Category Archives: Education

The Perfect Haboob

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

There are a lot of unique things about living in Arizona and our storms rank near the top. I know, I know, people who don’t live here are thinking what storms, thought it is always sunny and hot? Well, there is that, but we also have our crazy monsoon rains and wild walls of dust called “haboobs”, an Arabic word meaning “blown”.

According to Arizona’s ABC15.com, “Haboobs are giant walls of dust created from high winds rushing out of a collapsing thunderstorm. Cold air in front of the storm rushes down at an incredible rate, picking up massive amounts of dust and sand and blowing them into the air.” A 2011 haboob in Phoenix, was almost a mile tall and stretched across the entire valley, over 50 miles long. These storms can stretch as far as 100 miles wide and are dangerous not only to drive in, but to just be outside in, as rocks and debris thrown around by winds of up to 50 mph can be dangerous, and bad air quality causes many people difficult breathing.

What’s going on with public education right now in Arizona feels a lot like that. First of all, our Governor and Legislature have turned a cold shoulder to the crisis facing our teachers and the districts they serve. The assault on our public schools has been fast-paced and fueled by out-of-state monied interests like the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity and Betsy DeVos’ American Federation for Children, despite overwhelming support for our public schools from Arizonans. And, all of this serves to obscure the real truth, which is that the focus on tax cuts and the push to privatize, are draining our public schools of available resources, making it very difficult for them to “catch their breath” and make the strides our state needs. Continue reading

AZ GOP response to #RedForEd ranges from ‘class warfare,’ to suing teachers, to McCarthyism

Yesterday I noted that Rep. Noel Campbell (R-Prescott), is the only Republican to propose a tax increase to support public education. Shocking! Arizona Republican proposes a tax increase to support public education.

Unfortunately for Rep. Campbell, he falls back on the most regressive tax – the sales tax – which is most susceptible to fluctuations in the economic cycle. It is not a reliable and sustainable revenue source.

The regressive sales tax is favored by Arizona’s corporate CEOs who want to raise $2 million for education with a 1.5-cent citizen’s initiative on the ballot in 2020 – “don’t you dare rescind our corporate welfare tax cuts, or impose new income or property taxes on our corporations.”

Howard Fischer reports that the sales tax proposal is D.O.A. No teacher-pay deal reached ahead of Arizona strike; sales-tax increase floated:

State Rep. Noel Campbell says a three-year, one-cent sales tax, on top of the existing 0.6 of a cent levy dedicated to education, would provide about $1 billion a year, more than enough money not only for pay raises for teachers and support staffs but also to help restore some of the funding that’s been cut over the years in state aid to education. It also would give schools enough to provide full-day kindergarten if they wish; that program’s funding was cut during the Great Recession.

If nothing else, it also would provide some breathing room while education advocates come up with a more permanent solution that could go to voters on the 2020 ballot, Campbell said.

Continue reading

Back to the McCarthy Era for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas

If teachers walk off the job on Thursday, April 26, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas warned that “there may be investigations” if complaints come into the Department of Education. Furthermore, if the courts deem the walkout a “strike,” Douglas cautioned that teacher certifications may be revoked and censure notices placed on an instructor’s permanent record.

In an interview with Channel Three Arizona Family News (link below), Superintendent Douglas relayed that she is in favor of more money for education and increased salaries for instructors and support staff. She appeared receptive to ideas ranging from local governing boards setting local district salaries to education budget increases being placed as ballot initiatives.http://www.azfamily.com/clip/14295201/raw-video-diane-douglas-discusses-planned-teacher-walkout

However, Douglas urged teachers not to walk out on Thursday and suggested that they continue negotiations with the Governor and legislature, especially because there are proposals to bargain over. Furthermore, she pointed out that students with free and reduced lunch and special needs may suffer if a walkout occurs. Finally, Douglas intimated that instructors may themselves be blacklisted, have their certificates revoked, or be ostracized from future employment if complaints from the community to the department were processed.

That portion of the interview with Superintendent Douglas threatening potential reprisals against instructors shows an attitude that this country has not seen publicly since the McCarthy Era when many were blacklisted for their real or imagined beliefs. That attitude should not be ingrained in the public servants of our state or country in the year 2018. Fortunately, there are two Progressive Democrats (Kathy Hoffman and David Schapira)  just waiting for a chance, after one of them earns their party’s nomination, to replace her after the November elections.

Teachers do not want to walk out. Teachers want to educate and shape children’s hearts and minds. However, they cannot do it effectively when their salaries rank near the bottom of the country. They cannot do it passionately when they sometimes have to work a second job to put food on their table. They cannot do it competently when they are not provided the modern resources to do the job well.

This is about what is right for the children. It is a step in the right direction to make sure that the people who are responsible for them eight hours a day or longer are properly provided for. Making sure our schools are safe and provide all the features of Twenty-First Century culture and technology is another. The Superintendent and Governor are not going to get there by making idle threats or catering to the conservative whims of their alt right-reactionary sponsors who feel the McCarthy Era was “The Good Ole Days.” It is time to properly fund our schools, compensate our instructors and support staff, and prepare our children for tomorrow.

