Arizona 360:Pima County Dems and GOP, Ed Ackerley, education funding shortfalls

Arizona 360:Pima County Dems and GOP, Ed Ackerley, education funding shortfalls

September 14, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski


(dramatic music) – [Christopher] Tucson’s
sanctuary city initiative stokes a partisan
divide in Pima county. – There’s a three-legged
stool of disaster. – This is a civil rights
issue for everyone. – [Christopher] Independent
mayoral candidate Ed Ackerley on his campaign and
running without a party. – I’m pulling from
the Democratic side as well as Republican side. – [Christopher] A southern
Arizona school district’s successful approach to
higher graduation rates. – Overall, they end up
being passionate about it rather than intimidated by it. (swelling, dramatic music) – Hello and welcome
to Arizona 360, I’m Christopher Conover
filling in for Lorraine Rivera. Thanks for joining us. Tucson’s election this
November could make history for a few reasons. Voters could elect either
the city’s first female, or the first independent, or the first Green party
candidate as mayor. And voters could also
decide to establish the state’s first sanctuary city with Proposition 205. The latter has its share of outspoken
supporters and critics. In Pima County, the Democratic
and Republican parties positioned themselves on
opposite sides of the issue. We discussed those
differences this week with party chairs Alison
Jones and David Eppihimer. – If I was forced to
make a bet on it today, I would bet against, I don’t
think it will go through, but we, and there will be
a fairly large contingent of people working to defeat it, are not taking
anything for granted and aren’t sitting on our hands. So there’ll be quite an effort to make sure it doesn’t pass. – Alison, from the
Democratic side, do you all see
this going through? – You know, I do think
it’s going to be close. But from talking to the
people who originated the initiative and gathered
all the signatures, they tell me that
people couldn’t wait to sign those petitions. There is an enthusiasm for it, and I believe it’s going
to bring out people who haven’t, in the past,
been exited about voting. They have something they
really feel strongly about and want to vote for. How it will fare, I don’t know. But I think it’s
going to be close. – David, you said the
party will be working with the other groups
who are opposing it. Alison, will the
Democrats be working to get it to pass, or are you going to concentrate
more on the mayoral race? – The Pima County
Democratic Party has passed a resolution in
support of the initiative. So we will be out
there supporting it. Our PCs, our precinct committee
people will be out there meeting their neighbors
and talking about it. We will also be out there for our Democratic
candidates, of course. And we look upon this
as an opportunity to get our PCs mobilized, meeting their neighbors, and doing what we
did successfully in the last election, which
was getting out the vote. – And I think it’s interesting that Alison brought up that the Democrat Executive
Committee is in favor of this, when virtually all Democrat
office holders are against it, including those who are running for office this November. It shows how out of
step the Pima Dems are with the community and with
their own office seekers and office holders. – In fairness, some of the
Democratic office holders or candidates said
their big concern is loss of, potential
loss of revenue from the state and maybe
the federal government if this were to pass. Any concern about
that on your side? – Well, as far as
federal funds go, this has been decided
in a number of courts. And it’s been found that it is not legal to
withhold federal funds based on a sanctuary status. There are dozens of sanctuary
cities already in the US. As far as state funds go, it’s not entirely clear, but I can say this. The fact that this
is an initiative and not a law that will
have been brought forth by the city council, I think makes it a much
stronger statement, and it would be much harder to withhold funds from
the city on that basis. – It’s an interesting
point, David, that this is a
voter-approved initiative, this isn’t the mayor and
council passing something. Do you think that changes– – I don’t think that
changes anything. The governor and the
legislative leaders have made it very clear that
the state shared revenues, a hundred million, 150 million, you hear all sorts of
numbers in that range, will be withheld. And then our
legislators right now putting through legislation
for the next session that will make it
illegal in Arizona to be a sanctuary city, so the lawsuits are
coming if this passes, and it will be years
before it is decided. – But the underlying
question is, does it cross the SB 1070 line, and we believe it does not. The sanctuary initiative
simply draws the line at what local police can do regarding stops and inquiries
about immigration status. It does not do anything to stop federal
immigration officials, it simply keeps
police on their task of public safety
at the city level. – But are Tucson Police
more or less doing that now? And Chief Magnus has
come out against it. – Well, they are doing that
now, they do have these orders. This simply seeks to codify
it and make it more clear. – I don’t, we don’t feel that it has anything to do with 1070, I mean, you hear that
out of the supporters, 1070, 1070, 1070. It’s just bad policy for Tucson. There’s a three-legged
