Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Ducey Does a Budget Deal With Republican Legislators - Do They Have the Votes To Pass It?

Posted By on Tue, May 21, 2019 at 4:00 PM


Once again, Governor Ducey refuses to talk with Democratic legislators about the budget. In Monday's Republicans-only budget compromise, Ducey gave up more of his priorities than might have been necessary if he were willing to create a bipartisan deal where he could pull together enough votes from both sides to get a budget to his desk. Bipartisanship isn't in fashion these days.

Still, things look dicey for Ducey's compromise. A few Republicans are holding out, and with their slim legislative majority, a few is all it will take to kill the bill. The proposed budget throws a bone or two in the Democrats's direction in hopes it can get some of them to vote Yes even though they weren't allowed into the negotiating room. But as Tucson Rep. David Bradley said, "Placating is not negotiating." At this moment, the Dems look like they're holding firm.

Then there's the May 27 Memorial Day deadline, after which some Republicans will skip town and lower the chances of getting the budget through on a straight party line vote.

Wanna bet, when the dust settles, it will still be an all-Republican budget passed in the dead of night just before the Monday deadline, with enough giveaways to lure the few strays back to the fold? That's where my money would be if I were a betting man. It's a bet I'd be delighted to lose.

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Friday, May 17, 2019

Steve Farley Advocates For Turning Schools Into Community Schools

Posted By on Fri, May 17, 2019 at 1:55 PM


When the New York Times carried a story about the progress students have been making in the "I Promise School" started by LeBron James in Cleveland, I put the article in my "Post about it when you have a chance" pile. Two weeks later, before I wrote about it myself, mayoral candidate Steve Farley used LeBron's school as a starting point for one on his Ideas For Tucson emails, titled "Turning our public schools into community schools." The email began,
LeBron James has rightfully received a lot of publicity for the work he is supporting at previously failing Cleveland public schools — work that is producing astonishing results.
In the email and on his website's Ideas page, Farley embraces the idea of turning schools into places where families can benefit along with their children, places which provide "GED classes, basic healthcare, low income bus passes, use of the computer lab, career counseling, microlending, and job training for parents as well as kids." The city, he wrote, can be a partner in creating and implementing a community school approach to education.

Farley got it exactly right.

Before I go further, I need to say, this isn't an endorsement of Farley's candidacy. Both he and Regina Romero are strong candidates. I definitely want one of them as mayor, but honestly, I'm not sure which of them would do a better job. What I'm endorsing is the idea of forging a partnership between school districts and city government to bring the community school idea to Tucson. Farley deserves credit for featuring that idea in his campaign.

People in city government like to say they are strong advocates for local public schools, but too often, city governments and school districts remain separate entities with too little overlap.

The community school concept is a way to bridge the gap between the two institutions. City government is ideally situated to coordinate a coalition between a school district and governmental social services, businesses, nonprofit organizations and volunteers. A program can be ramped up gradually, school by school, service by service without incurring large costs for the city or the school district. In other words, it's doable, even with a cash-strapped district and a city on a tight budget. And the payoff can be significant.

Bringing services for underserved families inside the school walls makes those services more accessible to families and helps parents buy into their children's educations. When individual parents become involved in their children's schools, when they become members of the school family, the parents benefit and their children's chances of succeeding inside and outside the classroom improve.

I can't think of anything Tucson's city government can do which would be more beneficial to our schools than working with a district to move toward the community school approach.

I know Regina Romero is an advocate for strong public education and she has endorsements from members of the local and statewide educational community, but looking through her platform (It's a good platform, by the way) and reading her emails, I haven't seen concrete ideas for ways city government can have a direct impact on our schools. It would be great if she publicly embraced the community schools idea or something similar.

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Friday, April 26, 2019

Amphi District Cancels High School Course Created By the Freedom Center

Posted By on Fri, Apr 26, 2019 at 11:54 AM

  • Courtesy of BigStock

In December, the TUSD board voted unanimously to remove the high school course, Ethics, Economy, and Entrepreneurship, from its curriculum. The course was created by faculty at UA's Freedom Center, the local outpost of the Koch networks' nationwide web of think tanks and university centers. The effort to get the course out of TUSD was led by a local group, Kochs Off Campus.

That's the short version of a much longer story. You can read more here.

That left three local districts, Amphitheater, Vail and Sahuarita, still offering the course, as well as a small number of charter and private schools.

Now you can cross Amphi off the list as well, for the moment anyway.

After its successful efforts convincing TUSD the course didn't belong in the district curriculum, Kochs Off Campus turned its attention to Amphi. The group's members sent Freedom of Information requests to the district asking for relevant records and emails, spoke at two recent board meetings and sent a number of emails expressing specific concerns about the course.

Monday, April 22, Amphi Superintendent Todd Jaeger wrote an email to members of Kochs Off Campus saying the course will not be taught at Ironwood Ridge High School next year, the only school in the district currently offering it. The reason, he wrote, is that not enough students signed up.