AZ teachers know their math and economics, AZ legislators not so much

As state policy makers weigh their options in response to the “Red for Ed” movement that is organizing the teacher protests, some conservatives and their allies are once again, like a broken record, blaming administration costs as a reason teachers in Arizona have among the worst pay in the nation. It’s just right-wing propaganda. Analysis shows no link between school district administration costs, teacher pay:

A “messaging guide” by the State Policy Network, a network of conservative think tanks, that aims to discredit the nationwide movement to increase teacher pay urges conservatives and anti-union activists to turn the conversation to how “red tape and bureaucracy” and “administrative bloat” suppresses teacher pay.

* * *

But an Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting analysis of school district spending data compiled by the Arizona Auditor General’s Office shows no correlation between how much a school district spends on administration and how it pays its teachers.

Continue reading

Shocking! Arizona Republican proposes a tax increase to support public education

This is like discovering that a species believed to be long extinct, like the dodo bird, is still alive and well and living in a small flock on some remote uninhabited island somewhere.

There is actually one Republican in the Arizona legislature who proposes to perform his constitutionally mandated duty under the Arizona Constitution and is willing to raise taxes in support of public education. Shocking! Republican lawmaker pitches $1 billion tax hike to prevent Arizona teacher walkout:

A Republican state lawmaker has a plan he hopes will prevent Thursday’s statewide teacher walkout and, at least temporarily, solve Arizona’s education funding crisis.

It involves a tax hike.

More than 50 Arizona school districts — and counting — will close during Thursday’s statewide #RedForEd walkout as educators push for higher pay and the restoration of $1 billion in cuts to education funding [over the past decade].

Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, told The Arizona Republic on Monday afternoon that he will introduce a budget amendment — whenever Republican legislative leaders introduce a budget — for a three-year, 1-cent education sales tax increase.

The plan would require the approval of two-thirds of the Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey [i.e., the “Two-thirds For Taxes” Amendment, Prop. 108 (1992).]

The proposal would provide the state’s public district and charter schools with $880 million a year more in discretionary funding, and require the state to fully fund Arizona’s kindergarten students. It also could provide the state’s public universities with hundreds of millions of dollars a year in extra funding, though the exact amount remained unclear.

Campbell said his proposal would serve as a “temporary bridge” to allow voters to potentially approve in the 2020 election a long-term tax measure for education.

Continue reading

Van Jones Says Democrats and Progressives need to work on Winning and Not Take Anything for Granted.

Van Jones

CNN commentator and author Van Jones said that for Democrats and Progressives to win elections, they cannot just sit and wait for the people to follow them because the masses agree with them on the issues or because most agree that President Trump is unfit to serve. Instead, they need to speak out and make their views known and remain continually persistent and vigilant for the causes they believe in.

He spoke at the Fifth Annual Lecture Series on Delivering Democracy at the Fourteenth Street Pilgrim Rest Baptist church in Phoenix.

Jones said that Democrats and Progressives also can not take any group for granted. The poor white person in Appalachia wants the same life for their kids like the poor black person in the projects. People who believe in God also believe in helping the needy and oppressed. Democrats and Progressives would be wise to reconnect with these groups they have forgotten. If Democrats and Progressives can do all of these things (and it should not be a heavy lift), Progressives and Democrats will have a lot to celebrate after the next few election cycles as long as they remember that they can never stop being proactive and fight to move the country forward.

The lecture was sponsored by the Arizona State University Center for Race and Democracy and hosted by the congregation of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church Ministries. Jones is a community and environmental activist, and former White House Aide to President Obama, and he offered his views on bringing different races, classes, and the religious and secular worlds in our country together.

At a packed Church hall, the congregants gathered for the fifth year to hear Van Jones’ views on Race and Democracy. Many still remembered the contributions of their late Pastor, Bishop Alexis Thomas, and progressive (both secular and religious) activists from organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, East Valley NACCP, The Pat Tillman’s Veterans Center, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Red for Ed, and Outlawing Dirty Money (an irony because one of the sponsors of the event is APS)

After an excellent performance by the church choir and music group, the event started with the pivotal question, broadcast on a video “What is Democracy?” Following several varying answers from respondents on the video, the key message is that Democracy is the “responsibility of the people” to maintain.

Dr. Stanlie James, the Vice Provost for Inclusion and Community Engagement, echoed this sentiment by relaying the current issues our countries citizens’ face such as the incident with two African American patrons at a Philadelphia Starbucks (Mr. Jones would later ask in his presentation why the police did not arrest the person that made the erroneous/false complaint) or the rising mortality rate of African American Mothers in a “First World Country.” Calling the Center on Race and Democracy “an oasis in the desert” where these issues can be discussed, she cited support from the Obamas as proof that this center is doing good works.

Continue reading