We Get What We Deserve

Wow! I normally think of Laurie Roberts as a fair-minded reporter with a pro-public education bent. I don’t know what happened to her this morning, maybe she ran out of leaded coffee and had to drink decaf. At any rate, I couldn’t let her opinion piece, “Does Arizona really need 236 school districts?” go unanswered.

First of all, the answer is no. But of course, this isn’t the sort of question that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” because there are so many variables that must be factored in. For example, I was recently on the Diné (Navajo) reservation where even relatively close to Tuba City, the students must travel over REALLY bad roads for over an hour each way every day to get to and from school. Could we do more to consolidate district schools on tribal lands? Maybe a little, but I’m guessing opportunities would be very few and far between.

Sure you say, but that’s a really different situation than what they have in downtown Phoenix. Yes, that’s true, but I’m guessing there are other unique circumstances in those schools and the voters elect locally elected governing boards to make decisions about what is best for their students and their communities. Do they always get it right? No – no one ever does. But, they are closest to the action and have the best chance of making the right calls.

Roberts finds it curious Governor Ducey has never shown interest in merging school districts. I seriously doubt she really finds it curious and suspect she understands that this is a hot potato issue the Governor would rather just keep off his plate. And as for Robert’s claim that Governor Napolitano’s plan to reduce the number of districts went down in flames because “school officials fired up torches in defense of ‘local control’”, I don’t believe that was where the main pushback originated. If school officials were fighting the consolidations, I’m betting it was because their parents and community members were pushing them to do so. What parent after all, wants their child on longer school bus rides than necessary, or further away from home during the school day?

As for her assertion that “On average, school districts in Arizona spend a woeful 53.8 percent of their budget in the classroom”, Roberts knows this is “woefully” misleading. Here’s the facts about what public district schools spend in the classroom and what they spend on administration:
1. Yes, Arizona districts spent 53.5 percent of their available operating dollars on instruction in FY 2016 per the AZ Auditor General’s Arizona School District Spending report. But, the Arizona School Boards Association disagrees with what is included in that “classroom spending” and the Governor and Arizona Legislature agreed back in 2015. That’s because the AG’s report doesn’t count instructional support (5.7 percent) and student support services (8.2 percent). These areas include physical and occupational therapists, reading and math intervention specialists, media specialists/librarians, counselors and social workers. All of these specialists are critical to a student’s academic success and when included, take the total amount of classroom spending up to 67.4 percent.
2. Even at that, as Roberts points out, Arizona districts spend less on administration than the national average. My research shows we spend only 67 percent of the U.S. average spent on administration, not just the one percent she cites. Even assuming she is correct, the important point is that we do better than the national average.
3. For all their touting of efficiencies gained due to their relief from bureaucracy, Arizona charter schools spend DOUBLE the amount on administration than do district schools.

She really loses me though, when she opines, “if the school lobby succeeds with its plan to soak the rich with a massive income tax hike….” Words have meaning and it is by no accident that she chose “lobby” and “soak”. I mean, imagine if she’d wrote the sentence this way: “if public education advocates succeed with their plan to more fairly distribute additional taxation to ensure our districts are funded just at 2008 levels….”

Besides, if you want to make a case for efficiency of public school operations, how about we start exercising more control over where charter schools can build and operate. Does it really make sense for a Legacy Traditional Charter School to have been built in Peoria a couple of years ago for 1,500 students when there were 8 “A” and “B” rated schools WITH capacity, within a two-mile radius of where the charter went in? And that’s just one example of the waste generated via the lack of accountability in a state that is intent on siphoning taxpayer dollars away from its public schools with little transparency to the process.

The bottom line is that district schools, with their locally-elected governing boards, open meeting law requirements, and procurement rules, (unlike charters and certainly, private schools) offer the greatest degree of accountability and transparency of any school choice option. But…for the system to work, the public must be informed and engaged, and government MUST provide the checks and balances. Just like with government at large, we get the public schools we deserve.

