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Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Republican Party's Education Platform

Posted By on Thu, Jul 21, 2016 at 11:00 AM

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  • Shutterstock
A week ago I wrote about the Democratic party's education platform, which became significantly more progressive than the 2012 version as it moved from the first draft to its final form. The Republican party's education platform is pretty similar to its 2012 version, with a few changes around the edges. It added a condemnation of the move to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice, and it says an understanding of the Bible is "indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry" and encourages the study of the Bible as an elective part of the literature curriculum in high schools.

This paragraph sums up the general educational view presented in the platform.
After years of trial and error, we know the policies and methods that have actually made a difference in student advancement: Choice in education; building on the basics; STEM subjects and phonics; career and technical education; ending social promotions; merit pay for good teachers; classroom discipline; parental involvement; and strong leadership by principals, superintendents, and locally elected school boards. Because technology has become an essential tool of learning, it must be a key element in our efforts to provide every child equal access and opportunity. We strongly encourage instruction in American history and civics by using the original documents of our founding fathers. 
A few specific recommendations in the Republican platform are supported by many Democrats, like its condemnation of Common Core, its concern over "excessive testing and 'teaching to the test'” and its concern about the collection and sharing of "vast amounts of personal student and family data, including the collection of social and emotional data." The two parties differ on most other issues.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Men’s Room Barbershop Gets a Rude Awakening

Posted By on Wed, Jul 20, 2016 at 3:35 PM

MEN’S ROOM BARBERSHOP/FACEBOOK
  • Men’s Room Barbershop/Facebook

Omar Ramos, owner of the Men’s Room Barbershop (2523 N. Campbell Ave.) had just started his first haircut of the day on Tuesday, July 12, when he was abruptly interrupted by a car crashing through the front of his shop.

“I had heard the screeching of brakes so I went to the window to check it out,” Ramos said. “I saw the car coming towards us, so I yelled 'everyone move!' I’m glad my customer listened and everyone else listened and got out of the way.”

No one was injured in the accident. Ramos says the driver failed a sobriety test and was taken away by police. 

The shop was closed for a couple of days but, despite what people may think when driving by, has reopened.

“It 
just looks like we’re shut down forever, but we’re up and running,” Ramos said, referencing the plywood that now covers the front of his business.

Ramos was initially worried that he would lose a lot of business from the ordeal, but was surprised by the loyalty of his customers. “When this happened we had a lot of customers come by asking if we’re open. I felt bad because I didn’t know when we’d be open again so I couldn’t tell them a couple days, or a week, I just didn’t know. Lucky for us they all came back when we opened back up. I love my customers.”

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Ducey 'Next Step' Watch: 2 Month Anniversary

Posted By on Wed, Jul 20, 2016 at 12:43 PM

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PHOTOSPIN
  • PhotoSpin
Two months ago when Prop 123 passed, Governor Ducey said we had taken a "first step" toward addressing Arizona's chronic underfunding of K-12 education. Everyone acknowledged it was a shaky, uncertain step. Some were pleased to see what they thought was a wobbly step forward by the young 'un, while others thought it was a dangerous step backwards, but few people thought that one step was all we needed.

On the two month anniversary, the toddler has yet to take a second step, and its fathers and mothers—the Ducey machine, the business community, education groups—appear to be neglecting their child, if not abandoning it entirely.

An acknowledgement of the two month anniversary of that first step is in order—a cake, candles, something to mark the occasion. Since the parents of the tyke don't appear to be in a celebratory mood, I will take it upon myself to blow out the candles and make a few wishes.

My first wish is that Governor Ducey reveal his plans for the next step to improve K-12 education. If he plans to increase the education budget next legislative session, that would be hopeful. If all he wants to do is shift around the deck chairs, using his Classrooms First Initiatives Council to move the cushiest chaises in the areas where the wealthiest Arizonans hang out, it would be helpful to know that so people can protest against his anti-poor, anti-minority agenda.

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New Findings in a 'Living River' says Recently Released Report

Posted By on Wed, Jul 20, 2016 at 10:00 AM

BIGSTOCK
  • BigStock

Living River, a report newly released by Pima County and the Sonoran Institute, reveals that upgrades to water reclamation centers have improved the water quality and surrounding natural environments of the Lower Santa Cruz River. The EPA-funded report has been tracking changing conditions in this part of the river from Oct. 1, 2014 to Sept. 30, 2015.

