Journalist Roundtable: School Safety, Teacher Strike
April 6, 2018
This week’s Journalist Roundtable features a discussion on the proposed School Safety Plan, the possibility of armed school personnel, possible teacher strike, restrictions on school vouchers and a bill protecting dark money.
School Safety Plan
The current school safety plan has the intent of being down the middle, but it fails to be approved by both the major parties. Democrats are pushing for universal background checks, while the Republicans are saying they don’t want certain restrictions on people who are trying to exercise their Second Amendment.
The government isn’t receiving much pressure from the NRA because this school safety plan doesn’t involve some of the heavy restrictions that many are calling for, Dianna Nañez from the Arizona Republic says. The pressure is coming from the Arizona Citizens Defense League who have been picking apart the issues.
Howard Fischer with Capitol Media Services suggests breaking up the package into pieces. Perhaps then people will agree on individual changes rather than a group of them.
“You can’t do this incrementally because by next year everyone is going to move on to the next shiny thing,” Fischer says. “You have to show you’ve done something meaningful. If meaningful comes down to we’ve added more school counselors, that’s not meaningful.”
GOP: Arm School Personnel
The government has proposed arming teachers, principals, janitors and other school personnel who would be willing to carry on campus. It’s a proposition that hasn’t gained much support. Teachers, schools and law enforcement have spoken out saying they reject this idea.
“How well-trained? Look at the training a police officer has to go through for shoot, don’t shoot situations,” Fischer says. “I can teach someone how to be proficient. Can I train them in a limited period of time when to use that force?”
Luige Del Puerto with Arizona Capitol Times doesn’t see the likelihood of this passing because of the amount of opposition. Governor Doug Ducey agrees that there shouldn’t be guns in school.
GOP: Ease Restrictions to School Vouchers
School vouchers have been a subject of debate for a time now. Del Puerto says it’s going to be like that until lawmakers can find a door that opens for them.
“The first vouchers were for students with special needs who couldn’t get their needs met in public schools,” Fischer says. “Then we kept adding more children who didn’t fit that criteria. Just a little at a time, no one will notice.”
The children the vouchers were designed for are now suffering. There’s a monetary cap on the amount of vouchers that can be offered. If not all of those vouchers are given to students with special needs, then there are students who are missing out on that opportunity.
Teacher strike possible?
Nañez says there is a massive divide between what the lawmakers are proposing and the 20 percent increase teachers have demanded.
“The difference between the one percent the governor has offered is $32 million and the 20 percent is $640 million out of a $10.1 billion budget,” Fischer says. “It isn’t there. It’s fine if you say we’re going to go on strike, but if the money isn’t there then what are you going to accomplish?”
Del Puerto says if the teachers were to strike for the 20 percent raise, there’s a chance the public sentiment will turn against them. The teachers will have to be willing to compromise. Teacher pay in Arizona will still be below national average, but everyone involved has to be willing to negotiate and realize it won’t be solved overnight.
The journalists agree the only way to afford such an increase on the state’s budget would be to raise taxes. If you take the six tenths of a cent tax in Prop 301 and raise it to a full penny, that can get the teachers at least a 13 percent raise, Fischer says.
Governor signs bill protecting dark money
A prior bill allows social welfare organizations to accept money without disclosing the donors. There’s no policing to declare whether or not it really is a social welfare organization. Ninety one percent of Tempe voters have said they want to know who is funding these organizations.
“This governor was elected in 2014,” Fischer says. “He had 7.9 million of his own money from sources we know. Then he had 8.2 million of money from other sources. That’s how influential dark money is.”
Del Puerto points out that the idea of dark money is understood by the public now, and it’s not something the majority of them approve of.