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Another Conservative Breaks Free Of The Matrix

Conservative columnist George Will, in an opinion piece published in the Washington Post yesterday, urges Americans vote against the GOP in the midterms. He cited the “family-shredding policy along the southern border” as “the most telegenic recent example of misrule” as sort of the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The principle by which people should vote is that,

The congressional Republican caucuses must be substantially reduced. So substantially that their remnants, reduced to minor ties we be stripped of the Constitution’s Article I powers that they have been too invertebrate to use against the current wielded of Article II powers. They will then have leisure time to wonder why they worked so hard to achieve membership in a legislature whose unexercised muscles have atrophied because of people like them.

Will lambasts House Speaker Paul Ryan as a “Vesuvius of mendacities” for wagering

his dignity on the patently false proposition that it is possible to have sustained transactions with today’s president, without being degraded.

He goes on to write that, “Ryan and many other Republicans have become the president’s poodles”, not because our system has failed, but “because today’s abject careerists have failed to be worthy of it.” Will nails it when he writes that,

By leaving dormant the powers inherent in their institution, they vitiate the Constitution’s vital principle: the separation of powers.

The Senate, Will writes, refused to vote on Senator Corker’s measure to require “Congress to vote to approve any trade restrictions imposed in the name of ‘national security’.” This would have been only the second amendment voted on this year, but they refused to do it because of fear it would have “peeved the easily peeved president.” They also “waited for Trump to undo by unilateral decree the border folly they could have prevented by actually legislating. This, writes Will,

is an advertisement for the unimportance of Republican control.

In the end, Will’s point is that we need to vote for Democrats to

affirm the nation’s honor, while quarantining [Trump].

And to those who are worried about Democrats’ ability to appoint judges, Will writes that,

Article III institutions are not more important than those of Articles I and II combined.

Please God, let this be yet another sign, that real change, that which can save our institutions and the Democracy they serve, is on the horizon. Then, let the people show up to the polls to deliver that change.

Arizona Fails Another Test

Yesterday, the Network for Public Education and the Schott Foundation for Public Education, released a report titled “Grading the States” that serves as a report card on our nation’s commitment to public schools. At the onset, they challenge the belief in privatization as the solution and write,

Although the public school system is not perfect and has continual room for improvement, it is still the cornerstone of community empowerment and advancement in American society.

Therein, I believe, lies the rub. Those driving America’s economic engine, don’t want everyone aboard the train. Instead, those who most “have”, are working very hard to leave the “have nots” at the station. As Stephen Brill writes in his new book “Tailspin”,

Conservatives have always preached self-reliance while liberals favored an activist government that assures the common good. However, [what we are seeing now] is a new, wider, and more dangerous divide – between those at the top, who enjoy unprecendented power, and everyone else. For those at the top, the common good is no longer good for them.

Even though many Americans have become polarized into either the Conservative or Liberal camps, the real fight isn’t there. Increasingly, it is between the MEGA “haves” and the “have-nots”. Truth is, for these MEGA “haves”, political ideology and allegiance to our nation, are likely much less important than maintaining and improving their status. After all, in our global economy, our country’s borders are no barrier to their multi-national interests and in their gilded worlds, not only do they increasingly not care about the common good, they don’t even need it. And nothing, is more all about the “common good” than public education. It provides opportunity to all and is largely responsible for building the strongest middle class in the world, once making the American Dream a possibility for many.

Now, that Dream is largely out-of-reach by the vast majority of Americans and the assault on public education is a real threat to our nation. As “Grading the States” points out,

Privatization in public schools weakens our democracy and often sacrifices the rights and opportunities of the majority for the presumed advantage of a small percentage of students.

Those paying attention, are aware of the threat. What “Grading the States” does, is drive home the havoc being wreaked by grading each state according to “instituted policies and practices that lead toward fewer democratic opportunities and more privatization”, as well as “the guardrails put into place [or not] to protect the rights of students, communities and taxpayers”.

It should surprise no Arizona public school advocate that our state received an “F” rating. It also should not surprise that Arizona was ranked 51st overall, 50th in voucher policy and 49th in charter policy.

