Scottsdale Parent Chides Columnist, Scottsdale School District

To: Laurie Roberts, Arizona Republic Columnist

I read the article you wrote in the AZCentral regarding HB 2002 and wanted to reach out to you to inform you that Mark Finchem’s bill and bills other legislators are working on to protect our children in the K-12 schools are absolutely needed. Activism is permitted in the classroom and the situation is rapidly deteriorating.

I am a parent with a son in the Scottsdale Unified School District who, for the past 15 months, has been providing credible evidence of activist curriculum and teaching instruction that is allowed to continue because of Arizona’s weak education laws and the state’s lax education accountability system.  All levels of district leadership, including Governing Board members, have been provided ample opportunities to remedy these issues, but they simply refuse to compel district leaders to comply. In fact, certain individuals in leadership positions who should be the gatekeepers are the very ones ushering more of the activist curriculum in. District leaders permit teachers to pollute the academic environment by pushing various social, economic, or political adult-themed political narratives with “curriculum” of their choosing. This is beyond inappropriate.  Districts are not in compliance with, nor have they been for years, basic state statutes like A.R.S. 15-721 and statutes that  relate to Arizona’s unique decentralized “local control” structure codified in A.R.S. 15-351.

My sister has been a teacher for 25 years, and clearly there are many teachers who are doing their job well. Those teachers should be singled out, the exceptional ones given bonuses and elevated to leadership positions, while the activist teachers and district leaders should be shown the door. Parents are leaving the public schools in droves, particularly in Scottsdale, and it is precisely because of the low quality curriculum, and lack of leadership and oversight.  

The issues’ I’ve identified sadly extend to the Arizona Department of Education and our state teaching colleges like ASU. I’ve been communicating for months with various legislators, State Board of Education members, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and even Dawn Wallace, Governor Ducey’s Office of Education Director and providing them with specific evidence of issues that need to be investigated and addressed. The State Board of Education is looking into what investigatory powers and oversight authority they have with respect to districts not in compliance with state statutes and situations of activism that go unaddressed at the local level, in addition to issues within the ADE. 

The Superintendent and Governing Board have the duty to ensure that all activities and all personnel are in accordance with the laws of the state of Arizona, the rules of the Arizona Administrative Code, and the adopted policies of the Governing Board, among other critical responsibilities. This is not happening.

The type of curriculum at the Scottsdale Unified School District is night and day different from what my daughter encountered at her charter school just a few miles away. Hers was deep reading with complex themes that dealt with virtue and vice, but pointing children toward uplifting sentiments so that they developed a strong moral compass. The charter school also had a very strong History program (not Social Studies) and read many rich primary source documents that the students discussed via Socratic seminars. My daughter and her classmates were all writing 10 – 15 page papers in their junior and senior years, which is in stark contrast to my son drawing his name in block letters and never writing one proper literary analysis paper in his entire time at SUSD. I was completely comfortable with the curriculum and the professionalism with the teachers and leadership at my daughter’s charter school, while I feel distrustful and extremely disturbed by what I see occurring at the public school my son attends. 

Something is seriously wrong.

I’ve provided a local reporter with the Scottsdale Independent significant documentation and copied her on many, many emails to district leaders and Governing Board members. You can read the article to get a feel for some of the issues, but I have significant documentation to support the allegations. My work experience as a CPA with a fraud and litigation background has trained me to build a documentation trail and that’s what I’ve done. Other parents have formed a separate parent group as state mandated Site Councils that should serve as the parent oversight are not functioning as designed by district leadership. The entire system was so poorly designed from the beginning and is broken. Parents are to have “local control”, but that’s a false narrative. Rather, problems continue to get brushed under the rug by district leaders who don’t want to be held to account.

There are parents across this state who are, in fact, communicating serious issues within our K-12 system, and we’re just now getting legislators to take parents’ concerns seriously. These legislators are being courageous and working to safeguard the children and attempting to reinstate academic scholarship in the classroom. Parents need the State Board of Education members to also work to better understand what parents face at the local school district level, and institute a whistle blower policy, a Parental Bill of Rights framework, and a much stronger accountability system. 

