Category: Education (page 1 of 3)

2016 Legislative Wrap Up

Over this past weekend, the Arizona Legislature adjourned the 2016 legislative session!

I am proud to report we enacted both good public policy and a fiscally responsible budget. We began to reinvest in education by increasing funding for our schools. We prioritized K-12 education funding and ensured schools were protected from formula funding changes in last year’s budget that would have left them short changed. We increased university funding, restored JTED funding and incentivized excellence in education.

We increased funding to child safety and public safety, tackled pension reform, embraced the sharing economy, and we passed KidsCare – providing health insurance to 30,000 uninsured children at no cost to Arizona.

Most importantly, we were able to invest in these programs while protecting Arizona taxpayers.

I hope to build on this progress next year. But first, I need your help to get re-elected. Please help me qualify for the 2016 ballot by signing my electronic nominating petition. Must be registered Republican or Independent and live in LD15 Click here to see a map of LD 15. It is safe, secure, and only takes a minute.

Thank you for your continued support,


Ariz. House rejects HB 2291

Mary Jo Pitzl, The Republic

Calling it a “step too far,” lawmakers in the Arizona House of Representatives rejected a bill Thursday that would have expanded taxpayer-funded scholarships for private schooling to thousands of children.

House Bill 2291 went down to a 31-27 defeat after more than two hours of debate about school choice and its effect on Arizona’s public-school system.

“This legislation gives low-income students an opportunity to improve their education,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, said as she tried to muster support for what are called Empowerment Scholarship Accounts.

The bill would have allowed parents of children who live in low-income ZIP codes to apply for a scholarship account. The scholarship, funded by tax dollars, is worth about $4,800 and is already being used by 689 students this year. The money can be spent on private-school tuition, tutoring or online instruction or be saved for college tuition.

Figures varied wildly about how many children would be covered under the expansion envisioned in HB 2291. Lesko put the figure at 120,000 students; Democrats argued that it was closer to 400,000. However, the program is capped at 5,600 new students a year, another point of spirited debate.

“It (the cap) can be set this year, changed next year,” said Rep. Bruce Wheeler, D-Tucson and the assistant House minority leader. “That is no assurance whatsoever that the number of people eligible for this program will be contained.”

Legislative budget analysts estimated the program would have cost the state $1 million in its first year and nearly $3 million by 2019.

Lesko’s bill would have opened up the program to children who live in ZIP codes where the average household income is $44,123 a year for a family of four, or 185 percent of federal poverty level.

Supporters said it would have allowed parents to choose the best educational option for their child if they were not happy with the choices offered by public or charter schools. Critics argued that the program lacked any accountability, such as testing to gauge students’ academic achievement. And, they added, Arizona already offers an array of school choices, although most are in urban areas.

Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, was one of nine Republicans to vote against the bill. She noted that open-enrollment charter schools and the state’s school-tuition organizations provide lots of choice. But the scholarships, enacted in the name of helping low-income students, are “a step too far,” she said. “We are driving taxpayer dollars into a system of private schools,” she said. “If I want to send my daughter to a private school, and I can’t afford it, I can go and apply for a tuition tax credit.”

Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, switched his vote to “no” in the closing minute of debate to give him the option of bringing the bill back for reconsideration. He has until Monday to make such a request.


Our View: Heather Carter Representing her district

The Herald

If Sierra Vista charter schools continue to receive special state funding, one significant reason will be due to the efforts of State Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek.

After the Senate Appropriations Committee passed SB1494 on Tuesday — a bill to prevent charter schools from having access to both state shared K-12 and special charter school funds — Carter prepared an amendment to remove the legislation and headed an effort to hold up House approval of the state budget.

Working with many of the same Republicans who pushed Gov. Jan Brewer’s Medicaid expansion bill through the Legislature, Carter and the moderate coalition have effectively prevented a majority vote by the House to approve sending the budget on to the governor.

Why did she do it?

One reason is evident: Carter listens and works for constituents in her legislative district.

Carter represents the Paradise Valley Unified School District, which has shifted many of its schools to district charter schools. Like Sierra Vista, the impact of lost state revenue on schools in her home district would be substantial if SB1494 was adopted. The practice of converting public schools to charters began in 2012 when Vail and Cave Creek took advantage of the opportunity to increase per-pupil funding.

Compare that effort to what we’re seeing play out in Cochise County, where State Rep. David Stevens and Sen. Gail Griffin continue to push legislation to increase the size of the county Board of Supervisors.

Despite adamant and public opposition from several city and town councils, bills sponsored by the two Legislative District 14 lawmakers continue to survive in Phoenix. These bills force a referendum on whether the county board should be increased from three to five supervisors, when the county’s population reaches 150,000 residents. Opposition from local civic leaders and organizations has focused on the additional cost that will be paid by Cochise taxpayers, and questioning whether there is a need to fix something that’s not broken.

Considering recent population estimates show a significant decline in the county, the other side of the coin is that it may be some time before there are 150,000 people living here.

Mayo Clinic

Great story about our own Mayo Clinic. You can watch the short segment on YouTube or check out the full version from ABC News.

I am proud to support our local Mayo Clinic and all of the great research, education and physician experience that it brings to our state.

Heather Carter on Horizon, Channel 8

Last week I sat down for an interview with Arizona Horizon to discuss education. You can watch clips from that segment below.

A brief explanation of the need to simplify the system due to No Child Left Behind

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