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Arizona Capitol Times
There are more than 720,000 working-age Arizona adults who never finished high school – and just as many reasons they didn’t earn a diploma.
Maybe they had a health emergency, got into trouble with the law or had family issues that caused them to drop out the first time around. Whatever the reason, their lack of a diploma is holding them back … along with our state. Research demonstrates Arizonans who didn’t finish high school earn 30% less, on average, than their diploma-carrying peers. That works out to $1,600 a month in reduced wages. They also have higher rates of unemployment and reliance on public assistance, and that costs all of us.
Real High Schools, Real Diplomas
That’s why I’m sponsoring bipartisan legislation – HB 2387 – to enable the opening of a limited number of adult high schools known as Excel Centers. The idea is modeled after a successful system operating throughout Indiana and a handful of other states for up to a decade.
Excel Centers are tuition-free, public high schools. Adult students attend classes with real teachers, take state-issued assessments and earn real diplomas. Goodwill of Central & Northern Arizona has pledged to build and operate Excel Centers, which will report to the Arizona Department of Education and be funded on a per-student basis like any other public school in the state.
The biggest difference is Excel Centers are designed to serve adults (state law currently prohibits funding students over the age of 21). These students have unique needs and will receive the academic, social and employment resources they require – from child care assistance to workforce training and more.
Never Too Late
In states where Excel Centers are currently operating – Indiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Texas and Tennessee – these schools are having a life-changing impact:
- 97% of Excel Center students graduate with workforce credentials, certifications or college credits.
- 70% of graduates find employment and experience a 50% increase in job earnings within the first six months following graduation.
- Nearly four in 10 graduates go on to pursue post-secondary or higher education.
Consider the real-life case of Leticia Ibarra. The California-native was uprooted when her parents divorced and she moved with her father. She got married in her teens and began her family.
Finishing high school became impossible. Years later, upon resettling with her family in Lafayette, Indiana, she finally got the second chance she needed. Leticia attended an Excel Center and earned her diploma at last.
And now? She’s working as a teacher’s aide, and will begin college this June to earn an associate’s degree. Leticia plans to ultimately complete a 4-year university education. “It’s never too late,” she says.
A Second Chance
It shouldn’t be too late for Arizona adults who want to finish high school, either. If HB2387 is approved and signed into law, Goodwill plans to build 22 Excel Centers across Arizona over the coming decade.
An economic-impact analysis conducted by local economist Jim Rounds found that Excel Center students in Arizona will see an average annual wage increase of more than $17,000. That’s the equivalent of an $8.25/hour raise. After full build-out over the course of a decade, the Rounds analysis projects the Excel Centers will result in $1.9 billion in cumulative wage growth and $5.3 billion in added economic activity.
Thousands of Arizonans need a second chance to complete a high school education. For their sake and our own, it’s time we gave it to them.
State Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, is the sponsor of HB2387.
Representing a group of drivers and passengers who use ride-sharing services, the Goldwater Institute filed a friend of the court brief yesterday in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Phoenix’s new tax on ride-share services to and from Sky Harbor Airport. That tax, which was adopted by the city in December, drastically increased the existing tax to be picked-up and instituted a new tax to be dropped off at Arizona’s busiest airport by ride-sharing services—even though the state Constitution prohibits cities from creating or increasing “any sales tax, transaction privilege tax, luxury tax, excise tax, use tax, or any other transaction-based tax, fee, stamp requirement or assessment on the privilege to engage in…any service.”
Voters added that prohibition to the Constitution just last year, and the Goldwater Institute warned city officials when they first considered imposing this ride-sharing tax that it was illegal. Yet they chose to do it anyway, and the Attorney General swiftly responded by filing an action directly in the Arizona Supreme Court, after investigating the matter at the request of a state lawmaker. That was when Phoenix officials changed their tune. It isn’t actually an impermissible fee after all, they argued, but rather a charge imposed for the use of airport property.
This argument—as we explain in our brief—doesn’t hold water. Arizona courts have repeatedly emphasized that they don’t indulge in hypertechnical or semantic arguments in tax law, and especially not when interpreting voter initiatives that are intended to protect people from tax increases. The Constitution forbids “transaction-based” “fees” on people engaged in “services.” Here, the service is providing ride-sharing platforms and transporting people to the airport. The city’s argument is that this isn’t a transaction-based fee on the service of airport transportation, but instead only a fee for access to the airport by people engaged in the service of transportation is the sort of hair-splitting that courts have repeatedly rejected.
The city tries to argue that the fee is really just a charge for using airport facilities for commercial purposes, akin to renting a portion of property. But businesses that use the airport for commercial reasons—such as restaurants or concession stands—sign lease agreements that specify their right to use the property and retain exclusive use of that space, unlike the temporary and non-exclusive use of a ride-share car dropping off or picking up a user at the curb.
This point is made even clearer by the permit that Uber and Lyft drivers receive from the city, which states, “THIS PERMIT SHALL NOT BE CONSTRUED TO BE A CONTRACT, AGREEMENT OR GRANT OF…ANY PROPERTY RIGHT TO ENGAGE IN COMMERCIAL ACTIVITY AT THE AIRPORT.” What’s more, the law requires the city to engage in competitive bidding when it lets people use the airport for commercial purposes—and of course it didn’t do that with regard to ride-sharing companies. The reason is simple: because that’s not what’s going on here. Instead, the city is taxing airport rides, and trying to call it something else. […]
BLOOMFIELD, Conn., March 3, 2020 — The Cigna Foundation today announced that it will commit up to $300,000 to support the needs of patients and health care providers directly impacted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Cigna Foundation has made a $250,000 USD donation to philanthropic partner, Give2Asia, for its work with local nonprofits that support comprehensive relief efforts, ranging from distributing much-needed medical supplies to providing longer-term mental health support for front-line health care workers.
