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Arizona educators take protests to Chamber of Commerce

By Jim Byrne |
September 6, 2018
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Tucson, AZ - Outraged educators took to the streets in both Phoenix and Tucson Sept. 5 to protest the removal of Proposition 207 from the November ballot. The actions took place at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce in Phoenix and at Chamber members Tucson Electrical Power (TEP) and Wells Fargo in Tucson. These places were targets because it was the Chamber of Commerce that funded and filed the lawsuit against the InvestInEd ballot initiative that would have raised income taxes on the top 0.07% of Arizonans, some 15,000 people, and generated an estimated $690 million. This amount would provide a significant boost to missing $1.1 billion from public schools over the ten years.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce is led by the utility monopoly APS, which funded TV ads promoting Governor Doug Ducey as the “Education Governor.” The lawsuit filed by the Chamber was driven by a distorted analysis made by the Koch brothers-funded group Americans for Prosperity. What’s more, the lower court of Arizona did not want to touch this lawsuit believing that for one, there was nothing to the analysis and two, that it is up to the voters to decide this. Some 270,000 Arizonans signed the initiative hoping to restore funding levels closer to 2008 levels. Instead of dying at the lower court, the Chamber pushed Governor Ducey to make sure his stacked Supreme Court tried the case.

In 2016 Ducey convinced the Republican-dominated state legislature to increase the Supreme Court from five to seven justices. Ducey then appointee two more justices, one of whom is a member of the conservative law association, the Federalist Society. Another Justice, Clint Bolick, appointed by Ducey in 2016, is a conservative ideologue. Before joining the Supreme Court, he served as director of litigation for the archconservative Goldwater Institute. And before that, he was the director for the pro-charter school Alliance for School Choice. His political connections with the right-wing offensive led by the billionaire Koch brothers began in 1991 when Charles Koch helped Bolick with startup money for the Institute of Justice. Bolick, like Ducey, is up for election in November.

In Phoenix, the Osborn Education Association organized the protest at the Chamber of Commerce. Organizer and educator Alexis Aguirre stated “It is an outrage that the Arizona Chamber of Commerce has taken it upon themselves to defund our children's education and bankrupt our public schools. Governor Ducey has stacked the Arizona Supreme Court to maintain his agenda of putting profit before the well-being of our students. As an educator and parent who worked tirelessly all summer alongside my kids to gather the signatures needed to put InvestInEd on the ballot, I am even more committed now to assure that Arizona schools get the funding they deserve through the ballot box and beyond.”

In Tucson, nearly 50 educators and allies received supportive honks from downtown traffic as they chanted “Red for Ed!” and “Wells Fargo you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side!” Corporate targets will continue to be the focus until the legislature fully funds public schools.

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