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Of the People, By the People, For the People

Democracy in Action in Phoenix

Arizona saw democracy in action yesterday afternoon when close to 2,000 citizens showed up at the State Capitol to protest the Governor’s proposed budget. The crowd included ASU students who marched in from their campus, younger children, parents, teachers, union members, and numerous other public education supporters.

A few legislators came out of their offices to listen to the public, but the vast majority of GOP representatives stayed hunkered down inside. In the end, they once again demonstrated they don’t care what the people of Arizona want, as the proposed $9.1 billion spending plan passed the Appropriations Committee five votes to three along party lines, with Republicans in favor.  The proposal cuts $98 million from K-12 education, $104 million from the state’s three public universities, and the entire $19 million in state funding that us currently allocated to community colleges.[i]

One GOP Representative blamed the need for the cuts to public education on the voters’ 2012 failure not to extend the temporary one-cent sales tax, which generated about one billion per year in revenue. The House Minority Leader, Eric Meyer, said that’s only half the story since during the time those funds were being collected, the Republican controlled Legislature gave away $538 million in tax cuts.

Unfortunately, Arizona’s Governor and Legislature seem hell bent on taking Arizona down the same road Kansas has gone in recent years. This, despite all the proof that this strategy isn’t working for Kansas and, all the opposition the plan has seen in our own state.

Among the opposition over the last few weeks, were 220 school superintendents who wrote the Legislature that: “The proposed reductions, if enacted, will affect student achievement, student health, and campus security. By any measure, the proposed cuts will have an overall detrimental impact on student success, making the mission of educating Arizona’s youth even more challenging.[ii]

Michael Crow, President of ASU, sent an email to alumni in which he wrote “it is certainly time for the State of Arizona to recognize higher education as a priority investment that should be made in human capital to help Arizona, its economy and its people move forward.”[iii]

Michael Varney, the Tucson Chamber of Commerce President and CEO called the proposed budget “disappointing at best and devastating at worst.” He went on to say, “there is a point beyond which you cannot come back. You can cut to that point but not beyond it or your organization or company will fail.”

One aspect of Ducey’s budget that has many Arizonans very upset is that he seems to value private prisons over public education. TUSD Governing Board Clerk, Kristel Foster said, “I am not ok with having 3,000 more prison beds. I’m not ok as a citizen of Arizona in investing in that and having a goal of keeping our prisons 90 percent occupied and not having a literacy rate of 90 percent in our schools.”[iv]   In fact, many of the protestors yesterday had signs referring to the prioritization of prisons over schools such as: “Education, Not Incarceration”, “Schools, Not Jails”, “Fund Schools, Not for Profit #ALEC Prisons.”

Arizonans are angry and they are tired of not being heard by our legislators and Governor. They still owe us $317 million in inflation funding voters mandated and a judge ordered be paid, yet they claim they can’t do it while continuing to give huge corporate tax breaks.  One has to wonder where this will end and when we will hit rock bottom. The sad part is there is no doubt our children will pay the highest price.

[i] http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/politics/2015/03/04/ducey-gop-leaders-reach-state-budget-accord/24382611/

[ii] http://azednews.com/2015/02/18/233-arizona-superintendents-ask-legislators-to-adopt-a-budget-that-does-not-cut-k-12-school-funding/

[iii] http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/politics/2015/02/26/crow-rips-duceys-higher-ed-budget-mail-alumni/24095385/

[iv] Arizona Daily Star, March 6, 2015

Teach for America is NOT the Answer!

Arizona Legislators think spending $2 million on Teach for America (TFA) recruits is a solution for “supporting our teachers?” Get real. You don’t support teachers by bringing in “scabs” to take their jobs or, by claiming that young college graduates, with five weeks of training are “highly qualified teachers.” You support teachers by providing them what they need to do their jobs and paying them equitably.

I get that politicians want quick wins to show their constituents. But as the saying goes, politicians think of the next election, leaders think of the next generation. We need more leaders who understand sound bites don’t equal solutions. Using TFA corps members to supplant much more qualified teachers in an attempt to save long-term costs (such as earned retirement entitlements) is a short-term outlook that only hurts our children in the long run.

TFA recruits have shown some slightly higher gains on students’ assessments over comparable new teachers, but these “wunderkids” are far from the solution to our teacher shortage. Turnover, always a challenge with new teachers, is much higher with TFA recruits with 56% of them leaving after their initial commitment is up and a full 85% leaving by their fifth year.[i] TFA founder Wendy Kopp’s description of the organization as a “leadership development organization, not a teaching organization” is likely part of the problem.[ii] Corps members aren’t usually drawn to the program because they want to become teaching professionals. Their “gig” in the classroom is a jumping stone to more.