[…] To empower employees looking to contribute, the Cigna Foundation has established a matching fund, dollar for dollar, up to $50,000 USD, with all donations by Cigna employees going to support Give2Asia.
NEW YORK, March 3, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Just ahead of the worldwide celebration of International Women’s Day on Sunday, March 8th, Diageo North America, a global leader in beverage alcohol, is delighted to announce that it has been named one of the 2020 “Top Companies for Executive Women” by the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE). This list recognizes US companies that have a strong focus on best practices that move women to senior ranks, including mentoring, sponsorship, involvement in employee-resource groups and leadership-development training. This is the ninth year NAFE has named Diageo to its Top Companies list.
Inclusion and Diversity remains a core strategic objective for Diageo North America. Through the ongoing work of its nine business resource groups, Diageo continues to champion this effort where employees with common backgrounds, interests, heritage, or orientation connect to support each other. We strive to continuously engage with business and brand leadership on creating a vibrant place to work for our employees and better engage our consumers through Inclusion and Diversity efforts in the communities in which we work, live, source and sell.
[…] Last summer, Diageo launched a groundbreaking parental leave program, offering six months leave to new parents regardless of gender or sexual orientation or how the employee came to be a parent through birth, adoption or foster care. Diageo has also just launched a robust Secondment policy in North America which encourages all employees, women and men to expand their skill set by exploring new and different career opportunities within Diageo.
[…] This recognition from NAFE are part of a growing list of awards Diageo’s business has earned for its commitment to inclusion and diversity. […]
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In other news …
Arizona Daily Star
PHOENIX (AP) — Mayor Kate Gallego called Tuesday for a shared regional response to surging homelessness and lack of affordable housing in and around Phoenix, saying more money and longer term solutions are needed to tackle what she said is “a crisis situation.”
“As the nation’s fifth largest city, we’ve seen abundant opportunity come from our historic growth, but it’s also brought challenges,” Gallego said Tuesday. “Two of these challenges, a lack of affordable housing and a growing issue with people experiencing homelessness, are deeply intertwined. ”
Gallego wants to add $3 million to the $20 million the city already spends annually on homelessness and too little affordable housing but said other cities, Maricopa County and the state should provide more help.
“Affordable housing and homelessness is a national challenge, many other mayors consider that their top challenge,” said Gallego. “This is a crisis situation.”
The mayor also announced she will ask the City Council on Wednesday to join her in asking city staff for an expanded plan to address homelessness. The Maricopa County Association of Governments said a one night count in early 2019 found some 6,600 people in metro Phoenix did not have a home. […]
PHOENIX (AP) – Arizona lawmakers and Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday approved legislation aimed at preventing teenage suicides and requiring insurance companies to pay for mental health care under the same rules that apply to physical ailments.
Responding to a rapid rise in teenage suicides in Arizona, the House and Senate approved the measure unanimously and Ducey promptly signed it in a public ceremony.
Arizona has seen a 50% increase in suicides by people younger than 18 in the past two years, according to state data. Sixty-four minors died by suicide in 2018. Arresting the epidemic has been a priority Ducey and lawmakers. Today’s young people face pressures from cellphones, vaping, drugs and loneliness, Ducey said.
“To the many Arizona families who have lost a loved one to suicide, I want you to know that Arizona will continue to work every day to end suicide in our state,” Ducey said before signing the legislation.
The measure directs $8 million to cover mental health treatments for children and teens who are uninsured or underinsured, whether they’re treated at school or by a private provider.
[…] Schools will be required to develop procedures for referring students to mental health providers, and the state will develop requirements for hospitals to meet before discharging patients who were admitted because they were suicidal. […]
The Senate rapidly cleared an $8.3 billion emergency funding bill Thursday to aid the fight against the coronavirus, as U.S. deaths from the illness reached double digits and more than 160 people tested positive across more than a dozen states.
President Donald Trump is expected to soon sign the measure, which moved through Congress with stunning speed, just over 24 hours after text was released Wednesday afternoon. Cross-party cooperation enabled that legislative hustle, resulting in a 415-2 passage vote Wednesday in the House and a 96-1 vote in the Senate. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) cast the single dissenting vote.
[…] HHS will face the grandest task: Spending a total of $6.5 billion, including meting out $1 billion to states, cities and tribes over the next 30 days for local responses to the virus, with each state getting at least $4 million in assistance. Congress has also ordered the department to use $3.1 billion of its quota on medical supplies, vaccine-making and ensuring U.S. health systems are up to the task of battling the deadly bug.
While the money will first flow to federal agencies, the cash — and much of the onus to tackle the epidemic — will soon be with state and local officials, said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of one of the Senate’s spending subcommittees.
[…] Conversely, if the money turns out to be far more than is needed to fight the virus, the bill’s authors say it can’t be squandered since the legislation includes a narrow definition of the coronavirus and requires officials to report back to Congress on how they are using the cash. […]