Blogislature

Monday, April 30, 2018

School Closures Continue Into a Second Week of Walkouts

Posted By on Mon, Apr 30, 2018 at 12:29 PM

Red for Ed supporters hold down the movement in Tucson, lining Congress Street, on Friday, April 27. - LOGAN BURTCH-BUUS
  • Logan Burtch-Buus
  • Red for Ed supporters hold down the movement in Tucson, lining Congress Street, on Friday, April 27.

Five children straggled into the cafeteria at Thornydale Elementary to get some breakfast at 7 a.m. on Monday morning. They were greeted by two cafeteria workers and a mom with the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization. Outside, a maintenance worker ran a leaf blower. Other than that, the school was silent.

Three days into the teacher walkouts, students from low-income families who receive breakfast and lunch at their schools still needed to eat. About 20 kids came in the previous Thursday and Friday each, according to the two women serving in the Thornydale cafeteria.

The children, three little ones who go to Thornydale and their two older brothers who go to nearby schools, open their juice boxes, milk and breakfast bars.

As the Red for Ed movement goes into its second week of teacher walkouts, things become increasingly complicated for the school districts and families. As schools continue to announce closures day by day, parents are starting to wonder if the school year will be prolonged into the summer break.

Thornydale cafeteria worker Cathette Vartell says while she is still working, she has two grade-school kids at home whom she’s worried about.

Her oldest daughter is set to graduate in May, and while most local school districts have said they’ll host graduation ceremonies as planned, students will have to make up instructional hours for days missed because of the walkouts. How many days varies by district and even school and won’t be decided until the walkouts end.

Vartell’s daughter plans to leave for a two-month out-of-town trip with her church the Monday after graduation. Everything is paid for, and for a mother of two who makes minimum wage, paying more to change plans may not be an option.

“Of course I support our teachers,” Vartell says. “I also feel like our kids are the ones paying a price to make a statement.”

Christina Harris, Thornydale’s PTO vice president, is a stay-at-home mother of three who’s been volunteering at the school for 11 years.

She said the closures have been hardest because her son, a second grader who receives Title 1 services, needs to keep up on his reading skills or he’ll fall behind. Nonetheless, Harris has been an active supporter of the Red for Ed movement, and was out on Ina Road on Saturday morning lining the road red with many other teachers, parents, students and supporters.

Vartell and Harris are not alone in dealing with the complications and hardships of the shutdowns. But Arizona teachers are among the lowest-paid educators in the country, and education funding is among the lowest in the nation as well.

School funding in Arizona was cut following the 2008 recession and, while there have been increases in recent years, it has yet to return to where it was a decade ago. Educators are demanding a 20 percent raise for teachers, raises for all support staff and school funding restored to 2008 levels, which would cost the state an additional $1.1 billion annually.

Between crumbing school facilities, outdated supplies and their own struggles to make ends meet, many teachers felt they had no choice but to walk out.

Rachel Tankersley, a math and science teacher in the Vail School District, was out on downtown’s Congress Street on Monday morning, wearing red with a few hundred other educators and allies. She started at 7 a.m. and by by 8, the sun was already beginning to beat down on the crowd while they cheer and wave at the many passing cars that honk in support.

“Teachers are having to spend their own money on their classrooms all the time,” she said. “This is my job right now, to let people know this is not OK.”

Mid-April, as the Red for Ed movement was gaining support and talking about a walkout if their demands were not met, Gov. Doug Ducey announced he had a plan for the teacher raises and to restore recession-era cuts to education funding. Only, by his math, that would mean an additional $371 million, about a third what educators are asking for.

Ducey’s plan didn’t mention raises for support staff and critics accused him of using fuzzy math to come up with the revenue needed to pay for it. On Ducey’s website, it says the state will achieve the money for the pay hikes through a growing economy and reduction in state government operating budgets, “all without raising taxes while maintaining Arizona’s balanced budget.”

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , ,

Friday, January 26, 2018

Dreamers Still in Limbo After Dems Cave Over Shutdown

Posted By on Fri, Jan 26, 2018 at 9:09 AM

People marched for Dreamers, in Tucson in September 2017, when Trump announced an end to DACA. Activists continue the fight today, with the March 5 deadline approaching and little tangible progress being made in Congress. - DANYELLE KHMARA
  • Danyelle Khmara
  • People marched for Dreamers, in Tucson in September 2017, when Trump announced an end to DACA. Activists continue the fight today, with the March 5 deadline approaching and little tangible progress being made in Congress.

Democrats in Congress ended the short-lived government shutdown, on Monday morning, which could have leveraged a fix for DACA. But instead, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer settled for a vague promise from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to schedule a vote by Feb. 8, once again leaving 3.6 million Dreamers, about 800,000 of which have legal status under DACA, in limbo.

