Support ALL School Personnel

Standing With the Lunch Ladies
By David Boyles

According to a poll conducted by local news station KTAR last week, support for the proposed Invest in Education Act ballot initiative stands at 65%. That means if supporters can collect the required signatures to get it on the ballot by July 5, the initiative has a high probability of passing. That a proposed tax increase for the wealthy is polling this well in notoriously tax-averse Arizona is shocking, and conservative opponents are already getting ugly and desperate.

Those who want to continue starving our public education system and replacing it with private and charter schools, which includes Governor Doug Ducey and most of the Republicans in our legislature, have learned from the #RedForEd walkout that attacking teachers doesn’t work. Raising salaries for teachers is extremely popular and opposing them head on is a political loser, so instead Ducey and his cronies have decided to divide and conquer by defining down what a “teacher” is and setting teachers and school support staff against each other, throwing in ugly attacks on low wage workers for good measure.

This tactic started with Ducey’s mythical “20% by 2020” teacher raise proposal, which used an extremely narrow definition of “teacher,” excluding positions such as nurses, counselors, and reading specialists, to get to that 20% number, which he knew most teachers would never actually see. Then, predictably, when school districts such as Tucson Unified planned to give raises to people who fell outside this narrow definition, Ducey blasted the decision and used it to once again pass the buck for school funding problems to the districts.

And now, anti-education stooges are using a similar tactic to attack the Invest in Education Act. At Azcentral, Abe Kwok has criticized the fact that the initiative’s definition of “teachers,” to which 60% of the funds raised are dedicated, includes nurses and counselors. He also criticizes the fact that the remaining 40% dedicated to operations could go to support personnel such as “cafeteria workers and bus drivers.” At KTAR, the popular drive-time duo Mac and Gaydos, who admirably held Ducey’s feet to the fire during the teacher walkout, have also picked up this argument, criticizing the idea that increased school funding could go to “lunch ladies.”

This line of argument both misses the point and plays into an ugly history of demonizing minimum wage workers by Arizona Republicans. First of all, the walkout and the larger #RedForEd movement have never been just about teacher pay, as is clear to anyone who has actually been to the Arizona Educators United website. The List of Demands issued on the eve of the walkout includes the 20% teacher raise as just one of a five point plan to correct the historic disinvestment in public education Arizona has made over the last 25 years. And second on the list is “competitive wages for classified staff.” Focusing only on teacher pay is a way of distracting from the bigger problem of the Arizona legislature’s complete contempt for the idea of public education.

And speaking of contempt, the contempt with which Kwok, Mac and Gaydos, and others have treated classified staff is disgusting. Anyone who has ever worked in a school knows classified staff are vital to its functioning and basic decency should tell you that low wage workers also deserve decent pay and dignity in their jobs. But instead, the conservatives are pulling out many of the same ugly arguments they made in opposition to the Proposition 206 minimum wage increase in 2016.

Classified staff have already made greater sacrifices than most in the #RedForEd movement. They walked out with the teachers in April, even though it meant that, as hourly employees, they would not be getting paid. The Arizona Democrats of Legislative District 18 ran a fundraiser and foodbank for those classified staff, some of whom went two full pay periods without their regular pay, and saw firsthand the sacrifices they made. To now pit them against the teachers instead of acknowledging the contributions that every member of a school staff makes is repugnant. Opponents of public education know the tide has turned against them and are now trying to divide and conquer. Don’t let them. If you support public education, support everyone who makes it possible and support sustainable solutions, not politically expedient quick fixes.

David Boyles is an English instructor at Arizona State University.
dboyles

Freedom Schools, Part II

The Best Education Money Can Buy: The Kochs and ASU, Part II


A few weeks ago, I wrote a
blog post about the Arizona legislature’s decision, in the midst of the RedForEd uprising over education funding, to once again provide special funding for “freedom schools” at both ASU and UA. These schools grew out of earlier programs funded by the Koch network and are closely aligned with the Kochs’ conservative politics, supposedly serving as a balance to the Marxist indoctrination camps being run by other ASU faculty like myself.

