A Civil War Era Monument That Was Never Built

By Dick Foreman

I’ve written this blog about 14 times. Seriously.

And each time it goes to the cutting room floor. My analysis of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts has been set aside by a recall issue. School Funding is a critical discussion turning into the flavor of the day but at least ideas are emerging and competing. And then Charlottesville happened and the focus lurched into a new discussion. Shall we bulldoze Confederate monuments or not? Sweet mercy sakes, I thought we had some tough challenges with public education issues, and now Confederate monuments are bumping our schools’ needs off the radar. One of my keenest advisors and observers of the Arizona political and policy scene said this to me, “I am annoyed at everything.”

Yes. I am annoyed, too. But not at everything. In fact, as I think about it, I am far more grateful for the opportunity to support the over 1 million Arizona children who have started school again this month. And, with due gratitude to Dr. Ruth Ann Marston and Phoenix Elementary School District Superintendent Larry Weeks for tipping me off, I now have a keenly refreshed perspective on this point. Perhaps you might appreciate it, too. Read on.

It is a sacred opportunity to define the mission in public education. It’s as American as our American Founding Fathers, who unequivocally endorsed it. So, understanding our roots might help, like learning the real pioneer history of public education in Arizona. What are we doing this for? Who is our “Education Founding Father?” Do we have one?

Yes, indeed we do. And he’s an incredible role model and inspiration as well.

Don Estevan Ochoa

Don Estevan Ochoa

So, I’d like to reflect on Don Estevan Ochoa, born in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1831. Senor Ochoa is Arizona’s Education Founding Father. To me, this is not a debate. It is an irrefutable truth.

In a nutshell, Ochoa was a Tucson merchant who, during the Civil War, refused to shift his loyalties from the United States Government to the Confederacy in deference to the demands of the commander of the marauding army from the south. When he told them “no,” they confiscated all his worldly goods (which was a lot as he was one of the most successful merchants in Tucson at the time) and ordered him out of the Territory. Forcibly put outside the protective Tucson Presidio, he vowed to return to drive the Confederates from Arizona. And he did! Ochoa made his way through hostile Indian lands to fetch a Union battalion at the Rio Grande that returned with him, successfully restoring Arizona to the Union. He was a bonafide war hero and American patriot. And this curious fact remains true to this day; in 1875, he was elected Tucson’s first and last Mexican American Mayor.

As accomplished a career as this was, it was still not enough for Ochoa. He was also president of the school board where he upstaged the Arizona territorial legislature and a domineering Catholic bishop to single-handedly raise the funds and donate the land to build the town’s main public school. He accomplished this as a follow up to his efforts three years earlier, as chairman of the territory’s Committee on Public Education, to establish Arizona’s first public school system in Tucson.

Author Jeff Biggers wrote about Ochoa in an online piece A Mexican Immigrant’s Act of Honor for the New York Times (See A Mexican Immigrant’s Act of Honor, by Jeff Biggers, The New York Times, February 14, 2012):

In the spring of 1876, the Arizona Citizen declared: “Ochoa is constantly doing good for the public,” and concluded, “Ochoa is the true and useful friend of the worthy poor, of the oppressed, and of good government.” With the school completed in 1877, the same newspaper raved: “The zeal and energy Mr. Ochoa has given to public education, should give him a high place on the roll of honor and endear him more closely than ever to his countrymen. He has done much to assist in preparing the youth for the battle of life.”

Wow. This reads like a very sensationalized western novel. But it’s not a novel, it’s Arizona’s pioneer heritage. Maybe it’s time to finally desegregate our opinions and integrate our collective hopes.

For many, our respective engagements in public education seem hopelessly mired in what I do not affectionately refer to as political “flotsam and jetsam.” I’ll say this as positively as I can, our vision for Arizona’s educational future remains a critical thinking opportunity.

In my more pessimistic moments, it seems we’re bent on ignoring our past to get to a future that we collectively refuse to envision through consensus building. That’s a problem. What is NOT a problem is where we started. Don Estevan Ochoa was Mexican by birth, American by choice and a hero by deed. He gave up his fortune to fight the Confederate marauders. He got into politics, bless his soul. But most importantly from my perspective, he created the Arizona public education system. He started it all.

Perhaps we should build another Civil War inspired monument – to Don Estevan Ochoa. Senor Ochoa was a real Arizona Civil War hero, an immigrant, a businessman, a true patriot, a rugged pioneer, a proud Republican, and the founder of Arizona’s public education system.

