Instead of Following Science, the CDC Listens to…a Teachers’ Union

Instead of Following Science, the CDC Listens to…a Teachers’ Union

This was all supposed to be based on “science.” Or so claimed groups like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for over a year now. It was the rationale for the draconian lockdowns. It was the reasoning behind the overreaching mask mandates. And whenever the topic of schools reopening arose, we were told that students couldn’t return to in-person learning yet because “science.”

Then, on February 12, President Biden issued a statement declaring that opening most K-8 schools by the end of his first 100 days was a national imperative. That sounds good enough, but this announcement came with a catch. President Biden said that this could “only be achieved if Congress provides states and communities with the resources they need to get it done safely through the American Rescue Plan.”

But the president didn’t stop at shamelessly pushing his disastrous $1.9 trillion “COVID relief bill” that’s jam-packed with far-left policies unrelated to the pandemic. He went on to praise the CDC as providing “the best available scientific evidence on how to reopen schools safely.”

Certainly, you would hope that the national public health agency of the United States would follow science when forming such a plan. But instead, the CDC allowed itself to be manipulated by one of the most powerful teachers’ unions in the country: the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

So much for following the science…

Emails acquired after a Freedom of Information Act request by Americans for Public Trust show that:

    • The CDC implemented at least two suggested changes from the AFT nearly word for word in its final Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools.
    • AFT Senior Director for Health Issues Kelly Trautner shared her gratitude at the union acting as the CDC’s “true thought partner.”
    • The Biden administration’s knowledge of all of this in the days before the president’s announcement in February.

Clearly the AFT is using its political clout to write CDC guidelines on schools reopening. But it gets worse.

AFT President Randi Weingarten and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky made concerted efforts to hide their cooperation from the public. And in 2020, the AFT began lobbying for specific bills that would dramatically increase the budget, reach, and power of the CDC.

Yesterday, top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to Dr. Walensky demanding answers. But she has yet to respond. Meanwhile, AFT President Weingarten posted a desperate and ridiculous series of tweets attempting to rationalize the union’s behavior as “routine.”

But since when is it routine for the CDC to copy and paste nearly verbatim guidance from a teachers’ union? If this is a common practice, then everyone at the CDC should be fired immediately.

The fact is that many students haven’t been missing out on just in-person learning. They’ve been missing out on learning altogether—with one report estimating up to 3 million students across the country who haven’t experienced any formal education since March 2020.

You would think that an “American Federation of Teachers” would care about these students and their parents. But the AFT doesn’t. It only cares about protecting its own interests. And the only science the CDC is interested in…is political.

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Is Critical Race Theory Coming to a Public School Near You?

Is Critical Race Theory Coming to a Public School Near You?

They’re at it again. You would think that public school districts would learn their lesson at some point. After all, many of them turned their backs on students and parents in the wake of COVID-19. And now, those school districts are paying the price.

But apparently, they’re too committed to their agenda.

Some school districts are ignoring the science and keeping their beloved mask mandates. Some would rather keep parents in the dark about classroom curriculum. While others are trying to adopt Marxist Critical Race Theory programs in their schools. 

The latest culprit is Litchfield Elementary School District, where the school board recently published an “equity statement” along with a set of “equity goals.” The goals were presented at the school board meeting in March and crafted by, you guessed it, a “district diversity committee.”

If you’re unfamiliar with Critical Race Theory, it’s a movement that combines Marxist theories of class conflict within the lens of race. And it teaches that racism is present in every interaction. Races that have been “minoritized” are considered oppressed while those who are “racially privileged” are called “exploiters.” Proponents of the movement are good at disguising it. As Christopher Rufo from the Manhattan Institute points out, you’ll often find Critical Race Theory is present when you hear terms like “social justice,” “diversity,” “inclusion,” and “equity.”

Sound familiar?

