Last month, Lattie Coor, founder and chairman of the Center for the Future of Arizona, released their updated report, “The Arizona We Want 2.0”. This report is a summary of 10,000+ surveys and interviews of Arizona residents. The following chart in that report should send a wake-up call to Republican leadership at all levels across the state.
In Arizona, research shows that the Republican base is aging at a rate faster than it is being replaced by young, newly registered voters. As proof of this, consider the demographics of those who attended the county and state Republican Party meetings in January. Twenty years from now a large part of our base will have died off. As a party, we must take action now to reverse this trend. This reversal will only happen if we have something long-term to offer.
Two weeks ago on Sunday Square Off with Brahm Resnick, newly elected state Republican Party Chair Robert Graham was asked, “Does Arizona’s Republican Party need to change its message?” During the couple of minutes he had to speak, Graham gave several thoughtful and correct statements. Part of what he said was, “Our relationship with the Hispanic population is purely that we do not have one.” Unfortunately, because of the brevity of the show, he did not have the opportunity to provide details of how he intends to fix this.
Knowing that certain individuals and groups are trying to paint Republicans as the party of angry, old white people only concerned with immigration, I offer four suggestions to Chairman Graham and Republican leaders in Arizona around education that strengthens our position, not only with Latinos, but also with any other demographic desiring long-term economic prosperity. As you read these suggestions, consider that almost a dozen Republican governors have already implemented these four ideas in their states.
Modified All-day Kindergarten — Because so many of us at the Legislature had incredible college educated wives who sacrificed careers to stay home and raise children, we think this is the norm in Arizona. It is not. There is irrefutable data to show that the greatest return on education dollars comes from investments in early education. If we want to send a positive message to Arizona’s Latino community (and all other races), begin by investing in their future with all-day kindergarten for students in schools that are 50 percent or more free and reduced.
Stop Punishing Dreamers — The easiest way to be identified as the party of angry, old white people is to continue going after Dreamers, students brought here illegally when they were too young to have any say. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, a state we often hold up as a model for economic idealism, has recognized the long-term benefits of making sure Dreamers have every opportunity to become educated and gainfully employed. Our first steps should include allowing in-state tuition for Dreamers and a reversal on the driver’s license ban. Republican governors in both Michigan and Iowa took this latter step just last month. We do not gain anything long-term with the Latino voter by punishing young people trying to make the best of a bad situation.
Focus on College — I have beaten the drum for six years now advocating to increase the percentage of students who take a college entrance exam. This is a key step to recognizing a student’s potential to succeed in higher ed. Over 40 states pay for their students to take either the ACT or SAT. We continue to be dead last in the percentage of students who take either of these exams. I call upon the Board of Regents to reinstate the requirement to take a college entrance exam as part of the application process to ASU, NAU, or UofA; while at the same time asking my colleagues and Governor Brewer to find a way to assist students with paying for the exam. I think the competitive grant process used in last year’s budget is a great start.
Expand Career and Technical Education (CTE) — One of our dumber moves during the tough budget years (besides selling the Capitol) was to slash funding for CTE. Once again, research shows CTE as the most effective way to reduce drop-outs, engage students, and provide a clear path for gainful employment. Senator Al Melvin has been trying for two years to get 9th grade funding restored. I agree with him, although the formula does need to be tweaked a little, but I also call on my colleagues and Governor Brewer to expand opportunities into 7th and 8th grades. Some fear we are “tracking” students. I disagree. Allowing kids to be engaged in activities they enjoy is not tracking.
Chairman Graham has already discussed his plans to tackle redistricting in 2022. I commend him for his long-term view of Arizona politics. However, if we do not take steps now to engage the ever-increasing Latino population with meaningful opportunities for education, it may not matter how much planning we do around redistricting, for we will be the minority party.
— Rich Crandall is a Republican state senator from Mesa.