Amateur Hour: Lawmaker Gets Earful After Not Blind Copying email Defending Education Cuts

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*Post contains corrections to original emailed press release.

PHOENIX – Arizona State Senator Steve Yarbrough now knows why U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham never uses email.

On Tuesday Yarbrough, R-Chandler, sent a mass email to at least 300 constituents defending his late-night state budget vote to slash university and community college budgets, reduce per-pupil funding for public schools and pull the safety net out from under thousands of Arizonans. The text of Yarbrough’s email can be found here.

We know exactly how many people Yarbrough contacted because – you guessed it – he forgot to blind copy the list of recipients before hitting send. Political Communications 101 fail. And we also know how his constituents responded. At least a dozen ticked off, well-informed and clever recipients hit “reply all” with their comments.

It wasn’t pretty for Yarbrough. Below are just a few of the highlights (WARNING, this is long but totally worth it), with last names redacted. Enjoy!

  

 From “Dan”:

You admit in your email that, “Universities were cut by nearly $100 million” and that doesn’t even include the devastating cuts to Maricopa and Pima Community Colleges which brings your cuts to higher education to more than $110M.

 With these cuts that you voted for you have guaranteed that Arizona will remain in the lowest tier of the states for future quality job growth for decades.  You are essentially locking many of our children into dead-end low-wage jobs or forcing them to move out of state to pursue higher education and 21st century jobs. I know many parents with children will remember your vote in the next election. I know I will.

From “Bea,” a lifelong Republican

I agree with all of the others that have said that you, or your office intern should learn how to BCC that many email addresses, or how to set up a group in your mail program – maybe call it something like  – “Mad as heck parents who don’t like short changed education”.

The AZLeg has been cutting money in our K-12 programs at an alarming rate since 2008.  Cuts have been over 40% in that time frame (adjusted for inflation).  This is unacceptable!

 How can we ever expect to bring high paying jobs and economic development to this amazing state if we are not willing to support an education system that helps to produce educated graduates that are ready to move either into the workforce, technical schools, community college or universities.   Economic growth is spurred on by an educated citizenry coupled with a business friendly environment that has reasonably taxes and regulations.

 That is not the direction the state is currently headed.  I have been a lifelong republican.  In my original email I sent you rep Yarbrough, I sent you a copy of my voter registration card.  Currently the AZLeg, headed by the states GOP party and leadership, is more concerned about the fringe in the party than the average citizen of the State of Arizona.  I am very disappointed in the budget, the way it was presented and passed.  I feel there was no transparency in this process, despite what the governor has state. 

You and all the others who voted for this budget should be ashamed of your conduct, and “balancing” the budget on the backs of our schoolchildren

From “Bill,” who provided highly specific and lengthy response using granular data from the Legislature’s own budget and revenue gurus to back up his response.

The idea that more money is being spent now than “ever” is a myth. Even in 2015, the amount is lower than in 2008. The dollars cut will never be returned to education. The JLBC listed inflation from 0.8% to 3.1% in each year from 2009-2014.  The cuts are really deeper than listed since inflation was ignored despite what the voters said to the Legislature. It also is frustrating to hear and read legislators talk about putting more money into classrooms when things like librarians, counselors, school nurses, and transportation are considered outside the classroom.  If kids cannot get to school and has support services, that is not a good environment.  Make administrative costs just that and stop the nonsense of saying you can do better because there is too much fat. Schools have cut into the bone for librarians and counselors and nurses to spare classroom expenditures.

From Sharlyn, a three-time Fulbright scholar who sounds like she has done some scholarly research into the oft-reported-but-never-corrected conflicts of interest that Yarbrough has as the head of a Student Tuition Organization, which siphons off state tax credit money for private school scholarships. Yarbrough has sponsored several bills to increase the amount of money into organizations like his (and into his own paycheck as executive director).

I am extremely troubled that you have my work email address, as a member of the voting district of Yarbrough who has desperately wished that those in Chandler would see the massive conflict of interest that Yarbrough holds as controller of the account to which AZ deposits the funds for charter schools, but regardless, votes straight Republican ticket…regardless of their own interests as in quality public schools and public services, without politicians getting a huge kick back. Congrats on your phenomenal graft…and waste of taxpayer money. 

From “Jodi”:

Mr. Yarbrough, my family lives in Gilbert, and my nieces and nephews attend those schools.  Because of your cuts, they won’t be able to get the support they need in school or have opportunities to play sports.  Their classrooms will be even more crowded and teachers will be even more overwhelmed trying to meet the needs of all of their students in their classrooms. Arizona is already ranked 49/50 in schools.  Are you trying to push us to the bottom?

From “Margaret,” who has done a fair amount of research into Yarbrough’s involvement with the American Legislative Exchange Council, the right-wing bill mill that has written many of Arizona’s most egregious laws:

I agree with my concerned fellow citizens, and I would like to further ask how your membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (A.L.E.C., see http://act.progressnowarizona.org/go/162?t=3&akid=39.1867.8vmqNt) influences your decision making? 

I am concerned because it seems that this organization and its corporate backers have undue influence over our legislative process (See: http://act.progressnowarizona.org/go/163?t=5&akid=39.1867.8vmqNt). 

Rather than look for common sense solutions to decrease spending (such as reducing our prison population as they are doing in California, see: http://act.progressnowarizona.org/go/164?t=7&akid=39.1867.8vmqNt) or alternative avenues to raise revenue, our representatives are beholden to special interests and dark money donors.

Do you see how this could be perceived as corruption?

As a native Arizonan, I would like put down roots and raise a family in my home state, but I worry that the decisions being made by current state leadership are damaging to our community and its future.

From “Joe”:

Stop pandering to special interests and listen to what your constituents are saying. If our State is going to be economically secure in the future, then the people will have to learn that all of the services provided by the State, public education, and other vital services come at a cost. That cost is covered by the taxes the State and municipalities collects whether it is sales tax, income tax or property taxes. At least you had the courtesy to respond, but your explanations ring hollow. 

The Republican vow to not raise taxes is stupid. That is the only way governments at any level are able to generate funds to cover the costs of the services provided and your salary. Stop with the all the rhetoric drawing attention from the real issues. Education, jobs, and jobs. I know I said jobs twice but that is what we need.

And finally, the all-important last word from “Corey,” his sign off says it all:

We currently sit at or around 46th for funding, which is roughly 3,000 less than the national average. Arizona ranks 36th in the nation for public school teacher salaries with a teacher salary average more than $6,500 below the nation. Arizona’s class size average is second highest in the nation, with an average of 24.2 students per class, compared to a national average of 15.3. Arizona is one of only four states in the nation that have increased class sizes over the last ten years. Arizona schools are operating on 25 percent less money than they did a few years ago, which ranks 1st in budget cuts…congrats on that by the way!
As you can see, I could go on and on, but in truth I really don’t think any of this is a surprise to you. 

Lastly, I would say we might want to explore the idea of changing the way we fund education. Property tax is so low in AZ, our
combined state and local taxes paid by Arizonans are mild, with the state ranking No. 34. Arizonans pay a combined 8.9 percent in state and local taxes, reports the Tax Foundation. That’s below the U.S. average of 9.8 percent.  I would suggest a modest increase in property tax, for most Arizonans this would be less than twenty dollars a month. I’m pretty sure our students and teachers deserve the best….btw, nice job replying to all!