Delving into further details, the report notes that,

Of the 18 states with Tuition Tax-Credit Programs, 9 fail to require any accreditation of the schools that receive a benefit from such Tuition Tax-Credit Programs. Arizona has the worst accountability over their Tuition Tax-Credit Programs. Except for requiring background checks for teachers and employees, Arizona’s Tuition Tax-Credit Programs fail all the reviewed accountability categories.

It also points out that although privatization advocates claim “vouchers and charter programs are more accountable than public schools”, research just doesn’t bear this out.

For example, the ESA program of Arizona, the largest in the country, expects no evidence or monitoring of student achievement, while placing 90% of the public school funding on a debit card for parents to find non-public education services.

Only public district schools after all, have locally elected governing board members, who are accountable to the voters and taxpayers, and must adhere to open meeting laws.

Perhaps craziest of all, is that we are all being sold a bill of goods that aren’t, by and large, delivering better results and that most of us really don’t want. According to the report, a poll conducted in October 2017 found that,

among all registered voters, only 40 percent supported vouchers while 55 percent are opposed. This number further decreases to 23 percent with opposition at 70 percent when voters were asked to consider support if it meant less money for public schools.

In Arizona, a December 2016 poll supported these findings, showing that 77 percent indicated the state should spend more money on our schools and 61 percent indicated they would support a tax increase to provide additional funding for education.

To understand why then, the push to privatize is being pursued with such vigor, one need only follow the profit and power. The U.S. K-12 education market is estimated to be worth some $700 billion. The oversight of public education is the most fundamental exercise of our right to self-govern and in many communities, our districts are the hubs of those communities. If the privatizers succeed in killing our right to, and interest in, engaging on behalf of our children, what engagement will we still care about?

 

CALL FOR ACTION – protest family separation policy to your Reps and Senators NOW

Cross-posted from SkyIslandScriber.com

In the Daily Star this morning, Isabel Garcia (former director of the Pima County Legal Defender) and Dino DeConcini (former Tucson City attorney) call for action in We must speak out against immigrant family separation. The full article is reprinted here – along with Fitz’s take on the “zero tolerance” of King Donald the Cruel.

Trump the Cruel
Children detention centers in America?
Or Hitlerian concentration camps?

On May 7, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session announced that the Department of Homeland Security would refer 100 percent of illegal border crossers for prosecution, including parents with children. On May 14, six Tucson Operation Streamline lawyers arrived at the DeConcini Federal Courthouse to meet with their assigned immigrant clients and encountered frantic parents who did not know where their children had been taken.

No one knew the location of the children or how to help the parents. The Streamline lawyers were shocked. The immigrant parents had been arrested by Border Patrol, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, and were being prosecuted by the U.S Department of Justice. Their children had been taken into the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of another giant federal agency. ORR contracts with numerous organizations for child placements all over the country. Where did Lupe’s son get taken? Where was Oscar’s daughter? Lawyers and other advocates scrambled to find out.

Immigrant parent/child separation has sharply increased all along the U.S.-Mexico border, impacting mostly brown and black Latino families. The American Immigration Council reported that 638 parents were separated from 658 children during prosecution for illegal entry during a 13-day period in May.

In Tucson’s Streamline court, frightened parents ask their lawyers to find out how they can be reunited with their child at the time of deportation. There are few answers.

The Houston Chronicle reported that coordination between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and ORR is rare or nonexistent. A parent convicted of illegal entry may get time served and be deported in a few days, or may be incarcerated for several months, depending on the charges. The children are held in shelters or other child welfare settings for weeks or months, which is undoubtedly traumatizing. It is difficult for detained parents to locate their children, and almost impossible to arrange for a coordinated deportation. Thus, parents may be returned to their home country alone, without knowing where their children are or how to get them back.

The ramped-up child separation is also creating a strain on existing resources. In mid-May, numerous media reported that the Trump administration is considering using military bases to expand the nation’s capacity for immigrant child custody.

Many of the parents affected by child separation are fleeing persecution and violence in Central America. The U.S. is bound by its own law and international treaties to allow these families to pursue asylum claims without punishment or deportation. Yet we are subjecting them to both. President Trump denounces gang violence in Central America but won’t protect the very people who are brave enough to risk everything to resist and escape.