The real problem with using TFA corps members in place of teaching professionals though, is that it reinforces the thought that “if you can, you do…if you can’t, you teach.” Until we recognize that teaching is a critically important profession and invest in the education and retention of these valuable professionals, our country will never move the needle forward on education achievement. I wouldn’t consider five weeks of training sufficient for my doctor, lawyer, or accountant and I don’t consider it enough for our teachers.

Helping our schools succeed isn’t rocket science, but neither will it be easy. Money isn’t the total answer, but it is part of the equation. Yes, we have a teacher shortage in Arizona, but we can’t succumb to the quick fix. The solution lies in: 1) paying our teachers equitably so we can attract and retain the best, 2) keeping classroom sizes moderate so teachers can give each child the attention they deserve, 3) providing well-rounded curriculums that allow our children to explore their interests and fortify their strengths (since we never know where the next Einstein or Maya Angelou will come from) and 4) providing stability for our schools, staffs and students so they can focus on quality and growth, not churn and burn.

Diane Ravitch, our nations’ leading public education advocate, said recently at Lehigh University that: “public schools are the people’s schools, their doors are open to all…public education must be, as we once hoped, a bastion of equal opportunity. Public education is a public trust. It is not a business opportunity.”[iii] When a politician claims they support education, listen for the word “public” as part of their claim. If they don’t say it, they don’t mean it and don’t truly support quality education for everyone. It really is that simple.

[i] http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/10/04/kappan_donaldson.html

[ii] http://www.thenation.com/article/179363/teachers-are-losing-their-jobs-teach-americas-expanding-whats-wrong?page=0,1

[iii]https://www1.lehigh.edu/news/case-public-education

#AZEDSpring

When it comes to Arizona funding for public education, I just don’t get why the public body isn’t in the streets with pitchforks. Please walk down memory lane with me on the matter of voter mandated inflationary funding for school districts:

2000

  • AZ voters mandated (Proposition 301) the state sales tax be raised by 0.6 percent and that the money be spent on annual inflation increases for schools.

2009

  • Lawmakers quit providing the annual boosts for inflation.
  • The Arizona School Board Association (ASBA) and the Arizona Education Association (AEA) offered to “move on” if the Legislature would only begin to comply, but they refused.
  • Several school districts, ASBA and AEA filed a lawsuit to force compliance.

2011

  • A Superior Court Judge ruled Prop 301 did not require the Arizona legislature to annually inflate education funding for Arizona’s public schools.
  • The plaintiffs filed an appeal.

2013

  • AZ Court of Appeals reversed the lower court.
  • AZ Supreme Court ruled with the Court of Appeals that the inflationary increases must be paid.  The decision emphasized that the Voter Protection Act limits the legislature’s power to modify voter initiatives and referenda.
  • The legislature began paying the increases again in the 2013-2014 budget year.

2014

  • The trial court ordered the base level funding be reset to the level it would have been if it had been inflated properly over the last five years (estimated to be $1.6B over the next five years.)
  • The court also ordered an evidentiary hearing be held on whether the state should pay the $1.3 billion in inflationary funding not given the districts from 2010 to 2012.[i]
  • The parties in the lawsuit agreed to mediation in an attempt to resolve the matter.[ii]

So where are we now, seven months after the ruling the monies must be paid? Yep, that’s right, nowhere. Not only has the Legislature refused to comply with law and judicial order, but they continue to further cut the public education budget. This legislative session, three new expansions of voucher eligibility have passed their committees of origin as has a bill to make it even harder for Districts to pass bonds and overrides. In addition, Governor Ducey is proposing a five percent reduction to “non-classroom” expenses.

Then yesterday, the House Education Committee gave a “due pass” to basically dump the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards “common core.” This, after our school districts have spent huge amounts of financial and human capital since 2010 to implement these standards. Statewide, the costs are estimated to have been $156M just for the 2013-2014 school year, and that doesn’t consider the turmoil caused by changing course yet again.[iii]

Okay, so to recap, the Legislature has refused to comply with both the people’s mandate and with judiciary orders for the same. In addition, they are working on legislation to divert even more taxpayer dollars from public education to private providers and, the Governor’s budget looks to cut another $113.5M from district budgets across the board, as with a sequestration.[iv]

Are you kidding me? It is beyond time for us to demand our representatives listen to us. I’m calling for an Arizona Education (AZED) Spring . Yes, that’s a play on the Arab Spring. Of course, I’m not looking to start a real revolution; I’ll leave anything to do with guns to our legislature to obsess over. What I do hope for though, is for the public body to wake up after a very long hibernation that has allowed our representatives to continue to ignore the will of the people and the rule of law. I’d love to hear what you think.