But apparently, the Arizona legislature has once again proven even too embarrassing for its ostensible allies like the Kochs to publicly defend. On May 21, John Hardin, director of university relations at the Charles Koch Foundation, wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times criticizing the legislature’s attempts to regulate student speech on campus and to silo ASU’s freedom school, the Center for Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (SCETL) from the rest of the university. In true New York Times editorial page fashion, Hardin presents himself as the last sane man, positioned between Stalinist students on one side and know-nothing politicians on the other, calling for a return to civil academic discourse.

At first it might seem strange for a Koch representative to be criticizing SCETL, a Koch invention, but it makes sense if you understand the Kochs’ long game in higher education, which many of the useful idiots the Kochs sponsor in the Arizona legislature are too dense to grasp. They don’t want SCETL to be a separate safe space for conservatives who feel oppressed by being forced to think about the experiences of people unlike themselves, as many in the legislature envision it. Instead, they want it to be a model for the future of all higher education across the country, in which wealthy donors like the Kochs control what gets taught on campus and who does the teaching.

The freedom schools are only one part of a decades-long push by the Kochs to control America’s colleges by using the power of their purse strings. As recently revealed by a team of student activists, they have been most successful at this at George Mason University in Virginia, where donations by the Kochs and other conservative groups have turned the university into a bastion of conservative thought and even founded a law school named for conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia* dedicated to turning out future generations of lawyers and judges dedicated to Scalia’s radically right-wing interpretations of the law.

*Fun fact: the name of the school was changed from Antonin Scalia School of Law to the Scalia Law School after people realized that the original acronym (ASSOL) was perhaps a little too indicative of the infamously bigoted and confrontational late Justice.

As revealed after the student activists after months of fighting for transparency, wealthy conservative donors were given a large amount of input on hiring decisions and even admissions and this influence was largely hidden from public view. And George Mason accepted the money with these strings attached because, like many other public universities around the country, they have been hit hard by more than a decade of disinvestment in higher education by their state legislature.

Sound familiar? Yep, as with K-12 education, most states cut higher education funding after the 2008 crash. States with Republican legislatures cut more. And, you guessed it, just like with K-12, Arizona cut the most and had refused to replace that money even as the economy improved. According to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Arizona cut per-student funding for higher education by 53.8% from 2008-2017. And who was responsible for those cuts? Republican politicians, frequently backed by the Kochs. And into that breach has stepped donors like the Kochs, offering funds not only for radical experiments like SCETL but for hiring in traditional academic departments as well. They are making us sick and then selling us the cure.

There is nothing wrong, of course, with wealthy philanthropists, even unsavory ones, supporting education and culture. We wouldn’t have Carnegie Hall without it. But that money should not come with strings attached, whether for separate explicitly conservative programs like SCETL or ASSOL, sorry I mean Scalia Law School, or for traditional programs. And the radical cutting of public funding for higher education, perpetrated by Koch-backed Republican politicians, puts universities into difficult positions in which they feel they cannot turn down the money even with the strings.

As I was writing this, it was announced that David Koch, who is 78 and in poor health, will retire from Koch industries. His brother Charles is 82. The Kochs themselves won’t be around forever and, if we judge from this viral video of Wyatt Koch, the idiot son of forgotten Koch brother Bill who is a character from Step Brothers come to life, the next generation of the family is in some questionable hands. But the Koch network, the vast apparatus of foundations, think tanks, and political action committees the brothers have funded, will live on, as will their long-term goal of radically altering education in the United States at all levels. Those of us who value true public education have to keep fighting back.

David Boyles is an English instructor at Arizona State University.

 

Freedom School Scam

The Freedom School Scam
By David Boyles

The remarkable sight of tens of thousands of educators and public school allies descending on the Capitol lawn for the six days of the #RedForEd walkout clearly scared the Republican leadership in the legislature. Why else would they attempt the underhanded trick of delaying their budget vote by a day in hopes the teachers would leave and, when that didn’t work, holding a marathon 40-hour session in the House of Representatives? The leadership was clearly nervous about having an audience for their budget approval, and for good reason, as the attention has shed light on questionable practices around education that go beyond K-12 funding.

