Are You Ready to Die Empty?

This past weekend in Brooklyn, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Diane Ravitch and many other heroes of public education. We were gathered for a Network for Public Education (NPE) project that left me buoyed about the future of public education. For those who might not know, the NPE is a national grassroots public education advocacy group founded by Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody. I won’t go into the details of the project, but here’s an NPE notice about it.

It was to say the least, an amazing experience! I heard Texas Superintendent John Kuhn speak eloquently about how “education malpractice doesn’t start in the schoolhouse, it starts in the statehouse.” I had first heard of John Kuhn when he gained national prominence by speaking at the Save Texas Schools Rally in 2011. I was excited to meet John and he didn’t disappoint. He is incredibly articulate and passionate and as a dedicated education professional, knows of what he speaks firsthand. During his session, he brilliantly made the point that “naming and shaming teachers, while shielding legislators” to fulfill their responsibility to our children is unconscionable. Or as he later asked in another way, why is it that we use a microscope to analyze outcomes of our public schools, but wear a blindfold to look at the input?” Of course this was a rhetorical question, John knows it’s because we can’t stand the answer.

Next “up to bat” was Jesse Hagopian, a teacher from Seattle. I hadn’t previously heard of Jesse, but he was equally impressive. He said “we are turning the teaching profession into a one size fits all” factory that fails students and demoralizes teachers. He asked the audience (dozens of volunteers who had come from all over the country), whose side are they on? He said he is “on the side of the students, the teachers, and the parents, against the corporate takeover of public education.” Our country “has massive problems” he said, “that can’t be solved by circling in a bubble on a standardized test.”

Johanna Garcia was next up and as a Latino single mom she has learned that no matter how hard she works to provide for her children, the system is not predisposed in their favor. She has learned that “by taking the standardized tests, ”you are saying yes to being reduced to the money in your wallet.“ Because, she says, the tests are designed to rack and stack students and those on the low-end of the socio-economic scale will more often than not – because of the challenges poverty puts in their way – score on the low-end. She now advocates for parents to ”opt-out” of the standardized tests as a way to not allow your children to be used by a system that is increasingly rigged against them.

We also heard from Jitu Brown who is a community organizer, parent, grandparent and public education advocate in Chicago. In fact, I had first heard of Jitu when he and other activists participated in a 37-day hunger strike to keep Dyett High School from being closed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. This was a school that had great community engagement and was making incredible progress in rewriting their narrative, but was still slated for closure. In the end, the activists won and the school remained open. He made the point that “the way you destroy a community, is to destroy its institutions.” He told us that it wasn’t just the impending closure that spurred the hunger strike, but the systemic inequity. Like the fact that a public elementary school on the north side of Chicago offered their students Mandarin Chinese, Arabic and Spanish; where every teacher had a teacher aid; where there was a full-time nurse, social workers, speech therapist, and drama teacher. Yet on the Southside, children ate lunch under the stairs due to overcrowding, there was one teacher aide in the entire building, and for the part-time Spanish instructor, they had to give up a librarian. “The trust we’ve given this system” he said, “has been betrayed.” Jitu also left us with some hope though, as he said that each of us can make a difference, especially parents. The key though for activists and organizers, is to “meet parents where they are, not where you want them to be.” Find what parents want, and help them get that, no matter how small it might be, because small wins will turn into big wins. And, he said, target those who can actually give you what you want, or, as I’ve heard it said before, never take a no from someone not empowered to tell you yes.

The pièce de résistance however, was Diane herself. She started out by saying that, “the latest and most serious threat to our public schools is DeVos” and her privatization agenda. The privatization effort she said, has become a “steamroller turning our citizens into consumers.” And like John Kuhn did, she made the point that “we have a culture in our schools now that suppresses the joy of learning and of teaching.” That, “test scores of 15 year olds are not a predictor of either their’s, or our nation’s future.” And that, “the achievement gap construct – created by standardized tests designed for some kids to fail” – does nothing to help them succeed. She also pointed out that “a nation ”that doesn’t trust its teachers’ judgement, will never have a great education system.”

