Plenty of blame to go around

Let me first say that I have much respect for Richard Gilman of “Bringing Up Arizona” and the work he has done on behalf of public education. I also very much appreciate his gracious support of my work and wish him well as he moves on to a new chapter of his life.

I did find much though, in his last blog post, to disagree with. It shouldn’t have surprised me, as the last time he and I had lunch, it was pretty clear he was frustrated. I tried to allay his concerns, but obviously, failed. It’s not that I don’t agree with his position that “the status quo in K–12 education is not acceptable. Of course I do. We have the lowest paid teachers in the nation, our per-pupil funding ranks 48th, and our education performance ranking isn’t much better. I do not agree though, that ”the onus belongs as much or more on public school administrators.” School administrators are after all, busy managing their schools and school districts. They are busy focusing on their students and the teachers educating them. That’s where their focus should be.

The good news is, they aren’t in this fight alone. Organizations like the Arizona School Boards Association, Arizona Education Association, Arizona School Administrators, Arizona School Business Officials Association, and Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association, offer training and professional development to their membership, engage their members in advocacy, do outreach to the public, lobby legislators and collaborate with each other to improve Arizona’s educational outcomes. They are aided by organizations like Support Our Schools Az, the Arizona PTA, Voices for Education, Expect More Arizona, the Children’s Action Alliance Arizona, and the Helios Education Foundation, who tirelessly engage both their members and supporters on behalf of public education and encourage others to do the same. All these parents, community members, business leaders and voters are groups of people both our legislators and the general public are unfortunately often more apt to “hear” than our school administrators.

None of these organizations operate in a vacuum. They know there is strength in numbers and that together, they can come up with the best solutions. One example of this collaboration is AZ Schools Now, a coalition of parent, educator, business, and community leaders fighting to reverse the destructive politics of the last 30 years and see Arizona schools adequately funded. It isn’t just these education advocacy groups or school administrators though, who recognize our schools need more funding. Even Governor Ducey’s Classrooms First Council, charged with revising the school finance formula, determined after a year of study that simply revising the formula won’t help if there isn’t more money to push through that formula.

Neither “the Legislature nor the public is going to write a check without getting a promise of improved results” he writes. Really Richard? Come on now, you’ve been around long enough to know that promises are easy to make, politicians do it every day. What is hard, is delivering on those promises. I learned a long time ago that if something was easy to fix, someone probably would have already fixed it. As for that blank check, isn’t that exactly what the Legislature is trying to do by pushing for a full expansion of vouchers? They don’t know how many students will leave districts via vouchers, but they do know each one will cost about $1,000 more than if that student were to stay. Sounds like a blank check to me and not only is it one without any promise of improved results, but by law, without any requirement to deliver and report those results.

I also agree with Richard’s recommendation “they need to speak with a unified voice.” If all the public education advocacy groups would agree on the top 1–3 legislative priorities for each year, it would make their voices much more powerful and harder for legislators to ignore. That is though, a big ask. Even in the Air Force, where teamwork was paramount and everyone was focused on the same mission, leaders had the natural tendency to protect their areas of influence. It was common to reflect that “it would be amazing what we could get done if no one cared who got the credit.” Yes, public education advocates all have the same basic mission, but they are not one cohesive organization and they all have different stakeholders. Nonetheless, I believe they can do it. They are dedicated professionals who all, in the end, just want to see every student have every opportunity to succeed. Agreeing on a few key priorities such as teacher recruitment and retention, funding for full-day kindergarten and renewing and expanding Proposition 301 for example, and absolutely standing together in demanding solutions would likely make a real difference.

That brings me to who is really responsible for the challenges faced by Arizona’s district schools. As long as Arizonans continue to vote for candidates committed to privatizing our district schools, we will continue to see funding and support get siphoned away. To really affect change, we must elect more pro-public (district) education candidates and voters must hold all elected officials (including governing board members) responsible for moving the needle for our students. Otherwise, we will continue to spin our wheels, the advocacy efforts will continue to be frustrating and yes, the results will get ever more sad.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely” and “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.” Ultimately you see, it is up to each of us to ensure the students of Arizona have what they need to succeed. Ultimately, it is up to each of us to make the world a better place to be. Dramatist Edward Albee said it well, “Remember one thing about democracy. We can have anything we want and at the same time, we always end up with exactly what we deserve.”

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Great Barrier Reef example of coral reef die-off as oceans heat up

Cross-posted from SkyIslandScriber.com.