One issue that many people became aware of for the first time last week is the existence of so-called “freedom schools” at ASU and UA which received their own budget line item of $2.5 million. People found themselves wondering for the first time what exactly a freedom school is and why they deserve their own special line of funding. At the same time, higher education institutions many people are familiar with, Pima Community College in Tucson and the 10-college Maricopa Community College District which serves the Phoenix metro area and includes LD18’s own Mesa Community College, received exactly $0 in state funding for the third year in a row. So why designate millions of dollars for obscure, tiny programs within our two largest state universities while spending no money on well-known community institutions that educate thousands of Arizonans every year?

Both decisions, like the decisions to not properly fund public K-12 education and to attempt to divert taxpayer money to private schools through vouchers, are all symptoms of the same disease.

As outlined in a February story in the New York Times, the freedom schools, which go by the unwieldy and obfuscatory names of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (ASU) and Department of Political Economy and Moral Science (UA), are outgrowths of earlier initiatives at each school which were bankrolled by the massive Koch empire in an attempt to inject conservative thought into universities they see as overrun by liberalism. They teach curricula based on a conservative “Great Books” framework that teaches works of literature, political science and philosophy almost entirely written by dead white men and reinforcing a conservative ideology that favors cultural conservatism and free market economics. Think of them as the academic version of Fox News: having pushed an inflated narrative of liberal bias in mainstream institutions, they argue that the only response is unabashed propaganda for the conservative point of view.

And unlike pretty much every other public education entity in Arizona, they are flush with cash. As reported by the Tucson Daily Star, the two freedom schools are sitting on a combined $9.8 million in cash on hand even before receiving this year’s appropriation. And this is after a spending spree over the last year, especially on the part of ASU’s SCETL, which has offered free Spring Break trips to India for students in order to attract majors, purchased rare books including a first edition of The Federalist Papers (timed to capitalize on publicity around ASU Gammage’s hosting of Hamilton), and brought big-name speakers like Cornel West and Steven Pinker to campus to talk about the so-called “crisis of free speech” on college campuses, despite the fact that ASU has not seen the types of free speech clashes that have happened at other more traditionally liberal campuses like UC Berkeley and Middlebury College.

But the greatest irony of these schools receiving and so freely spending taxpayer money is that much of the money is going to undermine the very idea of public, taxpayer-funded education. The Koch brothers have been at war against public education for decades and, as reported by the Center for Media and Democracy in February, Arizona is now “ground zero” in that war. The controversial 2017 Empowerment Scholarship Account school voucher bill, which would divert millions of tax dollars from public to private schools, was copy and pasted by Debbie Lesko from model legislation provided by the Koch-financed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The Kochs are dropping millions of dollars into the this fall’s Prop 305 ballot referendum on the ESAs, at the same time our tax money is going to teach their anti-public school ideology at our two largest public universities. And this year’s appropriation for ASU’s SCETL even includes funding to develop a K-12 curriculum, possibly bringing anti-public school propaganda into public school classrooms in an attempt to combat the #RedForEd movement.

Meanwhile, the state’s two largest community college districts continue to struggle after being abandoned by the legislature. A story last year in Inside Higher Education told a story eerily similar to anyone following the K-12 funding saga: unfilled positions, stagnant salaries, crumbling infrastructure. Local residents are paying more in property taxes and students are paying more in tuition, but it doesn’t come close to filling the gap.

The lack of funding for these important institutions is inexplicable unless you see it as another front in the Kochs’ war on public education. Community colleges are a pillar of the public school idea, offering access to higher education at an affordable cost to people who would otherwise be shut out. Attempting to cripple these institutions makes no sense unless you believe, as the Kochs and their allies in the Arizona legislature do, that these people do not deserve access to higher education.

Local media, including conservative talk radio station KTAR, have taken to branding the recent showdown on the Capitol lawn as “Arizona’s Classroom Crisis.” But this makes it sound like something we didn’t have control over, like a natural disaster. But the state of our public education, at both the K-12 and postsecondary levels, was not an accident. It is the result of a deliberate assault on public education, which the “freedom schools” are looking to extend by perversely making it part of the public education curriculum itself.