Diane certainly wasn’t all doom and gloom however, highlighting the silver linings in DeVos’ selection as SecED. The DeVos appointment has galvanized public education advocates like never before, with membership in NPE skyrocketing from only 22,000 to 350,000 during the DeVos hearings and since then. She has also done us a favor in “taking away the false veneer of charter schools” and bringing together people from different communities to solve the problems.

That’s one of my main takeaways from this past weekend. DeVos and her buddies (of which Governor Ducey is undoubtedly one), may have the big bucks, but we’ve got the people, and better yet, we’ve got the parents. The parents of the 90% of America’s public school students who attend community schools with locally elected, fully transparent and accountable, governing boards. We’ve also got incredibly dedicated, passionate, selfless advocates such as the ones I’ve mentioned, that are standing up and speaking out for our kids not because they seek power or money, but just because they believe that every child deserves every opportunity to succeed.

My other main takeaway is that we must be vigilant and have great stamina to win this fight because with $700 billion on the line, these corporate raiders will not go quietly into the night. They no doubt, believe they can buy our democracy right out from under our noses, one schoolhouse brick at a time. As Miranda Beard, the past president of the National School Boards Association inspirationally said though at this year’s annual conference, “I will die empty to prevail in this fight.” Will you?

Note: if you are interested in grassroots public education advocacy here in Arizona, you can join us at Support Our Schools Az . You can join Diane’s national group at the Network for Public Education.

Magically Madeover Moderate Martha McSally votes against transparency and accountability in government

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com

The AZBlueMeanie reports this morning that the AZ House GOP delegation votes to maintain the Trump swamp of conflicts of interest and corruption.

Democrats have forced seven votes in as many weeks on the House floor on resolutions calling for Donald Trump’s tax returns, all of which were defeated along party lines. An [eighth] vote failed this week. …

And what did our CD2 Rep. Martha McSally do? What else? She behaved just as she has always done – voted consistently with Trump’s views and toed the GOP party line.

Our Arizona House GOP delegation, including the local media’s invention of the mythical moderate Republican Rep. Martha McSally, have consistently voted to maintain the Trump swamp of conflicts of interest and corruption by rejecting any transparency and public disclosure.

Voting information below is from the Daily Star’s Capitol link: How members of Congress from Aritona voted on major issues (h/t AZBlueMeanie).

McSally - before
McSally – before the MMM

Disclosure of Trump Tax Returns:
The House on April 26 blocked, 234–191, a parliamentary attempt by Democrats to force floor debate on a bill now in committee that would require presidents and major-party presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns for the preceding three years. A yes vote was to quash the Democratic bid for disclosure. (H Res 275)
Yes:
McSally, Gosar, Biggs, Schweikert, Franks
No:
O’Halleran, Grijalva, Gallego, Sinema

Congressional Oversight of President Trump:
Voting 230–193, the House on April 27 blocked a Democratic bid for floor debate on a measure now in committee that would start congressional oversight of ethics and conflict-of-interest issues involving President Trump, in areas ranging from the public disclosure of official visitor logs to overlaps between the president’s business holdings and official acts. A yes vote was to quash the Democratic measure during debate on H Res 280.
Yes:
McSally, Gosar, Biggs, Schweikert, Franks
No:
O’Halleran, Grijalva, Gallego, Sinema

McSally - after
McSally – afterthe MMM

Combined with McSally’s consistent (that would be 100%) voting along Trumpian lines, these votes give lie to the new and improved Martha McSally. The make-over is purely cosmetic (cf. head shots) and Your Scriber debunked the politically moderate make-over in the 2014 election season: A Magical Moderate Makeover for Martha McSally (posted here on July 28, 2014). It’s MMM for short.