This can no longer be ignored. Where are our community, political and religious leaders, the ministers, rectors, bishops, rabbis, imams, and especially the evangelical leaders with close ties to this administration? This is our government, seizing children and holding them hostage, purportedly in order to teach their parents a lesson — a grave moral and human-rights violation.

Please call your members of Congress and ask them to take steps to ensure that the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice immediately cease prosecuting parents entering the U.S. with children and cease separating children from their parents.

Contact your representative

Sen. Jeff Flake: 520–575–8633

Sen. John McCain: 520–670–6334

Rep. Raúl Grijalva: 520–622–6788

Rep. Martha McSally: 520–881–3588

Education funding…the devil is in the details

One of the issues leading to the walkout during the #RedforEd movement, was Governor Ducey’s promise of a 20% raise by 2020 ONLY for teachers. The movement wanted the definition of “teacher” expanded and pay raises for all school personnel. That’s because teachers understand their’s is a broad profession, and although quality teachers are the number one in-school factor contributing to student success, every employee in a school district, whether a “defined” teacher or not, contributes to the ability of students to learn.

There is currently though, no consistent definition of “teacher” in Arizona. The 2018–2019 K–12 budget reconciliation bill, HB 2663, K–12 education; does not define “teacher”. The previous year’s budget bill defined “teacher” as: “any person eligible to be included as a teacher on a disrict’s FTE count submitted with its annual financial report, whose salary was paid under function code 1000 (instruction). Clear as mud, right?

The definition in Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S) 15–901(B)(5), says a “Certified teacher” means a person “who is certified as a teacher pursuant to the rules adopted by the state board of education who renders direct and personal services to school children in the form of instruction related to the school district’s educational course of study and who is paid from the maintenance and operation section of the budget.” Okay, so that is a little clearer, but how is teacher compensation impacted by legislation passed last year to allow non-certified teachers to teach in Arizona public schools? Guess that means fewer raises for teachers as those more qualified continue to exercise their “school choice” to either retire or move to another state so they can earn a living wage. Just in case you didn’t see it, here’s a story about Texas buying up billboards in Arizona to lure our teachers away.

Yet another definition of “teacher” comes from the AZ Attorney General (AG) Opinion 101–014 on the Classroom Site Fund (Prop. 301 monies). The AG wrote that, “teacher” was not limited to traditional classroom teachers. “School districts and charter schools may use such funds for compensation increases for certified or certificated teachers and others employed to provide instruction to students related to the school’s educational mission.” An employee receiving base compensation from Prop. 301 monies would also be eligible to receive a salary increase as a teacher.

According to the AZ Auditor General, school boards would meet the Legislature’s intent by using any of the above three definitions. The Arizona School Boards Association, Arizona Association of School Business Officials, and Arizona Superintendents Association, all believe the Classroom Site Fund definition is the most defensible position and most consistent with legislative intent. That definition, as interpreted by the courts and the Arizona AG’s office, requires certification and employment as a teacher and that at least 50% of an individual’s time is spent on instruction central to the school’s educational mission.

Arizona Educators United and the Arizona Education Association‘s sought to resolve the disconnect by demanding a broader definition of “teachers”, permitting the award of raises to more school personnel. To that end, Representative Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma submitted an amendment“seeking to expand the definition of “teachers” – those eligible for the pay hike – to include counselors, social workers, psychologists, speech pathologists and librarians, all people excluded from getting a share of the earmarked raises.” Unfortunately, the amendment failed on party lines.

As reported on Tucson.com, TUSD Superintendent Trujillo said he intends to spread the new money around to all “educators” who touch the lives of children. “I see us supporting the educators as defined by this movement, those that are touching the lives of kids and working directly with kids. It’s about the monitors, it’s about teachers, it’s about the counselors, it’s about the custodians, it’s about the secretaries at our schools, it’s about the office assistants,” he said.