David Boyles is an English instructor at Arizona State University.

Supporting DACA Students

Supporting Undocumented and DACAmented Students
by David Boyles

The recent Arizona Supreme Court decision rescinding in-state tuition for students at Arizona universities and community colleges who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is just the latest blow for DACA recipients here in Arizona. Much like Donald Trump at the national level, Arizona Republicans like Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who brought the tuition lawsuit, have used attacks on DACA recipients to appeal to nativisit and anti-immigrant resentment. But while these politicians score political points, the lives of hard-working young people have been thrown into disarray.

As a teacher at ASU, I have worked with DACA recipients and other undocumented students. To pursue higher education as an undocumented young person, even one with DACA protections, takes an incredible amount of discipline and sacrifice. Barred from any type of government financial aid, many students pay for their degree in cash, often taking one or two classes at a time because it is all they can afford.

And while I could point to specific students I have worked with, I also recognize that I don’t even know how many DACA and undocumented students I have worked with. Many are not “out” about their immigration status, especially at school, so they deal with the financial difficulties and other instabilities often in isolation. Imagine trying to focus on an English 101 paper last September, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the DACA program, and then imagine that your professor doesn’t realize the reason you turned in your assignment late is because you are worried about your ability to stay in the country. These are the types of challenges these students face everyday.

But despite these obstacles, DACA and undocumented students have thrived and, in many cases, become leaders in our local community. Norma Jimenez, a Grand Canyon University graduate, is director of Latino outreach for Planned Parenthood of Arizona and has made advocacy for undocumented patients part of that organization’s agenda, as described in a story last year by BuzzFeed News.  ASU student Belén Sisa, a member of Undocumented Students for Education Equity at ASU, and ASU graduate Erika Andiola were among the eight people arrested for occupying Congressional offices in December in protest of the Congress’ failure to pass the DREAM Act.

It is a cruel irony that these remarkable women, and many more like them, have become political leaders in Arizona despite not having the right to vote. It is a reminder that voting is a precious thing, not to be taken for granted, and those who have the right need to use it. And while a permanent solution in the form of a DREAM Act is in the hands of Congress and the president, at the local level we need to vote for candidates who will support these young people, not use them as political props like Mark Brnovich.

For more information on the situation of DACA and undocumented students at ASU, check out ASU’s excellent DREAMZone. If you work at ASU or in K-12 education, DREAMZone offers Ally Training programs which are eligible for professional development credit.

For more general information on advocacy for the DREAM Act and other DACA issues, check out United We Dream, the largest national organization for undocumented youth.


David Boyles is an English instructor at Arizona State University.

Libraries: The thin red line…

“Libraries are the thin red line between civilization and barbarism.”

This month is the 60th anniversary of National Library Week, which we celebrate April 8-14.  In the mid-1950’s research showed that Americans were spending more on radios, televisions and musical instruments than books. Concerned that Americans were reading less a non-profit citizen’s group of librarians and booksellers created a national campaign to encourage people to read.

I grew up in that era, in a household in which everyone read. The books, magazines, and especially newspapers consumed by three generations living together reflected a wide spectrum of political and social views, from the left-leaning Jewish Daily Forward to the conservative and sensationalist New York Post, with an array of iconic NY papers – the Times, Daily News, and the long-defunct Journal American  –  somewhere in the middle.

Reading was in my DNA and libraries were my incubator. My love affair with libraries started with the bookmobile that came to our neighborhood in Brooklyn every Friday afternoon and continues today as I happily frequent the public libraries in and around Tempe and my NJ hometown, and everywhere I travel.  Libraries draw me in, sometimes because of the architecture, sometimes the history or subject matter, and often simply because they are there.

Public libraries are unique among civic institutions in that they are a haven for those seeking literacy and the opportunity to explore ideas, as well as a haven for many who need a place to go during the day. I was volunteering at the Burton Barr Library when storm damage closed the building. At that time, I did not realize the extent of the impact on the community.  Children lost free hot meals, provided by a local food bank, those with autism lost the cafe that offered them training and job skills, and those who needed it most lost their refuge from the summer heat.

