Education

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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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.”

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Friday, April 27, 2018

The Teachers Are Right. Their Strike Makes Sense. I Know Because Ducey Said So.

Posted By on Fri, Apr 27, 2018 at 4:20 PM

shutterstock_156072062-1.jpg
Three encouraging takeaways for me from Thursday's walkout.

A Sea Of Red: 50,000 to 75,000 teachers and supporters filled the streets of Phoenix and gathered in front of the state Capitol. Thousands of others lined the streets in Tucson and, I imagine, other cities as well. A terrific show of unity.

Good #RedforEd Ink: The media appeared to be awed by and delighted with the teachers and the walkout. The Yays! far outweighed the Nays in print and on TV news.

The Governor's Seal Of Approval: Ducey had nothing but positive things to say about teachers Thursday. No talk of political theater. Nothing about teachers deserting their classrooms and their students. In a televised interview, he said, "I'm listening to these teachers. I think citizens have a voice. They have a right to petition their government. I think they want to be heard, and they are being heard."

Ducey's almost-endorsement of the walkout is huge, as is his acknowledgement that teachers deserve a 20 percent raise. Governor One Percent got religion a few weeks ago and increased his salary offer twenty fold. He even said—be still my heart—that the work Arizona's teachers have done makes them worthy of a raise.
"These teachers have earned the pay raise. They're getting the results and outcomes inside the classroom. . . . Our public districts and our public charters are improving faster than any state in the nation."
The improvement he's talking about is Arizona's scores on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress ( NAEP) test, which went up while most other states stayed flat.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Diane Douglas: "Public Servants Shouldn't Unionize"

Posted By on Wed, Apr 25, 2018 at 3:54 PM

COURTESY OF FLICKR.COM
  • Courtesy of flickr.com
Diane Douglas, Superintendent of Public Instruction, had a 20 minute interview with reporter Derek Staahl Monday about the potential teacher walkout. The interview had a number of noteworthy moments, but the jaw dropper was when Douglas went beyond speaking out against the walkout and said public servants should not unionize.

Douglas said during the interview that she doesn't like the idea of a walkout, insisting she's only thinking of the children.
"Stay on the job. Stay in your positions. Show up for work on Thursday. Continue your negotiations with the governor and the legislature. . . . I think there are solutions to this problem, but hurting our families and our children are not one of them."
Douglas wants to call it a strike, not a walkout, because that allows her to add, "In Arizona it is not legal for teachers to strike." Sounding like a third grade teacher addressing her unruly class, she said there might be consequences if the children — I mean, the teachers — don't behave. If they went out on strike, she wouldn't punish them herself, but the principal — scratch that, the State Board of Education — might take action, and you children — I mean, you teachers — wouldn't like that, would you?
"One of the ramifications could be decertification. . . . If they walk out, and I’m not advocating for one way or another, but if parents or citizens file a complaint at the department, we have an investigations unit, and I’ve ensured the board this morning, we will investigate anything that comes. . . . It may not be decertifying them. It may be a letter of censure within their file that goes on their record and is reported to the national database, and if they choose to leave and go teach somewhere else, it can be something that follows them. I would encourage cooler heads to prevail."
Then came Douglas' statement against public servants unionizing. I have a feeling she went a bit farther than she meant to here — I think she meant to say she was against strikes by government workers, not unions — but I'm fairly certain those were her true feelings coming out of her mouth, and it'll be pretty hard to call them back in again.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Conservatives Told: Keep Criticizing Teachers, But Not About Their Pay or Perks

Posted By on Tue, Apr 24, 2018 at 5:00 PM

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Here's a golden oldie. See if you remember it. "Teachers shouldn't complain about their pay. They make more than the average worker. When they retire, they live off their generous state pensions. And look at all that vacation time they get. Their cushy pay and perks come courtesy of the teachers union which squeezes money out us taxpayers while it protects bad teachers and doesn't give a damn about the kids."

Did I leave anything out? I don't think so. I know the talking points by heart. I heard them every year when teacher contract time rolled around. The anti-teacher rhetoric grew louder and more frequent over the years as conservatives ramped up their anti-tax, anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-government agenda. The bashing of high paid teachers and their mercenary union became a year round mantra.

