The Arizona School Boards Association is prohibited by law from making campaign contributions to ballot measures after years of using their position and the taxpayers’ money to influence elections to serve their special interest. However, in traditional ASBA style, they have created a work-around of the law.
In 2011, the Arizona legislature passed a law, H2002, which prevented public money from being laundered into a campaign. In past years, the ASBA which is funded by the dues of public governmental entities, made sizeable contributions in support of Prop 100 and in opposition to the 2010 First Things First sweep, according to the Yellow Sheet.
Claiming that they exercised “forward thinking,” the ASBA founded the non-profit, Friends of ASBA, to fund their preferred ballot measure campaigns. Now the group can launder money to the Quality Education and Jobs initiative, through their new exempt organization.
The ASBA is primarily controlled by school district superintendents across the state, not the duly elected school board members. The orientation trainings provided to school board members upon election or appointment guarantee cooperation from school board members with superintendents. In those rare instances when the training does not produce the desire cooperative attitude in rogue school board members, the ASBA provides interventions.
The ASBA can also be counted on to present awards for excellence to any school board facing bad press. At the same time that the Sunnyside School District in Tucson was under investigation for exploiting children in their bond ballot measure, the ASBA awarded them one of their highest honors.
In the Tucson Unified School District, Dr. Mark Stegeman fought and won a tough battle to not renew the district’s membership in the National School Board Association. Other Board members fought hard to maintain membership due in large part to the availability of travel opportunities to seminars and conventions across the country.
The National School Board Association is the largest employment agency for superintendents and districts in the country. The organization provided head hunting services, for large fees, to school districts. One long time educator compared it to the “Rabbinic circuit. They clean these guys’ resumes up, make them look good, sell them hard, and the next synagogue is stuck with the loser the last synagogue just dumped.”
For years now, legislators have tried and failed to defund the ASBA. This year, the effort is gaining momentum, and a campaign for the purpose will begin in the fall. Opposition to the organization stems from the fact that the ASBA and the Arizona Education Association are the two most powerful opponents to meaningful school reforms.
The ASBA and the AEA will continue to spend considerable money on good lobbyists to make sure it stays that way.