OK, don’t get on my case about being sexist. I practice EO – equal offensiveness – by following Molly Ivins in referring to Rick Perry as Governor Goodhair. …

I then reported the transcript of her latest campaign ad in which unidentified speakers praised McSally (with no details). For example:

(Jamie [no last name given], speaking) “Martha is the most determined, trustworthy, loyal person I know.” [This might be a line spoken by brain-washed soliders about Raymond Shaw (The Manchurian Candidate).]

And here is one of McSally’s responses:

(Martha McSally, speaking) “I am running for Congress I don’t walk by a problem. I have a fire in my belly to make a difference and when things are broken, I want to fix them."

Fix. Verb. To vote against transparency and accountability and to vote for conflicts of interest.

Clearly, McSally’s handlers learned from her previous defeats and are presenting a softer, kinder, more centrist image. Just remember: what I recall from a 2012 primary debate is that she is the one who said there is no difference between her and her then opponent, Jesse Kelly, with respect to core values. That’s why I place no credibility in the new McSally. The old Colonel McSally still lurks, but now just gone MIA – Moderate In Appearance.

That was the situation in 2014 and 2016 and continues to this day. CD2 is but a political stepping stone for the Magically Made-over Moderate Martha McSally. It will continue to be in her interest to vote along with other Trumpists until the CD2 voters give her the heave-ho.

Remember in November.

The AZ legislature’s funding of public education is unconstitutional

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com

This is required reading from AZBlueMeanie (Blog for Arizona), Arizona’s lawless Tea-Publican legislature and public education. What motivated the AZBlueMeanie post is this story by Linda Valdez in The Republic (azcentral.com): Who cares what Arizona’s Constitution says about education? Not Republicans.

I’ll quote some snippets from the Blue Meanie’s post.

I have made these constitutional arguments about public education in Arizona for years, but it’s nice to see The Republic’s Linda Valdez write an opinion that contextualizes the constitutional arguments in the current debate over public education in Arizona.

The Constitution is on the side of the people. It mandates a “system of common schools” that are “open to all pupils” and are “as nearly free as possible.” (Article XI, Section 6)

The Constitution also says: “(T)he Legislature shall provide by law for an annual tax sufficient, with other sources of revenue, to defray the necessary ordinary expenses of the state … “ (Article IX, Section 3)

Article XI, Section 10 calls for “taxation” to “insure proper maintenance of all state educational institutions.”

So what do our intrepid lawmakers do?

In addition to underfunding traditional public education, our GOP lawmakers continue diverting money from public schools to private and religious schools.

That’s despite Article XI, Section 7, which says “No sectarian instruction shall be imparted in any school or State educational institution …”

This year’s expansion of publicly funded vouchers for private and religious schools came despite strong evidence that the program contributes to a two-tier system that is nowhere mentioned in the Arizona Constitution.

Unanswered Question: When will the first lawsuit be filed against this unconstitutional “vouchers for all” bill, and who will be the plaintiffs filing it? I assume that it is already in the works and the litigants are just waiting for the appropriate time to announce the lawsuit.

But the thing is: the state supreme court ruled in favor of vouchers, effectively legitimizing money laundering. Here’s part of the March 21, 2014 report from the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required), Supreme Court deems voucher-like program legal.

Without comment, the high court refused to disturb a Court of Appeals decision which said the program, officially dubbed “empowerment scholarship accounts,” does not run afoul of a state constitutional provision that bars public funds from being used to subsidize private and parochial schools. That court said the fact the parents control the money was sufficient to make the program legal.

The state supreme court flunked Logic 101. Money laundering is an instance of transitivity and takes this form: A gives to B, B gives to C, therefore A is giving to C. So the state gives to parents, parents give to private schools, therefore the state gives to private schools. And our state supreme court is OK with that.

The AZ legislators are not the only ones in government who are acting unconstitutionally.

Stock in Concrete Companies?

As a leader in the military, I learned a long time ago that if something was easy to fix, someone would have already fixed it. President Trump evidently hadn’t learned that prior to his election, but since then, has time and again realized that uh, YEAH, this shit is hard!