Funny though. I haven't heard those talking points much during the past few months. You'd think if there was ever a time to pull out the big "lazy, overpaid teachers" guns, it would be now, what with the demands for higher teacher salaries rolling from West Virginia to Oklahoma to Kentucky to Arizona. Why did all the conservatives stop using what had always been a sure fire winner?

It looks like they got the memo. Literally. A three page memo titled "Messaging Guide: How to Talk about Teacher Strikes" was put out by the State Policy Network, an umbrella organization that pulls together ideas from conservative think tanks and disseminates them to member organizations in all 50 states.

The memo begins by telling conservatives to ditch the "pampered teacher" line.
"A message that focuses on teacher hours or summer vacations will sound tone-deaf when there are dozens of videos and social media posts going viral from teachers about their second jobs, teachers having to rely on food pantries, classroom books that are falling apart, paper rationing, etc. This is a time to sympathize with teachers."
In other words, "We've been out-messaged. We're busted!" All the lies about pampered teachers don't work anymore. Those crafty teachers took unfair advantage by using actual evidence to prove they're underpaid and schools are underfunded. Bummer!

Oh, and don't bring up school choice, another standard conservative answer to anyone who complains about public school salaries and funding.
"It is also not the right time to talk about school choice — that's off topic, and teachers at choice-schools are often paid less than district school teachers."
Ix-nay on the Oice-chay, got it?

So how should conservatives go about bad-mouthing schools and teachers?

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Catalina Brewing Beers Good News for Striking Teachers

Posted By on Tue, Apr 24, 2018 at 4:00 PM

Catalina Brewing Company is throwing their hat into the educational ring, offering specials for all teachers and their allies. The support may a bit seem odd until you learn their staff is mostly made up of former or current teachers. This week they’ll be hosting a few events for #RedforEd.


Wednesday, April 25, 4 to 9 p.m.: A pre-strike special will be open for everyone who wants to show their support. CBC will sell two slices of pizza and a pint for $7. Owner and brewmaster Hank Rowe, who is a retired social studies teacher from Coronado and Amphi, will be pouring and serving!


Thursday, April 26: Teachers can get a beer and a sandwich from The Jersey Grill for $10.


This week CBC is also releasing their "Hop For Teacher" Session IPA, and their "Teacher's Aid" Scottish Ale will be kegged in the coming weeks. In addition, they always offer a 10 percent discount to all those involved in education, both current and former.



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Eve of a Strike: Teachers and Districts Prep To Walk out of Schools This Week

Posted By on Tue, Apr 24, 2018 at 3:07 PM

Tucson Magnet High educators rally in front of the downtown high school on Saturday, April 14. - DANYELLE KHMARA
  • Danyelle Khmara
  • Tucson Magnet High educators rally in front of the downtown high school on Saturday, April 14.

With teacher walkouts starting on Thursday, educators statewide are wearing red, waving Red for Ed signs and smiling at honking cars in front of their schools every morning, across Tucson and much of the state, demanding better public education funding.

Statewide, 57,000 votes were counted from public school teachers and staff, and 78 percent voted to walk out, according to Arizona Educators United and Arizona Education Association.

Marea Jenness, a Tucson High Magnet School teacher and leader in the Red for Ed movement, is excited about the vote. She’s been living paycheck to paycheck for years while waiting for a movement like Red for Ed.

“This is just the opportunity of a lifetime, to fight for our schools and public education in Arizona,” she said.

Red for Ed, led by the grassroot group Arizona Educators United, or AEU, has been pressuring Gov. Doug Ducey and the state legislature for weeks to give teachers 20 percent raises, among other things.

“A decade of severe budget cuts have left our classrooms in disrepair, our teachers demoralized and our students shortchanged,” said AZ Schools Now, a nonprofit advocating for better investment in public schools. “Governor Ducey has within his power the ability to end this walkout by collaborating with Red for Ed and the leaders of both parties to find sustainable, permanent and equitable solutions for our schools. Anything less is unacceptable.”

As of Tuesday morning, Ducey hadn’t yet met with either AEU or the teacher’s union Arizona Education Association, although both groups requested to negotiation with the governor.
Arizona educators are currently among the lowest paid in the country. And in response to mounting pressure, Ducey agreed last week to provide 20 percent raises for teachers as well as some additional education funding, but that did not meet all the Red for Ed demands.

