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The incredible dishonesty and absolute lack of transparency that is engulfing our state breaks my heart. It is like watching a distant yet ever-widening sinkhole that you know will eventually threaten your community, your business and your home. I used to hope that the true conservatives in our state would stop tolerating this kind of fiscal and ethical malfeasance...though it appears that will continue to overlook it in the name of party affiliation or general ideological cover. To say this is a shame would be a massive understatement.
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Excellent, excellent post Craig. I appreciate that you are reporting on the finer details that most of us would otherwise miss.
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Ahhh - therein lies the biggest mystery of all. Why aren't the journalists in our area digging into these types of claims? I'm curious how the politicians of Arizona have gotten such a free pass from the Fourth Estate.
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The radical fundamentalists who attacked us on 9/11 are no more the representatives of Islam than Timothy McVeigh was a "defender of the Constitution". I have spent a lot of time in the countries that you mention in your post above and find the suggestion that Muslims "have taken over" pretty laughable. Perhaps you should start looking beyond email spam for your news? Brush up on a little history as well...Islam has been a integral part of Spain for centuries. While I certainly think that religious fundamentalists (Islamic or otherwise) pose a serious problem to global security, it is time that we set aside the wild ideological accusations and theories. It is counterproductive and attacks on specific religious groups fly in the face of our core American values.
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It is a shame that the Goldwater Institute continues to insist on using inflated educational funding statistics to validate their opinions. You are completely correct that Ladner was spinning wildly away from the AEN post, but even his retort was erroneous. The $346m in lunch money that he counts as 'education funding' comes from parents as well. Every check that I write for my kid's pizza lunch goes to the school district, which has to account for the incoming 'revenue' even though it goes straight to the lunch provider. Though Ladner & I seem to share an enthusiasm for good nutrition, I fail to see how he can continue to count my lunch checks as 'funding' for our schools. He also tries to blow off the 'adult education' funds as minor...but in my district the adult ed, community schools, day care and other non-school day related revenues equates to over $30 million dollars. These funds are reported as 'Other' revenue on the Dept of Ed numbers...and if you include this category of revenue from all Arizona schools, it adds up to $1.5 BILLION. Though Ladner tries, I think it is tough to categorize that kind of money as "tiny". David - I think your post is spot-on, but I do have to disagree that Ladner has a 'logical mind'. It isn't logical to be cashing in his integrity chips or undermining the validity of his organization by pressing on with this kind of misinformation.
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Yeah - that was the article reflecting how well the current legislative 'leadership' is simultaneously looking out for small business owners, the children and the elderly. Way to screw pretty much everyone in one shot. Not to mention all of the working parents and caretakers who will also absorb the increase in costs.
Toggle Commented Oct 11, 2009 on Presented without comment at Blog For Arizona
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You're right about the littering Thane...but I'd chip in $20 as well ;) Senator Harper's proposal calls for the elimination of 1 out of every 20 state employees. "Government employees" includes public school teachers. The Arizona Education Network volunteers emailed him to find out how he envisioned the school cuts (per district? per school? in addition to the cuts already made? ): http://tiny.cc/JKE4D No response yet, but I'm curious what his plan entails.
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GOP Spartan: First off, as a fellow Spartan, I have to insist that you stop using that moniker. You are giving all Spartans a bad name...surely you left The Riv long enough to get a grip on Spellcheck. Secondly - I believe that the Arizona Legislature has been run by Republicans since around 1993. That makes for a big handful of fiscally "irrispnsible RINOs". The last two decades also included more time with Republican Governors (Brewer, Hull and Symington ran the state for a total of roughly 13 1/2 years between 1991 & today vs. Napolitano's 6 year run) than with the sole Democrat. During those last few decades, spending went up but our taxes were also repeatedly cut. A lot. Our corporate, personal and property taxes have all gone down by over 25% each. The theory, of course, is that lower taxes would bring greater prosperity to the state. Turns out that isn't the perfect formula. But back to David's post: Kudos to the Supreme Court! My favorite part of the Court's summation: “…the declarations and proposed findings of the initiative presented to the voters demonstrate that the purpose of the initiative was to invest in early childhood health and education programs. A further purpose was to create “dedicated funding to improve the quality, accessibility and affordability of early childhood development opportunities.” Given these statements, allowing monies to be siphoned from the Fund to the general fund is not consistent with the purpose of the initiative."
