Ducey Outlines 2017 Agenda
Teacher Pay Raises, Investments in K-12 Education, Programs to Lift Up Most Vulnerable
In a wide-ranging State of the State address delivered Monday at the State Capitol, Governor Doug Ducey outlined an ambitious agenda for 2017 under the overall theme of “Boundless Opportunity” that includes new spending for K-12 education and programs to address the needs of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
Following are highlights from the Governor’s speech as delivered to a joint session of the Legislature:
* Boundless Opportunity:
“. . . now is not the time to be content, or complacent. Because the next generation of Arizonans – especially those facing challenges and hardships – are counting on us to rise to the occasion, and do everything in our power to create boundless opportunity in the state of Arizona.
“To do this, we need to begin at the beginning.
“Because we can’t claim Opportunity for all, unless every child, regardless of their background, neighborhood, county, or zip code, has access to a quality education.”
* Increased Investments In Education:
“I want the teachers of our state to know: You make the difference. I value your work, and it’s time we return the favor. . . .
“. . . I have a commitment our educators can take to the bank: starting with the budget I release Friday, I will call for an increased investment in our public schools—above and beyond inflation—every single year I am governor.
“Now, I’m not promising a money tree. I can’t. There’s no pot of gold, or cash hiding under a seat cushion. And unlike Washington, we don’t print money, and we won’t raise taxes.
“But when we do have available resources, like we do this year—the bulk of those dollars will go to public education. And our proposals will be responsible—to make sure we can actually follow through on our word, and our educators can rely on it.”
* Teacher Raises:
“Let’s take these new dollars and put them where they will have the greatest impact on students. The place where we know we will get the best return on investment. It’s time for a raise for Arizona’s teachers. My budget will outline a permanent, lasting salary increase to all of Arizona’s teachers. This will be above and beyond raises they may be receiving from Prop 123, or overrides, or from their districts.
“This is an investment by the state of Arizona in recognizing and rewarding the work of our teachers in a way that is fair, permanent and fiscally responsible.”
“The greatest need for high quality teachers is in our low-income schools, and it also happens to be the hardest place to attract them. So let’s do more for the teachers willing to make a commitment to these students and these neighborhoods: A $1,000 signing bonus, to attract the best and brightest, and continue to close the achievement gap.
“No one goes into teaching to get rich, but everyone deserves to be rewarded for their hard work. Together, we can show the teachers of our state that their profession is valued, respected and indispensable.”
* All-Day Kindergarten:
“Without a doubt, schools in low-income areas are the ones that really need our focus—and that’s what my budget prioritizes.
“Right now, more than half of Arizona schools offer voluntary full-day kindergarten. Parents love it. Kids benefit from it. So I say—let’s expand it.
“My budget gives the lowest-income schools dollars to start or expand full-day kindergarten, and address an issue we know is critical to closing the achievement gap: The ability to read by third grade.”
* Increasing Students’ Access To Broadband:
“Many Arizona public schools are leading the nation when it comes to science and technology—teaching students to code and developing skills to take with them through life.
“But too many students, specifically in our rural areas, and in our tribal nations are missing out. It’s 2017, but outside of our urban areas, broadband is still spotty.
“Let’s fix this, by connecting these rural schools to high-speed internet. And let’s couple it with a statewide computer science and coding initiative. This session, let’s break the firewall and get these kids connected.”
* Even More On Education:
“Principal academies, to train school leaders. . . . Loan forgiveness for our STEM teachers. . . . Dollars for school construction and capital. . . . A per pupil boost for excelling schools . . . even more for high-quality low-income schools beating the odds. . . . Career and Technical Education. . . . College knowing and going programs, and . . . Achieve60AZ.”
* Licensing Requirements:
“Let’s help those most affected by these barriers: Arizonans who are struggling to get by and looking to start a new career. Maybe they’ve gone to night school, to learn a new trade or skill. Perhaps they want to be a barber, or general contractor, or X-Ray technician.
“Why stand in their way? With another tax, another fee—sometimes hundreds of dollars—before they can start earning a living. So for citizens who are living in poverty, I propose the state waive their licensing fee so they can build a better life.”