It may be easy to dismiss public libraries as less essential in the age of e-books, streaming media, and Google, but there are considerable portions of our community who do not have ready access to these resources or the education or training to navigate them successfully. The inventive ways in which public libraries remain vibrant and relevant are marvelous and many. The Tempe Public Library, like others in the valley, represents the best characteristics of public libraries –  looking inward to serve their core constituency while reaching outward to engage and enrich the community. The wealth of free research guidance and one on one assistance, not to mention electronic resources – books, magazines, newspapers, research databases, music, movies – is remarkable. And consider the range of opportunities offered by our local libraries to learn, share and teach, including classes in citizenship, coding, game design, 3D modeling, ESL, writing, knitting, test preparation, films, lectures, and services such as small business advice and seed libraries.

While many communities still have bookmobiles to serve rural areas, Tempe has the Book Bike program, which brings books and information about library and community services to veterans, seniors, and the city’s homeless population.

And then there are the librarians. I must admit that I have no recollection of any of the public or school librarians from my childhood, but I can trace my decision to become one directly to the librarians for whom I worked in college. They seemed so cool! Smart, persistent, caring and wise (and wise-cracking), but with a certain self-effacing humor, as if they didn’t expect the world to take them seriously. And, despite the stereotypes, all my mentors were men – no buns but lots of glasses!

I have observed librarians over the years playing many roles in a community, as advocates and activists. They are often on the cutting edge of evolving technology, and on the front lines promoting digital literacy, championing intellectual freedom, ensuring equality of access, resisting censorship and protecting the right to privacy. Many of us remember the Patriot Act provision that authorized secretly monitoring electronic communications coming from libraries and requiring librarians to turn over patron records to the FBI when served with a warrant obtained without probable cause.  Professional library associations united as one to protest these incursions on our civil liberties.

As a law librarian, I have been a member of an outspoken and activist professional association that lobbies for permanent and open public access to government information, access to court records, net neutrality, intellectual property protections, and funding for library services across the country.  At a time when we are at risk of losing access to scientific and technical information because our government deems the truth to be inconvenient to their agenda, librarians are among our strongest allies and advocates. Librarians are adept at teaching us how to verify the authenticity and reliability of a source, and how to separate fact from fiction, evidence from opinion.

In many communities, librarians are taking on roles akin to social workers, health care workers, counselors, and confidantes.  In the midst of the controversy about arming teachers, libraries across the country are confronting the opioid epidemic and the implications of providing librarians with an antidote to drug overdoses, and the training to administer life-saving measures.  A library director in upstate NY summed up the situation like this: “That’s what a library’s job is — to respond to the needs of the community …  [l]ater, they may need Shakespeare. But those are their needs right now.”

So, join me in celebrating National Library Week. Show your support by asking a librarian a question, borrowing a book, downloading music, magazines, and movies, taking a class, volunteering your time. And tell a friend.

In the words of author Neil Gaiman “Libraries are the thin red line between civilization and barbarism.”

By Gitelle Seer, retired NYC law librarian and a seasonal resident in Tempe.Gitelle Seer photo


Additional Reading:

“From Crafting to Programming, Libraries are Branching Out From Books,” https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix/2018/03/03/crafting-programming-libraries-branching-out-books/359593002
“How Public Libraries Help Build Healthy Communities,” https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2017/03/30/how-public-libraries-help-build-healthy-communities
“Librarians Versus the NSA,” https://www.thenation.com/article/librarians-versus-nsa
“Libraries on the Front Lines,” ALA interview with Neil Gaiman [2011]
“Once It Was Overdue Books. Now Librarians Fight Overdoses,” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/28/nyregion/librarians-opioid-heroin-overdoses.html


About the header photo.

