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Return on Education: What Does the State Land Trust Mean for AZ Schools?

Questions and options about financing K-12 public schools take center stage for Arizona families and employers as the lawsuit over inflation funding continues, the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education tangle over helping schools achieve third grade reading goals, and students across the state begin this new school year with crowded classrooms, teacher shortages, and outdated textbooks and technology.

Today Children’s Action Alliance begins a series of issue briefs to highlight challenges and options in K-12 funding. Our first Return on Education brief focuses on Governor Ducey’s proposal to take a loan from our future by temporarily increasing the amount of funds distributed from the State Land Trust to school budgets.

It is notable that Governor Ducey and legislative leaders from both parties now agree that Arizona schools need increased funding. So far, the “plans” announced by the Governor and by Senate President Biggs and House Speaker Gowan lack any specifics or detail. But neither proposal by itself sets Arizona up for success in achieving our educational goals. Arizonans expect K-12 funding plans that achieve three critical objectives: 1) Adjust annual school budgets to fully reflect rising costs as voters required; 2) Create a long term plan with sustainable funding to match resources with expectations; and 3) Restore investments in our schools today.

At the same time we have been raising expectations for students, teachers and schools we have cut more than $1.1 billion from annual school budgets. We ask our legislators and Governor Ducey to make better budget decisions to fuel third grade reading success, up-to-date textbooks and technology, safe facilities, and exceptional, experienced teachers.

We explain how State Land Trust revenues work for schools here.

Welcome, New Board and Staff Members

It’s an exciting time at CAA, with new leaders joining our board of directors and statewide team.

We are honored to have Mark Kendall from CopperPoint’s legal and regulatory affairs division joining the CAA board. As managing attorney/assistant chief counsel, Mark supervises a staff of litigation attorneys and heads the organization’s special investigation unit. Mark is a longtime Arizonan, earning degrees from all three of Arizona’s public universities. He has served in leadership roles at the State Bar of Arizona, and is past co-president of the Arizona Workers’ Compensation Defense Counsel Association. As a member of Valley Leadership Class 34, Mark helped develop a mentoring program for transitioning foster youth.

Also from the legal field, Cathleen Yu of Quarles & Brady LLP is a new member of the CAA board. Cathleen’s expertise is focused in the area of corporate finance, including securities, mergers and acquisitions, as well as business transactions in health care, education and other sectors. Cathleen earned her law degree from the University of Michigan’s Law School. She is an active community volunteer, investing her free time to help with pro bono law programs at the Maricopa County Bar Association. Additionally, she has volunteered for the Capitol Schools Project , the Arizona Animal Welfare League and other efforts.

We welcome Michelle Crow as director for CAA’s Southern Arizona office, who begins her new role in Tucson this week. Michelle has a great deal of experience working in community relations, establishing and maintaining partnerships throughout the region. Michelle has also worked for Congressman Raul Grijalva, coordinating district constituent outreach and events.

Michelle succeeds David Higuera, who has been a true asset to child advocacy. We wish him the very best in his future endeavors.

Pati Urias joins Children’s Action Alliance as communications specialist, handling writing, social media, press and community engagement. Pati is a lifelong Arizonan who has worked for education, science and health care nonprofit organizations, as well as in state government as a communications and public relations manager over the past 16 years. Prior to that, she was a broadcast journalist and local radio host, focused on social, children’s and minority issues.

Arizona’s Education Funding is Short-Changing Our State’s Children

Despite assertions that Arizona is spending more on K-12 education than ever, budget numbers released by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) this week don’t bear that out.

When adjusted for inflation, the data shows less is being spent per student now than nine years ago. The current amount from federal, state and local dollars is $7,711, compared with $9,438 in FY 2007. This works out to nearly a quarter less now than then.

