When it comes to Democrats, the current state of the nation and his goals to get reelected to the Arizona Senate for a third term, Sen. Al Melvin has no problem speaking his mind.
Melvin is hoping voters will reelect him in the Nov. 6 General Election where he faces Democratic opponent Jo Holt. Holt said she’s running because she disagrees with how Melvin and the Republican-led Arizona Legislature continues to cut student funding.
Melvin is quick to disagree with Holt, however, saying that when the legislature was tasked with balancing the budget in 2009 tough decisions had to be made, and they did not cut public education as drastically as Holt and Democrats claim.
While Democrats say the budget cuts meant spending about $3,000 per student, Melvin said the figure is highly exaggerated and the legislature made a hardline decision not to cut student funding below $9,000 per student.
“The biggest myth is that we are short-changing education,” Melvin said. “We mortgaged our capital building to never let it go below $9,000 per student.”
No matter which side is right, a national study shows Arizona continues to rank as one of the lowest when it comes to funding per student. Arizona moved to 50th in the nation between 2008 and 2013 in spending per student.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Arizona made -21.89 percent in cuts to spending per student.
Melvin said while the debate over funds goes back and forth, the state of public education is in crisis and there’s more to it than money.
If elected to a third term, Melvin said he plans to push a measure that would create more competition among the school districts.
“Monetary funding per pupil is not an accurate gauge,” Melvin said. “Statistics show where you have charter schools near district schools, they do better because of the competition. It wouldn’t take long for good American competition to kick in, and districts to perform better.”
Melvin said some of the state’s struggling school districts, such as the Tucson Unified School District, would perform better if the state opened it up to allow parents to enroll their students in charter schools such as BASIS, or move them into the highly-performing districts such as Vail.
“In the end, all arguments would go away because the good (schools) would take over, and the bad ones would just go away,” Melvin said.
When it comes to the man leading America, Melvin said President Barack Obama was elected because the K-12 education system has failed. The fact that President Barack Obama was elected with no experience, points to a lack of educated voters, according to Melvin.
Like most Republicans, Melvin said America is in trouble under the leadership of Obama, and said the continued bickering between the Democrats and Republicans, whether at the state or federal level, won’t end anytime soon.
“The Democratic party today, is not the party of John F. Kennedy or Scoop Johnson,” he said. “They wouldn’t even be able to recognize it. They are not harvesting forests, they have shut down the mining industry and the west is burning. There are just too many fundamental differences between (Democrats and Republicans).”
Melvin said America’s wealth and success is now in the hands of voters. If Obama is reelected, Melvin said the nation is in trouble.
“Obamacare is a death sentence. Secular socialism vs. capitalism,” he said. “Many believe we could very well lose our country.”
When it comes to the 2008 recession, and the continued struggle to gain control of the border, Melvin said the President’s policies are not helping Arizona succeed.
While education is a big priority in Melvin’s quest for reelection, the two-term senator said jobs are also high on his list of priorities. Melvin blamed former Gov. Janet Napolitano for leaving the state with an $11.6 billion debt. The current legislature reduced that by $3 billion, he added.
Melvin said he is going to continue focusing on jobs, and on what can be done at the state level to protect the Arizona borders.
Melvin said he agrees with Senate Bill 1070 and applauded Gov. Jan Brewer’s tough stance against the federal government on the ongoing controversy.
“Whether my opponents want to admit it or not, an uncontrolled border is costing us about $2 billion a year from drugs, to incarceration and education. The bottom line is it is immoral, inhumane and un-American to continue having people dying in our desert. We need a rational guest worker program because there are certain areas where we need them.”
Besides education, the border and jobs, Melvin said in his third term he wants to look at trading electricity with either Mexico or California for water rights to the Colorado River, and he wants to decrease the tax burden on business owners.
The current salary of an Arizona Senator is $24,000.