“The Kansas City Public Library hides the parking lot behind walls disguised as giant book spines.”  (Photograph: Alamy) “The most beautiful libraries in America – in pictures,” https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/gallery/2016/oct/06/most-beautiful-libraries-america-pictures

School vouchers hurt…

The Arizona State Legislature is preparing to reconvene in a few short weeks. In its last session, the legislature passed SB1431, expanding school vouchers (called Empowerment Scholarship Accounts) to all schoolchildren in Arizona. Vouchers take money out of public school budgets and give taxpayer dollars to individual families to subsidize private school education.

Last summer, more than 111,000 Arizonans said, “Not so fast!” and signed petitions successfully halting voucher expansion by referring the bill to voters in November 2018. Save Our Schools Arizona is leading a rally at the State Capitol on January 6, two days before the Governor’s State of the State address, to demand that the state government prioritize public education.

Sadly, Arizona’s schools are critically underfunded — and our lawmakers have no plan to fix that.

The statistics about public education in Arizona are shocking: 49th in the nation in per-pupil spending, third largest class sizes, 51st worst state to be a teacher. We already know that vouchers will harm our kids and destroy our public schools. Here are some of the ways that vouchers hurt our kids, schools, and state:

Vouchers Hurt Kids.

Our kids deserve the highest quality teachers and schools. When ESA vouchers divert funds to well-off private schools, it harms the 95% of Arizona families who choose public schools.

Vouchers Hurt Classrooms.

ESA vouchers will pull millions of dollars from our classrooms each year. Our classrooms are already overcrowded and underfunded. We cannot allow one more cent to leave our public classrooms to fund private schools.

Vouchers Hurt Taxpayers.

As taxpayers, we trust our state to spend our tax dollars wisely. Spending public dollars on private school entitlements makes no economic sense. We taxpayers also want to know where our tax dollars are going — and with ESA vouchers there is little cost transparency.

Vouchers Hurt Neighborhoods.

When we fail to invest in our neighborhood schools, property values decrease and crime increases. ESA voucher programs take money from our local communities and shift it to the wealthiest areas. Arizonans want our state to protect our homes, schools, and communities.

Vouchers Hurt Special Needs Students.

Save Our Schools Arizona supports the ESA voucher program for special needs students as it’s currently configured. Expanding ESA vouchers to all students would mean that children with special needs no longer have priority.

Vouchers Hurt Rural Areas.

Rural schools will receive little to no benefit from the ESA voucher program, since our rural communities have few private schools. However, these rural schools will have to sacrifice their funds to the ESA voucher program just like any other school.

Vouchers Hurt the Economy.

Businesses want to set up shop where they’ll find a well-educated workforce and excellent public schools for their employees’ families. As Arizona has stopped investing in its public schools, businesses have stopped choosing Arizona. ESA vouchers will only add to the problem.

Please join thousands of your fellow Arizonans at the March to Save Our Schools on  January 6 at the Arizona State Capitol. This is a family-friendly event, with bounce houses, music, face painting, and other fun activities. Come to celebrate our public schools, and show your support for our teachers and children. Sponsored by Save Our Schools Arizona, AZ PTA, AZ Schools Now, and Children’s Action Alliance. 9:00-10:00: Food trucks, bounce houses, face painting, sign making. 10:00-10:30 Remarks from guest speakers. 10:30-11:30: March to Save Our Schools.

TUHSD override vote in November!

The Tempe Union High School District community of Desert Vista, Mountain Pointe, Corona del Sol, Compadre Academy, Tempe, McClintock, and Marcos de Niza is requesting your YES vote on the November 7 ballot in order to continue the 10% maintenance and override budget with an additional 5% (over 5 years) to support certified teaching compensation.

The override extension will protect smaller class sizes, continue core classes such as English, Math and Science, allow for elective programs including fine arts and career and technical education programs, and secure the gifted and English language learners programs.

School preventive maintenance, instructional technology services support and athletic and other extra‐curricular programs are included in the 10% override. The additional 5% override will be used exclusively for certified teaching staff compensation.

Impact on taxpayers? The average value of a District home is $204,500, which equates to an approximate cost of $70.86 per year for the full 15% override. The additional 5% override will be levied with 2% the first year and an additional 1% each year until the maximum additional 5% is reached.