Litchfield’s Superintendent Jodi Gunning claims that her school district is not adopting Critical Race Theory, but just read the first sentence of her letter to all district families:

I’m writing to update you about Litchfield Elementary School District’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work…

All the evidence is there. Thankfully, parents and other taxpayers are starting to raise their voices, causing one Litchfield board member to respond to criticism of the district’s “equity statement” inappropriately.

Sadly, this is nothing new. Activists have been trying to force Critical Race Theory or similar programs into our schools for quite some time. In fact, back in 2019, Chandler Unified School District adopted a program called “Deep Equity” (there’s that word again) at nearly half a million dollars! (It’s amazing the moments when capitalism becomes acceptable.) Parents spoke out back then, and the program was soon phased out.

But that doesn’t mean liberal educators and other members of the left won’t try again. That’s why we must remain vigilant. One way to do so is by appealing to state lawmakers. Arizona should look to follow the lead of states like Texas, where a ban on Critical Race Theory recently passed out of committee in the House, and Idaho, where a bill to ban it was just sent to the governor.

But legislative work alone can’t be enough. It is critical in the world we live in today for parents to stay informed, talk to their children, and speak up when this sort of curriculum tries to sneak its way into classrooms. There is strength in numbers. And that’s where taxpayers come in. Even if you don’t have children in public schools, you must let your voice be heard. You should have a say regarding where your hard-earned money goes. And a half-million-dollar “equity program” is probably not what you had in mind.

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Arizona Cities Are Sitting on a Mountain of Cash—So Why Are They Opposing Tax Cuts?

Arizona Cities Are Sitting on a Mountain of Cash—So Why Are They Opposing Tax Cuts?

The Arizona state coffers are running over with cash. The state is set to receive $12B in federal recovery funds, more than the entire annual state budget. On top of that, forecasting by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee projects by 2024 the state will have a $6.4B cash balance with $1.5B in ongoing revenues. Republicans in the Legislature and Governor Ducey are looking to return the record high, multi-billion-dollar state surplus to taxpayers by passing major tax cuts.

On the front lines to defeat these efforts—the cities—that are claiming major income tax reductions will significantly impact their bottom line. But it isn’t just the state sitting comfortably on a mountain of cash, the cities are too.

tax scorecard

In opposing the proposed tax cuts, cities are arguing that the package will result in a $225 million decrease in their shared revenue from income tax collections. Despite this estimate being seriously flawed, their projections are in reality insignificant.

Based on research from the Arizona Tax Research Association, we’ll look at 4 cities—urban, rural, small, and large—comparing their estimated “cut” from the tax package to their cash balances and scored against additional revenues generated from the 2019 Wayfair legislation, which permanently expanded the cities’ tax base.

Chandler

The city of Chandler has a budget of just under $317 million in general fund expenditures for FY2021, leaving nearly $135 million in the general fund.

So far in FY2021, the city has collected close to $3.6 million in new, local TPT revenue and $1.2 million in state shared TPT collections by remote sellers. Taking the average from the 8 months of collections so far in FY2021, this would result in just over $7 million annually.

The estimate of Chandler’s decrease in shared revenue? Just over $10 million.

With a cash balance of $135 million, $7 million in new revenue from Wayfair, Prop 207 revenue, and nearly $36 million in Covid cash from the latest package, residents of Chandler need not worry about their city providing a high level of service.

Their estimated “cut” represents a 0.67% decrease in Chandler’s general fund when scored against new ongoing tax revenues.

Flagstaff

The city of Flagstaff budgeted $81.7 million in general fund expenditures for FY2021, leaving the city with a cash balance of over $33 million.

From Wayfair, Flagstaff has already collected $1.3 million from remote sellers and their estimated state share is $340,000. Averaged out this is just under $2.5 million in new annual revenue. Flagstaff has also received $15.2 million in new Covid cash.

The estimated “cut” from income tax reductions? $2.9 million. This represents a mere 0.36% decrease in the general fund when scored against new ongoing tax revenues.

Tucson

The city of Tucson has an FY2021 budget consisting of just under $517 million in general fund expenditures and has a $150 million cash balance.