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Thane: Define "soaking". David's post merely points out that the proposed tax increase will hit the 'rich' with increases below what most of the tea-types would like everyone to believe. Here's the other thing -- the people will wealth tend to pay significantly less than their tax bracket. People with higher incomes have investment and charity write-offs, mortgage deductions and business expenses that can be deducted from their tax bills. They can also afford to hire tax accountants to steer them through all of the loopholes and credits in the system. There is also another loophole in your theory. Consider this: --Arizona's personal income taxes have decreased from 3.8% - 7.0% in the early 1990s to 2.59% (lower bracket) and 4.54% (higher bracket) today. --Our corporate income tax declined from 9.3% in 1990 to 6.98% today. --Conservative tax watchdog groups such as ALEC and the Tax Foundation give Arizona high marks for a low tax structure. ALEC notes that our overall corporate tax rates declined -25.08% between 1990 and 2007 and they rank our state as 2nd in overall competitiveness (1 being the best). --The Tax Foundation 2008 report ranked Arizona's local-state tax burden as 41st out of 50 states (50th being the lowest 'burden'). Our state has enjoyed over a decade now of low taxes. Conservative groups sing our praises. Why, then, aren't those Maryland corporations beating down our door? Why are we having troubles attracting viable, high-paying jobs and business entrepreneurs to our state? (Yes, this is a rhetorical question!)
Toggle Commented Jul 21, 2009 on Tea bag altruists? at Blog For Arizona
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Trent: 1. You have started all of your last three posts by misconstruing my words. I didn't say that members of tea party were hate filled - I said that I could relate to the fear, anger and frustration that they (and others) were feeling but that your movement wasn't going to "get much accomplished if you stick to ridiculous stereotypes and hate-filled protest signs". I'll stick by that assessment. 2. I laughed aloud when I read your second point...the pork bill and stimulus are ALL Obama but "not a dime" of defense spending can be attributed to him? Please see my last post regarding stereotypes, sweeping generalizations and the need for facts. 3. No - nothing personal against poor ole Frank. He just happened to be one of your speakers and he just brims with irony when he rails against government while he himself receives a number of government paychecks (3, by my count) The fact that he served our country makes it perfectly acceptable in my book to receive all of the veteran & military benefits (and then some), but it doesn't give him a free pass to be obtuse. and "chief enemies" ?? Trent, really ?
Toggle Commented Jul 19, 2009 on To Teaparty or not to Teaparty at Blog For Arizona
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Trent: Reading your message, I construe that you tossed me out of the Conservative Club because I "approve of government expansion". I re-read posts and can't figure out where I became an expansion cheerleader...I merely am pointing out that we have existing obligations that we need to pay for and that tax reductions aren't realistic right now. Let me reiterate one reason why I think the Tea Party thing is over-baked with the following example: Our current military budget is roughly $651 billion dollars. That covers the general expenses for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. If you were to add in all the little 'extras' (Veterans programs, nuclear weapons research & maintenance, etc.) our total US military spending runs around $1 trillion dollars every year. There are around 138 million tax payers in the United States. If each of us paid an equal share JUST to cover our military expenses every year, we would pay $4,717 per person for the general military expenses...$7,246 each to fund the entire trillion-dollar package. That, my tea-touting friend, is a lot of money. And now we are also in DEBT by that same amount, so that means we have to shell out double that amount just to cover our military obligations and get back in the black. ($14,492 per person so far if you are keeping tabs) I'd like pause here to point out that President Obama can't take the 'blame' for that big bill...it existed before he became President. I'd also like to point out that the more conservative tax groups (Heartland, etc.) say that the average American HOUSEHOLD (*not taxpayer*) pays around $17,300 per year in federal taxes. That $17k in taxes our households are currently paying- by the way - is just enough to pay for our current military obligations and existing debt...and not much else. Am I picking on the military because I'm a pinko-Commie liberal who doesn't support our troops? No - it's just an easy illustration and it just happens to be the portion of our tax money that pays Mr. Frank "Small Government" Antenori's reported military pension and VA benefits. What I am saying, however, is that we Americans have gotten ourselves into a real mess. We need measured, serious and fact-based conversations about how to get ourselves out of the mess...not a bunch of guys carrying "Death to Our Dictator" signs (see your Tea Party website for this reference). We also need Americans to take responsibility for this. George Bush might have mucked a bunch of stuff up at the federal level, Obama might be making the wrong decision in launching a uber-expensive health care program - but WE AMERICANS borrowed more money than we should have, bought homes we couldn't afford, didn't pay enough attention to our education system and gorged ourselves on cheap/quick/disposable goods from overseas. We can throw a million hissy fits but the truth is that we have created the government that we deserve - and we won't change much until we turn off the raving pundits and start taking a hard look at the facts. I'm not diminishing the fear, anger and frustration that the tax protestors feel...I think we all feel it to some degree about our general economic situation. I don't, however, that you'll find that you'll get much accomplished if you stick to ridiculous stereotypes and hate-filled protest signs. You aren't doing yourself - or your country - any favors by sticking to the lowest common denominator of rhetoric.