[i] http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/2015/01/11/arizona-school-funding-lawsuit-settlement-talks/21590417/

[ii] http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2015/01/23/schools-legislature-agree-to-use-appeals-court-to-resolve-inflation-funding-suit/

[iii] http://www.azsba.org/advocacy/resource-center/

[iv] http://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/news/2015/01/16/ducey-melts-tourism-education-budgets-proposes.html

Come on Governor Ducey…LEAD!

Now Governor Ducey has, through his office of the Strategic Planning and Budgeting, clarified his position on the proposed $113 million reduction in state funding to District Additional Assistance [DAA] (the five percent reduction to non-classroom dollars.) To get right to the point of what this is all about, we need only to look at the main message of his clarification: “it does not change the amount of the proposed cut, but makes it clear that district options to comply can’t impact classroom spending.”

I think the really critical words in this “clarification” are “district options to comply can’t impact classroom spending.” Please note that the Governor didn’t stipulate that the cuts must not impact the classroom, but rather, that the cuts must not impact classroom spending. Okay, so I guess Governor Ducey thinks that the classroom spending determines the quality of education in our state? If that’s the case, we’re already hosed. Well, Arizona is actually 47th in the state with regard to “administrative” costs, so we evidently don’t have a problem with classroom spending. What we do have a problem with, it spending on education per pupil. From 2008 to 2013, we had the highest cuts per pupil in the nation. Although the state leadership would like the public to think as “non-classroom” spending as high paid superintendents and principals, the truth is that it includes bus drivers, food servers, librarians, speech therapists, and maintenance workers. In many cases in fact, teachers absolutely can’t accomplish their missions in the classroom without the help of the “non-classroom” personnel that support their efforts.

The biggest “tell” for me is that the Governor is that Districts would have to certify to the state that no reductions were made to classroom spending to comply with the state’s new reduction to District Additional Assistance. This is actually a change from what originally was said which was that the Districts would have to certify there was no impact to the classroom by virtue of the cuts.

However the Governor wants to spin these proposed cuts, these cuts ARE to K-12 public education. In addition, although our legislature seems to abhor all things federal, this five percent cut to “non-classroom” dollars is a lot like the federal sequestration cuts. Across the board cuts may be easy to dictate, but they aren’t strategic and they don’t support improvement.

My school district has done much to cut non-classroom spending in an effort to become more efficient. This five percent reduction however, won’t recognize our efforts, but rather, will lump us in with every other district whether or not they’ve focused on becoming more efficient.

We need leadership from our state government, but this isn’t it. We need the school finance formula to be totally revised and we need a strategic approach to how to improve K-12 public education in our state. This can’t be political, it must be strategic. It won’t be easy, but it is the right thing to do. Come on Governor Ducey…LEAD!

A million here, a million there, pretty soon we’re talking real money…

Yesterday, I was listening to NPR and heard a story about how Arizona House Bill, HB2128 just passed the third read and was transmitted to the Senate. This bill allows those who lease land to churches to claim a tax exemption as a result. The law change will result in an additional $2.1 million from the state’s general fund ending up in private coffers instead. Yet another example of our representatives looking out for the privileged few versus the average Arizonan.

Okay, $2.1 million isn’t all that much compared to a state budget of about $9 billion, but it all adds up. I started thinking what our district schools could do with $2.1 million. Again, just a drop in the bucket compared to what has been shortchanged our schools over the last few years, but it would help us begin to make a dent in the need.

Although my primary focus tends to be early childhood education when discussing where to apply resources, $2.1 million wouldn’t even begin to address the need. Arizona does not fund full-day kindergarten, let alone preschool, so although I believe quality early childhood education is critical to improved outcomes, I also recognize it will take some real political courage and time to get us there.