Arizona students are being shortchanged, and with 72% of 4th graders in this state scoring below proficient in reading and 69% of 8th graders below grade level in math (2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, U. S. Dept of Education), there is clearly a need for more resources in our schools. Insufficient funding places an unfair burden on our kids to do better academically as the governor and legislature slash K-12 budgets. Such drastic cuts force students to make do with outdated technology, overcrowded classrooms, teacher shortages, a lack of reading programs and other issues that can radically affect their ability to learn.

JLBC K-12 education spending

Stay tuned for more information and what you can do to push for better resources for K-12 schools. Arizona children need your voice to support a higher quality of life for them and their families.

The full version of the JLBC report can be found here.

DCS changing methods of child investigations

Be Heard Now on Proposed Changes to AHCCCS

You have an opportunity to be heard on an issue of importance to Arizona’s children: A waiver request that would have a major impact on how health services are delivered to Arizona’s low income families.

In the coming weeks, there are hearings on Governor Ducey’s recently proposed plans to change the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), where you can learn more, ask questions and express your concerns. The governor’s Modernizing Arizona Medicaid plan, proposes to put time limitations on coverage and impose co-pays and other requirements on AHCCCS recipients. A brief summary of the AHCCCS CARE program is available here.

sick little girl
The AHCCCS forum schedule this week is as follows:

Phoenix

When: Tuesday, August 18

Session 1: 12:30pm – 2:30pm

Session 2: 3:00pm – 5:00pm

Where: Disability Empowerment Center (DEC)

5025 E. Washington St., Ste. 200

Yuma County

When: Thursday, August 20

10:00am – 12:00pm

Where: Regional Center for Border Health, 2nd Floor Conference Room

214 W. Main St., Somerton

Flagstaff

When: Friday, August 21

10:00am – 12:00pm (Tribal Consultation)

1:00pm – 3:00pm

Where:  Flagstaff Medical Center, McGee Auditorium

1200 N. Beaver St.

 

If you are unable to attend, public comments may be submitted via email at PublicInput@AzAHCCCS.gov

Comments may also be mailed by postal mail to:

AHCCCS c/o Office of Intergovernmental Relations

801 E. Jefferson Street, Mail Drop 4200

Phoenix, AZ 85034

 

Thank you for all you do on behalf of Arizona’s children.

Ducey’s Medicaid reform plan raises questions, concerns

My Turn: Three ways to improve child safety in Arizona

Child-welfare proposal would loosen investigation standard

Arizona child safety-agency may loosen rules on investigations

State Has Real Opportunity to Fix DCS

After new laws and funding for additional staff, none of the measures of success for the Department of Child Safety (DCS) look better today than they did last June when the agency was created. DCS is still struggling to manage its workload, too many children are being taken into foster care, and there is far too much time and trauma before children are connected with safe and permanent homes. You can review the data in these charts.

dcs strategic plan final enews versionDCS recently released a new plan with five strategic goals, which you can read here.

The state legislature and Governor Ducey now have a chance to focus their leadership on three essential steps that can move this plan from words on a page to real life changes for children and families.

First, DCS must increase the use of in-home services to help parents get back on track with counseling, timelines, support, and monitoring. While foster care is clearly necessary at times, child welfare research concludes that children can be safe and have better long-term outcomes if they remain with their families and have the support of in-home services.

Second, DCS must develop clear and consistent decision-making criteria and protocols throughout the agency. No changes in state law will keep children safer until the DCS team has good tools and clear direction for the key decisions they make about investigating child abuse and neglect, removing children and placing them into foster care, returning them home, and closing cases.

Third, policymakers must match the workload with the agency capacity. Until we do, the backlog of unfinished cases will crowd out any chances of success.

It is up to Governor Ducey to lead DCS to success. In February he promised us a new day in child safety. With focused leadership on the three priorities described here, plus the needed human and financial resources, the Governor can reshape DCS into an agency Arizona can count on to handle reports of child abuse and neglect and to keep kids safe.

Ultimately, the biggest success for child safety will come when we expand our focus beyond DCS to prevent reports from ever coming to their door in the first place.