From Wayfair, Tucson has collected $8.6 million during the first 8 months of FY2021 and the city’s share of state collections is estimated to be $2.5 million so far. Annually this could amount to $16.7 million. Tucson’s share of the latest Covid relief package: $139.7 million.

Tucson’s estimated reduction from income tax cuts is $21.3 million, or a 0.71% decrease in the general fund.

Eloy

The city of Eloy’s FY2021 budget includes $13.6 million in general fund spending. Interestingly, that leaves the city with a general fund balance of $15.2 million—more than their entire budget.

From Wayfair, Eloy has collected $173,477 year to date and their share of state collections is $88,727. Annually this could mean $393,306 in revenue for the city. Eloy is set to receive $4.7 million in Covid cash.

The estimated decrease that Eloy would see is $761,689.72, which would be 1.3% of the general fund.

Cities in Arizona are not strapped for cash.

In reality, most cities won’t feel much of a change at all from the small reduction in shared revenue from major state income tax cuts. But taxpayers will. The fact that the state and cities are sitting on ample cash reserves proves one fact. Taxpayers are overpaying in taxes. And returning some of their hard-earned money is long overdue.

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Getting Back to Normal Shouldn’t Require Vaccine Passports

Getting Back to Normal Shouldn’t Require Vaccine Passports

Vaccines should always be voluntary and never be forced. But COVID-19 came in like a wrecking ball last year, and perhaps its most significant contribution to the world has been an overwhelming growth in government overreach.

From the abuse of emergency orders to the senseless “mask mandates,” some government officials have leapt at the chance to dangle the carrot of “normalcy” in the faces of their citizens in order to take away more of their freedoms. Unfortunately, many have taken the bait. And now, we find ourselves at a crossroads.

The latest promise to return to normal comes in the form of “vaccine passports.” This ridiculous concept would serve as “proof” that a person has been vaccinated so he or she can have access to all the freedoms they should already be able to enjoy as an American citizen. As you would expect, Big Tech is first in line to team up with the government on such an initiative. And New York has already implemented the “Excelsior Pass” so that its citizens can “be a part of [the state’s] safe reopening.” (Given Governor Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic, what could go wrong?)

But nothing about this is normal.

It’s not normal for companies to collect the private health data of individuals. And it’s certainly not normal to force American citizens to submit to certain medical procedures as the price of doing business.

Thankfully, some of our lawmakers here in Arizona have not fallen asleep on this issue. Earlier this month, Congressman Andy Biggs introduced his No Vaccines Passports Act. This piece of legislation would prevent federal agencies from issuing any standardized documentation that could be used to certify a U.S. citizen’s COVID-19 status to a third party, such as a restaurant or an airline.

And just a few days ago, Arizona became the sixth state to ban COVID-19 passports when Governor Ducey signed Executive Order 2021-09. This prevents state agencies, counties, cities, and towns from issuing measures that require an individual to provide documentation of their COVID-19 vaccination status in to order to enter a business, building, or area to receive a government service, permit, or license. It also prevents businesses that contract with the state to provide services to the public from requiring documentation.

While this is certainly a step in the right direction, Governor Ducey’s executive order still allows for businesses, schools, and health providers to ask about an individual’s vaccine status.

That’s why lawmakers should consider additional action on this issue. One option being considered is HB2190. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Bret Roberts (R-LD11) and Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-LD16), would prohibit a company that conducts business in Arizona from refusing to provide everyday services, transportation, or admission because a person does not divulge whether they have received a particular vaccine. It would also prohibit a state, county, or local government entity from offering anyone a special privilege or incentive to receive a vaccine.

Currently, HB2190 is awaiting action in the senate, and negotiations are underway on potential amendments to the bill. Regardless of what those amendments are, Arizona lawmakers need to work toward stopping vaccine passports. They are a serious threat to our civil liberties. And while we all want to return to normal, we must remember that “normal” shouldn’t come with a price tag.