Toggle Commented Jul 19, 2009 on To Teaparty or not to Teaparty at Blog For Arizona
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Trent: In your reply to me you started off with: "You are most certainly not a conservative and don't have a clue about what the Tea Party Movement is about" LOL Wow - forgive me. I didn't realize that the keeper of the conservative key was right here in a liberal forum! I thought conservatism meant economic prudence, taking responsibility for one's actions, general ideological opposition to our current endless stream of subsidies & tax loopholes and a desire for small government. I can't claim to be a 'social' conservative since it would never occur to me in a million years to have my kids carry around dead fetus signs, but I thought I might have nailed the whole fiscal-conservative title square on the head. Foolish me...I didn't realize that I also needed to parade around sneering at my elected Congresswoman's office and/or enthusiastically misrepresent the principles behind a major historical event to join your club! Maybe, just maybe, that's why so many people are fleeing the Republican party. Seems that the guidelines for admission are tightening and the atmosphere is getting a little extreme. If I can't consider myself to be a conservative anymore, I guess I'd better find myself a new crowd to run with. How about it, David? Any room in your pack or am I excluded if I admit that Keith Olbermann gets on my nerves? I DO drive a hybrid though, so maybe Trent is on to something.... PS: Check out the recent legislation in our state, especially that impressive budget omnibus bill that the "conservatives" in our state legislature jammed through at 3am last month as proof that 'liberals' don't have the market on nutty, fiscally-irresponsible, multi-paged bills that people don't have time to read. I might (might!) have a smidgen more respect for the tea party crew if they weren't gushing over Rep. Antenori for doing the exact same thing that they are protesting against. More irony there than you can shake a stick at!
Toggle Commented Jul 19, 2009 on To Teaparty or not to Teaparty at Blog For Arizona
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*Sigh* The tea party stuff comes on the news and my back bristles. I'm sorry, but you can't run around advocating for unregulated financial markets, willy-nilly consumer spending, a variety-pack of international conflicts (which have driven our military spending to record highs) and all of our Arizona special-interest projects and THEN express indignation when the bill comes in the mail. Here's the deal. We all hate taxes. I'll bet that even David hates taxes. All of us also agree that our government (federal/state/local) needs some major improvement. BUT - that doesn't make it OK to forgo personal responsibility and rave like a bunch of nutters about overthrowing the US President. Good lord, if the Democrats had used the same militant language the tea-partiers are using against our former President, Cheney would have had a massive conniption and we'd all be living under martial law. As a conservative, I'm not impressed. It's time to stop reading the reactionary, self-centered Rush Limbaugh playbook and start approaching our substantial national issues like thoughtful grown-ups.
