Updates for late summer/early fall 2023
PCI’s recent focus has been primarily in three areas:
- meeting with city and county government leaders
- continuing to build the Parish ID program
- educating parents and other concerned adults about new challenges facing Arizona’s public education system.
As we have spoken with elected leaders and administrators at the city and county level, the stories we have heard are remarkably similar. Here are some highlights:
- The new flat tax will have a significant negative effect on the city budget beginning in 2025. Multiple approaches to replacing lost revenue are being considered so as to avoid cutting services. It will also decrease the amount of the general fund making it difficult for the state to provide services at historic levels.
- The state legislature is undercutting the ability of municipalities and counties to work effectively by issuing pre-emptive legislation preventing them from passing local laws on a wide range of issues. These run the gamut from gun safety to plastic bag usage.
- Homelessness is a significant problem; affordable housing is the single most pressing unmet need in southern Arizona at the moment. The county and city are working together on the regional affordable housing commission.
The parishes involved in the Parish ID program include Our Lady Queen of All Saints, St John's, St Pius, Santa Monica's, Our Mother of Sorrows, St Joseph, St Augustine Cathedral, Sacred Heart, St Cyril's, St Margaret's and Our Lady of Fatima.
Several 100 people to date have participated in orientations for the program. More orientations will be held in the future, including plans to expand beyond the Catholic parishes named above. Once technical difficulties are resolved, PCI plans to work with St John's parish to print IDs for those who have completed orientation, projected for November 2023.
The parish ID program is modeled on successful programs by our sister Industrial Area Foundation (IAF) organizations in Boston, Baltimore, Dallas, San Antonio and others in PCI's national network.
Education Town Hall
The financial outlook for public (district and charter) public schools is grim.
- The cost of universal ESAs (Education Scholarship Accounts) that were recently passed is ballooning and expected to hit $900M by 2025. There is no accountability (such as, student performance tests) from the school providers accepting these scholarship dollars. The worst part is that the state’s current budget has made no provisions for funding this expected increase.
- Prop123, which provided $343M to schools annually for the past decade, expires in June 2025. These funds have been generated from increased payouts from the State Land Trust. Relief from the General Fund is not possible because revenues are declining due to the passage of the flat tax.
In addition, there are concerns about growing mistrust between families and schools, fomented by outside agitators who make verbal attacks at School Board meetings. As Superintendent Streeter said, “We must get the parents back into schools and restore the parent/teacher partnership.”