Governor Janet Napolitano addresses border issues, education and term accomplishments
Karen Colbenson/The Daily Dispatch
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Dispatch, Governor Janet Napolitano discussed her concerns with border issues and education, talked about her campaign, and spoke of the accomplishments of her present term as Governor of Arizona.
When it comes to the border, a lot of Douglas residents want to know what is being done to cut down on illegal immigration, smuggling, and terrorism. As Napolitano discussed these concerns, she reiterated strength in numbers saying that protecting the border is a combined effort of city officials and law enforcement. Although the governor is strictly against illegal immigration, she talked about finding positive alternatives to the capture-and-release method that is the commonplace action when an illegal is caught inside the United States.
"We need to have interior enforcement; that means even if someone gets through the gauntlet of the border, you need to be able to do something if they get all the way up to Phoenix. Have the federal congress get their act together and pass the bill that deals with the temporary worker programs and all the things that are needed to make this problem more manageable."
Initiative to raise the minimum wage
Arizona is one of six states without a minimum wage, so it follows the federal minimum of $5.15 an hour.
The Democratic governor, who is known to be generally reluctant of endorsing ballot issues, is very clear on the position she takes on the incentive to increase the minimum wage. "I'm for it. I think that if people are working full time, they ought to have a wage that allows them housing and to enjoy life somewhat, and I think that means in the absence of a federal increase of the minimum wage, Arizona needs to act."
Though some believe her support on this issue is solely for campaign boosting, others believe Napolitano has always stood behind Arizona's low-earning, hard-working people.
Annual Yearly Progress, otherwise known as AYP, a requirement of the No Child Left Behind Statute, has recently been a very hot topic. Last Thursday, the Department of Education released figures that stated 1/3 of Arizona's public and charter schools, including many Douglas schools, failed to make adequate progress last year.
Some believe these statistics are misleading due to newly imposed rules by the U.S. Department of Education. "Our data shows that the students are learning more and have higher test scores," says state School Superintendent Tom Horne. "If the federal government had kept the rules the same, we would have had approximately the same number of schools making adequate yearly progress."
Others argue that not enough tax money is going towards Arizona's schools, although nearly half the state budget goes to K-12 schools. Nevertheless, Arizona still ranks near the national bottom in terms of investment in education.
Napolitano deems the low scores a language barrier issue. "A primary need that we have is to educate our young people who come from families where English is not spoken, how to read, write, and speak in English. I recently spoke with U.S Secretary of Education about that. We have to quit fooling ourselves in Arizona. These kids need to learn English if they're going to succeed in school."
Accomplishments of Napolitano's term
When a politician runs for re-election, most voters want a re-cap of what that politician accomplished during their existing term.
Opposers accuse Napolitano of not focusing enough attention on border issues and not implementing effective solutions to illegal immigration. Supporters say her concentration on education is what Arizona really needs in a governor. Napolitano believes that through her term, the state of Arizona has greatly improved on their weakest points, including the lack of faith in the state government.
"We balanced the budget, we gave teachers and state employees a raise, we've instituted all day kindergarten for the whole state, and we put into place a lot of resources and law enforcement at the border," Napolitano declared. "Perhaps what I'm most proud of is changing the view that nothing positive can come out of state government and that we've created a sense that Arizona is on the move."
Napolitano leading election
According to the latest Rasmussen Reports election survey, Napolitano is still leading Don Goldwater 55% to 32% and Len Munsil 52% to 33%.
That's a slight rebound for Napolitano from last month's poll, when Napolitano led Goldwater 52% to 37% and Munsil 53% to 35%.
Arizona's primary election will be held September 12t, 2006.
For more information on Arizona politics, visit http://www.politics1.com/az.htm.