Education

Friday, November 2, 2018

Being Jewish, Watching the Rise Of Antisemitism

Posted By on Fri, Nov 2, 2018 at 3:11 PM

CHARLOTTESVILLE "UNITE THE RIGHT" RALLY. COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA
  • Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally. Courtesy of wikimedia

It's not an especially brave act to proclaim, "I am a Jew." I belong to a privileged minority in the U.S. compared to most other minority groups. I have had no antisemitism worthy of the name directed at me in my lifetime. I have never had an opportunity taken away from me because of my religious/cultural identity. I have no personal complaints.

But we are at a moment where I feel the need to say the words, "I am a Jew," if for no other reason than to let myself know I am not afraid to say them aloud or in print. And yet, to be perfectly honest, one reason for saying the words is because, in the current climate, being Jewish doesn't worry me, but saying "I am a Jew" does, a little. That is precisely the time to talk about it.

We are seeing a frightening rise in antisemitism in this country. The latest incident I read about happened Thursday night. Standing alone, it would only be a shudder in the steady undercurrent of antisemitic hatred lurking beneath the surface in this country. But combined with the resurgence of antisemitic rhetoric and events which have been building since 2016 and have accelerated rapidly in the past weeks and months, it is a terrifying example of what could become regular occurrences.

Comedian Ilana Glazer scheduled a get-out-the-vote event at a Brooklyn synagogue Thursday night where she was going to interview a journalist and two Democratic state senate candidates. It was canceled because antisemitic graffiti was found on inside walls of the synagogue, including “Die Jew Rats,” “We are here,” “Hitler,” “Jew Better Be Ready” and “End it now."

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Liver Life Walk to Take Place at Brandi Fenton Memorial Park

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2018 at 4:12 PM

click image “Team Felipe” first participated in the Liver Life Walk in 2015, after Felipe De Jesus Celis Ruiz’s liver transplant. After passing away from liver failure on Sat., May 26, 2018, Felipe’s legacy will continue. - LIVE LIFE WALK
  • Live Life Walk
  • “Team Felipe” first participated in the Liver Life Walk in 2015, after Felipe De Jesus Celis Ruiz’s liver transplant. After passing away from liver failure on Sat., May 26, 2018, Felipe’s legacy will continue.
Help bring awareness to liver disease and provide financial support for educational programs and patient services to the millions of Americans battling one of the 100 known liver diseases, on Saturday's Liver Life Walk.

Every walker is provided with sample emails, a personal fundraising page and staff to provide guidance and fundraising (online or through mail) support.

Walkers who raise $100 or more will receive the National Walk Shirt. Walkers who raise $250 or more will receive additional fundraising prizes. The National Silver Sponsor is Salix Pharmaceuticals and the National Partner is CVS Specialty who help by offering product discounts to participants, providing product donations to the event and financial support.

The event features activities for kids, food, entertainment and information about the American Liver Foundation.

More than 10,000 people from across the country come together and raise almost $2 million annually. The event is free, but registration is required either before the event or at the event and there is no fundraising requirement, but walkers are strongly encouraged to raise a minimum of $100.

Form a team of family members, friends or colleagues and walk and fundraise together to make a difference in the fight against liver disease!

Liver Life Walk will take place on Saturday, Nov. 3 at Brandi Fenton Memorial Park from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.

5 Facts about the American Liver Foundation:

1. Their education programs reached approximately 46,000 people in 2016.
2. They are the leading source of information on liver health and liver disease.
3. Their toll-free National Helpline and 16 divisions across the country provide support to patients, families, caregivers and the public by phone, email and community outreach.
4. Their National Helpline volume doubled in 2016 with nearly 12,000 inquiries.
5. They have provided almost $26 million in research funding to over 840 early career investigators. 

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Empowerment Scholarship Account Money Misspent

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2018 at 1:20 PM

COURTESY OF BIGSTOCK
  • Courtesy of BigStock
Here's another one of those great stories in the Arizona Republic I don't think we'll be seeing in the Star. Add it to the Republic's terrific investigative reporting on corruption and profiteering in charter schools, and southern Arizona is missing out on some important education news. That is a damn shame.

Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (aka Education Savings Accounts, aka Vouchers on Steroids) are a backdoor voucher program which gives debit cards to parents to spend on their children's educations so long as the children don't attend a district or charter school. When parents get the money, they're told it can only be spent on education. "We'll be watching you, so don't use the money for other things," they're told. But actually, no one is watching.

In fiscal year 2018, $700,000 was misspent by ESA parents according to an audit released by the Department of Education. The items include obviously non-educational purchases like beauty supplies, sports apparel and computer tech support. Very little of that money has been paid back to the state.