Now isn’t that a heritage all Arizonans can be proud of?

NOTE: Dick Foreman is president & CEO of ABEC.

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

Gov. Ducey’s Republican Education Plan Earns Support of AZ Democratic Party Leader

AZGOPBanner
Ducey Plan Solves One of Arizona’s Oldest and Most Politically Controversial Issues: Education Funding
PHOENIX – This morning Chairman Robert Graham of the Arizona Republican Party congratulated his counterpart, Arizona Democratic Party Chairwoman Alexis Tameron, on her announcement yesterday of her support of Gov. Doug Ducey’s Education Funding Plan. The measure, Proposition 123, will be on the ballot in May of 2016. If approved by voters it will increase K-12 funding by $3.5 billion over the next ten years.
 
“Governor Ducey is a true leader, and he’s put together a plan to address one of Arizona’s most difficult and controversial issues without putting more pressure on hardworking taxpayers,” said Arizona Republican Party Chairman Robert Graham. “Even the Democrat leadership knows a great leader with a great idea when they see one, and we’re happy to see more and more Democrat Party leaders acknowledge the hard work of our Republican legislature and Governor Ducey, and saying publicly they’re voting for it.”
 
“I want to thank the Chairwoman for publicly announcing her support,” Graham added.
 
Governor Ducey’s plan highlights are here:
 
 
Governor Ducey’s remarks upon signing the legislation to refer the plan to the ballot are here:
 
 
Arizona Democratic Party Chairwoman Alexis Cameron’s remarks, broadcast on 12 News’ “Sunday Square Off” on November 8th, will be available here:
 

Education Policy Expert Vicki Murray Alger to Speak at NE Valley Pachyderm Coalition Meeting

Vicki Murray Alger will be speaking at the NE Valley Pachyderm Coalition meeting Wed, September 12, 2012.

Treat yourself to an informative evening about how the bulk of your non-federal tax dollars are spent and how they SHOULD be spent (or not spent).

We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

Here are the meeting details:

Our September 2012 meeting features the

 
Nationally Renowned Education Policy Expert

Vicki Murray Alger
Talking about the benefits of school choice including a review of Education Benefits for Veterans which is one of the largest school choice activities in our nation’s history.

This is a great opportunity to meet an intelligent, nationally recognized education policy expert and get a first hand account of cutting edge research on education issues from a conservative perspective. When you consider that education spending accounts for the bulk of non-federal taxes we pay, this is a critical issue for taxpayers as well as students and their parents.
As always, there will be plenty of opportunity for questions and answers.


 

Location:

Rock Bottom Brewery at Desert Ridge Marketplace
21001 N Tatum Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85050
(Near intersection of N Tatum and Hwy 101)

Date: Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (2nd Wed of Month)
Time: Dinner (order from menu) available at 6 pm.

Meeting from 7-8:30 pm


Contact Information:
RSVP to Howard Levine,
NE Valley Chapter Chairman

Howard_Levine@rocketmail.com , www.pachydermcoalition.com

480-269-1467 

 

Jeb Bush Endorses John Huppenthal for Superintendent of Public Instruction

PHOENIX, AZ- Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida from 1999-2007, today endorsed State Senator John Huppenthal for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“John is a proven champion of reform and accountability in education, and I know he’s dedicated to changing the lives of Arizona students for the better,” said Bush. “John’s leadership as Superintendent will be critical to the successful implementation of reforms that can improve the quality of education in Arizona.”

“The results of Florida’s education reforms speak for themselves,” said Huppenthal. “Governor Bush is a leader who delivered on his promise to improve education and I’m honored to have his support.”

John Huppenthal is one of Arizona’s leading authorities on education issues. In addition to being the current Senate Education Chairman, Huppenthal has served for 18 consecutive years on the State House and State Senate education committees.

“Improving Arizona’s schools has been my life’s work,” said Huppenthal. “I’ve worked closely with teachers and parents on education issues for nearly two decades, so I’m very familiar with the challenges and opportunities Arizona schools face.”

For additional information, please visit www.JohnHuppenthal.com.

– 30 –

For additional information regarding Florida’s education reforms, see the Goldwater Institute’s report “On the Road to Excellence: Next Steps to Match Florida’s Success in Educating Children.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush with State Senate Education Chairman John Huppenthal at the Arizona State Capitol on October 1, 2010. Gov. Bush addressed a joint meeting of the House and Senate education committees on the success of Florida’s education reforms in establishing the basis for educational excellence.