* Independence From The Ninth Circuit:
“It’s also long past time for Arizona to have independence from something else: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ninth Circuit is by far the most overburdened court in the country, with a turnaround time that averages 14 months. Its pending cases are more than double the caseload of the next busiest court.
“Arizona—and other states in the 9th circuit—deserve better.”
“Last year, I sent a letter to Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan detailing this burden on justice. With a new Congress, and a new President, it’s time for action.
“So I call on you, the Legislature: Just like you did last year. Pass a resolution, supporting Senator Flake’s bill, telling Congress to act. Let’s make sure Arizonans always get a fair day in court.”
* Cutting Burdensome Red Tape:
“Arizona will take the opposite approach. We will move forward by rolling up our sleeves and rolling back more regulations that are standing in the way of job growth.
“To do that, we need to hear directly from the people making the decisions—our job creators. So I’m calling on owners and operators of Arizona businesses—large and small—please, go to our new website, launched just seconds ago—RedTape.AZ.gov—and help us find these job-killing regulations hidden all throughout government.
“Our team will do the research, and if a rule or regulation is not protecting consumers, public safety or public health, it’s time for it to go.
Our goal: To wipe out 500 total regulations by the end of this year.”
* Knocking Down Walls Of Bureaucracy:
“Turns out Washington, D.C. isn’t the only swamp that needs draining. The special interests and lobbyists descended on this building. Twisting arms. Turning up the heat. Clouding the facts. In a perverse irony, some were even funded with taxpayer dollars. So we fired those lobbyists.
“They got paid to build the walls of bureaucracy. Now, I’m asking for your help to knock them down.”
* Foster Families: Our “Unsung Heroes:
“We’ll never fully convince bad parents to be good parents. But we can save the lives of children, and that’s our goal, every day.
“Our foster families are the unsung heroes in this tragedy. Making real sacrifices, to provide love to a child who needs it. To them, we can never say it enough: Thank you.”
* Supporting Families With A “Grandmother Stipend”:
“One way we can help is by recognizing those who take in children in their own extended family. Aunts, uncles. Grandfathers and grandmothers, who raise these children as their own. This is often a better option for a child than going to an unfamiliar family.
“But unlike other foster families, these family members receive little assistance for taking in their nephew or grandchild. So let’s change that, with a Grandmother Stipend’—providing these families with resources to raise these children.”
* Educating Physicians About Addiction:
“Many of our citizens have found themselves struggling because of an epidemic plaguing our entire country – drug addiction. It’s a problem that knows no bounds. It effects men and women; young and old; rich and poor.
“We’ve started to address it in a serious way. Cracking down on doc shopping. Providing better treatment options. Limiting first fills on opioids.
“And this morning, I sent a letter to the Arizona Medical Board, to require that all doctors in Arizona complete Continuing Education in drug addiction.”
* Giving Inmates A Real Second Chance:
“We also need to make sure a second chance actually is a second chance.
“Vivitrol has been called a ‘Miracle Drug’—blocking heroin and painkiller addictions, even alcoholism, and allowing millions of Americans to gain their lives back. This morning I signed an Executive Order so that, effective immediately, people leaving our prison system have the opportunity to be treated with this blocker, before they walk out the doors, to maximize their success of never ever going back. . . .
“. . . Last summer, I traveled to Navajo County to tour the damage caused by the Cedar Fire. Among the many brave firefighters I met, was a group of inmates, who enlisted in a program through the Department of Corrections. Every year select inmates fight fires throughout Arizona.
“One of these men looked me in the eye, and told me: ‘Governor—I felt like a zero. Now I feel like a hero.’”
* Adding Employment Centers To Our Prisons:
“That’s why I’m announcing an effort of the Governor’s Office, to engage the faith and non-profit communities in being advocates for our citizens leaving prison and transitioning back into society.
“And inside our prisons, we’ll be adding Employment Centers to help with things like building a resume and getting a job before the release date.”
Image Source: Gage Skidmore/Flickr
License: CC BY-SA 2.0
During the course of his career, Walker has worked in Chicago, Washington DC, New York City, and Phoenix. He served as a reporter in Chicago, a press secretary and speechwriter in Washington, and in numerous positions in New York in corporate and financial services communications.
Walker is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.