"Interest in the course, quite frankly, has waned and can no longer justify its continuation based on enrollment alone." According to Jaeger, that means there is no reason to discuss the issue further. "Thus, the matter is rather moot at this point," he wrote, "without even getting to the merits of concerns raised with respect to the course or its materials."

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Friday, April 19, 2019

Results-Based Funding: Watch This Budget Item

Posted By on Fri, Apr 19, 2019 at 3:51 PM


It's coming up on state budget time, which means it's time to start looking at budget numbers while they're still in flux. For me, that means looking at education numbers. Right now, what we have is Ducey's budget proposal, so that's the place to begin.

I'm starting with Ducey's Results-Based Funding proposal. That's the extra money a select number of schools will get because they have shown "results." During its first two years, the program, gave out just under $40 million a year. Ducey wants to more than double the funding this time around. He's proposing $98.3 million, a $58 million increase.

The overall education budget is starved for cash, as it has been for years and will continue to be so long as Republicans run the government. Ducey's proposed Results-Based Funding increases the pain for most of the state's schools by taking $98.3 million out of their budget, money which should be divvied up among all district and charter schools, and hands it to a select group of schools.

If a school wants a piece of the RBF pie, the best thing it can do is serve a wealthy community. That's because schools with an "A" state grade are assured of making the list, and "A" schools are disproportionately in high rent areas. The proposed budget's extra cash will enlarge the pool of schools. That means even more schools in wealthy communities will make the cut.

Ducey has added a new wrinkle this year. His proposal would give some of the funding to "B" schools which serve low income populations.

By adding the "B" schools, Ducey hopes to leave the impression that he needs the $58 million increase for the added low income schools. It's not a lie exactly. That's where more than half of the new money will go, but plenty of it will go to expand the number of schools in high rent areas as well.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Yarmulkes, Money and Labels: Trump's Antisemitism and Racism

Posted By on Tue, Apr 16, 2019 at 4:46 PM


Is Trump our Racist/Antisemite-in-chief, or does he just play at it on TV and Twitter?

The nicest thing you can say about Trump's racist and antisemitic comments and tweets is what Andrew Gillum said about Ron DeSantis when the two of them were running for Florida governor: "I’m not calling Mr. Desantis a racist," Gillum said. "I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist."

I'm not running for office so I don't have to be as careful as Gillum. I'll say it without equivocation: Trump is an antisemite. Trump is a racist. Full stop.

Except that, some will counter, we know Trump will say or do anything to win the news cycle, pander to his base and vilify his enemies. Can we separate the actual prejudices festering inside his fevered brain from his slash-and-burn political tactics?

After the 2018 clashes between participants in the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and protestors, Trump said there were "fine people on both sides." Was that Trump's honest opinion or a way to assure the continued allegiance of people like neo-Nazi leader Richard B. Spencer whose post-election speech praising Trump's victory included Nazi salutes and the triumphant call, “Hail Trump. Hail our people. Hail victory!”

Me, I'd say anyone who can find a way to defend people chanting "Jews will not replace us" is an antisemite. But we're talking about Trump who lies whenever it suits his needs, so the point is open to debate.

Trump has joined other Republicans in turning Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is black, Muslim and has a foreign accent (she was born in Somalia) — she's a bigot's trifecta — into the Democratic villain du jour. Is he just looking toward 2020, or does he despise Omar as much as he says?

It's hard to tell the difference in Trump's most public statements, but we can get at the genuine bigotry inside that twisted head of his by looking at less publicized moments.

Let's start with his antisemitism. Yes, I know Jared, Trump's son-in-law, is Jewish and Ivanka converted, making her children, his grandchildren, Jewish. He dotes on his daughter and, to the extent he's capable of affection, it's possible he may actually love his grandchildren, but as anyone who has taken a close look at bigotry knows, that doesn't stop him from accepting stereotypes and harboring ill feelings toward Jews.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

In Which I Disagree With Mark Stegeman (And Not, I Should Add, Respectfully)

Posted By on Wed, Apr 10, 2019 at 3:37 PM

In March, the TUSD board voted 4-1 to hang the flags of the Tohono O’odham and Pascua Yaqui nations in the board room next to the U.S. and Arizona flags. Mark Stegeman was the only No vote.

Ernesto Portillo, in a column in the Star, criticized Stegeman for his vote. Stegeman, never one to allow a criticism to go unanswered, wrote an op-ed defending himself.

Portillo is right. Stegeman is wrong.

I guess I could have said I respectfully disagree with Stegeman. But the reasoning which led Stegeman to his No vote is the same cold reasoning which so often leads him to take destructive educational stands on the school board. So, no.

My respect goes to all the students in the district who deserve a better board representation than Stegeman offers them. My respect goes to the district's Native American students and members of their community who worked hard to have their flags in the board room, and won despite Stegeman's objections. No respect for Stegeman on this one.

