Education

Monday, May 21, 2018

I Know I Said I Wouldn't Give Teachers Advice, But . . .

Posted By on Mon, May 21, 2018 at 4:14 PM

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During the #RedforEd walkouts, I wrote a post saying educators were doing just fine without my advice, and this retired teacher wasn't about to "old man" them. Yeah, well. Don't call this advice then. Call it what I would do if I were in the teachers' place. Except it might not be what I would do if I were in their place. So let's call it a suggestion worth every penny the teachers are paying for it.

I would love to see teachers around the state demand that the 9+1 percent pay hike the legislature built into the budget be shared with everyone in the school community, except administrators, who already receive a reasonable salary.

Would I agree with myself if I were currently an Arizona teacher looking at a raise which doesn't bring me up to the salary I should be making, and doesn't take into consideration the reparations (raise-parations?) I deserve for the years my wage was way below the national average? I don't know. I might have to be talked into it, and even then . . .

With all that in mind, here's why I think teachers should share the raise, coming from someone who doesn't have a dog-eared dollar bill in the hunt.

Teacher wages are bad. Support staff wages are worse. While the legislature earmarked some new money for teachers, it cheated non-teaching staff out of the much-needed raise which was one of the #RedforEd demands.

If teachers sacrificed some of their raise to make up for the legislature stiffing the rest of the staff, it would send a powerful message. It would say, "We're demonstrating the respect we have for the people who work beside us. We understand the value they add to our children's educations." The move would foster unity across the school community in the struggle to achieve full funding for Arizona education. If teachers are willing to share the raise with other staff members, it encourages everyone to share the burden during the political campaign season, at voting time and, if necessary, during a walkout next year.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Dangers of Forming Political Coalitions While Black: North Carolina, 1898

Posted By on Tue, May 15, 2018 at 2:45 PM

VIGILANTES OUTSIDE THE CHARRED REMAINS OF THE DAILY RECORD, COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA.ORG
  • Vigilantes outside the charred remains of The Daily Record, courtesy of wikimedia.org
I've been reading about North Carolina's Reverend William Barber and his Poor People's Campaign over the past few days, and contributed to the organization's legal defense fund for people being arrested during what it calls its "growing moral fusion movement." (I mention my contribution not to pat myself on the back but to encourage others to consider making a donation.) Keep that word "fusion" in mind as you read what follows. The Poor People's Campaign just began 40 days of nonviolent action in some 30 state capitols across the country and Washington, D.C. More on that and Reverend Barber later.

First I want to write about a hole I just filled in my gap-filled understanding of U.S. history: the Fusion Coalition in North Carolina at the turn of the 20th century and the Wilmington Massacre of 1898, which has been called the only successful coup d'etat in U.S. history. I read a bit about it in articles about Reverend Barber and decided to dig deeper on my own. If you know this history, your education is more complete than mine. If not, it's worth reading about this event, a chilling example of the dangers which can follow from blacks growing in affluence and influence, and joining forces with poor whites, in a place where racism reigns supreme.

Here's the basic story. Wilmington was the largest city in North Carolina in the late 19th century and also home to a large, reasonably affluent and educated black populace made up in part of skilled workers, professionals and business people. The city also had one on the few black-owned daily newspapers in the country, the Daily Record.

At the time, the Democratic Party was the party of racism and segregation and the Republican Party deserved to be called the Party of Lincoln. The Republican party was composed of white and black voters. North Carolina Republicans were joined by the Populists to form the Fusion Coalition. By 1894, the Fusion party had taken the governorship and every other statewide office. Blacks served in local and state governments.

The Democratic Party decided the best way to regain political control was to appeal to whites' racial resentment. The state party chairman stated, "North Carolina is a WHITE MAN'S STATE and WHITE MEN will rule it, and they will crush the party of Negro domination beneath a majority so overwhelming that no other party will ever dare to attempt to establish negro rule here."

White Supremacy clubs formed around the state. In Wilmington, some of the most incendiary anti-black speeches came from Alfred Waddell, a gifted orator and member of the city's upper class. In one speech he said, "We will never surrender to a ragged raffle of Negroes, even if we have to choke the Cape Fear River with carcasses."

