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.
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.
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.
Honoring Rabbi John Linder, Temple Solel, Anti-Defamation League
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.
Legislative Candidates Sign Off of on Interfaith Group’s Agenda, The Arizona Republic
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.”
Maricopa College District Raises Property Taxes, The Republic
After learning about the successes of sister organization Nevadans for the Common Good (NCG) in better protecting young people from sex-trafficking, VIP and Arizona Interfaith Network leaders began hearing similar stories about minors targeted for human trafficking and how Arizona had become a major hub for the human trafficking industry. This became even more important with Phoenix hosting the upcoming 2015 Super Bowl, an event notorious for attracting the sex trade.
VIP organized a series of Civic Academies at local congregations where guest legislators spoke publicly for the first time to large audiences who were incredulous to learn that needed legislation to assist law enforcement had been bottled up repeatedly in the house judiciary committee. These sessions galvanized a renewed effort throughout Metro Phoenix to protect vulnerable children and victims of human trafficking.
VIP became an early supporter for legislation increasing minimum penalties for sex trafficking of minors and worked with a number of key allies in law enforcement, business, and the non-profit sector to push for HB 2454, which would more than double the penalty for a child-prostitution conviction from 10 years to 24 years in prison, and make pimping a racketeering offense. Governor Jan Brewer signed the legislation last year.
In photo, Rabbi John Linder, Rev. Jayne Baker, Rev. Martha Seaman, Carolyn Jean Jones, Canon Ray Dugan and VIP Vice-President Dave Ryan stand with Governor Jan Brewer and Cindy McCain at the bill signing.
State’s Anti-Trafficking Law Called a Model, Jewish News