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The City of Phoenix Is Pushing Back on Tax Cuts so It Can Keep Fleecing Taxpayers

The City of Phoenix Is Pushing Back on Tax Cuts so It Can Keep Fleecing Taxpayers

The Arizona state General Fund is flooded with revenue. Latest projections show the state with $1.2 billion in ongoing revenue and a cash balance upwards of $6.5 billion in FY2024. This is by far the largest budget surplus in state history and doesn’t even include the $1 Billion stashed away in the rainy day fund.

When the state is sitting on a pile of cash this big, it means one thing: they are taking too much of your money. And the answer is simple—give it back to taxpayers.

With Republicans at the Legislature and Governor Ducey planning to provide a large and comprehensive tax cut, one special interest group is already lobbying hard behind the scenes to kill that plan: local cities.

The fight of course is over money. 15 percent of income tax revenues are shared with cities. In Phoenix, that accounts for just over $241 million this year, or roughly 4.8 percent of their $5 billion operating budget. Phoenix is arguing that the proposed income tax cut would result in a $65 million reduction in shared revenues; or 1.3 percent of their operating budget.

Of course, this estimated “cut” in revenue is seriously flawed. It fails to take into account that shared revenues from the income tax are based on collections from two years prior. Considering the tax package wouldn’t be fully implemented for another 4-5 years, any potential decrease in shared revenues would not be fully realized for at least 6-7.

Additionally, complaints about static reductions in revenue fail to include any dynamic analysis of economic growth and the corresponding increases in tax revenues—both from income and TPT collections—promulgated by tax cuts.

The passage of Prop 208 made Arizona the 9th highest income tax rate in the nation. It has already begun pushing small businesses to relocate to lower tax states—taking their jobs and income, property, and TPT tax revenues with them. Make no mistake, the loss in revenue for cities such as Phoenix will be much larger if no action is taken to address Arizona’s uncompetitive income tax climate. In fact, a study by the Goldwater Institute found that the Prop 208 price tag to state and local revenues will amount to a $2.4 billion loss.

Knowing that a debate over a potential 1.3% reduction in revenues 7 years from now won’t generate much sympathy to stop the tax package, the city of Phoenix has decided to tell lawmakers that if the legislature cuts your income taxes, cities will be forced to cut police officers on the street. In other words, legislative tax cuts would be responsible for “defunding the police.”

This rhetoric can’t be described as anything other than complete hogwash.

Here is the real bottom line: The City of Phoenix is downright reckless with taxpayer money. The city spends like drunken sailors. They’ve never seen a tax increase they don’t like. And they don’t think twice about fleecing the taxpayer every opportunity they get.

In 2015, Phoenix raised their transportation excise tax in order to waste billions on boondoggles like light rail. They have spent billions on a “Sky Train” hardly anyone uses and then jacked up fees by 200 percent on ride sharers to pay for it.

In 2017, Phoenix’s spending appetite was so colossal they extended the amortization of their pension debt, to free up a few million dollars for one time spending at the cost of billions to taxpayers down the road.

For years Phoenix ran a hotel that never managed to make a profit. In 2017 they finally shed the asset, but not before a staggering $200 Million loss to taxpayers.

All this reckless spending has forced the city to constantly raise taxes and fees. Just last month, Phoenix approved raising their water rates for the 5th time in 6 years on top of rate increases for trash and recycling.

On top of these tax and rate increases, research done by the Arizona Tax Research Association shows the city has also received over $24.6 million year to date in FY2021 (with four additional months of collections to go) from remote sellers. This is new revenue to the city due to the passage of 2019 Wayfair legislation. If these new monies were scored, that 1.3 percent revenue loss would actually be a potential 0.8% reduction realized in 6-7 years, a fraction of the money Phoenix has wasted in just the past couple years.

With tax increase after tax increase and revenue windfalls from the state, the city of Phoenix does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. The legislature providing relief to taxpayers (who will surely be more responsible with their own money than Phoenix will be) will not cause any city to “defund the police.”

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