Friday, November 4, 2016

Don Jorgensen Withdraws His Endorsement of Mark Stegeman

Posted By on Fri, Nov 4, 2016 at 8:42 AM

  • PhotoSpin
Citing an endorsement statement on a Mark Stegeman campaign flier he calls "deplorable" and "dog-whistle racism," Don Jorgensen, former chair of the Pima County Democratic Party, has withdrawn his endorsement from the TUSD board candidate.

Jorgensen says he had endorsed Stegeman because he wants to see "greater transparency and accountability on the TUSD board." Jorgensen also said he is "disappointed by the Board failure to keep their commitment to direct Prop 123 funds to teachers." I respect his concerns even if I don't entirely agree with them.

However, Jorgensen withdrew his endorsement when he saw Stegeman's campaign flier. Jorgensen is quoted on the flier as a supporter, but he was disturbed by a comment above his from Carolyn Cox, former chair of the Pima County Republican Party. According to Jorgensen, "I condemn Cox's comments and reject any association with her views, which are nothing more than dog-whistle racism."

In her statement, Cox says she supports Stegeman because he will "keep the board's emphasis on accurate American History." The statement is a thinly veiled message to voters who don't want schools to include the teaching of American history from the perspective of the country's racial and ethnic minorities, assuring them that Stegeman will do what he can to make sure history is taught from an Anglocentric point of view. In a longer quote on Stegeman's website, Cox adds, "The texts used in classes are critical and those decisions are a major function of the school board." This statement reminds those same voters that Stegeman, who was instrumental in dismantling TUSD's Mexican American Studies program and banning the use of texts which were part of the MAS curriculum from classroom use, will be in a position to monitor the purchase of new textbooks.

Below is Don Jorgensen's complete statement about why he is withdrawing his endorsement, followed by Carolyn Cox's endorsement of Stegeman as it appears on his campaign website.

Don Jorgensen's statement withdrawing his endorsement:
"I supported Mark's reelection because I support his focus on the need for greater transparency and accountability on the TUSD board. I was also disappointed by the Board failure to keep their commitment to direct Prop 123 funds to teachers. (Like many others I did not buy their rationalization for the diversion of funds.)

However, the recent mailer including my endorsement alongside one from Carolyn Cox has caused me to withdraw my endorsement. I condemn Cox's comments and reject any association with her views, which are nothing more than dog-whistle racism. I am disappointed to see that Mark has associated himself with such divisive and deplorable comments."
Carolyn Cox's statement on Stegeman's website:
"Mark Stegeman is a critical member for re-election to the TUSD board. He will keep the board’s emphasis on accurate American History plus math and reading skills to prepare students for good jobs. The texts used in classes are critical and those decisions are a major function of the school board."

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Who's Afraid of the TUSD School Closure Issue?

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2016 at 2:21 PM

  • Courtesy of PhotoSpin
Mark Stegeman doesn't want school closures to be an election issue. "Nothing to see here, folks, move along," he wrote Tuesday as part of a Q&A to the people on his email list. Well, that's not exactly what he wrote. Here's the passage in the email.
Are school closures on anyone’s agenda?
No one was even discussing closures until a few weeks ago. This ghost issue was apparently created for the election and will fade in a week, as quickly as it appeared. It is an artfully timed distraction from TUSD's genuine problems.
An "artfully timed distraction," not "on anyone's agenda"? I can understand why Stegeman might want voters to believe that. His campaign is built around spotlighting problems in TUSD and the board majority he holds responsible. School closures are a sticky issue for him. While he's been on the board, 20 schools have closed. If you look at his statements about further closures, you'll find out he's against them, except for what he calls "isolated further closures"—oh, and except for high schools where he wants to "study the potential costs and benefits of high school consolidation." Stegeman was for school closures before he was against school closures at the same time he's for school closures, or something like that. His stand is wildly inconsistent. No wonder he wants to convince people it's a non-issue, so he can go back to his aggrieved minority position. It's easier to ask hard questions of others than to answer hard questions about school closures himself.

Contrary to what Stegeman asserts, school closures are a genuine, relevant issue in the board election. The newly elected board members will serve four years, through 2020, and school closures will almost certainly be on the agenda at some point during their tenure. Four years is a long time. We're likely to see changes in population density, the ethnic makeup of the community and overall student enrollment, which means the board will be called on to consider how best to utilize school buildings and whether some of them should be closed. If TUSD history is a guide, the new board will probably find itself hiring a new superintendent. Each candidate for the job is likely to be asked the school closure question, and board members will have to weigh the answers. Voters have a right to know where candidates stand on this very real issue.