stool of disaster coming to Tucson if
this was to pass, there’s a public
relations disaster, there’s a public
safety disaster, and there’s an economic disaster that’s coming to Tucson,
and on that basis, this should not pass. It’s bad for Tucson and will eventually make
Tucson a ghost town. – Do we really want
our local police to be able to stop people based on the language
they’re speaking, the way they dress, or whether they
have window tinting? This is a civil rights
issue for everyone. If our police are able to
stop people on that basis, we’re all in trouble. – As Chris just noted, Chief Magnus has
already said that his department is not doing
those things currently. Chief Magnus, also a Democrat, also has come out
strongly against this as the wrong thing for Tucson. – We closed out our conversation by shifting the focus
from sanctuary cities to Tucson’s mayoral race between Democrat Regina Romero, Independent Ed Ackerley, and Green Party write-in
candidate Mike Cease. No Republican. Some people say Republicans
are just ceding the city, what’s your reaction? – Nothing could be
further from the truth. We had two candidates for mayor that Kanarsky and Sam Nagy, both were candidates for mayor, they did not get
their signatures. That’s on them. They didn’t get
their signatures. I went out and talked to
quite a few Republicans who live in the city, and talked to them about
running as a write-in, and most of them, in fact
all of them, said no. You know, Republicans are
outnumbered two to one. Republicans who live in the city don’t want to put their
businesses on hold, put their families on hold,
put their life on hold, to go out and get
creamed in the general. So we made a strategic decision not to run a write-in candidate, and leave Republican
voters in the city with the option of voting
for leftist Regina Romero, or vote for a
centerist Ed Ackerley. – Will you also– – [David] We think that was a
very good political decision. – I frankly don’t understand how the small number of signatures needed to get on the ballot couldn’t be met by Republicans, but be that as it may, we had a wonderful primary with three excellent candidates, Ms. Romero prevailed with
over 50 percent of the vote at the end of the count, and the energy behind her
campaign was tremendous. That energy is continuing on, all Democrats are
behind her now, no matter how we
were split up before amongst these three candidates. We are now behind Ms. Romero, and I can’t wait to see
her be our next mayor. – All right, well thank you both for sitting down with us. – Thank you very much. Look forward to meeting
with you after the election. – Yeah, we’d love to come back and re-hash what happened. – Oh, I’m sure this will
be a fun one to talk about. (soft laughter) While the Democrats
vying for mayor spent the last few months
focused on the primary, Ed Ackerley used that time to build support for
the general election. As the only Independent
to qualify for the ballot, he had no primary opponents. But after last week, Ackerley knows who he
will face in November. At his office, we discussed how that shapes his campaign
approach going forward. Ed, you’re running
as an Independent, there are plenty
of people out there who say, Independent
has no chance here, registration numbers,
Democrats have it. Why run as an Independent? – Math. We did the analysis, there are 59,000 Republicans,
80,000 Independents. We put those two
numbers together, it can give a challenge
to the Democrats who have about 120,000, so it’s just a math thing, I’ve put the numbers
together in the right way and have a path to victory, so we would think that would
be a good way to do it. – No Republican on
the mayoral ballot, does that help you in this case? – I think so. I think that I’m
surprisingly pulling people from both sides, and pulling
from the Democratic side as well as Republican side, and certainly that big bulk
of people in the middle, the Independents. – So what’s your
elevator speech, or your standing on the
corner, shaking hands speech, why do you want to be mayor? – I want to help fix Tucson, the problems that we’ve seen over the last several years. Public safety,
roads, fix the roads. Stimulate economic activity, and certainly take
a look at the parks, we have a 225
million dollar bond, but we need a lot more
repair on the parks to get them up to
where they need to be, so those four issues
are the core issues. I think public safety
is the biggest issue that we look at, because we have a low
employment for the police and we need to bolster that. And certainly the
number one issue I hear out on the campaign trail is, fix our roads, please
fix these roads. – You’re running
against someone who, to those at least who pay
attention politically, is a known commodity. Your opponent, Regina Romero’s
been on the city council for many, many years, you’ve been in, you know, involved in the
community for decades, but maybe not
everybody knows you. How do you get
your name out there against someone
who’s well known? – It’s fortunate that
for the last 44 years for me personally, and
51 years for my company, Ackerley Advertising, we are in the promotion
and advertising business, so we’re going to
do a really good job of getting our message
out to the community over the next 60 days, to let them know who I am and what my platform is, and what my ideas are
for helping Tucson into the near future. (cars whooshing) – [Christopher] On