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Educators, It's Definitely Time To Get Political

Posted By on Mon, May 14, 2018 at 4:38 PM

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"You teachers need to get back to playing beanbag with your boys and girls and leave the political hardball to us. Don't trouble your pretty little educator heads with things you don't understand."

That's the mantra Republicans are directing at teachers: "Don't get political."

"You said you wanted a raise," teachers are being told. "Well, we gave you one. You're welcome. But some of your leaders won't take 'Yes' for an answer. They don't care about you. They just want to make this political."

Republicans have been using public education as a political punching bag for years so they can rationalize underfunding the education of 80 percent of our children who attend public schools while they funnel ever more money to private school vouchers. So it's only natural, they want teachers to take their raises and go home before they cause any more trouble.

"You're putting an initiative on the ballot to tax the rich? Bad move. If you get partisan, you'll lose public support."

That's coming from a party whose elected officials signed "No New Taxes" pledges and a governor who promises to cut taxes every legislative session. They fill their campaign war chests with contributions from corporations, Arizona's wealthy elite and, of course, the Koch brothers network. The money comes with the understanding that taxes on the rich will continue their downward slide. Naturally they hope teachers will acknowledge a simple fact of life: When the rich get richer and teachers make subsistence wages, that's just the price of Freedom.

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Friday, May 11, 2018

The Games BASIS Plays

Posted By on Fri, May 11, 2018 at 9:21 AM

PHOTOSPIN
  • PhotoSpin
Dust off your bullshit detector, put in new set of batteries and turn it on.

Ready? OK, feed this into your BSD. "The five top high schools in the country are all in Arizona, and they're all part of one charter school chain." Does that statement trigger your detector's smell alert? Are red lights flashing? I hope so. Such ridiculously lopsided results should raise suspicions that someone is gaming the system.

"BASIS has the top five high schools in the country!" It's all over the news and on the latest BASIS public relations blast. To be accurate, it should read, "BASIS snagged the top five spots on U.S. News & World Report's high school rankings by requiring its academically select students to take at least 8 Advanced Placement courses." AP or IB (International Baccalaureate) courses decide a school's ranking. The more courses students take and the better they do on the exams, the higher the ranking. Period. BASIS has figured out how to play the game better than any other schools in the country.

The Star article on the U.S. News & World Report ranking is hopelessly misleading. Hank Stephenson, who usually does his homework, must have knocked this one out in a few minutes so he could get back to more serious reporting. If he ran a simple google search, he could have read my posts about the rankings's questionable criteria from 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Or he might have tapped his colleague Tim Steller on the shoulder, who exposed the ranking system in the Star in 2013.

Stephenson and a lot of other reporters have written that the rankings are based on diversity, free/reduced lunch programs, graduation rates, state test scores, things like that. And, Stephenson adds at the end of the list, "Advanced Placement [is] also considered." That's like saying the winner of a boxing match is chosen based on weight, medical exams, drug testing, things like that. And what happens in the ring is also considered.

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Friday, May 4, 2018

UA, ASU Libertarian Schools Are Growing Fat On Money From the Government They Despise (It's Much Worse Than I Thought)

Posted By on Fri, May 4, 2018 at 12:42 PM

COURTESY OF BIGSTOCK
  • Courtesy of BigStock
Here's something I never thought I'd say. Arizona is throwing money at education.

I'm not talking about the K-12 budget. The raises for teachers still leave them far behind the national average. The rest of the public school funding is ridiculously low as well, and it will stay that way as long as Republicans control every part of state government.

No, I'm talking about the state throwing money at the libertarian outposts at University of Arizona and Arizona State University. They've received so much state funding, they don't know what to do with it. Literally. Both have multimillion dollar surpluses from the past two years. And there's more where that came from in next year's budget.

I've written a lot recently about the UA's Center for the Philosophy of Freedom (aka, the Freedom Center) and the Department of Political Economy & Moral Science. In the process, I've talked a bit about the money they've gotten from the state budget, but I found out this morning I've failed in my attempt to follow the money, as have many media outlets I've been reading. I'm going to do my best to get the budget numbers right here. If my explanations are a bit garbled, forgive me. This old English teacher is doing the best he can. And if I don't get it 100 percent right, I guarantee it's far closer than what I've written before.

