Gov. Jan Brewer said today she wants Child Protective Services made into its own separate agency, headed by someone who reports directly to her.
“It is evident that our child welfare system is broken, impeded by years of structural and operational failures,” Brewer told lawmakers in her annual State of the State address.
Brewer said she issued an executive order separating CPS functions from the rest of the state Department of Economic Security, but she needs legislative approval to create an entirely separate agency.
She is not likely to get a fight on that — several members of both political parties have called for such a move.
The announcement follows the embarrassing disclosure that 6,500 complaints of abuse and neglect to CPS had gone uninvestigated.
“This is unconscionable,” the governor said. “It breaks my heart and makes me angry.”
One thing the move does is remove DES Director Clarence Carter, who has been in charge of the agency for years, as the top supervisor over CPS. Instead, she named Charles Flanagan, who has been heading a special investigatory task force looking at the issue, to run CPS.
Brewer did not say whether she will seek more money for the now-revamped agency. Carter already has asked for an extra $115 million.
In what is expected to be her last State of the State speech, Brewer also asked lawmakers today to approve a plan to give more money to schools where students show marked improvement.
The proposal, dubbed Student Success Funding, would provide financial incentive for schools to make sure that individual students do better. The typical bonus would be anywhere from $10 to $60.
Brewer said it achieves her goal of tying state aid, at least in part, to performance.
“That means we stop funding the status quo and instead reward innovation and measures outcomes -- and fund the results we want,” she said.
Beyond that, Brewer said that by 2018 three out of every five jobs in the state will require training beyond a high school diploma.
“Our students must be better prepared for the challenging and competitive world they will soon enter,” she said. “Our students must be better prepared for the challenging and competitive world they will soon enter.”
The governor also laid out a wish list of proposals she said will make Arizona more economically competitive.
She wants, for example, to exempt manufacturers from having to pay the state sales tax, levied on everyone else, on the cost of electricity. Brewer said Arizona is one of only a few states which extends that tax to such firms.
“That puts our current manufacturers, and the ones we hope to recruit, at a disadvantage,” she said. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is pushing the move, estimates the levy brings in $5 million to $10 million a year.
Brewer also said she wants lawmakers to adopt a package of other measures — not specified — that she said will attract the kind of firms that have high-paying jobs. She is seeking a more stable source of funding for the Translational Genomics Research Institute to do research in bioscience.
Brewer also said she wants to give prosecutors more laws to combat human trafficking that “targets women and children, turning many into sex slaves,” and she wants lawmakers to put money into the defunct Military Installation Fund, which can be used to buy development rights around military bases to protect them from urban encroachment — and possible future closure.
The governor also told lawmakers she wants the Arizona Board of Regents to adopt a policy that guarantees “stable in-state tuition levels” for the four years it should take a student to get an undergraduate degree.
“Arizona students and families need stability and affordability in their college education,” she said.
The governor has no actual authority in this area other than her role on the board, but her ability to affect state aid to the schools through her budget recommendations, being made later this week, could give her leverage.
And Brewer, who is on record as believing abortion should be outlawed except to save the life or health of the mother, signaled she would support even more “life-affirming legislation protecting the unborn” even as the U.S. Supreme Court earlier in the day voided a 2012 law she signed banning abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy.
But the governor gave no hint Monday of whether she will try to pursue another term in office despite voter-approved constitutional language that would appear to require her to vacate the office at the end of this year. She has promised an announcement next month.
The most detailed of her proposals is that incentive funding plan for public schools.
In essence, each of the state's 1.1 million children in public schools will be evaluated for their reading, writing and math skills. Then they will be retested at the end of the school year.
A student who improves several grade levels could earn his or her school up to an extra $300 a year on top of the estimated $4,115 in basic state aid per pupil. The more typical bonus would average out at about $37 a year.
Schools whose students already are doing well also will earn some extra money, though not as much as the schools who can show an actual improvement.
But students whose achievement lags will earn nothing extra for their schools.
One hang up is that the proposal would require lawmakers to come up with an extra $40 million in state aid for schools. That's on top of a Supreme Court order to make an annual inflation adjustment, something that could automatically add another $80 million.
The governor told lawmakers the investment is justified.
In seeking to improve the state's business climate, Brewer separately acknowledged that the state has lagged in some of its “infrastructure” investments, including roads and water supply.
Some of that has come with Brewer's blessing, including using gasoline taxes and vehicle license fees not for road construction and repair but instead to balance the budget. The governor did not promise to end that practice when she presents her budget proposal later this week but did say there needs to be “an open dialog about workable solutions” to address the state's critical infrastructure needs.