TUHSD infographic: Why-Override-infographic-08-23-17-web

Back to School for Us All

August 3, 2017
Back to School blog post for LD18Democrats
By K. Tice

Summer always goes by too quickly it seems.  As a teacher myself, I’ve actually been back in school for the past three weeks.  My day-to-day is filled with prepping for elementary music classes and I have many questions about the big picture for education in the state of Arizona and the long term effects on my students and the health of our state.  This is my fifteenth year teaching.  It really is hard to believe.  Education and educational theory have gone through many augmentations of both practice and language – including words like multicultural in the 90’s, to the trend of project-based learning in the 2000’s, to the promotion of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), then STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math), and the latest word one can hear in any educational discussion: rigorous.  While the buzz words and trends come and go, the educational distress of Arizona is ever-increasing.

I had the opportunity to participate with the Save Our Schools Arizona campaign this summer where my own education continued to grow, so I’ll share a few fast facts that have been sourced by one of their fabulous team members.  Arizona ranks 48th for public school funding and in student achievement outcomes.  Arizona is last in the nation in median pay for teachers.  Arizona began the 2016-17 school year with approximately to 2,200 unstaffed classrooms.  (Source)  Did you know that the number one reason that businesses avoid locating in Arizona is an uneducated workforce? (Source)  Arizona (and its students) are being presented as ground zero in the promotion of the school choice movement.  How we can expect students and school districts to be successful, when they receive cut after cut after cut in funding for materials, school lunches, before and after school programs, certified teaching staffing, support staffing or even transportation?

While the fight for public school funding in Arizona continues, those of us in public school classrooms take stock.  Being a teacher is not only about teaching content, it is about people.  It is about the sometimes messy day-to-day of what life is like for kids, no matter their age.  It is about giving students the tools they need to be successful as they make decisions as kids and later as adults. It is about making a difference, and yes, content is important. As members of our community it is our job to ensure that ALL kids have what they need to be successful, not just those that attend private or charter schools.  This requires us to support ALL schools and ALL students.

Below are a few pictures from the Back to School drive at Threadz sponsored by the LD18 Democrats, Dems Give Back group.  This is one of the ways that LD18 supports back-to-school for all students in our area.

 

The Blue Print, June 2017

A message from the Chair of LD18 Democrats, Janie Hydrick

I began teaching in 1966.  By the 1990s, when technology emerged as the latest wedge that could drive high-income and low-income kids apart, I was purchasing as much technology as I could for my classroom to try to mitigate the negative effects of that wedge.  I had already spent almost three decades purchasing books, paper, tissue, and many other supplies that the district budget could not provide for.  Thankfully, I was not the sole breadwinner in our family.  Thankfully, I was respected and valued by my district, Mesa Public Schools, and they worked collaboratively with my union, Mesa Education Association, to make the best offers during bargaining.

Today, thanks to a GOP-dominated legislature, public education as the rest of the free world envisions it and supports it has been attacked, its funding reduced by almost half in favor of increased tax breaks for corporations, its educators forced to find second or other jobs to subsist, and the primary mission of public education – an educated and capable citizenry – has been abandoned.

If you want your future doctors and researchers to be well-educated, your fellow voters to have a sense of logic and ethics, and the general economy to profit, please join Save Our Schools.  Our phoning, writing, emailing, and protesting all fell on deaf, uncaring ears.  This GOP-dominated legislature took their bribes and their hate of any children who are not high income, and destroyed the single means of leveling an increasingly unfair playing field.  They destroyed the viability of a quality public education.  They are taking your tax dollars and giving away $5800 per student with absolutely no accountability.  None.  Your money will subsidize private and religious schools and home schooling with no accountability in terms of spending or academic outcome.

The only recourse we have now is to Save Our Schools.  Sign the petition!  Circulate a petition to your family and friends!  Make a contribution!  Placing SB1431 voucher expansion on the ballot and voicing your support of public schools will be the first step toward restoring the Arizona educational system. Click on the website to find out how and where you can sign and help.

Save Our Schools!   Today!

In solidarity,
Dr. Janie Hydrick
Chair, LD18 Democrats
Educational Coordinator, Arizona Democratic Party