Continue reading »

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Monday, October 31, 2016

An Analysis of the Advantages of Full Day Kindergarten

Posted By on Mon, Oct 31, 2016 at 4:44 PM

  • Courtesy of
Funding full day kindergarten across the state is back in the news. This being Arizona, the discussion is a mix of the reasonable, the semi-reasonable, the semi-ridiculous and the totally ridiculous. Whether anything will come of it, whether the legislature is willing to commit about $200 million of new money to the enterprise—money that isn't stolen from some equally valuable program—is in doubt. But it's good to see people are talking.

Over at Blog for Arizona, Linda Lyon does a better job discussing the issue than I could hope to. Read her excellent post, In Defense of Full-Day K. As an added bonus, at the end of the post, former Ed Supe John Huppenthal chimes in with a comment citing a study which, he claims, explains to her why she's partly right but not as well informed as she should be. After which, I quote another source which discusses the limitations of the study Huppenthal cites.

I can't resist adding one footnote from Howard Fischer's article on the subject. Full day kindergarten was funded in 2005 when Democrat Janet Napolitano was governor. She made a horse trade, giving Republicans the 10 percent cut in state income taxes they wanted in return for full day kindergarten. So far so good. But when money got tight in 2009, the Republican-majority legislature pulled the funding for full-day K, but it held onto the 10 percent tax cut, which, apparently, it figured it still could afford. For Arizona Republicans, investing in children's educations, and their futures, is something of a yawn. But, to paraphrase segregationist George Wallace's words, "Tax cuts now, tax cuts tomorrow, tax cuts forever."

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Mark Stegeman: For or Against Closing Schools? Or Both? It's Hard to Tell

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2016 at 12:47 PM

  • Courtesy of PhotoSpin
Tim Steller has a worthwhile column for anyone who wants to learn more about the twists and turns of what he calls this "mean and ugly" TUSD board race. There's lots worth discussing in the column, but I want to focus on a short quote from Mark Stegeman where he kind-of denies wanting to close more schools, with one possible exception.
“I have said repeatedly, for several years, that closures are not on my agenda, with the possible exception of one high school, since we never reached the question of closing any of our 10 major high schools. It is also not on TUSD’s current agenda; it is a completely made-up issue.”
So, according to Stegeman, he has no closures on his "agenda." Interesting word, "agenda." It doesn't mean he's against more closures. It just means it's not foremost in his mind right now. Currently, he's not considering putting the issue on a TUSD board agenda. In the future? Who knows?

Except, he might seriously consider closing a high school, though since that's not on the "current agenda," it also shouldn't be talked about right now. He might bring it up soon, but not now.

He sums up by saying the whole closure thing "is a completely made-up issue.” The reason is, it's "not on TUSD's current agenda." Of course, board members are elected to four year terms, which means they'll be making decisions long after the "current agenda" is history, so their view on all issues related to the district, including school closures, is a real issue. But Stegeman doesn't want to discuss that right now.

I've written that I think Stegeman should be voted off the board because of his game-player's strategy of taking positions, not so much because he agrees with them, but more because he wants to create alliances to build a power base which will increase his influence in district decision making. His short quote in Steller's column with all its positions and half-positions is a good example. It allows Stegeman to argue that he's on anyone's side, depending on who he's talking to at the moment. If you're trying to figure out where Stegeman stands on the issue of school closures in the near or far term using this quote, you have your work cut out for you.

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

For Buckmaster Show Listeners (and Others), My TUSD Board Picks, Once Again

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2016 at 11:20 AM

  • Courtesy of PhotoSpin
I'll be on the Buckmaster Show today (Wednesday) at 12:30 p.m., talking with Bill about education. Bill and I decided not to talk about the TUSD board race, which is getting uglier by the minute, with one exception. I'll be stating my picks for the board, and I'll be telling listeners if they want to learn why I made those choices, they can check here.

So, here's a link to the post where I discussed my three picks: Cam Juarez, Kristel Foster and Betts Putnam-Hidalgo.

The Buckmaster Show starts at noon on KVOI, AM 1030.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Which TUSD Board Candidates Favor Closing More Schools?

