David Schapira, a Progressive Candidate For Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction

David Schapira, Progressive Candidate For Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction
David Schapira, Progressive Candidate For Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction

In his new campaign headquarters in Tempe, Arizona, former Senate Democratic Leader and current Tempe City Council Member David Schapira passionately articulated the reasons he would be the best choice to lead our public schools as Superintendent of Public Instruction after the November election.

Schapira sports an impressive resume of public service that has prepared him to run for the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction. As a public school high school instructor, a professor at Arizona State University, and administrator at the East Valley Institute of Technology, Schapira has totally familiarized himself with both the academic and non-academic spheres of school operations.

As a public office holder, Schapira is well-versed in the mechanics of both the local and state planning and administering of public policy. In our discussion (and on his website), Schapira relayed that the achievement he takes the most pride in and would like to see as a model for the state: the “Tempe Pre” initiative he created as a councilmember in Tempe, which provides 360 low-income children access to free, high-quality preschool.

Toxic Diane Douglas

Schapira believes that current Superintendent Diane Douglas has failed in her position because she has fostered a “toxic” work environment at the Department of Education and proven herself inept at being a voice for public education and shaping public policy. His experience in seeing the public education system “from every perspective from which it can be seen” prepares him to lead the agency that will prepare the next generation of children and provide the opportunities that will ensure their success.

If elected Superintendent of Public Instruction in November, Schapira would pursue the following policies and positions for our state’s children and educators.

Safe Schools

Schapira feels that more resources should be allocated to counselors, school psychologists, and resource instructors so the student-to-counselor ratio (currently, according to Schapira, a national-worst at 924 students for every one counselor) will be reduced and enable educators to identify children who may need greater attention and intervention.

Schapira also feels that the legislature should pass common-sense gun safety laws. He would “fight with every fiber of his being,” against any measure to arm educators. Furthermore, Schapira feels that infrastructure renovations such as the ability for teachers to lock their classroom doors from the inside would be helpful. Ultimately, local school districts should have the latitude to adopt preventive measures customized to their school’s configuration and location.

S.T.E.M. or S.T.E.A.M.

Schapira believes that the arts and sciences are both critically important to the development of children and to the provision of a well-rounded education. However, he cautions against fads that jeopardize a well-rounded curriculum. He believes we cannot allow overemphasis on one subject to take instructional capacity away from other critically important subjects.

Taking Care of Our Educators

Schapira favors giving all educators (instructors and support staff) a twenty percent raise with cost of living adjustments for health care and retirement. This is needed to end the teacher recruitment and retention crisis.

Instead of a sales tax measure, which he regards as regressive and susceptible to the economic winds, Schapira prefers other funding methods like increasing the state income tax on high earners or closing corporate tax loopholes. Schapira relayed that if the State Legislature sunsetted ten percent of the corporate tax breaks given over the last decade, education funding could be restored to pre-recession levels, $1.1 billion to fill the gap with an additional $200 million of new dollars to invest in schools.

In addition to making sure our educators are well-compensated, Schapira would invest in schools with infrastructure needs and also hire more counselors, school psychologists, and resource (including special needs and ELL) specialists.

Finally, Schapira supports the rights of educators, if the current Governor and legislators do not address their concerns, to strike as a last resort. He has supported the school walk-ins, participating in many of them, that took place in recent weeks and expressed that if the current leaders refuse to meet the challenge of taking care of our schools and supporting and respecting those who mold our children, then electing new leaders will be necessary this November.

There are four general goals Schapira would pursue in his first year as Superintendent. They are:

  1. Filling the 2,000 teacher vacancies with professional educators.
  2. Ensuring equity of educational opportunity for all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, ability, race, gender, or geography.
  3. Expanding access to affordable, high-quality preschool for all Arizona children, programs similar to the Tempe PRE (Pre School Resource Expansion) program Schapira championed in Tempe. He will also advocate for funding of full-day kindergarten.
  4. Requiring all schools, including charter and private schools that receive state dollars, be held financially and academically accountable to the same standards as public schools.

AZMerit and School Grades

Schapira believes AZMerit should not be a graduation requirement for students and that schools should not receive letter grades based on those results. He believes that high-stakes testing should not dictate students’ “educational outcomes and future opportunities.” Furthermore, Schapira asserts that a school grading formula has not yet been invented that gives an “accurate reflection of what is happening in every school.” He feels that many schools in impoverished areas are unfairly stigmatized as a result of the current grading formula.

Class Sizes, Service Learning, Early College, and Career Pathways

Schapira is an advocate for small classrooms and would support class sizes of about 18 to 20 students in kindergarten and first grade; 22 to 24 in second through fifth grades; and 26 to 28 in grades six through twelve are ideal for educators to give proper attention to their students.

Schapira also supports incentivizing schools to promote service learning, early college coursework, and career apprenticeships. He would not mandate these programs as requirements, but rather leave decisions to local districts to organize their methods for preparing students for the post-secondary world. He does believe that all schools should offer career pathways, but he would leave the development of the programs up to local districts with support from the Department of Education as needed.

School Vouchers

Schapira opposes providing vouchers for students to attend private schools, although he supports funding tuition for students with severe special needs who could not otherwise be served in the traditional school model. He feels there are enough excellent public school options to choose from, that the voucher provided by the state only equals a third of the average tuition of most private high schools, and that many of these private schools are not in the areas where there may be the most financial need.

David’s Views on Recent Announcement from Governor Ducey on Teacher Salaries:
From David’s Facebook post:
1. Let’s focus on this year. Promises for two years down the road have been broken by governors, including this one, before.
2. A 9% raise for next year isn’t 20%, but it ain’t peanuts. BTW, 9+5+5≠20 (it’s not compounded).
3. How is he paying for it? It’s not real until we know.‬
4. What about counselors? A 924:1 ratio (worst in the nation) is not acceptable. What about other education support professionals vital to student education? Do they get nothing?‬
5. All that said, Ducey deserves our thanks if this happens, but the credit belongs to the educators who held his feet to the fire in recent weeks.‬ Without them, teachers would have got nothing more than another 1% stipend.

A postscript to the interview with Kathy Hoffman, the other Democrat running for superintendent commented: “As a teacher, I will keep fighting for a permanent 20% raises for ALL of our dedicated educators and proper funding for all aspects of education. Our schools and students don’t need campaign promises. They need new tax revenues to fund our schools now.”

For more information on Schapira’s views and background, his website is www.davidforaz.com