Parents are going to continue to push their legislators and other state agencies to take the issue of K-12 education seriously. The kids deserve better.

I spoke with another investigative reporter this evening who has asked me to provide him evidence of examples of some of the problematic curriculum and other issues within the ADE. If you would like further details, I can be reached at (480) 250-3355. 

~ Kristen Williamson

Representative Mark Finchem Introduces Bill to Create Teacher Code of Ethics Prohibiting Political Advocacy in the Classroom

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Representative Mark Finchem (R-11) has introduced legislation (HB 2002) that requires the State Board of Education, in coordination with the Superintendent of Public Instruction, to create a code of ethics for teachers that prohibits political, ideological, or religious advocacy in the classroom. While the practice is already prohibited in Arizona State Statutes, there is no code of conduct or code of ethics.

“HB 2002 is a response to many calls from parents to end political activity in the classroom,” said Representative Finchem. “I respect the important role that teachers play in society, but this is a parental authority matter. If parents want to shape the political views of their children, that is their right. However, it is not the proper role of the state and, by extension, teachers.”

“I have good friends who are teachers and they tell me that although they do not promote political agendas in their classrooms, some of their peers do.A code of ethics prohibiting political activity in the classroom shouldn’t be an issue if that behavior isn’t presently happening. But where it is, it needs to come to an end.”

Frank Schmuck Will Protect Your Right To Protect Yourself

Not even Pepper Spray? That’s right! Sean Bowie voted to deny campus women their right to carry pepper spray or even a taser to defend themselves against sexual predators. What kind of person does that?

As a deputized law enforcement officer and a parent of a daughter in college this is both professional and personal for me.

Students, teachers and all employees of our universities in Arizona should feel safe, and not made to feel like they are breaking the law by protecting themselves with something as simple as pepper spray.

With thousands of sexual assaults and even worse dozens of rapes reported to Police over the last few years, Sean Bowie and his extreme ideology left women defenseless when he voted against House Bill 2172 three times.

See and hear what these women have to say…

To see all our videos visit www.FrankSchmuck.com/videos

Latest Arizona Political Videos

Wendy Rogers recently released this political ad:

ABC 15 reviews Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates, Kathy Hoffman (D) and Frank Riggs (R).

Martha McSally welcomes Iowa Senator Joni Ernst to Arizona GOP campaign event to talk global security.

Martha McSally welcomes South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham at Arizona GOP event.

Bernie Sanders’ Socialist Movement Using #RedForEd In Arizona

RedForEd

By Ed Freedom

Public opinion has always held teachers in high regard. Teaching is a noble profession. All of us have had good teachers and bad teachers just as there have always been good and bad actors in every industry.

It seems reasonable for teachers to take a pay cut when recessions hit, revenues are down and government needs to tighten its belt on all services. It is also reasonable that teachers receive a raise when the economy is growing, revenues are up and as a way to acknowledge their sacrifices as teachers during those tough economic times.

Thursday will be the first teacher strike in Arizona history. Who would think of encouraging teachers to walk out during the last few weeks of school? Who are the activists leading the teacher labor union?

Wednesday, State Representative Maria Syms recently wrote an eye-opening guest opinion exposing the leaders of Arizona Educators United or #RedForEd on AZCentral.

Adding to the revelation of who makes up #RedForEd, this video footage shows rank and file protestors who are hardcore Bernie Sanders activists that embrace his socialist liberal agenda.

This video is extremely troublesome since it shows the very people who are demanding our tax dollars to teach our children.

There are good teachers and there are bad teachers. The people behind the #RedForEd movement are teachers who want to indoctrinate your children and make you pay for it.

Arizona Senate Education Chairman on Education Funding

By Sylvia Allen

Sylvia Allen

Senator Sylvia Allen

As we have come out of the recession and revenues have increased we have put that money into education.  We Republican Legislators support Teachers raises and that will be reflected in our budget.

The problem is that Left’s propaganda machine supported by the mainstream media, encouraged by school administrators, has given this false impression that we are somehow hostile to education when that is totally not the truth.  Also, we do not micromanage the dollars they are given to local school boards and they create their own budget.  Teachers do not work for the Legislators they work for local school districts and charters who determine their salary.

