PHOENIX – Near-worst-in-the-nation rankings for early childhood education, poverty, hunger and school funding cuts. State agencies out of control and unable to protect the most vulnerable Arizonans. Discriminatory state laws that continue to divide Arizonans even as neighboring states embrace equality.
Gov. Jan Brewer will paint a rosy and self-congratulatory picture of Arizona’s economic recovery in today’s State of the State address. But facts and research show that progress in Arizona is being impeded by Tea Party conservatives in the Legislature and Brewer’s inability to lead.
“Hopefully Governor Brewer doesn’t sprain her shoulder patting herself on the back today, but the facts paint a different picture,” said Robbie Sherwood, executive director of ProgressNow Arizona. “Yes, the governor did support Obamacare through Medicaid expansion, which was the right thing to do. But there are so many other issues in Arizona that need attention. Tea Party extremists continue to control the Legislative agenda, and Governor Brewer has been too busy trying to keep her administration from coming apart at the seams to do anything about it.”
Arizona is a state where a woman’s right to choose and access to reproductive healthcare has been severely damaged by an extremist political agenda, which has closed more women’s health clinics in Arizona than anywhere in the United States outside of Texas. It is also disgraceful that Arizona is still not a place where anyone can marry the person they love, despite an historic Supreme Court ruling that has resulted in federally recognized same-sex marriages in neighboring New Mexico and Utah – UTAH! The current political majority stands in the way of equality and on the wrong side of history, Sherwood said.
And the current administration and political majority is being needlessly cruel to DREAMers, who are culturally American and only want to contribute their considerable talents to our society and economy. Gov. Jan Brewer and the extremists in the legislature are still pandering to disgraced and discredited immigration hardliners like Russell Pearce, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Andy Thomas by using DREAMers as a punching bag.
Below are a few nationwide rankings that paint the real story of what should be Arizona’s legislative priorities:
- Only four states have a higher poverty rate than Arizona.
- Arizona Ranked third in the nation for depth of education cuts in 2013. This is a slight improvement from the previous year when Arizona’s cuts were the deepest in the nation, but lawmakers added back less funding to schools than other states despite improving revenues.
- Arizona has cut funding for higher education by more than 50 percent, the deepest cuts in the nation. Arizona universities have also, along with California, raised university tuition by more than 70 percent. This puts our ability to compete in a global economy squarely at risk.
- Arizona still has far too many hungry children. Arizona is the worst state in the nation for children experiencing food insecurity.
- More than two thirds of Arizona children ages 3-4 are not enrolled in preschool, the second worst percentage in the nation. Kids who enter kindergarten after attending high-quality preschools are more likely to graduate from high school and earn higher incomes than those who don’t.
- More than 212,000 Arizona children have been impacted by home foreclosures. Arizona has the third highest rate, with only Nevada and Florida children hit harder.
The Top 10 State Government Fails of 2013
10. Arizona’s popular State Veterans Dept. head Joey Strickland was fired for disobeying Gov. Brewer when he hired a controversial politically connected junior staffer.
9. The head of the Naturopathic and Acupuncture boards had to resign after being criminally charged for illegally selling medical marijuana.
8. Eyebrows shot up all across the state when it was revealed that Arizona’s rapidly expanding private prison industry is guaranteed occupancy and profits, and costs more than state-run prisons.
7. Arizona Game and Fish chief resigned under fire after multiple sexual harassment accusations.
6. The State Medical Board Executive Director was fired after a scathing audit accused her of violating multiple state laws and regulations.
5. The head of Department of Executive Clemency – which is the easiest job in Arizona government because Brewer doesn’t want anybody to get clemency ever – nevertheless had to resign in disgrace after several instances of inappropriate behavior.
4. Arizona was one of the states hit the hardest by the crash of the housing market. The Obama Administration sent $268 million to help Arizonans in danger of foreclosure – over three years ago. Arizona’s Department of Housing has only spent 6 percent, and a large portion of that on administration rather than assistance for struggling homeowners.
3. Arizona’s State Forestry Division garnered a record half-million-dollar fine for oversight mistakes it made during the Yarnell Hill Fire that killed 19 firefighters.
2. Twenty one members of the Arizona Air National Guard have been indicted for falsifying records to receive extra pay. This after investigations in 2012 revealed “systemic criminal and ethical misconduct” in the National Guard.
1. And the “champion,” more than 6,000 cases of alleged child abuse and neglect were not investigated by Child Protective Services since 2009. Given the quick hook that Governor Brewer has had for so many of her other troubled state agency chiefs, she has so far stood by embattled CPS Director Clarence Carter.
“Conservatives control the House, Senate, all statewide offices and the Governor’s office,” Sherwood said. “Over and over again these politicians have run on the far-right Tea Party platform that government does not work. And when they have gotten elected they have proven it with their inept leadership. Perhaps it’s time to drain the swamp.”
For more information, contact Robbie Sherwood at ProgressNow Arizona at 480-246-7944.
Furthermore, without a massive injection of funds for the new Division of Child Welfare, Brewer's latest effort to divert attention away from her administration's failures cannot possibly make things better for the Arizona children currently at risk of abuse and neglect.
All indicators showing the progress in bringing Arizona families out of poverty and the kinds of stressful situations that foster abuse and neglect are less than encouraging right now. The only hope is for a genuine change in the direction of state government and public policy. That will only come as the people of Arizona (the VOTERS) rise up and demand political leaders represent the interests of every Arizona family.