Arizona Charter School First Native American School to Win Title I Award

By Jonathan Butcher

At an award ceremony earlier this year, Akimel O’Otham Pee Posh charter school became the first Native American school to be named the Arizona Distinguished Title I School of the Year.  The school is now entered in the National Title I Association’s national competition, which recognizes schools that are doing the best job of helping kids in some of the most disadvantaged areas in the country.

“Our children did it,” says Principal Jacquelyn Power, who also serves as the superintendent for the small district located on the Gila River Indian Reservation.  The reservation is home to the Akimel O’Otham (River People – Pima Indians) tribe and the Pee Posh tribe (Maricopa Indians).  “We performed as well or higher than the children around [us] in public or charter schools. We did it with a strong focus on achievement and consistency and excellence, and our kids did it,” Power says.

Gov. Gregory Mendoza of the Gila River Indian Community declared February 3, 2012 as ‘Blackwater Community School Day,’ in recognition of the school’s accomplishment.

Powers says the fact that Pee Posh is a charter school is significant to its success.  While the kindergarten through second grades are a Bureau of Indian Affairs traditional school, grades three through five operate as a charter school.  She says the charter status gave her access to grant opportunities and allowed her more flexibility to develop a strong instructional model.

Powers says the school has focused teaching efforts on reading. “If [students] can read, they can be successful in any other subject area,” she says. “We have high risk students, and by putting in a solid reading model, it changed our school.”

Some 94 percent of the school’s students qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program, yet last year Pee Posh earned a B on its first state report card.  Among 3rd graders, 88 percent met the reading standard on the 2011 AIMS test.

Arizona’s state charter board and department of education should continue to support charter schools serving a wide range of students from different backgrounds.  The diversity of charter schools in communities across the state provides more opportunities for children, and proves that success comes in different shapes and sizes.

Jonathan Butcher is the Education Director for the Goldwater Institute.

Learn more:

Goldwater Institute: Digital Learning: Improve Educational Opportunities for American Indian Students

Goldwater Institute: 18 Years of Charter Schools in Arizona: Now We Know

Blackwater Community School

National Title I Association: Akimel O’Otham Pee Posh Charter 3-5

Arizona sales-tax hike gets shiv on shady iPad contest promoted on Facebook, Twitter

Below is the complaint letter submitted to Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett earlier this week by Tom Jenney of Americans for Prosperity Arizona challenging the legality of initiative petitions turned in by the “Quality Education & Jobs” campaign based on signatures gathered by ‘volunteers’ with the promise of winning an iPad — thereby calling into question any and all of these petitions not disclosing that they were collected by a paid circulator. In the grand scheme of things this complaint likely reveals a small violation that will probably not invalidate enough petitions to drop their signature tally below the number required to earn a spot on November’s ballot.  However, this pattern and practice also reveals another instance where the troubled “Quality Education & Jobs” campaign has played fast-and-loose with the rules regarding gathering signatures… all in service to “The Children”… and government unions and brazen special interests who stand to reap hundreds of millions in government contracts. No wonder it has been thrown off the ballot. Let’s hope an activist judge doesn’t disregard the black-letter of the law and force this massive tax increase onto November’s ballot.  

BONUS: Click here to listen to the initial reaction from top “Quality Education & Jobs” campaign officials (Chairwoman Ann-Eve Petersen, Associated General Contractors honcho David Martin, consultant Joe Yuhas and others) upon learning their campaign’s 290,000 petition signatures are invalid.

June 25, 2012

The Honorable Ken Bennett
Arizona Secretary of State
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85007-2888

Dear Secretary Bennett,

On behalf of the 70,000 taxpayers in this state who are members of our organization, the Arizona chapter of Americans for Prosperity wishes to bring to your prompt attention an important matter regarding the potential failure by one or more ballot initiative organizers to fully and properly disclose their use of paid signature petition circulators. 

I-16-2012 has filed for inclusion on the November ballot and signature petitions have been circulated by its initiative supporters for qualification.  This initiative, commonly referred to as “Quality Education and Jobs,” has already submitted petitions to your office for certification.

Based upon the enclosed information, we believe that circulators have been compensated and incentivized with the promise of future compensation for collecting a specific number of signatures on behalf of the initiative.  We believe that repeated solicitations over Facebook and Twitter accounts maintained by initiative organizers, as well as at least one email sent by organizers or on their behalf, clearly demonstrate that the collection of fifteen (15) petition signatures were directly exchanged for “a brand new iPad 3” by at least two individuals.

A.R.S. § 19-118 defines a paid circulator as “…a person who receives monetary or other compensation that is based on the number of signatures obtained on a petition or on the number of petitions circulated that contain signatures.”  Those who satisfy the criteria of paid circulators are required to disclose their paid circulator status by noting the same on the petition.     

Organizers of I-16-2012 have apparently twice awarded an iPad 3, valued at $499, to certain individuals on or about May 11 and June 1.  Although the solicitations characterize the circulators as “volunteers,” the nature of those awards qualifies them as paid circulators by law.

We therefore request that your office immediately investigate this matter to determine whether the actions of the “Quality Education and Jobs” initiative organizers constitute a violation of A.R.S. § 19-118 and to take any and all necessary action. 

Furthermore, please accept this letter as a formal complaint with regard to the possibility that the “Quality Education and Jobs” initiative organizers may have circulated petitions using ballot language that differed from the official initiative language.  Given the discrepancies uncovered by the Arizona Tax Research Association (please refer to the attached article from the June 22, 2012 issue of the Arizona Capitol Times), we believe that the organizers of the “Quality Education and Jobs” initiative acted in violation of A.R.S. § 19-112, which requires that petition signature sheets be attached “at all times during circulation to a full and correct copy of the title and text of the measure or constitutional amendment proposed or referred by the petition.”

Thank you very much for your consideration of these matters, and for taking the time and effort to provide written responses to these complaints.

For Liberty,

Tom Jenney
Arizona Director
Americans for Prosperity