Take the border wall for example. It might have been good “red meat” for his supporters, but there are three good reasons why there is not a finished border wall along our southern border: 1) it is a very complicated endeavor, 2) it is really, really expensive, and 3) it won’t solve the problem of illegal immigration. I mean, get real! Trump isn’t the first politician to try to make hay with this issue, but the rhetoric always slams into reality eventually.

I knew for example in 2011, that Arizona Senator Steve Smith wasn’t going to get anywhere with his “www.BuildTheBorderFence.com” initiative and I was right. Smith promised to raise some $50 million to build a 15 foot fence at busy border-crossing points and erect fences where there were no federal fences. After three years however, the project had only raise $265,000, not even one-tenth of the $2.8 million needed to build the first mile of fencing. As for the $265,000, last I could find the advisory committee assigned to do something with the funding were asking sheriffs how they would use it.

I also knew Trump would never get the wall built and he sure as hell wasn’t going to get Mexico to pay for it. Recent negotiations over the continuing resolution have proven Trump’s real lack of commitment to demand the $25 billion or so his wall is estimated to cost.

I have personal experience with the border wall – or more accurately, the lack of a working border surveillance system. After my retirement from the Air Force, I was hired by L–3 Communications as Deputy Program Manager for the Strategic Border Initiative, or SBInet. This “virtual fence” that would stop illegal immigrants at the border with a mix of guard towers, cameras, sensors and other infrastructure feeding data to a sophisticated IT system, was President George W. Bush’s answer to the problem in 2006. As a subcontractor to Boeing, L–3 was responsible for designing and building the towers and microwave system that was to provide electronic surveillance for the Border Patrol. I worked on the project for almost seven months, but eventually quit because I just couldn’t continue to be a part of the fleecing of the government that was occurring. On one of my trips to field test the system, I was at Playas, New Mexico. I recall being out in the desert with a colleague driving around in circles for hours so that the microwave could try to lock in on us. It didn’t work, and when I went to a meeting at Boeing where I felt like they were sitting around joking about how we weren’t making progress, I decided I just couldn’t handle it anymore. Not even my writing my Congressman (Webb – Virginia) with my concerns had helped, since he never responded. That’s when I knew for my own piece of mind, it was time to resign.

In February 2008, a Government Accountability Office report cited that “the radar information was too slow to appear on screens, and was being inappropriately triggered by rain and other weather phenomena. Camera resolutions was insufficient for targets beyond 3.1 miles and the stylus-controlled laptops mounted on moving vehicles were not rugged enough and were difficult to use.” No surprise to me that the project was killed in 2011, after about $1 billion in taxpayer dollars were flushed down the drain.

Eventually, Border Patrol officials decided to take a look at preexisting, tested technology and a $145 million contract was awarded to a U.S. based subsidiary of Israel’s Elbit Systems. As of 2016, the IFT system had been used successfully at one installation on the border.

Using technology (including drones) to monitor the border though, is way different than building an actual wall over the entire 1,989 mile United States – Mexico border. For starters, the terrain is very rough in some areas, much of the land is privately owned (either by individuals or Native tribes), there are hundreds of tunnels in use, there are significant detrimental impacts on wildlife migration and survival with endangered species laws causing complications, and where there is a will, there is a way. As former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano once said, “You show me a 50-foot wall, and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder.” In fact, I remember a story told me by a Border Patrol agent who said that they once watched Mexican drug smugglers, drive up to a section of the border wall, push a button on a remote control to raise the wall like a garage door, drive through, and then close the door again. When there is money to be made, or a desperation to make something happen, people will find a way.