When considering mission success in the Air Force, we were taught to consider what limiting factors (LIMFACS) could impact our chances. The fact that poor children start school having heard as many as 30 million fewer words than their wealthier counterparts is a significant LIMFAC that quality preschool can help address. Another LIMFAC in Arizona is our significant shortage of school counselors. Arizona does not mandate school counselors, but their benefit is well documented.[i] They work as a team with school staff, parents and the community to help all children achieve academic success by providing education, prevention, early identification and intervention.[ii] “Counselors generally spend 80 percent of their time with students, and the remainder of their time collaborating with teachers implementing Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards, supporting testing, and using test data to create, monitor and evaluate student academic interventions. Helping students develop strong interpersonal skills, and identify and cope with social, emotional and mental health issues is an equally important part of the job, at all grade levels, and one being felt more acutely in some parts of the state.”[iii] The downturn in the economy created significant stressors for families, especially in rural areas and a school counselor can really help bridge the gaps.

Sadly, Arizona leads the nation (only California has a higher ratio) in counselor to student ratio. The American School Counselor Association recommends a 1:250 counselor to student ratio. The national average in the 2010-2011 school year was 1:471 and the Arizona average was 1:861.[iv] Why is this important? To understand how significant this is, one needs only to look at the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “Kids Count Databook” which ranks states in four categories (economic well-being, education, health, and family and community) to determine child well-being within each state. For 2014, Arizona ranked 46th in the nation overall and 44th in education. [v]

Obviously, Arizona’s children have significant stressors placed on them. Counselors in schools can do much to help identify and address these stressors before they manifest themselves in a variety of less than desirable ways. After the Sandy Hook shootings, there was much discussion in Arizona and around the nation about putting school resource officers (cops) back in schools or even more drastic, arming teachers. Under the guise of “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”, I believe our efforts and money would have been much better spent on ensuring every school had a counselor.

So, back to the $2.1 million the AZ Legislature just gave away to wealthy property owners. Assuming a counselor costs a school district about $60K (with benefits), the $2.1 million the legislators just voted to siphon out of the general fund could pay for 35 school counselors. Granted, that would only meet about 3.5 percent of the additional need, considering Arizona’s deficit just to meet the national average versus the idea. But, it is a start. In my small school district (about 450 students) our administrators, teachers and staff are stretched thin. Both the superintendent and the principal also teach advanced math classes, must provide coverage for student watch duties and, the principal is the grant writer for the district. It is hard for them to be everywhere at once and a counselor would go a long way to ensuring the health and well being of all students.

The Arizona Legislature is marching steadily on in their assault on public education. Their refusal to look for additional revenue, while also finding new ways to divert taxpayer dollars from the public sector to the private sector continues to widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots and is not producing better outcomes for the majority of Arizonans. We, the public, really must wake up and demand better. Of the people, by the people, for the people. The common denominator in all that is “the people.” If we aren’t involved, we can’t complain. The bottom line is that we get the government we deserve.

[i] http://www.schoolcounselor.org/school-counselors-members/careers-roles/state-school-counseling-mandates-and-legislation

[ii] http://www.schoolcounselor.org/school-counselors-members/careers-roles/why-elementary-school-counselors

[iii] http://azednews.com/2014/03/31/arizona-students-access-to-school-counselors-decreases-while-need-increases/

[iv] http://www.schoolcounselor.org

[v] http://www.aecf.org/m/databook/aecf-2014kidscountdatabook-rankings-2014.pdf

And the beat goes on…

Yesterday, the Arizona House Education Committee moved the state one step closer to fully privatized K-12 education with their passage of HB 2174 (empowerment scholarship accounts; grandchildren) on a 4-3 vote. This bill expands eligibility of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) or “vouchers” to grandchildren being raised by their grandparents. An amendment was adopted that removed the requirement that the grandchild meets the free and reduced price lunch eligibility requirements.

This removal of the requirement for the grandchild to meet the free and reduced price lunch eligibility requirements is significant. Let’s face it. The overall intention of this American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) promoted legislation is to provide for K-12 education via vouchers (taxpayer dollars intended for public education) given to parents to pay for private schools. The Arizona Legislature has been moving us down this road for several years.

In 2009, the Arizona Supreme Court found two similar school voucher programs violated the Arizona Constitution’s ban on aid for religious or private schools. The Goldwater Institute however, which had first proposed the idea in 2005, offered educational savings accounts as an alternative. In April 2011, Governor Brewer approved SB 15523 authorizing Arizona Empowerment Accounts (first state to do this) to give parents of eligible special-education students the opportunity to receive ESAs. Funds could be used for curriculum, testing, private school tuition, tutors, special needs services or therapies, or even seed money for college. According to the Arizona Department of Education, parents spent a total of $198,764 in scholarship funds in the first quarter of fiscal 2012. About 92 percent went to private schools.