At first, the shutdown gave local DACA recipient Ana Laura Mendoza a bit of hope that Congress would finally do something, but now she’s just frustrated by the “lack of action from both parties,” she says. “Democrats are full of empty promises and rhetoric… Once again, it was made public that our lives are not as important as they claim.”

During Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, he promised the day he took office, he would end DACA. Although he didn’t do so until almost eight months into his presidency, the DACA recipients’ purgatory began the day he was sworn in.

Mendoza says combatting the drawn-out emotional struggle is the worst part. She just wants to know if she’ll have legal status or not, either way. A second year political-science major at the University of Arizona, she’s unsure if she’ll be able to fulfill her aspirations of law school. She’s unsure if all the effort of college will even matter: What good is a degree if you’re not allowed to work?

Earlier this month, a federal judge order the Trump administration to temporarily continue allowing DACA recipients to renew their protected status. Mendoza was one such Dreamer, who didn’t make the cut for the previous deadline the administration had set. Nonetheless, she has mixed feelings: happy she and others like her could renew but upset for the prolonged uncertainty.

Without a fix for DACA, Mendoza will lose her work permit right as she’s finishing her bachelor’s. She will also lose her driver’s license, not to mention the ability to walk out her front door without the fear of being deported.

CNN reported on Tuesday that Sen. Schumer was rescinding a recent proposal to the White House, which included funding for a border wall in exchange for Dreamer protection.

“President Trump’s unwillingness to compromise caused the Trump shut down and brought us to this moment,” Schumer said in a televised speech.

On Tuesday night, Trump tweeted “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer fully understands, especially after his humiliating defeat, that if there is no Wall, there is no DACA”—making the GOP leadership’s “promise” on a DACA fix seem all the more obsolete.

As far as Mendoza is concerned, she can’t get behind the idea of any compromise that includes border security measures.

“It’s so easy for us to be used as pawns,” she says. “I’m not OK with allowing one part of my community to be attacked while another is safe… It’s not just legislature that’s being decided. It’s who gets to thrive and who gets to hardly make it.”

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Grijalva Arrested Protesting Trump's Immigration Policies

Posted By on Wed, Sep 20, 2017 at 11:49 AM

U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva being arrested in front of Trump Tower for civil disobedience. - RAÚL GRIJALVA/FACEBOOK
  • Raúl Grijalva/Facebook
  • U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva being arrested in front of Trump Tower for civil disobedience.

RAÚL GRIJALVA/FACEBOOK
  • Raúl Grijalva/Facebook
Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva was arrested during an immigrants' rights protest in front of Trump Tower Tuesday morning, along with U.S. Reps. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)

"I stood in front of Trump Tower today with a whole lot of DREAMers, immigrants and Americans to say enough to Trump and his criminalization of our immigrant communities," he posted on Facebook shortly before being arrested.

Grijalva was sitting in the street below Trump Tower with other demonstrators, holding a banner advocating for DACA recipients when he was taking into custody by the New York Police Department with his hands zip tied behind his back.

A representative from Grijalva's office said the congressman was released several hours after the arrest and now faces charges of disorderly conduct with other charges pending, according to Tucson News Now. They also reported the lawmakers had intended to get arrested at the protest.

RAÚL GRIJALVA/FACEBOOK
  • Raúl Grijalva/Facebook

Tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dreamers #HereToStay

Posted By on Wed, Aug 30, 2017 at 10:35 AM

Reports came out last week that Trump will decide any day whether to keep Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA recipients, or Dreamers, together with immigration lawyers, activists and allies gathered in front of Tucson City Hall, on Aug. 29, to say they're not going anywhere.

DACA recipients and allies tell the Trump administration that they're here to stay: "El pueblo unido jamás será vencido." - DANYELLE KHMARA
  • Danyelle Khmara
  • DACA recipients and allies tell the Trump administration that they're here to stay: "El pueblo unido jamás será vencido."

The Obama-era ruling protects close to 800,000 people whose parents brought them into the country, undocumented, as children. DACA makes it legal for them to work, get a driver's license, pay in-state tuition to college and to live their lives without fear of deportation.

"We continue to hear these threats against DACA," said Jessica Rodriguez, a member of the humanitarian organization Living United for Change in Arizona. "This is not going to stop. We're going to continue to take the streets. We're going to continue to call on our officials. We are not going to stop."

Immigration attorney Mo Goldman said to focus energy toward local elected officials.

"Call out representatives like Rep. McSally, who has said that she supports the DACAmented community and the Dreamers," he said. "She's been out there. She said it, and she needs to be held accountable. She needs to be on the phone talking to the White House."