Toggle Commented Jul 18, 2009 on To Teaparty or not to Teaparty at Blog For Arizona
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Here's one the should really get our collective knickers in a twist: one of the bills that you mentioned (HB2288; Premium Tax Credit; STO Contribution) allows the amount of corporate tax credits that can be diverted to private schools to * double every four years *. Yesiree: the same legislators who are falling over themselves to slash deeper into public education just approved another way to send more of our general fund dollars to religious schools. This despite the fact that their own budget analysis said that they couldn't determine the financial impact of the bill due to "lack of information on current STO credits", the fact that the bill's sponsor - Rep. Steve Yarbrough - is skimming a hefty amount off the top OR the fact that the amount that can be diverted ISN'T CAPPED (see link mentioned below for the scary math). That all goes without mentioning the $10 million in unspent tax money currently parked in private STO (School Tuition Organization) accounts. (http://www.arizonaeducationnetwork.com/2009/07/1762/comment-page-1/#comment-98) Enough to fund a small district but once it is put into a private fund the company is no longer accountable to the taxpayers and we can't get the money back. Makes a Parent X yearn for the New Jersey government we left behind...those bad boys are brimming with integrity and concern for the tax payers next to the "leadership" in our state government!
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No doubt Todd. And thanks for reinforcing my point Name...our tax dollars don't belong in private bank accounts. The $9 million plus in our tax money that is just earning interest for the STOs isn't 'saving' the state anything...and the STOs have zero accountability to the tax payers. And...whatdaya know...Gould and Harper just voted on yet ANOTHER increase in private school corporate tax credits! http://www.azleg.gov/DocumentsForBill.asp?Bill_Number=HB2288 For those of you who are keeping track, this bill is in addition to the bonus $5 million in corporate tax credits that they passed earlier in the month. Forgive me if I think the mini-lectures from Harper & Gould above are a bit disingenuous.
A parent group recently took the time the time to pull up all of the AZ Learns statistics for charter schools in our state. What they found: --55% of traditional K-12 public schools are ranked in the top tiers of the AZ Learns rankings as 'Excelling', 'Highly Performing', or 'Performing Plus' --Only 39% of Arizona charter schools are ranked in these top tiers. A full 50% of all charter schools are ranked as 'performing', which is a nice way of saying that they need a lot of improvement. They also published a comprehensive list of charter schools in our state (www.arizonaeducationnetwork.com/school-information/charter-schools/ ). What really strikes me when I read the list are the number of charter school companies with multiple 'performing' level schools. I'm surprised that Mr. Ladner wouldn't be advocating for restrictions that would prohibit corporate charter holders from expanding until they could demonstrate a model of academic success. Our students and our economy are not being served by approaching Arizona's education debate with an either/or mentality. That's what doesn't sit right with me about the Goldwater Institute and Mr. Ladner's all-encompassing disregard for our public school districts in his postings on this site. Does TUSD have issues? Yes - without a doubt. But there are also over 5,500 students attending Excelling TUSD schools. Are some charters like BASIS producing great test scores? Yes - but it's worth noting that BASIS had only 26 students take the 10th grade AIMS exam last year...and it is also true that neither TUSD nor BASIS represent the norm for school districts or charters within our state.
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Excellent post David! It's great to see what works - and to catch a glimpse of how much work and thought the teachers put into the program.
Toggle Commented Jun 6, 2009 on This won't be on the test at Blog For Arizona
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PS: I came across this today - Guaranteed Research The Goldwater Institute is committed to accurate research. The Institute guarantees that all original factual data are true and correct to the best of our knowledge and that information attributed to other sources is accurately represented. If the accuracy of any material fact or reference to an independent source is questioned and brought to the Institute’s attention with supporting evidence, the Institute will respond in writing. If an error exists, it will be noted on the Goldwater website and in all subsequent distribution of the publication, which constitutes the complete and final remedy under this guarantee. Love that 'accurately represented' guarantee. So...when will we see the correction on your website regarding the revenue number?
