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.
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.
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.