. We don't serve hot lunches so we don't ask about family income. If you will notice in the "Newsweek" ranking, under percentage free and reduced lunch, we have an n.a., we just don't ask it so we can't report it. Now, I know when I look at the parking lot, it is a lot different than the Scottsdale parking lot. We have students from every zip code in Tucson at that school. It is in the middle of Tucson, it's not in a particularly posh area.

>>Ted Simons:
With other schools with maybe a little bit more in the way of diversity, especially with the E.L.L. factor thrown in there, can those schools learn from what basis is doing, or is basis focused to where the great mass of schools just simply can't get on that level?

>>Michael Block:
Well, it's probably the reverse case, in that there are probably a few schools maybe who can't learn something from basis, but I think a lot of schools can, and it is the single-minded focus on academics. That is the magic in basis is that we're single-mindedly focused on academic achievement of our students. It is not that our students are necessarily brighter or more privileged than other students, it's that they work harder, and they work a lot harder, they work as hard as students in private or independent schools in the big metropolitan areas of the country. One thing you learn when you get in this business students in exclusive private schools they work harder than public school students. They do four hours of homework a night in high school. That's what our students do.

>>Ted Simons:
Alright. Well, thank you for joining us and again congratulations on the recognition.


>>Michael Block:
Thank you very much.

>>
The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled on lethal injection and a voter I.D. law out of Indiana. It still has some big cases to deal with including one on gun rights. Join ASU law professors for a Supreme Court review Thursday on "Horizon." And that is it for now. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Ted Simons. You have a great evening.

>>
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