The Legislators only have the money the economy creates.  We can’t print money.  What we are being pressured to do is raise taxes on everyone.  This is not necessary; our revenues are increasing and as they do so we put that money into education.  Look at the information below.

The walkout is not necessary but only counterproductive.

2018

  • Even before state budget has been finalized, legislators have committed $667 million in yearly education funding
  • This is the result of a bill that continues an additional .06 cent tax
  • Prop 301 ends in 2021, and this bill will keep that money flowing to education
  • In addition, the bill also shifts $64 million from a debt service program to another fund dedicated to teacher pay

2017

  • Arizona public schools received more than $350 million in additional dollars for Fiscal 2018
  • The budget included nearly $80 million for inflationary increases
  • $84 million was added for enrollment growth
  • $21 million in new money went to special needs and charter schools
  • Teachers saw a 2% pay raise over 2018 and 2019, totaling $68 million
  • That money committed for 2019 will obviously be greatly increased in our new budget for this year
  • The best performing schools were rewarded with more than $37 million in ongoing formula funding
  • Early literacy programs received $8 million in 2018 and $12 million more in 2019
  • Legislature committed an additional $17 million for school repairs
  • Nearly $63 million was devoted to new school construction projects
  • An additional $38 million was set aside for 2019 new construction

2016

  • Proposition 123 was approved by legislators and sent to the voters
  • It injected $3.5 billion over ten years into the K-12 education system
  • In addition to the massive infusion of new dollars, the Legislature added more than $200 million in additional dollars
  • The budget included $132 million in new formula funding
  • An additional $31 million went to schools adjusting to current-year funding
  • An additional $30 million was appropriated to the School Facilities Board
  • $6.5 million went to the phase-out of the multi-site charter school weight
  • $1.2 million was dedicated to the phase-out of district-sponsored charter schools
  • $46 million went to new school construction
  • $29 million went to Joint Technical Education Districts

Year to Year Comparisons

General Fund Budgets                   2008                          2018

K-12 Education                           $3.95 billion            $4.23 billion       7% increase

Total budget                                $9.94 billion            $9.86 billion       1% decrease

Agency share of budget                   40%                           43%

2013                         2018

State only funding                       $4.09 billion           $5.33 billion       30% increase

Poll: Support For Ducey’s Teacher Raise Plan Holding Steady

Data Orbital

By Data Orbital

(Phoenix, AZ) As a follow up to our poll released this past Tuesday, April 17th, and with a possible teacher strike beginning tomorrow, it is clear that Arizona voters are still supportive of the plan put forward by Governor Ducey. These same voters have also largely heard of and are positive towards the Red for Ed campaign.

Data Orbital commissioned this poll beginning Wednesday, April 18th and ending on Saturday, April 21st, as voters have been learning more details around the Governor’s plan to increase teacher pay by 20%.  Our live caller poll found that a vast majority of Arizona voters continue to approve of the Governor’s plan.  In addition, almost 50% of voters surveyed also have a positive opinion of the Red for Ed campaign.

Data Orbital AZ Statewide Poll Do you approve or disapprove of Governor Doug Ducey’s plan to give a 20% pay raise to teachers?

The support for the plan continues to be consistent along party lines.  Democrats are still most likely to favor the Governor’s plan, coming in at nearly 75%.

Data Orbital AZ Statewide Poll Do you approve or disapprove of Governor Doug Ducey’s plan to give a 20% pay raise to teachers? Breakdown by Party Registration

The poll found virtually no difference between males and females in their approval of Governor Ducey’s plan.

Data Orbital AZ Statewide Poll Do you approve or disapprove of Governor Doug Ducey’s plan to give a 20% pay raise to teachers? Breakdown by Gender

Support is also fairly consistent across age demographics with the highest support coming from those between 18 and 34 years of age.

Data Orbital AZ Statewide Poll Do you approve or disapprove of Governor Doug Ducey’s plan to give a 20% pay raise to teachers? Breakdown by Age

Support is highest among those who have voted in at least 3 out of the last 4 general elections and lowest among those who have no previous history of voting in general elections (they made up only 3% of the sample).