The $272 million in included in the FY 2019 budget for teacher raises is roughly enough to give all “certified” teachers in the state a 9 percent pay increase. It also includes an “additional” funding of $100 million in District Additional Assistance (DAA), previously known as “capital funding”, which is meant for big ticket items like new AC systems, patched roofs, buses, and computers. Although Governor Ducey orginally sold this as a way to begin to restore the 85% of this funding that was cut since 2009, the #RedforEd movement caused him to also sell it as a way to increase salaries for all support employees.

Please let that sink in for just a moment. Governor Ducey knows Arizona’s district schools have a tremendous backlog of deferred maintenance and repair for both facilities, vehicles and technology because the Legislature has cut $2.4 billion from public school capital budgets. He is proposing to restore most of that funding over 5 years, but education advocates aren’t banking on it, continuing with the capital funding lawsuit filed in 2017.

The Legislature has tried their best to make hay with the fact that district governing boards are largely responsible for deciding how the funding is spent within their respective districts. Although there is a fair amount of legal guidance on how the funding may be used, they are correct that local control dictates elected governing board members make decisions about funding allocation. These decisions are appropriately left to them because they best know the needs of their district and they are closest to the students, families, voters, and taxpayers to whom they are accountable. But, and this is a BIG but, governing boards can only allocate funding their districts receive and even with the $400 million plus-up in FY 2019, our districts will still be short of 2008 funding levels by almost $700 million per year. Cue mike drop.

Sine Freakin’ Die Already, Why Don’t Ya?

4EC2FB45-63F4-42DD-AE2A-C4B9A3A2348DEver since becoming involved in Arizona public education in 2012, I’ve heard people ask “why don’t teachers stand up for themselves?” Well, they aren’t asking that now. At about 6 am this morning, Governor Ducey signed the K-12 portion of the Arizona budget into law. It doesn’t contain everything educators wanted, but it contains much more than it would have without the brave, collective action of Arizona teachers.

Here’s a quick summary of some of the key elements of the approved budget with my comments or additional facts, interspersed:
– Increases the base level in FY2019 by a 1.8% inflation increase ($276.80) to $3,960.07 (without teacher compensation).
– Provides for an increase to teacher compensation of $176.2M in FY2019, $164.7M in FY2020, and $124.4M in FY2021.
— Keep in mind that FY2020 and FY2021 are “advance appropriations” which basically means a “promise” made now that future Legislatures are asked to keep.
— And because of the way the funding will flow to districts, Dr. Anabel Aportela, director of research for the Arizona School Boards Association and the Arizona Association of School Business Officials says, “it’s going to be difficult to show that every single teacher received a 9 percent raise,” this year, or a 20 percent raise by 2020. Likewise, an “initial analysis by The Arizona Republic, based on figures provided to the Arizona Auditor General by school districts, shows that 59 districts would not receive enough funding to give all teachers a 20 percent pay raise.”
– Requires districts and charters to post compensation data on their websites and ADE to compile this info and submit to Legislature and Governor.
— Local control means governing boards make the decisions they were elected to make and I believe they will have no problem standing behind their decisions.
— This requires more transparency of charters, and that’s a good thing.
– Requires ADE to reduce the formula suspension for district additional assistance (DAA) statewide by $100M in FY2019 and $64.4M each year thereafter.
— In other words, begin to restore 85% in cuts to capital funding made by AZ lawmakers since 2009.
— Exempts districts with a student count of fewer than 1,100 students from any DAA reductions, providing them 100% of DAA allocation in FY2019.
– Restores Charter School Additional Assistance (CAA) to full formula funding by FY2022 and increases it by 1.77% for the annual inflation adjustment with no increase to the DAA formula.
– Continues to exclude charter schools from procurement rules designed to ensure maximum competition, contract award to lowest qualified bidder, and that a contractor has a valid license to practice in Arizona.
— This is, in my opinion, is fiscally irresponsible. We should be demanding more transparency and accountability from all institutions that receive taxpayer dollars, not less.
– Increases the State Support Level per Route Mile for FY2018 by 1.77% for the required inflation adjustment.
– Requires each district to prominently post on its website home page a copy of its profile pages that displays the percentage of every dollar spent in the classroom by that district from the most recent status report issued by the Auditor General.
— Note that charter schools, although they are required to conduct audits, get to choose their auditors and the resulting information is not included in the AZ Auditor General schools efficiency report as it is for district schools.
— Also, note there is still a disconnect between what the Auditor General counts as classroom spending and the broader definition used by the governor, Legislature and Arizona public school leaders shows support for the classroom is holding steady. An infographic by AZEdNews illustrates the disconnect.
– Appropriated in FY 2018, $4,145,600 to ADE for the school safety program compared to $3,646,500 in FY 2017. The program will now be repealed on December 31, 2019 instead of December 31, 2018.
– Establishes the Computer Science Program Fund under ADE who will distribute grants on a first come first serve basis to schools that do not currently provide high school computer science instruction.
– Terminates the Schools Facilities Board (SFB) on July 1, 2022 and repeals AZ statutes relating to the SFB.
— It is important to note that the SFB was established in response to a 1994 court decision that found “Arizona’s system of school capital finance unconstitutional because it failed to conform to the state constitution’s “general and uniform” clause. That system relied on the secondary property tax, driven by the property wealth of a school district, and general obligation bonding. In 1996, the Arizona Superior Court imposed on the state a deadline of June 30, 1998 to develop a constitutional system of school capital finance or risk closure of K-12 public schools. On July 9, 1998 Governor Jane Dee Hull signed legislation that dramatically reformed the way K-12 schools are constructed in Arizona. This ended the four-year legal and legislative battle and established Arizona as the nation’s school finance reform leader. This legislation/law is known as Students FIRST (Fair and Immediate Resources for Students Today). On November 18, 1999, the Board adopted Building Adequacy Guidelines that now serve as the minimum standards for existing and new school facilities in Arizona.”
— It is also important to note that 24 years later, education groups have been forced to sue the state again, for capital funding, (now called District Additional Funding), that has been cut 85% since 2009.

