“Even before the results of the Prop. 123 special election were known, teachers, students, parents and community members came together at the #NowItStarts rally at the state capitol on Thursday afternoon to focus on the serious funding issues Arizona schools face Arizonans are ready to discuss concrete steps for further investments in public schools, said The Rev. Martha Seaman with Valley Interfaith Project.
“The relentless pattern of disinvestment has to stop,” Seaman said at the rally.
“The future of our families and our shared prosperity requires strong schools.,” Seaman said. “We can’t have a viable economy without a high level of education. It’s the best investment we can make. We can’t tax break ourselves into prosperity.””
In photo, Rev. Martha Seaman with VIP speaks on the Capitol lawn. Behind her are Jessica Johnson (VIP) and Christine Marsh (Arizona Educational Foundation’s 2016 Teacher of the Year) along with VIP organizer Joe Rubio.
[Excerpt below from Oped by Rev. Martha Seaman and Rabbi John Linder of VIP]
“As the Prop 123 election draws to a close and sentiment around it is more polarized, we need to underscore the importance of its passage. While admittedly imperfect, it does provide a way to get beyond the long-standing school inflation lawsuit.
We wish the agreement provided more than 72% of what the schools are owed. We’d also prefer that the dollars came directly from the General Fund rather than the State Land Trust and that it would omit seemingly arbitrary spending ceilings. But Arizona has dug such a deep hole for education funding for over three decades that our schools need an immediate infusion of funds, particularly to pay teachers long overdue raises….
The proposition can be a constructive first step—if it is connected to a plan…”
VIP leaders hand delivered a letter signed by 81 Arizona clergy, asking Gov. Ducey to reinstate KidsCare for 30,000 uninsured children. The legislature is set to debate and pass the state budget any day now, and the KidsCare measure needs to be included to allow for KidsCare to resume. There will be no cost to the state general fund.
One hundred Valley Interfaith Project leaders from Legislative District 28, North Phoenix and Paradise Valley, gathered Feb 11 for a Civic Academy on state education finance.
VIP Leaders taught in detail fiscal constraints the state has placed on public education over the past 40 years, when once ranked in upper half of states for per pupil spending.
Special Guests in attendance were State Superintendent of Education, Diane Douglas, Legislators Kate Brophy McGee and Eric Meyer, Paradise Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Jim Lee, and the Morrison Institute’s Dan Hunting.
VIP leaders taught about the mounting legislative threats to public school funding: universal Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, phasing out of desegregation funds, and the quiet change to current year funding in the past budget cycle. All of which threaten to undo he progress proposed by Proposition 123, a negotiated settlement to partially restore withheld state inflation funding.
Four hundred Valley Interfaith Project leaders crowded into Scottsdale United Methodist church Nov. 5 to discuss state school finance with four area legislators.
This action came on the heels of a much publicized legal settlement to reinstate a portion of the inflation factor funds that were withheld from schools during the budget cutting of the recession. VIP sought commitments from legislators to move the needle and push Arizona per pupil funding up to the national average. The state ranks 49th in student spending, and the recently announced settlement will move the state up to … 48th.
Legislators in attendance were Representatives Kate Brophy McGee and Eric Meyer, along with Senators John Kavanagh and Adam Driggs.
VIP leaders also launched a voter education campaign that will extend into the spring and summer of 2016.
Jessica Johnson shows the disparities in Arizona per pupil funding compared to the national average.
A packed house of 150 leaders attended VIP’s Civic Academy to learn the intricacies of the state’s Education Finance Crisis. VIP Leader Jessica Johnson taught the VIP Budget Civic Academy and Rick Marhle, VIP Leader from Paradise Valley United Methodist Church moderated an in-depth conversation between Andrew Morrill, President of the Arizona Education Association, and Michael Hunter, Vice President for state and fiscal affairs at the Goldwater Institute.
Martha Sheffield, of Paradise Valley United Methodist Church, comparing her experiences working in IBM and the Public School system.
Rick Marhle moderates a discussion between the Goldwater Institute’s Michael Hunter (standing) and Andrew Morrill of the Arizona Education Association.
Leaders from the Scottsdale cluster of Valley Interfaith Project gathered at Scottsdale United Methodist Church in a local follow up session to a larger leaders meeting in June. In photo, Rony Assali of the Scottsdale Education Association recounts the work in the recent Scottsdale School District override election and the need to build on that success in the fall.
Valley Interfaith Project leaders in western Maricopa County gathered in El Mirage on August 15th for a regional leaders training session on local organizing. Leaders from predominantly Hispanic/Latino churches, schools, and community groups studied the importance of institutions in public life and then engaged in careful listening to pressures on families in house meetings. The group strategized work for a school district override measure on the November ballot, and they are planning for house meeting campaigns as well as research actions around secondary and post-secondary education.
Over 100 Valley Interfaith Project leaders from 38 institutions, joined by sister organizations from Yuma and Prescott, gathered in Phoenix June 13 to launch strategies for summer and fall organizing.
The assembly reflected upon the importance of organizing within local institutions and reviewed the new Arizona State Budget and 2015 legislative process. This entailed hearing directly from the leaders involved in VIP’s weekly legislative presence at the Capitol this past spring. These leaders shared stories from the just-finished legislative session, particularly noting what they experienced during the budget negotiations which were passed with a minimum of citizen input or public deliberation.
Dividing themselves geographically by legislative districts, leaders then studied the shifting demographics, voting patterns, and electoral challenges in their respective legislative districts; the study served as a foundation to the tailoring of non-partisan organizing strategies geared toward fall 2016. These cluster strategy teams committed to a summer/fall strategy for local organizing efforts around school district override and bond measures, prison reform, workforce development, and quality affordable healthcare access.
Rep. Doug Coleman addresses VIP leaders at Fall Assembly.
Two hundred Valley Interfaith Project delegates assembled after the fall election to celebrate the raising of $26.6 Million in public school dollars for Tempe Elementary and Scottsdale Unified School Districts. Leaders achieved this by successfully passing local school override measures.
Key legislative allies in attendance vowed to to protect Medicaid expansion, re-connect public school funding to inflation and advance new legislation for Respite Care, all part of VIP’s 2015 Human Development agenda.