Having attended the same Jan. 16 Payson Tea Party meeting as Mr. Aleshire, I thought I would offer my perspective. (See http://www.paysonroundup.com/news/2014/jan/22/lawmaker-peppered-questions-about-education/.)
First, I doubt that Rep. Barton felt “peppered” with questions or that she was surprised by them. Tea Party members are well informed and routinely ask more of their legislators than, “What’s your favorite color?”
(The photo in your article, by the way, was taken over six months ago at a legislative water hearing held at Town Hall.)
Even the most prepared elected official can’t read minds or know what citizens will ask. Mr. Aleshire, on the other hand, after six days of research, managed to find a few numbers. We do know that the amount of state funding for education, including K-12, community colleges, and universities, comes to 60 percent of the total state budget. When Health and Human Services is factored in, there is little left over for other necessities such as roads and state parks.
Last week in “Governor still links scores, funding,” Mr. Aleshire provided his readers with a table showing that Arizona ranks 47th nationally, spending $7,666/student annually.
I’m never impressed with the notion that more money equals better quality. The biggest spender on Mr. Aleshire’s chart is New York state, which spends $19,076 annually per student. So, does this mean that if we increase spending by 148 percent per student, we, too can be on the same par as the Bronx and Brooklyn? It isn’t the amount of money you throw at education, it’s how you spend it. Mr. Aleshire knows this.
Something Mr. Aleshire also failed to point out is that Rep. Barton explained to the audience that virtually every state in the United States owns most of its land. Thus, most other states are able to collect multi-millions more in property tax revenues. New York owns about 90 percent of its land. Arizona owns less than 17 percent. Gila County owns even less, about 4 percent. Mr. Aleshire compares apples with lemons. Perhaps he can join the fight in getting our lands back!
Perhaps he will stand with small businesses and fight to reduce unnecessary regulations, building codes, and other government handcuffs.
Let’s clarify two other misconceptions of Mr. Aleshire and his adherents: Charter schools in Arizona are public schools, and “First Things First” maintains a surplus of hundreds of millions of dollars. It is far above and beyond its average annual operating expenses. This is taxpayer money doing nothing. Is it unreasonable to ask “First Things First” to open its enormous coffers and help the children of Arizona who are in harm’s way by partially funding some of the reforms needed by CPS? Or is $45 million not worth their safety in Mr. Aleshire’s view?
And lastly, a technical correction to Mr. Aleshire regarding last year’s water augmentation legislation.
Quoting Mr. Aleshire, “… an attempt last year to establish a series of regional water authority agencies that would gain power to prevent the diversion of water into other areas ....”
House bill 2338 would have allowed over-arching, regional, quasi-governmental public/private water authorities the ability to move water from one region to another if the owner of the water, the owner of the right of way, and the entity receiving the water agreed to the terms of the transfer. The water could be leased, for example, between rural areas with a surplus of water by a water interest in an urban area where new sources of water are needed. Such a regional quasi-governmental agency with an un-elected board would have had powers of eminent domain.
Were these minor details intentionally overlooked when Mr. Aleshire wrote the above quote? Inquiring minds want to know.
Are Mr. Aleshire and the Payson Roundup interested in pursuing the truth, or are they more interested in promoting their own progressive agenda?
Editor’s Note: Of the 14 questions Rep. Barton fielded after her remarks, 57 percent (eight) dealt with education or First Things First, hence the headline. The article plus an earlier story on the state budget quoted her extensively and described the bills she wants to introduce and her views on Child Protective Services and education funding. The earlier article reported the First Things First surplus and her view that the state can’t afford to spend as much as other states on education because the federal government owns so much of the land here. The Roundup also gave prominent coverage last year to the hearings she chaired on water authorities. We do try to fully and accurately report the views of elected officials and as much truth as we can puzzle out. Near as I know, I’m without either adherents or a progressive agenda — unless wanting good schools qualifies as a progressive agenda.