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.

Poll: Prop 123 Shows Strong Numbers With Early Voting Underway

Predictive Insights

Bi-partisan support for prop 123

PHOENIX (April 27, 2016) — Arizona’s special election for two statewide initiatives including the education bill, Proposition 123, will be voted on May 17th, 2016.

In a survey of 665 likely special election voters, 59.7 percent said they would vote in favor of Prop 123.

Prop 123 – Education Funding
April 25, 2016 Results
Definitely Yes 38.5%
Probably Yes 21.2%
Probably No 9%
Definitely No 24.4%
Unsure/Undecided 6.9%

“Early indicators show strong support for Proposition 123 across all demographics,” Mike Noble, Pollster & Managing Partner of OH Predictive Insights said, “It is surprising to see only 6.9% of likely voters are undecided which tells us voters are keenly aware of the measure.  If you hear someone talking about this next time you are in-line at the grocery store – don’t be surprised.”

Wes Gullett, Partner in OH Predictive Insights and political consultant was impressed that the Yes vote is strong across all demographics and was cautiously positive about the results. “Democrats, Republicans and Independents are all voting yes close to 60%.  However, with ballot measures typically the ‘No’ vote does a better than the polling on election day so the Yes side needs to have a strong turnout of supporters over the next three weeks,” Gullett said.

Methodology: This automated survey was completed by OH Predictive Insights on April 25th, 2016, from a sample of likely special election voters from across Arizona who first answered they were “likely” or “very likely” to vote in the 2016 May 17th special election in Arizona. The sample size was 665 completed surveys, with a Margin of Error of ± 3.8%

Governor Doug Ducey: Our Money. Our Kids. Our Success

This special message was sent out from the Office of Governor Doug Ducey today:

Doug Ducey

Who says you can’t make government work?

We just did it here with the most far-reaching, high-impact education funding bill in our state’s history. News like this is too good not to share, so spread the word by forwarding this message along!

We’ve just passed, signed, and are ready to go with a bill that:

  • Puts $3.5 billion into education to dramatically improve our schools.
  • Increases per-student funding to $3,600 each year and gives educators the resources they’ve been asking for.
  • Doesn’t raise taxes while maintaining our balanced budget.
  • Provides relief from lawsuit abuse so funds go into classrooms, not attorneys’ pockets.
  • Maximizes the State Land Trust by drawing a modest amount as a shrewd investment in our kids.

I’ll never forget the good friends and strong, loyal supporters who gave me this job and the accompanying charge to solve problems and get results. Your support was, is, and will always be a source of tremendous inspiration.

Thanks so much,

Governor Doug Ducey

P.S. Help me share our fast-breaking news. Tell your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues that we got something great done for Arizona’s future. And we’re not done by a long shot. In fact, we’re just getting started!