Four Arizona Education Association (AEA) and Arizona Educators United (AEU) demands that were not funded, include:
– Cap class size at 25 students per classroom
– Define “Teacher” as: any non-administrative personnel who teaches students or supports student academic achievement as defined by the school district governing board or charter school governing body including, but not limited to nurses, counselors, social workers, psychologists, speech pathologists, librarians and academic interventionists.
– Cap student-to-counselor ratio at 250:1
– Provide student support services personnel a 10% increase equal to the teacher pay proposal, which should also go into base level, and be paid for by tax conformity.

Of the failure to meet these demands, Joe Thomas, president of Arizona Education Association said,

While this bill moves the needle, it still does not go far enough. It does not restore the more than $1 billion taken from our students and it leaves out school support staff like counselors, bus drivers, librarians, and many more who are vital to the success of our students. The truth is that this budget is far from perfect. Lawmakers brokered it behind closed doors as a partisan deal, without input from us. We were not able to change the minds of lawmakers, so the next step will be to change the faces of our lawmakers.

The elephant still in the room (pun intended), is whether the revenue sources identified, make this budget deal sustainable, especially in future years. According to Tucson.com,

Republicans spurned several proposals to raise more money to ensure that there will not only be the dollars for future promised teacher pay raises but to finance some of the other priorities and restore per-student funding back to at least 2008 levels. That included phasing out some tax exemptions and eliminating the ability of individuals and corporations to divert some of what they owe in state income taxes to help children attend private and parochial schools.

For his part, Governor Ducey said in an email that,

The budget does not compromise essential state services to accommodate our teacher pay package. It maintains the state’s commitment to fund developmental disabilities, skilled nurses, Medicaid, critical access hospitals [sic], the arts, food banks, Alzheimer’s research and higher education. It accomplishes all of this, without raising taxes on hardworking Arizonans.

All I can say is, “for my next act, I’ll pull a rabbit out of a hat.”