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Poor Matthew: I'm not sure why you started your response by giving me a lecture about the AEA -that isn't my crowd. It does crack me up, however, that you think you can dismiss someone simply by implying that they might be (gasp!) UNION. LOL Here's a newsflash - Arizona is a right to work state. Contrary to what you and other people who diminish teachers would like others to think, the collective union here serves mainly to disseminate information - in states that have the stereotypical unions of old, you wouldn't be able to walk into the Senate building right now without getting a picket sign poked up your nose. You are missing the main point. I'm not a lobbyist, a special interest group employee or even one of those accursed, unionist teachers that you keep rhetorically sneering at. Heck - I'm not even a Democrat. The irony (and man, there is a lot of it today) is that I'm a fiscal conservative. Not one that picks and chooses when to carry the conservative banner, but someone who actually believes in business ethics, government integrity and getting the most money for our tax dollars. On paper, I'd make for a great Goldwater employee LOL. Except - that Goldwater seems more interested lately in tossing out dishy, half baked information than formulating policy based on fact. I've been over the JLBC report & the hyper inflated Dept of Ed revenue number you have chosen to role out ad nauseum. Look up my past posts or click the link above as a starting point. It's not worth repeating again because you just keep changing the subject when evidence proves you wrong..just see the the post above. It starts out with questions about STO waste (which you handily ignore) - then you jump in because the Goldwater Factory number is being disputed - then you dodge the statistics which disprove the revenue number and then...why are fourth graders attending art and music?? Whoa! The room is spinning!
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Mr. Ladner - You'll have to excuse if some personal weariness slips into this response. I have already responded to your "9,000+" number several times on this blog, and I believe that the link to the report listed above (K-12 Education Facts and Statistics) provides a pretty good over view of why this is a fallacy. While the weighted funding formula in our state can be confusing, I don't think you get a pass. Being deliberately obtuse is not acceptable when you hold a PhD and you have a research staff at your disposal. Not having a PhD myself and being research-assistant free, I'll still go out on a limb here and say that you continue to lean heavily on the Dept of Ed revenue figure for three reasons: 1. It is easy math. This I can wholly appreciate...if only it were so simple. 2. You think that if you make it sound simple enough that people won't read the rest of the Department of Education report. If you continue to read the report, however, you'll find out why our State Superintendent, all of the national surveys and the rest of the schools in our nation don't refer to the overall revenue number when they are measuring school finance. 3. You promote the privatization of our education system. If it sounds like we are spending a lot of money (though even if we were at $9700, we'd still be below national average) then maybe people can be convinced that we can get more bang for our buck out of the private sector. You also want to try to make the education groups and the parents in this state look like they are exaggerating when they say that our schools are reaching a financial crisis point. 3 1/2...I also suspect that like most of us, you hate to be proven wrong. Even though many people are calling your bluff, you guys have spent a lot of money printing up glossy postcards with that $9700+ number and you have too much invested in the figure to back down now. You also have a lot of legislators who have bought on to your math and need it to help justify their cuts to public education. You are paid to spin figures. I get that. But when you sneer that the rest of us aren't intellectually capable of grasping the real numbers and then brush off huge discrepancies in your revenue figure as 'private twinkie money'...sorry, but you lose my respect and it taints all those other Goldwater updates that I get as unreliable. That 'private twinkie money' by the way, is what skewers your revenue figure. School districts process enormous sums of money that have little or nothing to do with K-12 classroom education. Some of that 'twinkie' money in 2008-2009 included: --$346 million in student lunch money --$95 million in adjacent ways --$594 million in 'other' revenue streams, much of which have nothing to do with classroom funding. This category includes adult education, after school care, ballet/gymnastics/art classes held on school sites, summer camps, etc. See Dept of Education 2007-2008 report, Volume I, page 47 (50 on Adobe reader). Explanation of Expenditure/Revenue categories can be found in Volume II, pages i1-i3 Just those three examples total over a BILLION in revenue...not exactly minor oversight in my book. I also wouldn't consider the $362k in our tax credit money that Ms. Henderson's STO hangs on to for administrative expenses to fall into the 'twinkie' finance category...though you didn't mention that in your response.
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Mr. Ladner...you are doing a huge disservice to yourself and the Goldwater Institute by hanging on to the $9,700 despite all evidence to the contrary. Anyone who has actually bothered to read the JLBC reports or the Department of Education's Annual Report can see that your EZ Formula (simply dividing revenue from all sources by students attending public schools) is flawed on a number of levels. I suppose this type of spin falls under your job description as an employee of a special interest group which promotes the privatization of our American public schools. I stand as a voter, parent, and a fiscal conservative, however, and I think that it is appalling to try to use inflated figures at the expense of the million children currently in Arizona public schools. I'm happy to engage in a 'school choice' debate, but not with an individual or organization which cannot deal in fact. BTW: CCUSD, your numbers are also off. Please look at that report again (page 199 or I-195 is the page number for TUSD). If you read the guide at the beginnning of the report, you would note that many of the revenue streams listed for TUSD are NOT monies that can be allocated for school expenses. Dollars under this category include items like student lunch money (student sends money to district, district sends money to food service provider), adult education, after-school classes, etc. That "Other" category for TUSD is over $90 million...no small change considering that their soft capital (real classroom dollars) is only $15 million for the same year.