Tags: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Anti-Racist Protesters Demand Supervisor Miller Resign

Posted By on Wed, Aug 23, 2017 at 10:09 AM

About 600 protesters waving familiar posters gathered in front of Pima County’s Administration Building on Tuesday evening: Refugees Welcome, Black Lives Matter, No Human is Illegal. In an age where almost every week, people take to the streets to voice their outrage with the government, people are getting creative. “Dumbledore's Army accepting members” and “Ctrl+Alt+Delete” are a few of the more creative signs.

The focus of Tucsonans Against Racism Protest and Rally was County Supervisor Ally Miller, who announced her white pride on Facebook, only hours after a white supremacist mowed down a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12. For the last week, citizens and fellow board members implored her to apologize for her comments.

And now it seems the time for apologies has passed, at least for the hundreds that gathered on Tucson’s downtown. People want her gone. It was no accident this rally was planned on the day Trump addressed supporters in Phoenix. Inside the Phoenix Convention Center, Trump hinted at pardoning former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for illegally continuing racist practices, and Trump decried the “very dishonest media,” blaming them for the backlash to his “many sides” statement following Charlottesville. Outside, thousands protested and were finally dispersed when police set off tear gas into the crowd. In Tucson, people chanted—families with toddlers in strollers, old ladies waving American flags, teenagers standing up for their future.

People of every age, creed and color shouted, “This is what democracy looks like,” and held their signs high as cars passed, honking their approval.


Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

TUSD Suspense Continues

Posted By on Wed, Feb 22, 2017 at 5:33 PM

Tucson Unified School District Governing Board, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, postponed for the second week in a row publicly discussing an agenda item which brings into question the Superintendent H.T. Sánchez's job. - DANYELLE KHMARA
  • Danyelle Khmara
  • Tucson Unified School District Governing Board, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, postponed for the second week in a row publicly discussing an agenda item which brings into question the Superintendent H.T. Sánchez's job.

The Duffy Community center was overflowing with concerned parents, public officials and community members, weighing in on the work of TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sánchez.  At the special TUSD Governing Board meeting Tuesday night, many spoke in support of and against the superintendent. - DANYELLE KHMARA
  • Danyelle Khmara
  • The Duffy Community center was overflowing with concerned parents, public officials and community members, weighing in on the work of TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sánchez. At the special TUSD Governing Board meeting Tuesday night, many spoke in support of and against the superintendent.
The Tucson Unified School District Governing Board announced last night they were once again postponing the agenda item concerning Superintendent H.T. Sánchez’s job.

The Duffy Community Center was so packed that overflow crowds had to wait outside. For over three hours, the board and superintendent were in executive session. At about 7:45 p.m., Sánchez somberly took his seat with the board and was met by loud applause from the audience. But not everyone was clapping.

For an hour, community members spoke for and against Sánchez with either raised-voice rancor or grateful tears on topics such as superintendent turnover rates, student-enrollment numbers, Prop 301 spending, childhood bullying, dropout rates, race and unsuccessful desegregation measures.

Several people spoke in Spanish with an English translator, recounting times Sánchez had personally helped their children.

Cassandra Becerra, a mother of TUSD students, is one of Sánchez’s supporters. While waiting for the meeting to start, she told the Tucson Weekly she’s seen the superintendent in the schools and fighting for the good of the district.

“I strongly believe he’s here because he cares about this district,” she said, holding a sign with a red, white and blue drawing of Sánchez, copying the iconic “hope” poster representing Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.

Continue reading »

Thursday, February 16, 2017

TUSD Sideshow

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 11:00 AM

Tucson Unified School District's newest board member Rachael Sedgwick stirred controversy by adding an agenda item to Tuesday's regular TUSD Governing Board meeting.  The item, bringing Superintendent H.T. Sánchez's job into question, will be heard at a special meeting next Tuesday. - DANYELLE KHMARA
  • Danyelle Khmara
  • Tucson Unified School District's newest board member Rachael Sedgwick stirred controversy by adding an agenda item to Tuesday's regular TUSD Governing Board meeting. The item, bringing Superintendent H.T. Sánchez's job into question, will be heard at a special meeting next Tuesday.


The TUSD Superintendent’s job is still at risk, although discussion of it was absent from Tuesday night’s board meeting.

The crowd of more than a hundred people cheered at the beginning of Tucson Unified School District’s regular board meeting when the controversial item was removed from the agenda. For an hour and a half, one after the other, community members stood at the podium to thank Superintendent H.T. Sánchez and commend the work he’s doing with the district.