The Arizona School Boards Association, the Arizona Education Association, and others filed a lawsuit, claiming the program unconstitutional. The Goldwater Institute, the Arizona Attorney General’s office, and the Institute for Justice defended the program. In January 2012, a Superior Court Judge ruled the savings accounts were constitutional. Her opinion was: “The exercise of parental choice among education options makes the program constitutional.” Education advocates continued to appeal this decision, but in October 2013, the Arizona Court of Appeals also ruled in favor of the accounts.”

In 2012, Gov. Jan Brewer signed HB 2622, expanding the program to include children from failing schools, children in active-duty military families, and children adopted from the state foster care system.2 These families began applying for accounts in 2013, and students began using the accounts in the 2013–14 school year. The legislature also expanded the program in 2013 to include incoming kindergarten students that meet the existing eligibility criteria, and increased the funding amount for each account award.3 More than 200,000 Arizona children are now eligible, or 1 in 5 public school students. New applicants must have attended a public school for at least 100 days in the prior school year.

The education profiteers won’t be happy until the public school districts are sucked dry of funding and private school and for-profit charter operators maximize profits on the backs of taxpayers. Shifting money from our public district schools to private schools and charters will not by and large pull disadvantaged children out of their situations and fix America’s education problems. Rather, it will continue to drive the highest level of segregation since the mid-1960s and ensure the advantaged continue to succeed and the disadvantaged fall further behind. Can’t help but wonder what the new Arizona College and Career Ready Standards and the accompanying AZ-Merits test will do to school performance grades and widening eligibility for these vouchers. Know this…I’ll be watching.

Disingenuous Ducey

Governor Ducey called for a 5 percent reduction in non-classroom spending for district schools and a 3.5 percent reduction in additional assistance for charters . He claims the goals of the reduction are to 1) reduce the size of school administration and 2) refocus on students and teachers.

Politicians know a call to “cut administration costs and ensure more money ends up in the classroom” sells to the masses because “administration costs” is often heard as “salaries for superintendents, principals and office staffs.” In reality, these “nonclassroom dollars” refer to administration, plant operations, food service, transportation, student support, and instruction support.

Ducey realizes these are critical functions and that’s why he recommends requiring superintendents (or CEOs) and the school finance officer to certify the reductions will not affect the classroom. I can’t imagine how a superintendent in good conscience could do this since counselors, transportation, librarians, food service, and speech therapists are critical to a teacher’s ability to teach. One in four children in Arizona live in poverty and they bring a host of challenges with them to school. Challenges teachers can’t deal with on their own, especially with larger classes.

As a 22-year Air Force (AF) veteran, I know that flying operations are generally considered the premier “mission essential” functions. But, AF leaders recognized flying operations couldn’t happen without support functions like food service, personnel, security, transportation, etc. Ultimately, the airman fueling the plane is just as critical to mission accomplishment as the pilot flying it. Yes, classrooms are where the main learning occurs, but classroom teachers can’t do their magic without the right kind of support. When the Governor talks about cutting non-classroom funds by five percent, no mater how he spins it, that equates to cutting K-12 education by five percent.

The Governor’s also wants to take $23.9M from the Student Success Fund to create the “Access Our Best Public Schools Fund” to expand existing charter facilities/construct new ones. He claims this is because of the high waiting lists at best performing charters. Unfortunately these waiting lists are virtually impossible to validate because their for-profit corporations refuse to provide the transparency required of district schools.

Is there a correlation between Arizona’s bottom ten in funding for K-12 education , and 47th in performance ? I am of the thought that to a certain extent, you get what you pay for. Close to 90 percent of Arizona’s students still attend community district schools and yet our state leadership continues to focus on creating more opportunities for profit on the backs of our children, to include making it easier and easier to funnel tax payer dollars to private schools. If Governor Ducey really cared about K-12 education, he would focus on the schools we already have versus building new ones and he’d provide our schools real funding versus just reallocation via a shell game. In the end, claiming charter and private schools do better (a stretch), while starving our district schools of funding, becomes a self-licking ice cream cone which serves those best who don’t need the help to begin with. Maybe that’s the plan.

RE: Dem’s criticism of AZ schools called harmful

Wow! Is AZ Senate President Andy Biggs for real? He says the state is now spending more on education than it ever has, but fails to mention that 3 percent increase amounts to 13 percent less because of inflation. He claims AZ provides “a good education,” even though we are ranked 46th in the nation.

He does acknowledge that education “is the first and most legitimate function of government”, but then says the Legislature has lived up to the extent possible given the recession and drop in state revenue.”