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ChamBria: Thanks for weighing in on this discussion...I've been following David's blog with a great deal of interest. I'm not sure if I follow your main points, however. 1. You say that David's points today are common knowledge. While I'm sure that this is true in the STO circles, I am willing to bet that the average tax payer is unaware of the loopholes in the private tax credit legislation...or the fact that 10% of their tax credit 'donations' are lost to administrative fees and never come close to reaching the students themselves. 2. You yourself point out that tax credit reciprocity is fraud...and yet you also note only that 'most' STOs disallow it. This highlights the need for regulation as much as anything that David has written so far. 3. The argument that private school tuition credits 'save' the state money is false. The general premise behind the 'savings' argument assumes that a public school's costs go down for every child that leaves their system. Most people who have stepped into a classroom know that this is not true - the school will still need to pay the same operational expenses, teacher salary, etc. regardless of whether or not a few children per grade level move or enroll in a different school. Our public schools also are mandated to accept any children from private schools who decide to return to public schools after the start of the school year. 4. The $9,500 "average public school per pupil cost" you refer to has also been widely debunked as a special interest spin statistic. You can find details about AZ per pupil costs here: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/6393715/Arizona-K-12-Examination-of-the-Facts It is also worth remembering that this entire conversation began because people are tired of legislators & individuals who seem to find ways to tap into our limited tax dollars for their own self interests. As a parent who has sent their children to both Catholic & public schools, I do NOT believe that the current tax credit system is serving the best interests of our Arizona students OR our economy. $362,673 of our Arizona tax dollars was spent for administrative fees by your organization (Arizona Scholarship Fund) in 2006...that was approx. 11% of your total revenue for the year. It is also equal to around 181 additional $2,000 private school scholarships that could have been awarded if these tax credits went straight to the children for whom they were intended. This is not a personal criticism of your operation - I'm sure that your expenses are all legitimate under the current system. It just doesn't make sense to me that 'school choice' advocates or fiscal conservatives continue to support a system which is so administratively top heavy and open for the kind of personal liberties like we are seeing over at Yarbrough's STO.
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Here's one other thing that sets off my legislative BS alarm: Yarbrough's company, ACSTO is a private tax credit operation. He makes a big show out of not being part of the corporate tax credit operation...but he just happens to house School Choice Arizona (one of the largest corporate STOs) in his office??? According to the Arizona Department of Revenue, School Choice Arizona took in just nine corporate donations in 2007...but they totalled $3.2 million dollars. In 2007 School Choice Arizona only awarded $792,223 in scholarships. That leaves quite a bit of unused tax money sitting around at the end of the day, even if you consider the amount that they need to carry over to start the next school year. I'd love to know who those 9 corporate donors were - if you divide out those donations, it means that nine companies sent an average of $355,555 in tax receipts to Yarb.. - I mean, School Choice Arizona - instead of the state general fund. http://www.azdor.gov/researchstats/schooltaxcredit.htm
Toggle Commented May 22, 2009 on Steve Yarbrough, landlord at Blog For Arizona
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Ick. Really. Great use of our tax dollars.
Toggle Commented May 22, 2009 on Steve Yarbrough, landlord at Blog For Arizona
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Mr. Ladner: Anyone can pull up the 990's for Mr. Yarbrough's tax laundering...er...tuition tax credit business. You can locate them on www.guidestar.com or via this direct link to his page via the National Center for Charitable Statistics: http://nccsdataweb.urban.org/PubApps/showVals.php?ft=bmf&ein=860931047 (you can click on the 990 links at the bottom of the page) He registers his STO under this primary name: East Valley School Tuition Organization. One other thing to note: I've taken a look at other STOs in the state, and their 'processing' expenses tend to be much lower than what you'll find in Mr. Yarbrough's STO. They also don't compensate their directors quite as finely as Mr. Yarbrough is compensating himself...
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