Data Orbital AZ Statewide Poll Do you approve or disapprove of Governor Doug Ducey’s plan to give a 20% pay raise to teachers? Breakdown by Voting History

As mentioned above, the Red for Ed movement is fairly well known with nearly 60% of voters familiar with it and only 29% certain they hadn’t heard of it.

Data Orbital AZ Statewide Poll Have you heard about the Red for Ed movement started by Arizona Educators United?

It is not surprising that Democrats are more likely to have had positive exposure to the Red for Ed movement while Republicans have the highest negative sentiment towards it. As was mentioned above, most samples were collected prior to Red for Ed announcing their strike.

Data Orbital AZ Statewide Poll Have you heard about the Red for Ed movement started by Arizona Educators United? Breakdown by Party Registration

Women are also more likely to have a positive opinion while men are more likely to be negative in their opinion.

Data Orbital AZ Statewide Poll Have you heard about the Red for Ed movement started by Arizona Educators United? Breakdown by Gender

There also is a clear age correlation towards the overall exposure to Red for Ed. Older voters who don’t have children in K-12 are much more likely to be unfamiliar with it while younger voters with school age children have a higher positive exposure.

Data Orbital AZ Statewide Poll Have you heard about the Red for Ed movement started by Arizona Educators United? Breakdown by Age

Demographics

Data Orbital AZ Statewide Poll Demographics - Gender and Age
Data Orbital AZ Statewide Poll Demographics - Party Affiliation and Roll-Up
Data Orbital AZ Statewide Poll Demographics - Ethnicity and General Vote History

George Khalaf, President of Data Orbital, issued the following statement: “It has been nearly a week and a half since the Governor announced his teacher pay raise plan and support has largely held steady with likely voters. These same voters tend to have positive views of Red for Ed, with support predominantly along partisan lines.”

###

This poll of 700 likely general election voters was conducted through a live survey that collected 50% of the results from land lines and 50% from cell phones. It has a margin of error at plus or minus 3.64%, with a 95% confidence interval. Respondents were weighted on a number of different demographic figures based off historical general election turnout in Arizona. The poll was conducted over four days from April 18th-21st. Toplines and demographic data can be found here and cross tabs here.  To receive regular blog updates, subscribe here.

Goldwater Institute: Who Is Really Responsible for Teacher Pay?

by Matthew Simon

West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona have all been mired in a teacher pay debate, but one question is rarely asked or answered: Who is really responsible for teacher pay?

In states across the country, the clamoring for increased pay has been well-coordinated, and the demands are costly. Teachers in West Virginia left their classroom posts for nine days, and teachers in Oklahoma rounded out their first week out of the classroom. Teachers in West Virginia returned to their classrooms after receiving a 5 percent pay increase and teachers in Oklahoma still walked out of their classrooms after receiving an average increase in pay of $6,100, demanding that it be $10,000. In Arizona, this has been dubbed the #RedforED movement. Teachers in one school district shut down nine schools in a coordinated “sickout,” and more are purportedly planned to come. Arizona Educators United and the Arizona Education Association have outlined demands in order not to abandon their classrooms, which was agreed to under their contract. Among these demands include a 20 percent teacher pay raise, which could cost Arizona taxpayers approximately $680 million in the first year alone, not including the annual inflation adjustment. Their total funding demands, according to some estimates, reach into the $5 billion figure.

The debate over teacher pay reached new heights in Arizona when the Legislature passed a 2.12 percent teacher pay increase over two years on top of all of the other funding put into schools in 2017. This pay raise was outside the norm and is not how schools are funded in Arizona. It created cumbersome language to ensure that the dollars went to the intended recipient. Not only was this just bad policy because the state doesn’t fund teachers (it funds students), but also because it reinforced this idea that state lawmakers dictate what teachers’ salaries are.

What is far too often left out of the conversation are locally elected school district governing boards. These independently elected governing boards wield considerable power in their positions by creating policies, crafting school district budgets and setting teacher pay. Collectively, these school district governing boards allocated over $8.7 billion during the 2017 school year. Because of this local management of dollars, the Classroom Spending Report produced by the Auditor General becomes increasingly informative. The Auditor General puts school districts into operational efficiency peer groups by the size, type, and geographic location of school districts.