Sorry, but you don’t get to have it both ways Andy! Your words make education a “must fund” expense. If education is the first and most legitimate, then it should be fully funded first before other priorities. If there is insufficient revenue to ensure that is possible, then revenue must be raised via any/all means available.

Of course you have not only vowed to not raise taxes, but you and your buddies have repeatedly lowered corporate taxes, many of which haven’t even kicked in yet.

‘Best performing schools’ play by different rules

Gov. Doug Ducey recently pledged to expand school choice, vowing “serious reform” to ensure “equal access” to the state’s best-performing schools by eliminating waiting lists, such as the 10,000-student list at the Great Hearts Academies.

Choice won’t ensure equal access, there are too many barriers. These “best performing schools” achieve because they play by different rules — cherry-picking students, unlike district schools who educate all.

Charter schools are notorious for padding their waiting lists. The Arizona Charter Schools Association claims their schools were hit harder during the recession because they can’t ask taxpayers for overrides and bonds. Give me a break.

Charters receive $1,100 more per student than the district schools because they don’t have access to override and bond monies. The recession made it tough for district schools to get additional monies passed, but charter schools never missed a beat.

— Linda Lyon, Tucson

Is the NRA America’s Taliban?

Six Taliban militants killed 145 people and injured another 100 on December 16th in a school in Peshawar, Pakistan.  The dead included 132 children, 10 staff school members and three soldiers.  CNN.com reported:

“Seventh-grader Mohammad Bilal said he was sitting outside his classroom taking a math test when the gunfire erupted. He fell into bushes before running to the school’s gates to safety.  Ahmed, the 14-year-old student, remembered being in the school’s auditorium when four or five people burst in through a back door “and started rapidly firing.” After getting shot in his left shoulder, the ninth-grader lay under a bench.

Bajwa told reporters that Pakistani security forces reached the school 15 minutes after the attack began.

They found, he said, “the children … drenched in blood, with their bodies on top of each other.”

As horrific as this story is, it really shouldn’t surprise Americans.  After all, we had 26 children gunned down at Sandy Hook and yet our leaders were unable to enact any sort of meaningful legislation to ensure more gun safety.  Since the tragedy in Newtown, there have been 74 more school shootings resulting in 38 deaths and 53 injuries.  In general, 282 people are shot each day in the U.S. – that’s almost 12 an hour.

The fact that not even the Sandy Hook tragedy lessened the seemingly stranglehold the National Rifle Association (NRA) has on our leaders at all levels, has led me to begin to think of the NRA as the American Taliban.  I’m quite sure that just as we look at the Taliban in Pakistan with total dismay for the killing of 145 innocents, other countries around the world look at us and think how crazy we are to continue to accept death after preventable death. After all, per the Brady Campaign, “our firearm homicide rate is 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population.”

I’m okay with gun ownership, but believe your right to own, carry and use does not trump my right to feel safe.  Truth is, I don’t feel safe in a public place with civilians openly carrying guns.  I know how to use guns, and I qualified as “Expert” during my 22 years in the Air Force.  There is a time and place for guns however and I don’t think that includes the grocery store, library, school, etc.  It also doesn’t include automatic weapons with extended clips.  And it surely doesn’t include allowing nine year olds to fire weapons they are not equipped to handle.

We know what we need to do to improve gun safety.  Many Americans want it done.  Those who don’t, have been convinced by the NRA that ANY safeguards put in place are just a toe in the door to ban guns all together.  That’s just B.S.  Gun ownership is a constitutional right.  But, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are also important principals to Americans.  Unfortunately, until we realize the NRA is out to protect their own interests (money and power) versus those of American citizens, they will continue to be major players.

I often see NRA stickers on people’s cars indicating they are proud of their membership in this organization.  Along with the NRA stickers, will often be military stickers, or US flags or something about patriotism.  I’ve got news for those folks.  Being a member of the NRA does not make them patriots.  It is more akin to their worshipping a false idol.  I view the NRA organization as domestic terrorists.  Just like the Taliban, they build their power base through fear and intimidation.  Just like the Taliban, they claim they have a higher purpose, but the truth is, they want power and money.  Just like the Taliban, there is probably no negotiating with them because they don’t ever operate in good faith.  And just like the Taliban, they don’t care how many innocent people are killed to maintain their power base and achieve their goals.

I urge patriotic Americans to drop their membership in the NRA.  Take a stand today that the status quo they’ve been perpetuating is unacceptable and we want common sense gun safety enacted.  Do it for yourself, for your family and for your country!

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