the issue of roads, one of Ackerley’s
top priorities, he supports an
initiative in Pima County to reauthorize the Regional
Transportation Authority beyond 2026. He wants to use some of its
funding for maintenance. To free up more money
in Tucson’s budget, Ackerley says he
would look at ways the city and county
can consolidate some services and functions. – There’s also many
duplication of efforts the city courts, county courts, there’s some duplication
of effort, parks, that we could combine,
and not necessarily combine the
departments, but share, like we do when we have, in
the City Prosecutor’s Office and Plans Review, and so forth, there are some places
where we might be able to share resources, which would then cut down
that duplication of effort. We need some redundancy in
the county, in the city. For instance, 911 center
is a good example. There’s two full,
functioning 911 centers. But there’s a redundancy there, and if should one go down, then it can be immediately
transferred to the other, so that type of
redundancy is okay, but there is someplace
where we can move to maybe consolidate
some of that government. And there has been
a resistance to that on the part of the city over the last few years, but I think as mayor, I
could lead that charge into helping us save some money and also be more
efficient with what we do. – Normally in Tucson,
the mayoral race is the top of the ticket, but we have this
sanctuary city initiative that’s getting a
lot of attention. Early on in your campaign, you and I talked, you
said you were against it. You’ve been out on
the campaign trail, any change in that? – No change. Against the initiative,
and against the concept of sanctuary cities in general. Labeling ourselves
a sanctuary city just is not in the
best interest of Tucson for the current climate. I’m not against helping people, and helping people get
adjusted to a new country, but we really need to
focus on the core issues of public safety,
transportation, and parks, and economic development, and to be dissuaded by an issue that is really a federal issue is probably not in the
best interest of Tucson. In the near future
and moving forward. – If that initiative passes and you are elected mayor, will you defend it? – Absolutely. As a mayor, and the council, we’re required by law
to follow the law. And we will do
whatever we have to do to do what we need to do
to abide by those laws. But I will say that
if it does pass, I think there’ll be some court
challenges to it right away that would stall
its implementation
for quite some time. But again, as mayor, we
will abide by the law and we’ll do what we
need to do as a city to defend the city’s position. – About two months
to Election Day, what’s the next
60 days look like? – Well, today I have ten events, it’s really multiplied
over the last few weeks, we’ve got our 300 $10 donations to qualify for matching funds, I’m running as a
clean candidate. From here on out, it’s a
sprint to the finish line, I’m going to do everything I can to get my message out
to the city of Tucson about how great a
place this is to live, and if we all work
together and jump in, we can solve some
of these problems. – All right, thanks for
sitting down with us. – Thank you, Chris. (soft music) – Improving public education
is a common talking point in any election,
including Tucson’s. While Red for Ed led to pay
raises for teachers statewide, underfunding remains a
persistent challenge. That’s according to Pima County Superintendent of
Schools, Dustin Williams. Lorraine spoke to him recently about ongoing issues
in the classroom. – Last year, the big
talk was Red for Ed, more funding in the classrooms, the state legislature said
okay, here’s the money. Doesn’t necessarily fix
all of our problems though. – It definitely does
not fix all our problems and it definitely can’t stop. The governor’s 20 by
2020 is a significant step in the right direction, it’s desperately
helping these schools, but if it stops at 2020,
we’re going to be right back to where we are, and we still have
a long way to go, especially when we’re
talking teachers and champions in the classroom. – Arizona still ranks
toward the bottom though, or nearly at the bottom in
a lot of different ratings and reports, what does that mean for right now in the interim? – Right now, that’s a
bad image nationally. You’ll see that number
49 pop up all the time, or you’ll see 50th for
elementary teachers’ pay. And so that’s a bad
image that we have, especially if you’re someone
Googling education in Arizona. And what that also means is, when you’re a
professional thinking about getting in the industry, you want to be in an
area where you rank good. I mean, people want
to go to good teams when they play
sports, same things when you get into a profession. So when we have
these low rankings, it doesn’t help
grow the profession. – The state legislature,
the governor said, okay, more money for
other support items, things like school resource
officers or counselors. As we know, there are
counselors missing from schools, I think the number’s one to 800. How do we get there? – So we rank last in the
nation of counselor to ratio. It’s actually one per 900. The way we get there, again, is you have to fund
these positions, and these positions
are desperately needed, especially when you
see the statistics of students and mental health and where we’re going, and the suicide rates,