All this aside, the U.S. does already have barriers along 653 miles of the southern border (mostly the western portion.) border barriersThese barriers range from 18-foot-tall iron fencing and corrugated metal to makeshift vehicle barriers and barbed wire. And “in 2015, the Border Patrol claimed an 81 percent success rate in apprehending or turning back people who attempted to cross illegally.” A large number of those trying to cross now though, are asylum seekers, who present themselves to border agents at legal ports of entry. The Department of Homeland Security also says that in FY2015, about 530,000 simply overstayed their legal visas after flying into the country, about 200,000 more than were caught at the border with Mexico. No amount of wall would have helped in these situations.

Oh by the way, the Mexican border isn’t the only one the U.S. shares and, the other one is twice as long. Wall proponents will often claim we must build it to keep out terrorists and weapons of mass destruction, but you almost never hear someone talking about our border with Canada. Because of the heavy forests and numerous bodies of water the two countries share, it is much easier to slip across undetected. If I was a terrorist, I know which border I’d pick to cross.

Finally, Bloomberg News reported in February 2017 that an August 2016 poll found that 61 percent of Americans are opposed to “building a wall along the entire border with Mexico,” and only 36 percent favored it. A Pew survey conducted in November-December 2016 revealed that only 40 percent of respondents thought building a wall was very important, or somewhat important. I suspect many of those who think the wall is important, live a long way away from the border and don’t really understand the issues at hand. Most of those who live along the border know building a wall is a fool’s folly as a separate poll in May 2016 of Southwest border city residents which found 72 percent of them opposed to it. What is really needed, says one, is a sensible immigration policy and enforcement of the laws intended to prevent U.S. companies from hiring undocumented immigrants. Supply and demand anyone?

Ah yes, but then that would hurt the corporations and we can’t have that, can we? Better to make American citizens fork over the $25 billion of their hard earned taxpayer dollars to build the almost 2,000-foot-long 40-foot-high concrete wall President Trump wants so he can keep a campaign promise that won’t fix the problem. Hmmmmm, wonder if 45 owns stock in any concrete companies?

Manufactured Crises

The AZ Capitol Times reports that although Governor Ducey is disavowing any connection to the effort, the GOP’s attack on Arizona’s public (district) schools is far from over. Sean Noble, the political hack running the two 2018 ballot measures though, “funneled millions into Ducey’s 2014 campaign through dark money groups.”

The first initiative would require 60 percent of district funding to be spent in the classroom, (per the U.S. Department of Education.) The second initiative looks to “cap executive pay in K–12 public schools at no more than twice the average teacher pay in the same school district or the highest salary a principal receives within that district, whichever is lower.”

What the hell? I mean, the ink isn’t even dry on the full expansion of vouchers and now the GOP is again trying to stick it to our district students by allegedly solving a problem that doesn’t really exist.

First of all, it is telling that Noble defines classroom spending as “defined by the U.S. Department of Education.” What???? Defer to the Feds about how to do something in Arizona? He obviously knows there is a disconnect in our state between how the AZ Auditor General defines classroom spending and how the Governor, Legislature, and public school leaders define it. The AZ Auditor General defines classroom spending (or instruction) as: “Salaries and benefits for teachers and instructional aides; costs related to instructional supplies, such as pencils, paper, and workbooks; instructional software; athletics; cocurricular activities, such as band or choir; and tuition paid to private institutions.” Our lawmakers though, agree with the Arizona School Boards Association’s (ASBA) definition of what they call “classroom support” which includes funding allotted to “instructional support and student support.” This categories include reading and math intervention specialists, librarians, counselors, speech pathologists, physical therapists, nurses and social workers which due to the high number of Arizona students who live at or below the poverty line, is critical for students to be successful in the classroom. “In 2015, the definition made it into state law, when the governor, legislators and educators agreed that a more holistic approach was required. As a result, the state’s budget for fiscal year 2016 identified student support and instructional support services along with instruction as the categories that support classroom learning.” This should therefore, be no need to turn to any guidance from the U.S. DOE on what defines classroom spending.