According to the 2017 report, Tempe Elementary School District (TESD) and Alhambra Elementary School District (AESD) were in the same operational peer group. Both served a similar number of students, and they are elementary districts in urban areas. However, when you look at teacher pay and revenues generated per student, it becomes clear how local decisions can have a huge impact on teacher pay. TESD received, on average, 25 percent more per pupil than AESD but paid its teachers almost 30 percent less, on average.

TESD AESD
Students 11,049 12,524
Schools 21 14
Per Pupil $11,512 $8,562
Teacher Ratio 15.1 20.6
Avg. Years 9.3 10.4
Teacher Pay $40,899 $58,362

This isn’t the only example. Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) has been the subject of much media attention. In fact, one of the teachers within the school district posted her pay stub on social media. Her annual salary: $35,490. How could a teacher with nearly 10 years of experience and a school district that receives $10,501 per pupil be paid so little? It becomes even harder to comprehend when compared to Gilbert Unified School District (GUSD). Again, the Auditor General put these two school districts in the same operational peer group. GUSD received 16.9 percent less per pupil than PVUSD, but it was able to pay its teachers 5.5 percent more.

PVUSD GUSD
Students 30,741 33,808
Schools 44 40
Per Pupil $10,501 $8,720
Teacher Ratio 17.4 17.8
Avg. Years 12.7 11.9
Teacher Pay $48,299 $51,125

And just to make the point abundantly clear, Balsz Elementary School District (Balsz) and Tolleson Elementary School District (Tolleson) show a similar trend. Tolleson receives 24.5 percent less than Balsz per pupil, but it is able to pay its teachers, on average, 13 percent more.

Balsz Tolleson
Students 2,315 2,980
Schools 5 4
Per Pupil $11,998 $9,049
Teacher Ratio 17.7 19.6
Avg. Years 8.9 9.6
Teacher Pay $44,954 $51,705

If Arizona teachers and the public have a gripe with elected officials, the elected officials they should be targeting with this anger need to be their locally elected school district governing boards. The comparisons make it clear: It’s about how those dollars are spent. When a school district governing board prioritizes teacher pay, teacher pay is higher. If the Legislature were to meet the multi-billion dollar demands of #RedforED, there is no guarantee that those dollars would get where they were intended to go. Instead, these teachers and the public should be attending their local school district governing board meetings, examining their budgets, and holding them accountable.

This article can be read here.

Matthew Simon is the director of education policy at the Goldwater Institute. 

Dick Foreman: Getting back to basics in public education

By Dick Foreman

When it comes to education basics, the seas are not just getting choppy, they’ve been choppy and seem to be getting worse. One has to wonder, after all these years of research, student data, and models of reform from all 50 states to compare to, what is really working? Have we even addressed our most basic needs?

Have we figured out this “parent choice” thing yet?

ABEC is proud to not only represent business, community and education voices, but also traditional public as well as public charter schools. We realize and support, a system of parent choice that preserves opportunities for school children of every age. Indeed, many education reforms begin with “choice.” But we must also remember that the choice by design or default of the vast majority of Arizona parents remains the traditional public school. Quite simply, Arizona families both want and expect their neighborhood schools to be both excellent choices and safe neighborhood assets. There is no rocket science engaged in this deduction. You can arrive at this conclusion not only by what school parents most often choose for their children to attend but how they buy and sell their families most precious asset, their homes.

But today, education in Arizona suffers for at least three very basic reasons.

Dick Foreman

Dick Foreman

First, the choice parents make should be based on opportunity, not failure. Some policymakers believe that the best accountability for a failing public school is to close it or abandon it. But just on the taxpayer side of things alone, stranding their assets based on the choice of a few parents is a poor calculation. In fact, it permits a catastrophic result for both children and the property values of the entire community. Making matters worse, state policies that enable increasing disparities in state education funding formulas coupled with the increased erosion of public funds through targeted tax credits is a strategy for destabilization, not student achievement or respect for choice.

