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The Legislative Session Has Come to an End. Here’s What Happened.

A missed opportunity.

After one of the longest legislative sessions in the past decade, lawmakers approved a $11.8 billion budget on Memorial Day. The budget included a few increases for education, including $136 million for textbooks, transportation, etc. and $20 million for school safety; and, it ensured the second installment of the teacher pay raise plan “20 by 2020.”

But this is far from the funding needed to reverse the current teacher crisis.

We had a billion dollar surplus. Imagine if we took this higher than expected revenue to speed up the promised future increases. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the path our legislators chose.

Instead, the budget includes $240 million in tax cuts, as well as a large contribution to the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

More than half of Arizona voters said they are not likely to re-elect their local State Senator or Representative if they voted to cut taxes instead of increasing education funding. Which makes sense, considering 88% of Arizonans believe there is a need for additional funding for our public schools.

Our legislators knew this, yet they still decided to cut taxes instead of providing our schools with desperately needed funding. This type of politics is why our schools remain underfunded. School funding continues to be a political football, but it shouldn’t be.

New Census Bureau figures show that per-pupil spending in Arizona’s public schools was fourth-lowest in the nation in 2017. Our public schools deserve a source of long-term, predictable, accountable, and sustainable funding that will raise student achievement. One-time fixes and gimmicks aren’t working. We need to do what’s right.

Big legislative wins.

Stand for Children championed several important bills this session that were signed into law. We are proud of our engaged members who took action and contacted their representatives. In the end, we delivered 2,862 messages to lawmakers.

ELL - Earlier this legislative session, Governor Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill 1014 into law, reinventing the landscape for students to learn English faster. At the time, there was plenty of skepticism about the proposition. However, it laid the groundwork for a 2020 ballot measure that would completely repeal Prop 203, Arizona’s education “English-only Law”. We will be supporting this ballot measure in the 2020 election.

Protecting childhood sexual abuse survivors - House Bill 2466, the common-sense law authored by Senator Boyer increased the statute of limitations for victims to sue their abusers up to age 30. The reality is that Arizona is one of the worst states in the country for victims and one of the best states for perpetrators to come live and prey on children.

This bill extends protections for childhood sexual abuse survivors by giving them the time they deserve to come forward. It also ensures that perpetrators are held accountable.

Childcare grant for working families - House Bill 2125 reduces the out-of-pocket costs for thousands of working parents struggling to make ends meet by investing federal funds in child care scholarships. In past years, the state of Arizona had left $56 million unspent in new annual federal child care funding, but HB 2125 by Rep. Udall and a mirror bill by Senator Brophy McGee (SB 1242) will bring back those funds to Arizona at no expense to the state.

Crucial criminal justice bill still on the Governor’s desk.

At Stand for Children Arizona, we view criminal justice policy as education policy. SB 1334 will help end the incarceration crisis by making sensible and just changes to our “repetitive offender” laws. Under current law, people with multiple charges on the same case — even if those charges happened within hours of each other — can be sentenced as "repetitive offenders.” This means that people can receive a much more severe sentence as a “repetitive offender,” despite having never been convicted of a crime before then. As a result, people stay in prison longer than needed, even though rehabilitation would cost less and be more effective.

We believe the savings could be used for education instead, and help combat the school to prison pipeline. SB 1334 is a step in the right direction to make it happen. We hope Governor Ducey signs it into law.

We hope you enjoyed this edition of In The Trenches. This legislative session may be over, but there’s still work to do. We will keep you posted in the coming months.

Warmly,  

Rebecca, Stacey, Martin, Liliana, Katherine, Blythe, and Georgina
The Stand for Children Arizona Team

 

Stand for Children is a non-profit education advocacy organization focused on ensuring all students receive a high quality, relevant education, especially those whose boundless potential is overlooked and under-tapped because of their skin color, zip code, first language, or disability.

In order to fulfill our mission, Stand for Children, Inc., our 501(c)4 organization, performs all advocacy and lobbying activities while the Stand for Children Leadership Center, our 501(c)3 organization, manages our parent and family education and engagement programs as well as Stand’s public awareness campaigns.
 
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