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.
Rabbi Linder was honored last week by the Anti-Defamation League’s ‘Al’ Brooks Community Leadership Award. This is fitting recognition of Rabbi’s extensive work in the interfaith community over the past eight years.
Valley Interfaith Project leaders challenged Arizona legislative candidates for Districts 23 and 28 to commit to supporting Medicaid expansion, schools, and increased funding for education and workforce development in a meeting that drew 250. District 23 includes most of Scottsdale, Fountain Hills and Rio Verde. District 28 covers much of northern Phoenix, Paradise Valley and sections of Scottsdale. [Photo Credit: Edward Gately, The Republic]
Most of the candidates committed to supporting VIP’s three-point agenda. Those that participated in the assembly include: Rep. John Kavanaugh (District 23), Jeff Schwartz and Paula Pennypacker; Effie Carlson, Jay Lawrence, and Bob Littefield; and Michelle Ugenti. District 28 candidates included Senator Adam Driggs and Kelli Butler; and House candidates Rep. Eric Meyer, Rep. Kaye Brophy-McGee and Mary Hamway. See article below for specific responses.
VIP’s Leaders Summer Seminars zeroed in on the state of Arizona and whether the Arizona’s economy is a model of free enterprise or crony capitalism. The sessions covered budgets, lobbyists, rent seeking and dark money, and were held in preparation for VIP’s Fall organizing public engagement strategy.
VIP leader Monica Dorcey testified at a Maricopa Community College District board meeting to support increasing local investment in the community colleges — part of a larger economic development strategy for the region. ”These community colleges are the best driver of economic development that we have,” said Dorcey, who is also a member of the board of Arizona Career Pathways, a non-profit job-training program that has a partnership with the community colleges.
“If you don’t have a skilled workforce you’re not going to have an economic recovery for everybody.”