Making matters worse, responsibility is dodged. When parental concerns for quality are raised, a “buyer beware” approach to selecting schools is suggested. At the accountability zenith of this policy is a traditional public or charter school whose doors are shuttered. We should never accept the failure of a public school, and we should never celebrate this heart-breaking news as an accountability. After all, the reasons for this failure were not molecularly connected to the brick and mortar!

Secondly, we know what best enables student achievement. Simply put, it is the teacher that matters. It has always been the teacher. And it will likely always be the teacher. Here’s how Kata Mihaly, economist for the Rand Corporation who specializes in using econometric modeling to assess educational achievement, puts it:

“When it comes to student performance on reading and math tests, a teacher is estimated to have two to three times the impact of any other school factor, including services, facilities, and even leadership.”

Getting bogged down in school leadership models, lawsuits over capital facilities, competition or engaged but selective parent choice as the drivers of achievement will not address Arizona student needs. It will, at best, address some student needs. And that’s not good enough for 1.1 million Arizona school children. And it is not good enough for taxpayers.

What is good enough?

Simply stated, it’s keeping a qualified teacher in position for as long a period of time as is possible. The teacher and their skills remain the single greatest barometer of student achievement that can be measured.

Third, the single greatest predictor of student success remains demographics. If a student lives in poverty, their lack of achievement is indeed predictable and unacceptable. But can this be addressed by policy? Of course, it can. In fact, 43 states have added a “poverty weight” to their school funding formulas to do just that, including Arizona. But unfortunately, Arizona has very limited application in this respect (largely, a limited weight for 3rd Grade reading).

Here is an interesting data point on this failure from Diane Ravitch’s Blog of March 1, 2018:
*Students in the South and Southwest face a “double disadvantage” because their states provide low funding with no boost in funding for high poverty districts. States with flat or regressive funding include … Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico in the Southwest.

*Only a few states, including Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Wyoming, provide high levels of school funding and distribute more funding to their high poverty districts. Notably, New Jersey and Massachusetts are the top performing states on student outcomes.”

Perhaps there is wisdom in getting back to the basics.

How about we work with policymakers to lay down the swords of philosophical agendas and work together to positively address the real basics? First, let’s respect all public education choices and resist creating winners and losers. Parent involvement and choice should always be encouraged but not confused as a necessary antecedent to student achievement overall. Secondly, let’s encourage maintaining a highly trained, long-term teaching workforce in Arizona’s classrooms. And thirdly, let’s recognize poverty as the single greatest indicator of student achievement and do something about it in the school funding formula.

NOTE: Dick Foreman is president & CEO of ABEC.  To contact, please send him an e-mail.
 
 ABOUT ABEC

The Arizona Business and Education Coalition (ABEC) is the coalition of Arizona business and education leaders committed to helping create public education policy essential to a vibrant, growing Arizona economy. The coalition is a 501(c)(3), non-partisan, statewide membership organization focused on K-12 public education while recognizing the importance of early childhood development, post-secondary education and workforce development.

Free Firearms Training for Arizona School District Officials

Gunsite

Gunsite Academy Inc., the Nation’s oldest privately owned and operated civilian firearms training academy, is saddened and angered by the violence in our schools.

Our mission is “. . .  to provide good people with the skills by which they may conduct themselves as responsible citizens of a free Republic.”  We recognize that the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.   Proper training is crucial to achieve the objective of keeping our young people safe in their schools.  It is crucial that we recognize that local leaders must be the impetus of changes in the safety and security policies in our local schools.

To further positive changes of the safety and security in our Republic’s schools, Gunsite will offer a free five (5) day 250 Pistol Course (tuition) at our northern Arizona training facility to School Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, and School Board Presidents.

Our hope is that we educate these policy makers and help them formulate programs within their schools to train and arm their teachers to better protect our youth.

Those wishing further information should contact Gunsite Chief Operating Officer Ken Campbell at (928)-636-4565 or Ken@gunsite.com.

Very Respectfully,

Ken Campbell

Sheriff Ken P. Campbell (Ret.)
Chief Operating Officer
Gunsite Academy, Inc.

View press release here.