which are alarming, and just the safety and
well-being of our children. And most importantly about SROs, we don’t want them policing, we want them to be a
relationship builder and basically like a counselor. – You’re superintendent
of Pima County Schools, there are some schools
that are doing very well, there are others who are
still in a whole lot of need. Why is there such an imbalance when it comes to
certain demographics? – That’s a really
great question, and a lot of it comes
to the leaderships of these individual districts. And the thinking
outside the box, and also the
resources around them. Some of these
districts are fortunate to have income levels, or the amount of
money that people make around their schools,
they’re wealthy, and so they can donate
and help schools and every dollar
goes a long way. And I mean a long way. – And it’s not just
the tax revenue, you’re saying that there
are people who could kick in tax donations, for example. – Absolutely, so if
you have, you know, families that can afford
for district schools or public schools, the
$400 tax credit every year, if all the families can
basically afford to do that, that is a tremendous
effort for those schools. If you have schools and
parents that can’t afford it, those are just dollars
and opportunities that aren’t available. – I know we’ve talked a lot
about challenges in schools, but there are
probably some gains, some things that
you do want to tout. What do people need to
know about the good things that are happening in schools? – The people that
are in the classroom are the hardest working
individuals in the world. That’s what we see all the time where we go in to schools. So we will see some of
the dilapidated buildings and shortages of teachers, but when we see those teachers
working with those kids, we see smiles on their faces, we see the students working
really, really hard, and we just see a good
energy in the room. And that’s what’s
really, really positive about the community
in Pima County. – Dustin Williams,
thanks for being here. – Thank you. – Schools across Arizona
face many of the same hurdles related to funding
and retention. Our next story looks
at how one district in southern Arizona has managed
to overcome those obstacles. Lorraine now takes
us to Nogales. (children chattering) (timer beeps) – All right, time! Were you able to speak
about it for 35 seconds? How many of you said yes? How many of you, no? Okay, this is why
we’re practicing. (children chattering) – [Lorraine] This is Honors
English at Nogales High School. – [Eliza] Tell us about
your favorite holiday, ready, go! – [Lorraine] Intense
and fast-paced, today, these students are tasked with delivering an efficient
and effective speech. – I want you to get an
idea of where you’re at. – [Lorraine] Eliza Lopez has
taught at Nogales High School for ten years. Every year, she
crafts a curriculum that keeps students challenged. – One of our biggest things
is our capstone project, which is the senior exhibition. And it is made up
of three parts, we have them write an
argumentative essay that gets sent to the
U of A to get graded, then they complete a
portfolio and a presentation, which requires them to make,
create, or do something as part of their project, so it’s 20 hours of project, five hours of community service, and that’s the biggest thing that takes over
their senior year, but it’s also something
that will prepare them for the future, so we focus on just making sure that
we are kind of aligning with what they will see
at the university level, so that they will be prepared
once they leave our school. – It sounds rigorous, do
you hear from students that it’s challenging? – We do. But I think what overpowers that is the feedback that we
get from former students, I hear all the time about
how beneficial it was for them to learn how to
write a quality paper, following the formats
that they’re using at their universities, and
they come back and say, we took so long doing this, and now I can do this in
such a short amount of time where it doesn’t even compare to how we did it in high school, but that helped me prepare
to what we’re doing now. So I think the fact
that students are scared when we initially
begin the school year, once they kind of
figure out that we have a manual, we have
a great support system and we guide them through
the process that they realize that overall they end up
being passionate about it, rather than intimidated by it. – Are there safeguards
in place to catch them should they fail? – Yes, so obviously
if they’re struggling or if they fail,
then we would either ask them to go to summer school, but we try to prevent that. So we try to be proactive. So teachers, if they have
students that are struggling, they will let us know. So I am the coordinator, but it’s not the only
person they can turn to. They can turn to our
department head or admin, where we will intervene
and say, okay, so you’re struggling with this, what can we do to help you? Can we find a different mentor? I offer evening
tutoring sessions where I help them
with their paper, we offer editing strategies, so we try to be proactive so that it doesn’t
get to the part where they might not pass
at the end of the year. – [Lorraine] That attitude
and those support systems may be what makes the Nogales
Unified School District so successful. – Our standards are high, and the accountability is there. – [Lorraine] That’s Fernando