Defintion aside, Arizona districts do a good job of ensuring they are spending their limited monies where they will most matter. In FY 2016, the total amount for classroom, instructional and student support amounted to 67.4% which is down only slightly from the 68.3% in 2001. Chuck Essigs, director of governmental relations for the Arizona Association of School Business Officials, notes that is “a very small decline given the many significant cuts to school district funding over this period of time, including the elimination of funding for full-day kindergarten and the current annual cut of over $350 million to district additional assistance.” Likewise, an ASBA analysis determined that, “Arizona’s classroom spending continues to be impacted by its low per-pupil funding which is ranked 48th in the nation, students who are poorer than the national average, higher plant operations costs due to extreme temperatures and high transportation costs to serve rural and remote areas.” In fact, over the last 9 years, the Arizona Legislature has cut District Additional Assistance (monies used for textbooks, technology, items like desks and school buses and building repair and maintenance like fixing roofs and plumbing and repairing air conditioners) by two billion dollars, forcing districts to redirect funding they would otherwise have spent in the classroom. In total, our state has cut $4.56 billion dollars to public schools since 2009 – leading the nation in per pupil cuts. This is important, because all categories of costs don’t shrink evenly when a budget gets cut. Fixed costs (such as teacher numbers constrained by numbers of students), and those associated with utilities, building maintenance, and transportation for example, remain, and then eat up a bigger piece of a smaller pie.

I couldn’t find the US DOE definition of classroom spending Noble refers to. I did find a discussion about “instruction” spending. According to the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES), this includes “salaries and benefits of teachers and teaching assistants as well as costs for instructional materials and instructional services provided under contract.” On their website, the NCES noted that in 2013–14, instruction percentages were 61% of current expenditures. They also said that these expenditures peaked in 2009–10 (shrinking across the nation since then.)

The initiative to “cap executive pay”, is equally misleading. First off, “cap executive pay” makes it sound like our Superintendents are CEOs of giant corporations living the good life. No, that would be ACTUAL CEOs of corporations, not school district administrators. Secondly, Arizona public school administrative costs are below the national average at 10.4% versus 10.9%. And oh by the way, many of these “executives” are in small rural districts, where their jobs are nothing like that of a CEO. “The New York Times reported that, ”In the Miami Unified School District east of Phoenix, the superintendent is also a grant writer and the principal of the elementary school is also in charge of keeping the toilets running, as the district’s director of maintenance.” As for Arizona superintendents being overpaid, not so much. The median school superintendent salary in the U.S. as of March 31, 2017 was $151.636. Although the Phoenix median approaches this number at about $150,000, the median in Tucson is only $137,396 in Lake Havasu City it is $123,108, and in Sierra Vista, it drops to $119,199.

It might be noted by the way, that Arizona’s critical teacher shortage isn’t the only shortage our districts are facing. In 2015, the superintendent turnover rate was the highest seen in the past five years. That same year, of the 45 superintendent openings in the spring, seven were still unfilled by July and 28 were filled by a person with no superintendent experience. And just like 25% of our teachers are eligible to retire by 2020, so were nearly 50% of working superintendents between the ages of 56 and 60, planning to retire soon. Dr. Debra Duvall, former executive director of the Arizona School Administrators Association, said she suspects superintendents are fleeing for many of the same reasons teachers are, basically, that both educational resources and salaries have been stagnant or declining for the past decade. Usurping the local control authority of locally elected governing boards to apply an arbitrary cap, is certainly not the way to turn the tide on our ability to recruit and retain the quality superintendents we need in Arizona.

What we all know this is really about, is continuing to plant the lie in the public’s mind, that district schools are inefficient bloated bureaucracies and that commercializing our schools is the way to go. At least in Arizona, nothing could be further from the truth! If fact, if you want to talk about excessive spending on administration versus instruction, charter schools take the cake. Arizona charter schools spend twice the amount on administration ($1,451 versus $804 in FY2016) as do district schools. And also in FY2016, charter schools spent only 55.33% on classroom instruction, supplies and student support compared to district schools which invested 61.99%.