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2016 at 3:46 PM

  • Courtesy of PhotoSpin
If you're looking for TUSD board candidates who support closing more schools, they're out there, but they're not Cam Juarez and Kristel Foster. Two, maybe two-and-a-half candidates have said they think closing more schools is a strong possibility, even a good idea. One, maybe one-and-a-half of them are supported by the independent expenditure campaign, TUSD Kids First. But Cam and Kristel have both said in no uncertain terms, they don't plan to vote for closing any more schools.

So why are we seeing yellow roadway signs paid for by TKF that say, "Foster + Juarez = Closed Schools," signs whose purpose is to lead voters to think if they vote for Foster and Juarez, they're likely to see more school closures? The answer is, TKF wants to confuse and confound voters by using a time tested, cynical disinformation strategy. If you or some of your chosen candidates are accused of wanting to close schools and the accusation has some validity, throw it back at your opponents. "I don't want to close more schools. You want to close more schools!" Voters don't know who to believe, so the issue, which could be a problem at the polls, is nullified.

Let me try to set the record straight on who is for closing more schools and who is not, using the candidates' own words to decide where they stand. Here's the breakdown:

• For More School Closures:
Brett Rustand, Rachel Sedgwick
• Against More School Closures: Kristel Foster, Cam Juarez, Betts Putnam-Hidalgo, Lori Riegel
• Both For and Against More School Closures: Mark Stegeman

As for TUSD Kids First, the evidence suggests strongly that its donors are in favor of more closures.

Continue reading »

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Monday, October 24, 2016

There's a New I.E. in the TUSD Board Race

Posted By on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 at 1:00 PM

  • Courtesy of PhotoSpin
The new signs on the roadways say "Stop Stegeman Now." They just showed up recently, and you'll only find a few of them scattered among the yellow "Change the Board" signs, which, based on my recent drive through town, make up about half the signage out there—not half the TUSD board race signs, half the signs, period.

The anti-Stegeman signs are paid for by a new independent expenditure committee, Protect Our Schools TUSD, which filed its papers with Pima County last week. We don't know anything about its finances since it didn't exist during the last reporting period, but if the amount of signage it's put up is any indication, it doesn't have anything like the $35,000 amassed by TUSD Kids First, which is responsible for the yellow signs blanketing the city. We'll get a better idea of its funding by the number of signs that go up before the election and by its sponsored presence on social media.

Protect Our Schools TUSD has two goals: to get rid of Mark Stegeman and to reelect Kristel Foster and Cam Juarez. The group's website explains the reasons for its choices in bold letters on the home page, but for some reason, it hides its "Want to learn more?" link way down at the bottom of the page rather than creating the usual navigation bar near the top.

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Be a Voter! (Then Vote)

Posted By on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 at 9:00 AM

  • Photo Illustration

One of the things I read as a young teacher which stuck with me was, be careful of your use of the verb "to be" when reprimanding a student. If a student lied to you, don't say, "You are a liar." Say something more like, "You told a lie." If a student cheated, don't say, "You are a cheater." Say something more like, "You cheated on that last test." If a student regularly disrupts class, don't say, "You are nothing but a troublemaker." Say, "I won't let you continue to disrupt class," or, "If you keep causing trouble in here, I will . . ."

The reason is, the statement "You are . . ." is very powerful. It is a statement of being, referring to your essential nature (I just checked to see where the word "essential" comes from. It's from the Latin "esse," "to be.") So if I say to a student, "You are a liar," I'm saying that lying is an essential part who that student is. If, on the other hand, I call a statement a lie, I'm dealing with one specific statement at one moment in that student's life, which means the student has the opportunity to stop lying by making a change in behavior, which is far easier than changing his or her essential nature.

It's probable that the other side of the "to be" coin is true as well: if you can get someone to identify with a positive trait by saying, "I am a . . .," you can increase the chance of that person acting on it.

I read a short piece recently that said people are more likely to vote if they consider themselves "voters," as in, "I am a voter," than if they say, "I vote." It cited a study indicating that people who accept the label of "voter" are more likely to cast their ballots than people who simply say they vote. It makes sense to me. If you think of yourself as a "bowler"—"Yeah, I'm a bowler"—you're more likely to hit the lanes than if you say, "Yeah, I bowl now and then." Bowling is part of something you are, not just something you choose to do when the mood strikes, when you have some spare time.

Bowlers bowl. Voters vote.

So I say, let's all be voters, people who act on that essential part of our being whenever the opportunity arises, which happens to be between now and Nov. 8—or a few days earlier if you mail in your ballot.

Continue reading »

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