It's not just that Stegeman voted against hanging the flags. It's the argument he leaned on to support his vote: that placing the flags in the board room is mere symbolism and has no substantive educational value. It's not just this one vote. After ten years of serving on the TUSD school board, Stegeman continues to act like he is incapable of understanding that K-12 education is about more than factual knowledge and academic skill building.

Let's take a look at what Stegeman wrote in his op-ed. In explaining his No vote, Stegeman complained,
"TUSD too often focuses on symbolism rather than substance."
He criticized a board member for saying that hanging the flags in the board room is related to education.
"I respectfully disagree. Education means teaching facts and skills."
The two statements encapsulate why Stegeman gets so much wrong when it comes to K-12 education. He believes "substance" in education is synonymous with "facts and skills." Other parts of schooling — symbolism, emotional responses, personal interaction — are peripheral.

He's wrong. K-12 education has an essential emotive level. Our schools should be helping students grow as people at the same time they learn facts and skills. In a functioning education system, the two realms reinforce one another. Often, the best way to promote academic learning is for teachers, administrators and school districts to create an emotional connection with the young people they are striving to educate, making it clear they respect who the students are and what they are capable of becoming.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Age of Online Shopping Could Mark the Beginning of "Retail Apocalypse"

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2018 at 12:29 PM

  • Courtesy of Creative Commons
Choosing where you spend your money is kind of like casting a ballot every time you make a purchase. Yes, your dollars do make a difference; a difference that could mean life or death for many retail stores as we know them.

Opting out of a trip to the mall to shop online is nothing new, neither is the shifting of the retail scene, but the growing trend that favors FedEx over Forever 21, could mark the end of physical shopping experience: the 'retail apocalypse.'

"The difference this time is how much power consumers now have in affecting change through their choices and the feedback they're able to provide retailers online," said Sabrina Helm, a UA associate professor in the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Helm and her colleagues decided to survey over 400 consumers about their shopping habits and perceptions of today's retail environment. They also "analyzed over 1,600 comments made on online news articles written about store closures or the evolving retail environment," according to the press release.

The results were published in the Journal of Retailing and Customer Services Navigating the 'retail apocalypse': A framework of consumer evaluations of the new retail landscape.

According to the press release, respondents who preferred online shopping report not liking poor customer service, long lines, and items being out of stock. Some even admit that they avoid the social interaction.

On the other hand, some like shopping in stores for the social experience that they like to share with family and friends. Some even like interacting with strangers, unlike their online shopping opposites. "Others even said that shopping was important to their physical health, as it was their primary source of exercise," the press release reported. 
"There's a sense that brick-and-mortar stores are part of the social fabric of our society. If they disappear, many are concerned about the economy and what this will do for jobs and revenue for communities. Many people also said stores were vital to their quality of life. There are also fears that come from the closure of store spaces: What happens with all that empty space? Is crime going to increase because now we have all these empty areas? Crime rate was also a concern with regard to increased online shopping: Are there going to be more home invasions because there are all these packages on door fronts?" Helm wrote. 
The study concluded that closing all retail would be bad for society; so really, when it comes to the fate of our society as consumers, have more power than ever.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

UA Climate Adaptation Science Center receives $4.5M

Posted By on Tue, Nov 13, 2018 at 12:38 PM

  • Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center

The Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center, SW CASC, at the University of Arizona received a $4.5 million grant from the United States Geological Survey to support research on climate science and adaptation in the Southern Arizona region.

SW CASC was originally established in 2011 and is responsible for researching the adaptation impacts of land, water and wildlife in the southwest.

With the grant, the SW CASC will be able to continue its seven-year research in partnership with the United States Geological Survey, USGS, to assess the southwest's scientific needs. 
click image UA Climate Adaptation Science Center receives $4.5 M for research - SOUTHWEST CLIMATE ADAPTATION SCIENCE CENTER
  • Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center
  • UA Climate Adaptation Science Center receives $4.5 M for research

Researchers at the SW CASC will be able to use the funds to research topics including vegetation conversion, the theory that after destructive natural events such as wildfires and pathogen outbreaks, new species will appear in the landscapes effected. 

The center also announced that it will continue research on drought, the steady increase of summer and winter temperatures and flood risks due to increases in rainfall.

Stephen Jackson is the USGS director of the SW CASC and adjunct professor of geoscience and natural resources and environment at UA. Jackson said that the research would also be able to help other parts of the country.

"The entire world is going to be and already is facing impacts of climate change, but in the southwest, we're seeing it faster and more intensely," Jackson said. "Seeing this first puts us in a good position to tell people in other parts of the country what challenges might be coming to them and pass along information about how to adapt."

To read more about the Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center, click here.

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Staff Pick

World Flute Concert

World flute virtuosos Gary Stroutsos and Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos come together for an evening of meditative soundscapes… More

@ San Pedro Chapel Fri., Jan. 31, 7-9 p.m. 5230 E. Fort Lowell Road.

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