Nonetheless, a special meeting has been called for Tuesday, Feb. 21, where the question of Sánchez’s job will be back on the agenda, according to Rachael Sedgwick, the board’s newest member.

At the Feb. 14 meeting, 20 people spoke in support of the superintendent and three in opposition.
Community member Brian Flagg said Sánchez is present at school events and people like him.

“He brings his family, he hangs out, and he talks to people until the last person leaves—and he does it in Spanish,” he said. “I think the guy’s got real popular support.”

On Tuesday, the board received more than 75 emails in support of the superintendent and two in opposition, according to Board members Adelita Grijalva and Kristel Foster. Supporters of Sánchez include Michael Varney, President of the Tucson Metro Chamber, and Mayor Jonathan Rothschild.
Sedgwick, who put the item on the agenda, would like to see Sánchez make some changes but says it’s apparent he’s not open to working with her.

“It’s really not about firing H.T.,” she said. “It's really is about exploring the different opportunities and giving him a choice.”

She would like to see the board create a performance plan to assess progress the superintendent makes with the district. In particular, Sedgwick is concerned with enrollment numbers, standardized testing scores, AP scores, graduation rates and drop-out rates.

Sedgwick also thinks Sánchez spends too much time at the Arizona Legislature.

“The superintendent’s job is really not to be lobbying the legislators in Phoenix,” she said. “I believe the superintendent does not visit the schools very often and that it means that we, as a district, have sort of lost sight about the reasons that TUSD exists.”

Sánchez could not be reached for a response.

Sedgwick says she has the backing of Board member Mark Stegeman and that Board President Michael Hicks is open to discussion.

Other board members think bringing the superintendent’s job into question right now distracts the board from more important things and opens them up to possible legal problems.

“What we’re doing here is a side-show circus,” Grijalva said. “If I’m a parent of a kindergartner or someone who’s coming from a charter school and looking for a middle or high school for my child, why would I pick TUSD? Because all I see in the headlines is this drama.”

Foster says terminating the superintendent with no backup plan is a dangerous decision, and putting that option suddenly on the agenda is not the way to solve a problem.

“We’re, right now, in the middle of a legislative session, trying to advocate on behalf of public education,” Foster said. “This shows absolutely no understanding of what we do as public officials that represent a school district.”

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Learn About the Pros and Cons Behind Prop. 123

Posted By on Thu, Apr 7, 2016 at 1:00 PM

The Pima County Interfaith Civic Education Organization will host a debate about the fervently discussed, Gov. Doug Ducey-sponsored Proposition 123 this Saturday, April 9 at St. Odilia Catholic Church parish hall. 
1024px-voting_united_states.jpg

The proposition, which voters will decide in a state-wide election on May 17, would "increase education funding by $3.5 billion over the course of 10 years by allocating money from the general fund and increasing annual distributions of the state land trust permanent funds to education," according to Ballotpedia.com. The Arizona Daily Star reports that the lawsuit was originally filed back in 2010 after the state "failed to adjust the base level per-pupil funding according to inflation as required by a 2000 voter-approved proposition." 

Supporters of Prop 123 say it would fulfill a long-overdue debt to Arizona schools, while opponents—notably led by Arizona State Treasurer Jeff DeWitt—say the state land trust money in question already belongs to the state's schools, according to the debate's press release. 

"The Debate on Prop. 123" on Saturday will feature four speakers—two arguing for the passing of Prop. 123, and two against it. Phoenix natives J.P. Twist, Let's Vote Yes Prop. 123 chairman, and Andrew Morrill, Arizona Education Association president, will argue in support of Prop. 123, while Tucson natives Morgan Abraham, No Prop. 123 chairman, and Brian Clymer, a local attorney, will argue against it. 

The debate starts at 3 p.m. and will run until 4:30 at 7570 N. Paseo del Norte. Learn more about Prop. 123 here


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Staff Pick

Arizona State Museum’s Paths of Life: American Indians of the Southwest

This permanent, ongoing, exhibit explores the origins, histories, and contemporary lifeways of ten Native American culture groups… More

@ Arizona State Museum Ongoing, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 1013 E. University Blvd.

» More Picks

Submit an Event Listing

Popular Content

  1. The Weekly List: 23 Things To Do In Tucson This Week (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  2. UA's 'Freedom School' Isn't Free Of Costs Or Hiring Restrictions (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  3. Claytoon of the Day: A Cosby Sweater (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  4. The Weekly List: 22 Things To Do In Tucson This Week (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  5. 'Educators Support Fund' Is Helping Out Tucson Area Educators (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)

© 2018 Tucson Weekly | 7225 Mona Lisa Rd. Ste. 125, Tucson AZ 85741 | (520) 797-4384 | Powered by Foundation