“No one wants to see teachers strike,” Ducey said. “If schools shut down, our kids are the ones who will lose out. We have worked side by side with the education community to give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020. I am committed to giving teaches this raise, and I am working to get this passed at the legislature.”

In a Monday radio interview, Ducey said he doesn’t understand why teachers are walking out when he’s giving them what they want.

But teachers in the movement say that Ducey’s offer falls well short of their demands.

“We’ve been pretty uniform in our message,” said Jason Freed, president of the Tucson Education Association. “Everybody is pretty in agreement that the current plan he has is not a workable one.”
Freed said the educators never wanted a walkout. They want to “get what’s right for kids, educators and schools.”

Teachers in the movement are skeptical that Ducey will find the money for his promised raises if he wins reelection later this year. Apart from their own paychecks, educators are also demanding wage increases for all education support staff, scheduled annual teacher raises, education funding restored to 2008 levels, and no new tax cuts until per-pupil spending reaches the national average.


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Friday, April 20, 2018

The Strike Is On: Arizona Teachers Prepared for Walkout Next Week

Posted By on Fri, Apr 20, 2018 at 12:03 PM

Along with many Tucson schools, educators at Amphitheater High School hold a Red for Ed walk-in before school on April 11. - DANYELLE KHMARA
  • Danyelle Khmara
  • Along with many Tucson schools, educators at Amphitheater High School hold a Red for Ed walk-in before school on April 11.


Educators’ strike will start on Thursday, April 26, across Arizona, according to leaders in the Red for Ed movement.


Votes from all public school teachers and classified staff who chose to participate were tallied last night. Arizona Educators United and Arizona Education Association said they counted more than 50,000 ballots and about 78 percent voted to strike.


Marea Jenness, a Tucson High Magnet School teacher and leader in the Red for Ed movement, said she’s excited about the vote.


“This is just the opportunity of a lifetime, to fight for our schools and public education in Arizona,” she said.


The Red for Ed movement, led by the grassroot group Arizona Educators United, or AEU, has been pressuring Gov. Doug Ducey and the state legislature for weeks to give teachers 20 percent raises, among other things.


Arizona educators are currently among the lowest paid in the country. And in response to mounting pressure, Ducey agreed last week to provide 20 percent raises for teachers over a three-year period as well as some additional education funding, but that did not meet all of AEU’s demands.


“No one wants to see teachers strike,” Ducey said in a prepared statement. “If schools shut down, our kids are the ones who will lose out. We have worked side by side with the education community to give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020. I am committed to giving teaches this raise, and I am working to get this passed at the legislature.”


Apart from the 20 percent raises for teachers, educators are demanding wage increases for all education support staff that’s competitive with other states, scheduled annual raises for teachers, education funding restored to 2008 levels, and no new tax cuts until per-pupil spending reaches the national average.


Jenness organized one of the first local Red for Ed rallies, which resulted in more than 1,000 educators and allies marching out of their downtown schools earlier this month. She said Tucson High is going to have minimal staff during the strike, mostly administrators and some custodians and cafeteria staff, to make sure the students still get breakfast and lunch. She also said there will be limited bus service.


“We’re prepared to stay out longer than the state is prepared to watch kids not graduate,” Jenness said. “The state of Arizona and the Legislature is going to have to deal with the crisis they create.”


Another complication of strikes is that any day of school closure will have to be made up in order for students to complete grade requirements. Therefore, students who are ready to graduate will still need to complete days they miss.


The Marana Unified School District put out a statement yesterday, signed by MUSD Superintendent Doug Wilson, that said the district hopes such extreme measures as a strike will not be needed.


“Our educators would much rather have the state legislature and Governor implement solutions to address salaries and public school funding,” the letter read. “District Administration and our Governing Board do not support a walkout or any activity that disrupts instruction and negatively impacts our students and families; however, we continue to support advocacy toward greater funding for public education and salaries”


MUSD said the schools will stay open as long as they have enough staff to supervise students. But if they don’t, they will be forced to close, a measure that would be district wide rather than school by school.


The Amphitheater Public Schools district also sent out a letter saying they may be forced to close schools if there are not enough staff to adequately supervise the children. But Amphi will look at school closure on a case by case basis rather than district wide.


Catalina Foothills Unified District also said they may have to close schools if there’s not enough staff to supervise students.


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