In short, these “problems” Noble seeks to solve with his initiatives, are manufactured crises, not reality. Of course, he won’t be deterred, saying he has “a ‘couple’ of wealthy Arizonans lined up in support of the plans.” I would just caution him not to allow his wealthy donors to reward the legislators with a free lunch celebration in the event he is successful. Speaker of the Arizona House J.D. Mesnard wisely realized the optics of this with the free lunch offered lawmakers by the American Federation for Children (Betsy DeVos was the chair prior to her SecED gig) after the voucher expansion passage. It doesn’t play well to pass laws that screw over our kids (while benefitting rich donors and corporations) and then do a victory lap around the Capitol.

Republicans should be embarrassed by vouchers for all and should pay the political price

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com

Greg Miller, a Republican, charter school founder, and past president of the AZ Board of Education, holds the GOP support of voucher expansion bill an insult to most students. And it is an insult to the rest of us who understand, what our state supreme court does not, that the AZ voucher program is a scam. It is nothing more than money laundering to get around the constitutional prohibition against giving public money to private, religious schools. As such the voucher program is an assault on public education. Period.

Here is Miller’s opinion piece in the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) – emphases added.

As an advocate for education reform for the past 35 years, a co-founder of a very successful charter school, a lifelong Republican, and the most recent past president of the Arizona State Board of Education, I have never been more embarrassed, outraged, disappointed, and angry to call myself a Republican. How on earth do the Republicans in the state Legislature who voted for the Empowerment Scholarship Account (voucher) bill, or our governor, who signed it, look in the mirror and in good faith, not understand what they have just done.

This is an outrageous attack against public education. This out-and-out transfer of state taxpayer money to private education through “school choice” is just what it seems, political rhetoric and very bad financial policy. It even blurs the separation of church and state line defined in the U.S. Constitution by our founders. Public education has been the equalizer for 150 years of economic growth and assimilation of immigrants into the culture that we enjoy today. This is an insult to the hundreds of thousands of students who do not have the resources to pay the additional thousands of dollars for the tuition these private schools will be charging above the state subsidy, and without the opportunity of a quality education provided in their local schools where due process and common goals of expectation drive the continued development of economic expansion for everyone, not just a privileged few.

Does the existing system have its troubles? Yes it does. Has the education reform movement of the past 25 years made a difference? Yes, but with miles left to go. Is money the only answer to solve the major issues in public education? No, but as a state you can starve the system to death. Without adequate funding for public education we have: 35 or more students in classrooms, teacher shortages resulting in 2,000 to 3,000 classrooms going without teachers, hundreds of teachers walking away from their existing classrooms (500 this past fall) because of the stress of the job, the politics of the institutions, and the low pay in one of the highest stress professions. This is our current situation, but instead of finding solutions we are letting more state tax money flow out of the existing system without accountability or transparency.

Are our classroom teachers getting the job done? Many are not! But their efforts are not the only reason: first generation immigrants, exaggerated federal rules and requirements, poverty, highly mobile student populations, uninvolved parents, teaching resources, a lack of commitment to children by their families and the state, and the list goes on! But in a state that is ranked at, or near, the bottom in every category of financial support for public education, how on earth can anyone, let alone those who are responsible for the stewardship of our children’s education and our tax dollars, support or even condone this disgraceful attack on our state’s economic future?

A great big thank you to my fellow Republicans at the Legislature who held ground and used common sense by not giving in to the pressure of those who have crafted and moved this bill to signature. All Republicans that share this view use your vote in next summer’s Republican primary to replace anyone who supported this transfer of economic wealth from our public school system to the private schools of the wealthy.

— Greg Miller is president and superintendent of Challenge Charter School and a former president of the state Board of Education.

Arizona fails its future as Doug Ducey, our "Education governor", goes mum on teacher exodus

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com

Actually I’m not being fair. Dougie proposed a 0.4%raise (which works out to a couple of dollars a week) and then signed off on vouchers for everyone (that siphons off several thousand public dollars to private, religious schools). That’s what an “education governor” does. It gets worse. Read on and weep.

Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy has released a fact sheet highlighting the key findings of an upcoming report on Finding & Keeping Educators for Arizona’s Classrooms. (h/t BlueMeanie.) Here are the bullet points.

  • Arizona annually is losing more teachers than bachelor of education degrees produced by its three universities.
  • When adjusted for cost-of-living, Arizona elementary school teacher pay is the lowest in the nation. High
    school teacher pay ranks 48th of the 50 states.
  • When adjusted for inflation, elementary school teachers here are paid 14% less than in 2001. Arizona secondary teachers are being paid 11% less.
  • 74% of Arizona school administrators surveyed said their campuses are experiencing a shortage of teachers.
  • Arizona teacher rosters do not reflect state demographics, offering limited role models for children of color.

And on top of all that, Ducey sticks it to our teachers by proposing a niggardly, insulting 0.4% raise. See Laurie Roberts’ comments in Is Ducey joking? A 4/10th’s of a percent pay raise for teachers?

I know Ducey’s in a tough spot because money’s tight due to a quarter century of tax cuts and due to the fact that he wants to continue cutting taxes every year.

But Ducey could have proposed delaying previously approved corporate tax cuts set to be phased in next year, allowing him to double his proposed investment in public education. Even freezing automatic 20 percent increases in the corporate tax credit that funds private school tuition would have signaled a commitment to public education.

But a 4/10s of a percent pay raise?

This, again, is Ducey … :

“This is an investment by the state of Arizona in recognizing and rewarding the work of our teachers in a way that is fair, permanent and fiscally responsible.”

And they can take that to the bank …

Or maybe to a payday loan center.

If this isn’t a crisis, I don’t know what is. AZBlueMeanie agrees: New study: ‘Arizona teacher recruitment, retention and pay are at crisis levels’

David Fitzsimmons uses his sharp wit to expose the problems facing public education in Arizona as State Senator Rip Fiddler talks public education

The most piercing comments again come from Laurie Roberts at azcentral.com: Teachers fed up? In Arizona? Noooo. (h/t AZBlueMeanie)

The study – funded by the Arizona Community Foundation, Helios Education Foundation and The Pike and Susan Sullivan Foundation – concluded that teachers are leaving the profession for a variety of reasons – retirement, disillusionment, low pay and a belief that they aren’t supported.

Me? I don’t see how they can say that.

Our governor has proclaimed himself the education governor.

But wait: Look at all this help they’re getting

Why, just three months ago, Ducey, in his State of the State address, said he had “a new appreciation for the excellence occurring in our school system.” He attributed that success to teachers.

“I want teachers in our state to know: You make a difference. I value your work and it’s time we return the favor.”

Four days later, he proposed a pay raise that amounts to about $2 a week.

Three months later, he signed a universal voucher bill that’ll divert more public money to private schools.

This, in a state that already spends $1,365 less, when adjusted for inflation, to educate a child than it did in 2008.

Me? I can’t imagine why teachers are feeling slighted.

Here are selected observations from the Morrison Institute’s Report: AZ in crisis over teacher pay, retention

“Teacher pay and support is a proxy for how highly we think of students and their education,” said Steve Seleznow, President & CEO of Arizona Community Foundation and a former school administrator. “When we undervalue our educators, we under educate our children. This problem will not go away without fundamental change in the ways we support our teachers. If we value the education our children receive, we must provide teachers compensation commensurate with those values.”

Teachers are leaving the profession for many reasons – retirement, disillusionment, low pay and a feeling of lack of support.

"The teacher shortage is urgent, critical and very real,” said Rachel Yanof, Senior Director of Educational Initiatives for the Pike and Susan Sullivan Foundation. “It is imperative that those with the position to influence policy read this report and act in a manner that will stem this crisis as quickly as possible. Our children deserve it.”

Arizona, you see, is not just failing its teachers. Arizona is failing its future.