The Lower Santa Cruz runs year-round through northwest Tucson and Marana and gets much of its water from WRCs Tres Rios and the new Agua Nueva, both of which receive and treat a portion of the over 62 million gallons of sanitary sewage a day seen by Pima County's treatment facilities. The state-of-the-art Agua Nueva, in particular, helps Pima County meet EPA standards of effluent discharges in the Santa Cruz River. This stretch of the river focused on by the report is the largest length of river dominated by effluent (wastewater) in the state. 

Since the improvements to Tres Rios and the establishment of Agua Nueva, the report shows improvements to water quality/clarity and a decrease in odor. The report also states that four species of fish now reside in the river, three more than in previous years. Increased recharge of the aquifer, another positive change, means water pollution no longer flows as far downstream as it used to. Areas that saw a reduction in aquatic habitats as a result of this pollution now "appear to be reverting to a more desert-like environment" according to the release.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Turkey's Failed Coup Attempt: The Charter School Connection

Posted By on Tue, Jul 19, 2016 at 3:09 PM

FETHULLAH GULEN, COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA.ORG
  • Fethullah Gulen, Courtesy of Wikimedia.org
Some members of Turkey's military attempted a coup last week and failed. Game over? Not quite. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is arresting thousands of people who he says were connected to the coup. And he's asking the U.S. to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen who lives in Pennsylvania and has a strong following here and in Turkey, including people who are now or have been part of the Turkish government. Secretary of State Kerry says he hasn't gotten a formal request from Turkey but will review any information he receives from its government. Gulen denies he is in any way connected to the failed coup.

Here's where the charter school connection comes in. Fethullah Gulen is connected indirectly—or directly depending on who you're talking to—to the Sonoran charter schools and other charters around the country. There are three Sonoran Science Academies in Tucson, including one on the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, and three Sonoran charters in the Phoenix area.

I began writing about the Sonoran Science Academies and their connections to Gulen in 2010, as did Tim Vanderpool in the Weekly and Tim Steller in the Star. The connection was even the subject of a 60 Minutes investigation in 2012. A group of people around the country believe the charters are too closely connected to Gulen and violate the requirement that public schools have no religious affiliation. They make a strong circumstantial case, but they've never proven a direct connection.

What we know is that the Arizona charters have a strong academic reputation, especially in the areas of science and math. We also know that many of their directors and administrators are of Turkish descent, and they have a number of Turkish teachers, some of whom have been brought to the U.S. on H-1B visas for the express purpose of teaching at the schools. We also know that the schools teach Turkish culture, though it may be in a similar way that a French school teaches French culture. Some say the schools have direct links to Gulen, which the schools deny.

Expect to hear more about the schools if the story linking Gulen to the failed coup stays in the news.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

The Verdict is in and the Show Will Go On

Posted By on Mon, Jul 18, 2016 at 5:19 PM

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In a proclamation worthy of a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, the Arizona Theatre Company Board of Trustees has announced in a release that fundraising efforts to save the 2016-17 season has succeeded, and the 50th Anniversary season will indeed launch with Kind Charles III as previously scheduled. Arizona audiences will have their shows, and ATC company and staff will keep their jobs.

The number capped at 448 Tucson donors and 320 from Phoenix. Mike Kasser, Tucson business leader and stalwart ATC patron sent a heartfelt thank you to the generosity of Arizona's loyal theatre-goers:
 “I’m so happy that this effort came together and reached the goal. With over 700 small-to-medium size donors, It was like a crowd-funding campaign without the Internet. I also very much appreciate the support from Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild as well as several large donors. We know that this does not represent the end of our fund-raising focus, but now ATC can move forward with a very exciting season and plan for the future.”
Other leaders within ATC, including Artistic Director David Ira Goldstein and Board of Trustees Chair Lynne Wood Dusenberry, expressed their deep gratitude for the outpouring of support, but qualified the statements by reminding the community of all the fundraising and reorganizing that still needs to be done to ensure company sustainability. 
"And to those who so generously donated to the effort, at whatever level they could afford, we can only offer our deep thanks and a promise to take every necessary step to ensure that ATC is in a position to produce 50 more seasons," Dusenberry said. "At the same time, as wonderful as this day is, there is still much work to be done on both the fund-raising side and organizationally to ensure ATC’s long-term financial and artistic stability.”
You can now, finally, check out the ATC website for more information on tickets and dates for the upcoming season of shows. King Charles III will open in September, followed by An Act of God in October, and closing with Fiddler on the Roof at the end of the year. 