Thursday, the Star ran an article, Conservative centers at UA, ASU will get $7.5M more amid surpluses. It's an edited version of a piece of investigative reporting by Jim Small, executive director and editor of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting. The funding numbers Small reports astounded me. I had written that the Freedom Center received $2 million in 2017 and is set to receive another $1 million in the current budget — $3 million total. Small puts the figure at $5 million over the past two years and another $3.5 million in the upcoming budget, for a total of $8.5 million. ASU's School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership has received even more, a total of $10.5 million counting next year's allotment. They literally don't know how to spend it all, according to Small. UA's libertarian outposts will have $5.5 million left over at the end of this fiscal year. The ASU department will have $4.25 million remaining.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Some Schools Announce Reopening as Lawmakers Debate Proposal on Education Funding

Posted By on Wed, May 2, 2018 at 11:13 AM

LOGAN BURTCH-BUUS
  • Logan Burtch-Buus

Although a number of local school districts announced they would reopen tomorrow, because lawmakers have yet to vote on a budget that increases education funding, districts reversed their decisions Wednesday afternoon.

As many schools across the state continue into their second week of teacher walkouts, leadership with Arizona Education United put out a video on Facebook yesterday saying that while they oppose the budget proposal, it’s the best they’re going to get right now, and teachers should return to their schools though the fight for better school funding shall continue.

The caveat was that educators would only return to school if the budget passed, and as of late Wednesday afternoon, it was still on the House floor.

“We need to continue our dedication to this fight, and I can tell you right now, my personal dedication to this fight has never been greater,” AEU organizer Noah Karvelis said in the Tuesday video. “And we will continue to fight until we have $1.1 billion restored and we end the education crisis.”

The Pima County districts that announced reopening in anticipation of an agreement that has yet to come included Amphi Public Schools, Marana Unified School District and Catalina Foothills Unified School District.

Tucson Unified School District hasn’t said when schools will reopen, and Sunnyside Unified School District is closed the rest of the week.

MUSD said in a statement that they’re talking with the Department of Education about what options are available to avoid adding days to the end of the school year.

Amphi Public Schools said the district will need to make up instructional time, but that potential options to minimize the impact to families is being explored. A few options they are looking at is extending existing school days by a few minutes each and cancelling scheduled early-out days.


Vail Unified School District reopened on Tuesday, with a teacher attendance rate of 77 percent.

“I would like to publicly thank all of our teachers—those who are in their classrooms today and those who are not. It was a difficult decision for many of them,” Superintendent Calvin Baker wrote in a letter to parents.

The bill proposal on the house floor today includes a $371 million restoration to school funding, not the $1.1 billion the Red for Ed movement has been asking for to return education funding to pre-recession levels.

That annual funding, increasing incrementally to $371 million over five years, will fund things such as increasing pay for classified and support staff, textbooks, curriculum, technology and school buses. How that money is spent will be up to individual districts and charter schools.

The proposal also includes 20 percent teacher raises by 2020, $53 million for maintaining school facilities and $88 million cash funding for five new school buildings for districts that have been waiting for money to rebuild or expand school buildings. There’s also funding for state universities, Maricopa and Pima Joint Technical Education District, and behavioral health specialists in districts and charter schools.

Christine Thompson, president and CEO of the education advocacy group Expect More Arizona, says the bill is a good start though more needs to be done to find revenue sources that support teachers and support staff, maintain school infrastructure and provide students with wrap around services.

“We need long-term investment, and we need support,” she said. “A sleeping giant has been awakened, and we need to make sure everyone is paying attention as we go into an election cycle.”

The state plans to pay for the increased education funding through a number of measures, the bulk of which would come from projected increases in state revenue.

One way that some Red for Ed supporters are aiming to find another revenue source to completely restore education funding is through a ballot initiative called the Invest in Education Act.

If the initiative wins the uphill battle of gathering 150,642 signatures by the July 5 deadline, voters could decide whether to raise income taxes on the wealthiest 1 percent of Arizonans to fund education. As reported in the Arizona Republic, leaders of the initiative expect it to provide $690 million in new education funding.

This story was updated at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

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'Educators Support Fund' Is Helping Out Tucson Area Educators

Posted By on Wed, May 2, 2018 at 10:35 AM

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The local Educators Support Fund is accepting donations to help Tucson area educators who have taken a financial hit during the walkout.

