Robert A. Teegarden's Blog

May 25, 2010

Arizona’s Parent Rights Bill

In the waning days of the Arizona legislature this year, the lawmakers passed an extraordinary law—S.B. 1309.  Quietly, without fanfare or spotlight this new law slipped into place.  Parents now have a new chapter in the Arizona Codes, Chapter 6 of the Education Code.  The new insert falls right in between the chapter on School Employees and the chapter on Instruction… as it should.  The chapter is entitled “Parents’ Rights.”  This new code outlines remarkable things and fundamental relationships.

The authors indicate that what follows are a parent’s fundamental rights as a parent in this state.  They even go so far as to say that the contents of this new Chapter 6 are not exclusive, that is, they are only part of a parent’s inalienable rights.  Now those are heavy-weight words, constitutional-type words.  Inalienable means these rights cannot be transferred to another or surrendered except by the person possessing them.  The only person who has these rights is a parent.  No one else can presume to share in this authority unless a parent specifically transfers that right.  What are these rights?

Only parents may direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children.  This means that only parents may direct their children’s education without obstruction or interference by any official of the state.  Parents have the right to access and review all records relating to the child… all records.  It means that only parents are responsible for the moral or religious training.  All health care decisions fall to the parent.  Government agencies must seek out a parent’s signed permission prior to exercising anything that would infringe on these rights.

Obviously, this does not allow a parent or guardian to engage in any behaviors that are unlawful or that abuse or neglect children in violation of the law. 

But Chapter 6 goes a bit further.  It specifies that any attempt to encourage or coerce a minor child to withhold information from his/her parent is grounds for the discipline of an employee of the state.  It seems that no one or nothing should stand between a child and her/his parents.  Wow!

There are restrictions on the procedures used to include materials and programs in a (government) school’s curriculum.  Parents have the right to opt in to specific sex education curriculum for their children; opting in means that the district cannot presume to include their children without prior written permission. Parents have a right to know of the competency requirements to promote a student from one grade to the next.  Parents have the right to review all courses of study and textbooks.   

The authors include a prohibition against what is called “mental health screening.”  Without a parent’s permission, this exercise could constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor; this is serious stuff.

Chapter 6 requires (government) school districts to establish procedures whereby parents may be apprised of their rights under this new code as well as all the laws of the state.  They are also directed to develop the process by which children may be withdrawn from any learning material or activity that is deemed harmful by the parent because it questions beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion. I only hope that whatever procedures are chosen are better than that two inch thick envelope given on the first day of school, a day fraught with confusion and chaos.  And I pray that permission slips are distributed and collected as needed throughout the year, not once-and-for-all up front in the beginning of the year.

Arizona’s new chapter could as easily be called “parenthood.”  This is a lot of the stuff of being a parent.  But the code is correct in this regard: it places this awesome responsibility clearly on the shoulders of the primary educator—the parent—and no one else.  I believe the Arizona Legislature got this one right. It seems rather obvious. I encourage you to read the entire section.

One has to wonder, though, why the voting record in both the House and Senate were split on this issue and the reasons why the lawmakers had to author this common sense language in the first place.

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May 8, 2010

Arizona’s Proposition 100: To Tax or Not to Tax—That Is the Question

 

There are a lot of ideas captured in this debate.  Should we add 18% to the state sales tax?  It might raise an additional $900 million; it will probably increase the deficit by $1 billion.  We’re told that if the tax increase fails, a lot of programs could be cut.  There’s great theater in the airways. Citizens are smothered in hyperbole and extremes.  But peel back the onion and things start to look simpler and simpler.  Remove the layers of scorched-earth politics, remove the fencing and jousting over importance and public prominence. Remove the fear-mongering.  Clarity is what we need. It comes down to simple things.

 Einstein once said, ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ In 1985 the voters approved a temporary transportation tax (Prop. 300).  Guess what? “Temporary” extended through 2009.  We were asked in 1998 to approve a two-year tax to help fund jails. This “temporary” tax has been extended until 2022. That was Proposition 411 in 2002. We’re told that this cannot happen this time because it’s a Constitutional mandate. We’re told…

 There are two sides to any budget: income and outgo, income and expenditures, assets and liabilities. There are only two ways to do a budget (assuming you do one):

  1. Match your revenues with your projected expenditures; or
  2. Match your expenditures with your projected revenues.

It comes down to: “Here’s what you’ve got to spend.” Or, “Here’s what you’ve got to earn.” The important question is where do you start: income or expenses?  A healthy budget has a balance between determined expenditures and anticipated revenues. Hidden in the deep recesses of any budget, however, is a nagging question.  Should I spend what I make or save some for a rainy day?  And if so, how much?  Does the word surplus exist in your budget?  Should I ever spend more thanI make?  On what items should I ever borrow?

 Economics 101: 

  1. The Government cannot make money.  They can print it and they can spend it, but they cannot make it.
  2. Government develops revenue through taxes. 
  3. All tax revenues come from the private sector.
  4. If the government marginalizes the private sector by adding more taxes, it cuts into the very source of revenues that could be taxed.  It cuts into its own income.

What would the schools do if we went to a flat tax?  They would have to develop an actual budget that demonstrated planned costs.  Their plans would be a function of funds available—that, incidentally, is exactly where they are in this debate—especially if Proposition 100 fails.  

It’s been revealed in the Proposition 100 debates that government agencies spend more than $9 million of our tax monies to lobby the government. If we already said these services are important and they have officers and agents that can make their case before the legislature, then by do we pay government lobbyists to lobby government legislators?  Here’s a $9 million savings.

The bigger problem is that the Prop. 100 debate is only a band-aid on a bleeding femoral artery.  What happens when 2013 rolls around and the changes necessary have not been implemented?  We all know that repeating an action is far less difficult that doing it the first time.  Heck, it’s almost a habit by then. The passage of Proposition 100 only delays the inevitable argument for another two or three years.  Systemic remedies are needed in the mean time.

Lincoln once said:  “You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.”  It seems that Lincoln’s common sense and thrift is what we’ve needed for years.  Look where their lack has lead us.  Common sense says “No” to raising taxes during a recession/depression.  Common sense says “Do with less.”

The pro-Proposition 100 campaign says we need to “Protect Education and Public Safety”.  Protect them from what?  Will some threat level suddenly rise in the absence of Prop. 100 revenues?  For kids in Arizona’s government/union schools, how could it get any worse? One out of three won’t make it to 12th grade.  If they do get to 12th grade with Bs and As and try to go on to college, 50% of them will have to take remedial courses just to stay in college. 60% of the students applying at community colleges will have to take remediation courses.  More money has never been the solution in education.  In fact, it’s more money that’s got them where they are today.

All in all, Proposition 100 is the wrong idea at the wrong time.

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