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Another Look at TUSD Salary Hikes and Prop 123

Posted By on Mon, Jul 18, 2016 at 4:15 PM

COURTESY OF PHOTOSPIN
  • Courtesy of PhotoSpin
A few weeks ago I wrote a post trying to sort out what looked like contradictory information about the amount of Prop 123 money TUSD devoted to teacher salary raises. An article in the Star made it look like TUSD devoted far less of the new funding to increasing teacher salaries—about a third of the money, which amounted to a $700 raise—than neighboring districts, which would mean TUSD was shortchanging its teachers. But the article also mentioned the possibility that the district had found other ways to increase salaries. Meanwhile, the TUSD website states that returning teachers will make $2,000 more in 2016-17 than they made in the previous year. I ended the post by scratching my head and admitting I didn't know how to figure out the actual pay raises based on the information I had.

Since then, more has been written on the subject, and the pay raise situation is clearer. Here's the short version: As the TUSD website states, returning teachers will get a $2,000 raise over the previous year, which is in the same ballpark as neighboring districts. That's because, at the May 10 school board meeting a week before the Prop 123 vote, the board approved a $1,300 teacher raise. After Prop 123 passed, $700 was added to that amount, resulting in a $2,000 raise. Other Tucson-area districts created a variety of salary raise and retention incentive bonus packages, some of which are a bit more generous, and some a bit less generous, than TUSD's.

Here's the longer version, which I believe is accurate. If I've got my facts or numbers wrong, I'm sure people will let me know in the comments section.

At TUSD's May 10, 2016, board meeting, a salary raise was approved. It increased the pay for each salary step by $800, and since returning teachers move up a step which adds another $500, the total increase for returning teachers was $1,300. Since Prop 123 hadn't come up for a vote, the money for the raises was taken from maintenance and operations funds as well as Prop 301 funds. The $1,300 salary increase was guaranteed whether Prop 123 went up or down.

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Obama Administration Asks Supreme Court to Rehear Lawsuit On Immigration Relief Programs for Undocumented Parents, Youth

Posted By on Mon, Jul 18, 2016 at 3:29 PM

Silvia Herrera has lived in the U.S. for 17 years. Her youngest son is a citizen and her oldest daughter is a DACA recipient. - MARIA INÉS TARACENA
  • Maria Inés Taracena
  • Silvia Herrera has lived in the U.S. for 17 years. Her youngest son is a citizen and her oldest daughter is a DACA recipient.

The Obama administration wants the U.S. Supreme Court to rehear a lawsuit involving two immigration relief programs for undocumented parents and youth.

Last month, the court issued a disappointing 4-4 decision in a challenge to President Barack Obama's 2014 immigration actions.

With a split decision, an extension to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—which grants DREAMers a renewable work permit and temporary permission to be in the country—and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents—a similar relief but for parents of U.S. citizen and permanent resident children—remain blocked.

The Department of Justice wants another shot, this time with the entire nine justices. One seat has been vacant since the sudden death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February. A Republican Congress has refused to vote for a replacement until a new president takes office in January 2017.

In the filing, the DOJ says that given the impact the case has on the lives of millions of parents, youth and families the court should grant a rehearing when every seat is filled. While the DOJ acknowledges that the Supreme Court rarely grants rehearings, in the past, these have been granted when the court justices have been divided on other issues, according to a post by the American Immigration Council.

In February 2015, a coalition of 26 states, including Arizona and led by Texas, sued the Obama administration, accusing the president of abusing his power by ignoring Congress in an administrative process to change immigration policies. 

Federal District Court Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Texas issued a preliminary injunction blocking the implementation of DAPA and extended DACA. The Obama administration appealed, and a three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals eventually upheld the injunction. The administration then took the legal battle to the Supreme Court, where it took months to hear a ruling.

If DAPA and DACA II ever go into effect, an approximate 5 million people would benefit. 

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Staff Pick

Where's Waldo Scavenger Hunt

Back in Tucson for the month of July. Those who spot Waldo (well, a 6" version of… More

@ Antigone Books July 19-31, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. 411 N. Fourth Ave.

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