Guest Opinion: Arizona Board of Education Rubber Stamps Common Core for 7 More Years

State Board of Education Ignores  Governor, Parents, and own Policy and  Rubber Stamps Common Core for another  7 Years

After a raucous 2014 election year for the office for Superintendent of Public Instruction only 16,034 votes separated the outcome of the 2014 election results between Diane Douglas and David Garcia. One would like to suggest Douglas’ opposition to the top down federal one-sized-fits all standards helped ensure she was the victor. This was a coup for the parents who despised the unconstitutional federal outreach in their children’s classrooms – later only to learn the fox was in the hen house all along.

A quick history lesson on Common Core in Arizona. In 2010, the Arizona State Board of Education adopted Common Core standards for all public schools throughout Arizona. As these standards were being implemented, parents and practitioners alike started to have difficulty learning and teaching them.

This classroom battle came to a head in 2013 inciting a Republican primary challenge to then-Superintendent John Huppenthal who was fully engaged in implementing these standards that had to be rebranded to “college and career ready” due to public outcry.

Like so many top-down government mandates, implementing Common Core became a gravy train for special interests who only care about their profits, not about the outcome of our children’s future. These same corporate entities joined local business chambers to ensure they helped elect pro-Common Core candidates for local and statewide offices.

Meanwhile, grade school children who loved math started to hate math. Other children who loved writing, started to hate writing. Parents knew something was wrong.  In some instances, parents with higher degrees in engineering and math could no longer help their children with basic arithmetic homework.

As with the other 49 states, Arizona retains the authority to approve and modify its academic standards. More importantly, there is no federal law requiring the adoption of specific standards. Yet, 46 states originally adopted common core.

To address this, Governor Doug Ducey directed the State Board of Education (SBE) on March 2015. His direction was for the State Board of Education to “make right the situation…with full transparency.” Direction was given for “teachers and parents to bring [standards] forward together.”

In response, the Arizona SBE created a review process that included 17 members representing different sectors of communities across Arizona. Six of these members were parents from various parts of Arizona. This group was called the Arizona Standards Development Committee (ASDC), consisting of educational experts and parents. Its task was to recommend updated standards to the SBE per the Governor’s request.

However, for the past year and a half the standards were only being reviewed by “technical professionals” and lobbyists in closed-door meetings. These individuals were largely pro-common core individuals. Multiple requests were submitted to the Arizona Department of Education to include parents or people with opposing viewpoints, but these were turned down each time.

On December 14th, the ASDC was scheduled only 3 hours to review and possibly approve hundreds of standards. Up to this point, the ASDC had no substantive discussion on the standards and very little time to study the latest version of the standards.

After two and a half hours of presentations and public comments, the ASDC had 30 minutes to discuss and feel comfortable recommending hundreds of pages of standards. They were concerned that many issues with common core remained. Further, there was no evidence that hundreds of public comments were received or one standard changed by public comments. Many of the ASDC were concerned.

Thus, the parents requested additional time to discuss the standards and voted 8-7 vote to delay approving any current recommendation of these newly revised standards to the SBE until at least January 2017.

It should be noted that the clear expectation from ADE and the SBE staff was for the ASDC to rubber stamp the draft and not ask too many questions. At the same time, the Executive Director and President of the State Board of Education posted an agenda item on the SBE’s December 19th  agenda for the SBE also to rubber stamp the standards. Most of them had never read these “new” standards in any substantive detail.

On December 19th, the SBE shocked the public and the ASDC by rubber stamping the recommended standards. The request of the Governor to have standards brought forth by teachers and parents were largely ignored. Not one person in opposition appeared to speak in public because they trusted that the SBE would respect the direction of the Governor and the ASDC to do their job and recommend standards to the SBE.

In a shocking irony, the very person—Diane Douglas–who promised to “stop common core”, recommended the ‘revised’ standards; standards virtually identical to the common core state standards foolishly adopted by the SBE in 2010.

It is no wonder why President-elect Donald J. Trump is in line to become our next President. No one trusts the government. If a process is in place it should be adhered and there shouldn’t have a go-around if the vote doesn’t fall in your favor. Our Republic doesn’t exist to be overrun by bureaucratic tyrants.

As members of this subcommittee we waited patiently for the review and public commenting period to end. We welcomed proponents of these standards to our public meetings and only gave them the deepest respect at our meetings even though they didn’t always model the best public decorum they would want their children or students to convey.

We call upon Governor Doug Ducey to request that the SBE reconsider the vote; respect the public; and follow the process established.

We also call upon Governor Ducey to seat people on the SBE that truly respect the parents of our State who are deeply concerned with the direction of public education in our State.

Respectfully Submitted By

Scott Leska; Public School District Elected Board Member
Grant Peterson; Middle School Parent
Dr. Richard Rutkowski; Business Community Member
Olga Tarro; Elementary School Parent
Maureen Tozzi; Business Community Member
Shawnna Bolick; High School Parent


Comments

  1. Chris Brant says:

    I emailed this message to MCRC News Briefs, but unfortunately it was not published, even after I reduced the size of the article:

    I want to thank all those people who sent me emails or phoned me in response to my recent letter entitled “State of Affairs LD23 Style”. After receiving all of the calls and emails, it is obvious many people have the same opinion about the state of affairs in LD23 as I do.

    I did not expect Lynn Brewer to agree with me and although I feel I have the right to state my opinion I am willing to continue to put up with any of her lectures and admonishments she feels the need to post.

    I would like to state that I am not running for any elected or appointed position. My motivation is simply to state my feelings when we in LD23 are deviating from democracy or the spirit of the law. I will speak up if I feel that our bylaws need amending or are being manipulated and I will work with others to correct them and present them to the LD23 precinct committeemen for approval. I will be frank if I think a meeting is a good one and I will continue to complement those responsible for it. However, if the views of those in my Precinct are not being addressed I will openly express my concerns. I only ask in return that I will obtain the courtesy of a fair hearing and a professional, respectful response.

    While I am at it, I do have concerns about the handling of the organizational meeting held on December 1st 2016. Our meetings are governed under the “Roberts Rules of Order”(RRO). Several times during the organizational meeting the Chairman of LD23, Jim O’Connor ignored following RRO. At one point after Chairman O’Connor went totally out of parliamentary procedures he responded by stating something like “Oh it must be time I moved on”. I agreed, but not to represent the Republican Party at the state level. It was not a good audition for his run to be elected State Chairman. The meeting overall was uncomfortable and frustrating. It dragged on not because the votes needed to be counted but because of the disorganization and inefficiency of the now former Chairman. That is unacceptable!

    It also concerns me that the former Chair of LD 23, Jim O’Connor is running for GOP Chairman to “represent all state Republicans”. That has not been his forte with LD 23. Many of the LD23 long serving PC’s have stopped coming to meetings because of leadership behavior during regular meetings of the now former Chairman Jim O’Connor. I feel I need to state this information because a new Chairman will be elected in January and I care about the future of our party in Arizona.

    Finally, to all those individuals who were pushing for “Anyone but McCain”, fortunately you were not speaking for the voting public because if the public had listened to this bitter faction of the party our majority in the Senate in Washington would now be down to just one. This has been a constant battle cry of the supporters of Jim O’Connor and the LD23 Board. I suggest we accept the decision of the Arizona voters and move on.

    Submitted by :

    Christopher P P Brant
    2 Term President Fountain Hills Republican Club (1990s)
    Immediate Past 1st VP Fountain Hills Republican Club (FHRC)
    Active Board Member of the “2015 Best Republican Club” FHRC
    Active PC for 27 or the past 31 years.

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