"We opened Tuesday at noon," said Cheryl Cage, one of five people who created the fund. "As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, we've already collected over $6,000."

The site allows educators to submit requests for funds up to $500. Though many educators were able to use personal leave or sick leave to cover the missed days, others lost pay. "A number of requests have come in from people asking for something like $120 to cover utility bills," Cage said. "The requests have been modest and reasonable."

The fund defines "educator" as anyone who should be included in the pay raise demands of Arizona teachers. Requests will be considered from educators working in the Marana, TUSD, Amphitheater, Flowing Wells, Catalina Foothills, Tanque Verde, Sunnyside and Vail school districts.

The sponsors of the site include Cage, a long-time community activist, as well as: Terry Goddard, former Attorney General; Joel Feinman, Pima County Public Defender; Luci Messing, past Tucson Education Association president; and Robin Hiller, founder and executive director of Voices for Education. Hiller's organization is a 501c(3), which allows it to collect and distribute the funds.

According to Cage, “Our educators make significant financial sacrifices for our community. Through our financial support we hope to show them that we have their backs and are willing to sacrifice along with them."

Anyone wishing to contribute or request funds should go to the website, educatorssupportfund.com.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

UA's 'Freedom School' Isn't Free Of Costs Or Hiring Restrictions

Posted By on Tue, May 1, 2018 at 5:26 PM

COURTESY OF STATICFLICKR.COM
  • Courtesy of staticflickr.com
Two articles put UA's Freedom School back in the news, directly and indirectly.

First story: At a time when Ducey's proposed budget is squeezing blood from every funding turnip it can find, the governor managed to find a million dollars to give to the Koch-backed libertarian outpost at University of Arizona. It includes $100,000 to develop a "civics and constitutionalism curriculum for K-12 and postsecondary education institutions."

Second story: An Associated Press story on the Star's front page discusses how the Koch brothers give money to Virginia's George Mason University to hire professors, then demand a say in who is hired and fired. Not covered in the story is a similar arrangement at UA's "Freedom School."

The Ducey budget.

Ducey and Republican legislative leaders have been scrambling to pull together a budget with enough money to fund a 9 percent salary increase for teachers. That means, among other things, cutting $35 million from hospitals, cutting $52 million from Medicaid prescription costs, taking $20 million from the state's settlement with Volkswagen and adding $16.7 million to property taxes in Tucson.

But with all the cuts, Ducey found $2 million to give to the Koch-backed "Freedom Schools" at UA and ASU, a million dollars each. The current budget is the first one with a line item for the Koch-backed "Freedom Schools." This proposed budget will be the second.

Call the $2 million what it is: a taxpayer funded gift to the universities' libertarian centers in exchange for millions of dollars from the Koch donor network to help fund Ducey's reelection efforts. In 2014, based on the promise that Ducey would be Arizona's Great Right Hope, the Koch brothers and their affiliates spent millions on his first gubernatorial campaign. The reported total ranged from $1.5 million to $5 million depending on how much dark money spent on the campaign came from the Koch network.

Since then, Ducey has proven himself to be the real deal. He's cut taxes every year and pushed through an expansion of private school vouchers. In 2017, he told the millionaires and billionaires gathered at the Koch Donor Summit, "I needed the power of the network" to push the voucher expansion to cover all K-12 students through the legislature. Ducey has every reason to expect to receive a hefty chunk of the $400 million the Koch network plans to spend on the 2018 elections.

Of the million dollars going to UA's "Freedom School"—the "Freedom School" is actually two entities, the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom and the Department of Political Economy & Moral Science—$100,000 is earmarked to develop a "civics and constitutionalism curriculum for K-12 and postsecondary education institutions." That means taxpayers are funding the expansion of the course, Phil 101: Ethics, Economy, and Entrepreneurship, which is currently being taught in four local school districts as well as a number of charter and private schools. Creation of the course was funded by a $3 million grant to the Freedom Center from the John Templeton Foundation. Using the grant, David Schmidtz, founding director of the Freedom Center, created the course out of whole cloth. He and associates wrote the curriculum, wrote and self-published the textbook and trained the high school teachers in summer seminars. Schmidtz is listed as the teacher of record for the high school courses.

If the budget being considered by the legislature passes, taxpayers will pick up the tab for maintaining and expanding the spread of libertarian-centered courses into public high schools around the state.

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