Back in August of 2016 I blogged about Planetary change: What we are doing to the oceans.

Direct experience drives human perception and cognition. We react to what we see and hear. What we think about the world is shaped by those aspects of our planet that can be observed. We note volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. We see and hear and are touched by more and more violent weather. We indirectly experience, via the media, the loss of wildlife to gruesome acts of poaching for profit. Some of us even experience the rising seas. But we do not normally experience or think about what lies beneath the planetary surface.

Most people don’t have any direct contact with what lies beneath the surface of our oceans even though oceans take up 71% of the earth’s surface. A few people, though, oceanographers and sport divers, are sounding alarms about what we are doing to our oceans. …

As a sport diver, I had occasion to experience directly “what we are doing to our oceans.”

… For 35 years my wife and I took our vacations in parts of the world renowned for the quality of their SCUBA diving. We rarely repeated visits, but the island of Little Cayman (in the Cayman Islands) was an exception. We first dove the Little Cayman walls and reefs in 1987 and repeated the diving there in 2001 and then again over the Christmas/New Year holidays in 2006. In 1987 coral reefs were majestic: huge mushroom corals and gigantic sponges were abundant. We noted some damage in 2001, but the visit in 2006 was depressing. We witnessed a lot of destruction and coral “bleaching”. I would be more cautious of our anecdotes were it not for confirmatory observations from another group who we met in 2006 and who had been diving that island every New Years for 25 years. They all were sickened by what they had been observing over the years – “in tears.”

We concluded “As the oceans warm and chemically change due to CO2 absorption, the coral reefs are under serious threat. We don’t see that damage but it is there – beneath the surface, out of sight, and all too often out of mind. We are killing the water planet.”

Coral bleached

An update

The New York Times features research showing that Large Sections of Australia’s Great Reef Are Now Dead, Scientists Find.

SYDNEY, Australia — The Great Barrier Reef in Australia has long been one of the world’s most magnificent natural wonders, so enormous it can be seen from space, so beautiful it can move visitors to tears.

But the reef, and the profusion of sea creatures living near it, are in profound trouble.

Huge sections of the Great Barrier Reef, stretching across hundreds of miles of its most pristine northern sector, were recently found to be dead, killed last year by overheated seawater. More southerly sections around the middle of the reef that barely escaped then are bleaching now, a potential precursor to another die-off that could rob some of the reef’s most visited areas of color and life.

The damage to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s largest living structures, is part of a global calamity that has been unfolding intermittently for nearly two decades and seems to be intensifying. In the paper, dozens of scientists described the recent disaster as the third worldwide mass bleaching of coral reefs since 1998, but by far the most widespread and damaging.

The state of coral reefs is a telling sign of the health of the seas. Their distress and death are yet another marker of the ravages of global climate change.

Kim M. Cobb, a climate scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology who was not involved in the writing of the new paper, described it and the more recent findings as accurate, and depressing. She said she saw extensive coral devastation last year off Kiritimati Island, part of the Republic of Kiribati several thousand miles from Australia and a place she visits regularly in her research.

With the international effort to fight climate change at risk of losing momentum, “ocean temperatures continue to march upward,” Dr. Cobb said. “The idea that we’re going to have 20 or 30 years before we reach the next bleaching and mortality event for the corals is basically a fantasy.”

Costs of coral bleaching

If most of the world’s coral reefs die, as scientists fear is increasingly likely, some of the richest and most colorful life in the ocean could be lost, along with huge sums from reef tourism. …

Australia relies on the Great Barrier Reef for about 70,000 jobs and billions of dollars annually in tourism revenue, and it is not yet clear how that economy will be affected by the reef’s deterioration. …

… In poorer countries, lives are at stake: Hundreds of millions of people get their protein primarily from reef fish, and the loss of that food supply could become a humanitarian crisis.

Conservatism is not conservationism

And what are we humans doing about damage we bring to our oceans? The answers range from nothing to making the problem worse.

With the election of Donald J. Trump as the American president, a recent global deal to tackle the problem, known as the Paris Agreement, seems to be in peril. Australia’s conservative government also continues to support fossil fuel development, including what many scientists and conservationists see as the reef’s most immediate threat — a proposed coal mine, expected to be among the world’s largest, to be built inland from the reef by the Adani Group, a conglomerate based in India.

Trump announced his budget and in it a 31% cut to EPA as the Times also reported yesterday: Donald Trump Budget Slashes Funds for E.P.A. and State Department