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Arizona charter school reform emerging as election topic

Posted at 10:43 PM, Sep 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-21 23:19:30-04

Millions of dollars wasted - and it's your hard-earned money. 

ABC15 is taking a deeper look at charter school reform in Arizona and what our lawmakers are planning to do about it. 

Most of the debate centers around transparency, after several high profile cases around the state, including Goodyear's Discovery Creemos Academy. 

The school, shutting down earlier this year, after accusations of fraud, including that the owner set up several companies to make money off the school. 

Democrats say they have long argued for reform and now accuse Republicans of jumping on an issue because it's politically expedient. 

"This could have been solved a long time ago, and it wasn't, and it was ignored," says Christine Marsh, who was Arizona's Teacher of the Year in 2016 and is also a Democrat running for the Arizona Senate in Dist. 28 against current Republican Senator Kate Brophy McGee. 

Marsh says Republicans have had several chances over the years to tackle charter school reform by passing bills backed by Democrats, but never did. 

"They have shut down debate and discussion about it. It's not even getting intelligent conversation."

Just this week, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signaled he was willing to tackle charter school reform, and Sen. Brophy McGee says she has a plan to go along with it that would include more transparency and also holding charter schools to the same standards as regular districts. 

"This is like standing by and watching someone set a building on fire and then coming in with a bucket of water later after the building is already in flames," Marsh said. 

Sen. Brophy McGee responded by saying, "First of all, I'm not going to sit there and watch it burn," referring to Marsh's analogy. 

Brophy McGee is also the Vice Chair of the Senate Education Committee and says she has heard from people in both parties and is vowing to cross party lines to achieve the goal. She says if re-elected, she has a five-point plan that doesn't just tackle charter schools, but all schools. 

"I have put forward a plan," she says. "I don't see a plan in my opponent's case." 

But Democrats argue they have put forward numerous charter reform bills this year alone. 

Brophy McGee says, "These bills did not make it onto the agenda. I do not set the agenda, and there has been no analysis of the bills. It's my understanding that there are pieces of them that could be used in an overall solution, but simply introducing a bill that not doing anything to get it heard and simply going onto the next campaign and playing 'Gotcha' doesn't solve the problem." 

The governor is defending his record on education, stating it's been a main focus of his for the past several years, but does say there are places to make improvements.