About the time I was finishing this post, the Legislature was reconvening for what should be their last meeting of this session. One can only hope, so that we can all breath a collectively sigh of relief. Unfortunately, their havoc wreaking is likely not yet done. Sources say Senator Yarborough is still looking to push through his SB 1467 which would increase eligibility for private school tax credits via School Tuition Organizations and therefore drain more funding from our public schools. These same sources predict an end run to repeal SB 1467, signed into law last year, which provided for the full expansion of vouchers. I don’t know for sure what GOP lawmakers’ motivation is here, but there can be no doubt that Prop. 305, (the initiative brought by the SOS AZ’s amazing petition signature collection effort last year), if it is on the ballot, will bring even more pro-public education voters (many of whom are Democratic), to the ballot box. It will be really interesting to see just how much disdain this Legislature has for their bosses — you know — Arizona voters.

On one more final note, I don’t agree entirely with Joe Thomas that he and the 50,000+ teachers that marched on the AZ Capitol were “not able to change the minds of lawmakers”. I think they, and other education advocates did make an impact, but years of free reign have calcified lawmakers’ unwillingness to bend to the people’s will. But, as Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Or, said another way, “karma’s a bitch”. Joe is definitely right that, “the next step will be to change the faces of our lawmakers.” It is in my opinion, the only step that will make a lasting positive change.

 

 

The voters won’t forget!

Jon Gabriel, (editor-in-chief of right-wing blog “Richochet.com”), in his “My Turn” on AZCentral.com titled, Gabriel: If Arizona teachers strike now, it’s a war against parents, not politicians, on was right. The voters won’t forget who’s responsible for the teacher walkout. But, I predict it won’t be the teachers they hold responsible. Arizona voters know that it is our lawmakers who have systematically underfunded our public schools over the last decade, creating an almost one billion dollar shortage each year, even after the Prop. 123 settlement.

Voters also know, that district capital funds (used for facility repair and maintenance and to purchase big ticket items such as buses and technology) have been cut 85 percent over that same time. And voters definitely know that we have the lowest paid teachers in the nation. That is one of the primary reasons that four months into the 2017-18 school year, we had 1,968 classrooms without a teacher and another 3,403 with people who aren’t trained to be teachers. 

Arizona voters are behind our teachers not only with words and honks of support, but deeds. All across our state, parents, family and community members, civic organizations, school boards members, district staffs, and yes, teachers, have worked hard to provide viable options for families to deal with school closures. 

From Boys & Girls Clubs, to YMCAs, to skeletal crews in schools, to expanded before and after school programs, to city programs, to churches, to food banks, to museums and animal rescue groups; our communities have stepped in to ensure the health and welfare of children. In Tempe for example, the city’s “Kid Zone”, a before and after-school program, operated all day during the teacher walkout. Likewise, with volunteer District teachers and staff, Mesa Public Schools opened four community centers to provide breakfast, lunch and free, supervised activities for children from kindergarten through the sixth grade. In southern Arizona, the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona delivered backpacks of food to high-need students, and the Sierra Vista Unified School District, teachers and support staff met at the Mall at the Sierra Vista food court to grade papers and tutor students. 

Businesses around the state, such as recreation outlets, dance and martial arts centers, aquariums, sports centers, and grocery stores, have also jumped on-board, offering child supervision, recreation or a limited supply of basic food items. Some businesses, even welcomed employee’s children at work sites and offered flexible schedules to parents.

teachersArizonans are behind the teachers because they know this walkout is not about them, but rather the one million students they serve. We know that teacher working conditions are student learning conditions and that the average teacher spends on average, $500 out of their own pocket each year (some much more), to make those learning conditions as positive as they can. We also know even though quality teachers are the number one in-school factor contributing to student success, they can’t do it on their own. All the staff in a school contribute to a child’s development and education. Finally, we know that despite the fact we overwhelmingly support the better funding of our public schools, our lawmakers are intent on promoting vouchers, tax cuts and tax credits, that continue to divert our tax dollars away from that priority. 

Hate to sound like a broken record, but there really is only one way to ensure our public schools and their dedicated teachers are truly valued. We must elect legislators that, well…value them!

Note: I submitted this to the AZ Republic, but it was not published.