Parra, a long-time teacher, principal, and
now superintendent of the Nogales Unified
School District. He’s also an alumni of
the Nogales School System. – Very high sense of pride. Not only by the students,
but a sense of pride of the parents and the community to make sure that
we push the students to be successful, and
to follow through. – [Lorraine] There are ten
schools in this border town. Of the nearly 6000 students,
98 percent are Latino, and nearly 40 percent
live in poverty. But for decades, this
district has boasted one of the highest graduation
rates in the state. Across Arizona,
high schools average about a 77 percent
graduation rate. In Nogales, it’s 98 percent. And it’s been that
way for years. Throughout the district,
students have access to sports, clubs, and programs, to ensure students
know they’re cared for. – We also have a
monitoring system, an attendance
follow-through that, if a student is
absent from school, we call the parents
automatically, immediately, to see why the student
was not in school. And so that goes
from Kindergarten all the way to
the higher levels, to the graduation,
to the high school, where students are monitored, their attendance every period. So if a student is out
first, second period, the parents will get an
immediate contact right away, notifying them that
they’re not at school. – You know that saying, it takes a village
to raise a child, are you suggesting that
in a small town like this, it’s harder to
drop out of school because everyone
knows where you are. – Exactly, and part of
that is a partnership and the community
and the parents, ’cause the parents
have a very high sense of value in education, and that is, I mean,
the partnership that we have with parents,
the parents are very involved, not only in the
athletic programs, but they’re involved in
their education overall. And it makes a difference, and the parents are supportive
of the programs that we have, anything that we ask of
the parents, they’re there. – You’ve been in education
for nearly three decades, one of the terms that is
sort of emerging, I think, over the last few years
has been social promotion. What do you say to
people, you know, who might be looking
at this and saying, okay, the kids are
there, they’re enrolling, but are they getting
anything from this education, are they just graduating
because they show up everyday? – Well, I think that the
measures that we’ve taken, I think not only
are they graduating, but we’ve seen the
results of the students that are accepted
to higher education, which is a very high
percentage as well. Students attending not only
the state universities, they’re attending our local
college, community college, and they’re also
excelling beyond that. Just recently, two
of our top students are going to
Stanford University, they’ve been accepted
to Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, you name it,
our students are there. And they’re not only there, they’re actually top students at the university level as well, so we know that we’re
not only preparing them, just passing them through, they actually are being prepared to go to higher learning, or the workforce if
they choose to do so. – The district office sits
in the former high school, a 100-year-old building. Photos of every graduating
class line the walls. A symbol of success. The perception of people
from a border town is that you face
different challenges than those in urban, more
populated communities. You’re a product
of this community, of this school system, would
you say that students here face different challenges
than other kids in the State of Arizona? – Growing up here
in Nogales myself, we’ve always had
a sense of pride, of being able to have a
bi-cultural education, a bilingual education,
be able to have the best of both worlds, live in Ambos Nogales,
as we call it, and being able to
have that culture. I think, I looked at it,
and my experience here was an advantage, being able
to not only be bilingual, but be biliterate, because most of our students, by the time they
finish high school, they can dominate two languages, in English and
Spanish in this case, we’re actually fortunate
to be able to provide that. – Back in the classroom
with Ms. Lopez, also a Nogales graduate, we get a sense of what
makes this place so special. – If you were a teacher,
what subject would you teach, and saying, I would
never be a teacher is not an option. What would you teach,
ready, set, go! – I asked the superintendent
this, and I’ll ask you, what makes this
place so special? Because the numbers,
the poverty rate, the graduation rates,
by all indications, they shouldn’t match
where they are, so what’s the secret
to success here? – My single word would be love. The love for teaching
from our teachers, the love, the respect that
we get from the students, it just builds a support
system around these students, and the parental involvement
that all shows them that we love them and
we want them to succeed, so I think the love that
we show to our profession, to the students, to
staff, to the community, I think that’s what makes
our place successful. Bye guys, see you tomorrow! – [Students] Bye! – [Eliza] You too! (students chattering) (whoosh) – And that’s all for now. Thanks for joining us. To get in touch, visit
us on social media, or send an email to
[email protected] Let us know what you think. Lorraine will be back
in studio next week. See you then. (dramatic music) (stately music)