It's the kind of story the "good government" folks at the Goldwater Institute might want to cover. I say that because G.I. recently published a report on fraud in school districts. The report came fast on the heels of the Republic stories about people making millions on charters, so I'm guessing it was written to counter the bad press — G.I. loves charters almost as much as it loves vouchers — by saying, "Hey look, school districts do it too!" However, something tells me, pointing out voucher-related fraud isn't the kind of deflection G.I. is planning any time soon.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Arizona Supreme Court Joins Republicans' Zero Tolerance Policy for Citizen Initiatives

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2018 at 9:50 AM

COURTESY OF BIGSTOCK
  • Courtesy of BigStock

It would be foolish of me to say with 100 percent certainty that the Arizona Supreme Court ruling against the "Invest in Education" initiative was politically motivated. I'm only 95 percent certain they wanted to knock the initiative off the ballot for political reasons — with a 5 percent margin of error.

The Supreme Court decision against Invest in Ed fits a little too neatly with the zero tolerance policy toward citizen initiatives enacted by the Republican majority legislature and signed by Governor Ducey to be a coincidence.

The legislature's zero policy law requires "strict compliance" with the rules governing petitions. Ridiculously strict compliance. If people carrying petitions make a mistake in the way they fill it out, no matter how small, the entire petition and all its signatures can be tossed. If people signing a petition go outside the lines with their signatures or other information — if the tail of a "g" or a "y" extends outside the line — that signature can be thrown out.

Why the new ridiculously strict compliance law? Because Republicans hate citizen initiatives. They'll do whatever they can do to make it harder for them to make it to the ballot.

It's easy to understand why. This year a citizen initiative limiting one of Republicans' pet projects, private school vouchers, is on the ballot. So is an initiative to increase the use of clean energy, something Republicans all over the country oppose so deeply, they've decided to ignore science, thermometers and their own eyes and say, "Climate change? What climate change?"

Then there are the two citizen initiatives that didn't make it. One would have banned Dark Money, the lifeblood running through the veins of Republican politics. The other is Invest in Ed, which would have made people whose taxable income is over $250,000 ($500,000 for couples) pay a higher income tax rate.

That's four initiatives Republicans despise. They never would let ideas like those get anywhere near the floor of the legislature, and they hate it that citizens have the ability to go around the Republican political stranglehold on the state by using the initiative process.

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Charter Communications Officer Makes Nice In an Op Ed, But Tells a Few Stretchers

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2018 at 3:59 PM

COURTESY OF BIGSTOCK
  • Courtesy of Bigstock
Charter school leaders are looking for a kumbaya moment after being rocked by recent stories of corruption and profiteering, which led some Republican candidates to step away from them and adopt a harder line on increasing charter oversight and transparency. (Don't worry, charter folks, Republicans don't mean it. If they're reelected, they'll be your friends and apologists once again.) So charters are sending out the spin doctors to staunch the bleeding.

Prime example: an op-ed in the Arizona Republic by Rhonda Cagle, chief communications and development officer for Imagine Schools, a national charter chain with over a dozen schools in Arizona. The headline reads, Everything you need to know about Arizona charter schools. Actually, it's not quite everything, and what Cagle states as fact has a whole lot of spin mixed in.

The op-ed begins by saying charter schools have been under scrutiny lately — true fact. Also that scrutiny can be a good way to stimulate dialog — another true fact. And that lots of families choose to send their kids to charters — yet another true fact. It ends by saying we shouldn't be asking whether or not charter schools are better, we should applaud the number of viable educational options presented to students and their parents, both charter and district schools. I agree. Good schools for your children are where you find them, and charters are part of the mix.

All that is fine, pretty much down the middle. But at other times, Cagle's assertions aren't as hard and fast as she makes them out to be.

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Local Teachers Apply For $5,000 Grant

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2018 at 2:19 PM

click image Teachers and Technology Grant Program - CENTURYLINK
  • CenturyLink
  • Teachers and Technology Grant Program
Since the beginning of October, the CenturyLink Clarke M. Williams Foundation has invited local pre-kindergarden through 12th grade teachers to apply for a Teachers and Technology program.

The program offers grants up to $5,000 to fund STEM projects in classrooms including subjects like science, technology, engineering and math. The grant program started in 2008 and has since awarded more than $8 million dollars in grants to teachers. It has provided students with the opportunity to use recent technology tools in their education and supports student achievement.

The CenturyLink Clarke M. Williams Foundation is an organization dedicated to improving local communities. In the 2017-2018 school year, nearly 2,000 grant applications were submitted and more than 300 grants were awarded based on the project's overall innovation and anticipated impact the project would have in the classroom.

Applications for the Teachers and Technology grant will be accepted now through Jan. 12, 2019. The review process will be completed and grants will be presented from April 1 to May 15. To apply for a grant, click here. 

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Really? Charter School Cheerleaders Are Going To Reform Charters All By Themselves?

Posted By on Tue, Oct 23, 2018 at 3:14 PM

go-charters.jpg
Oh please.

According to an AZ Republic article which gives off only the faintest odor of skepticism, we're about to get significant improvements in Arizona's charter school oversight and transparency courtesy of all those people who have shielded charters from oversight and transparency in the past: Republican legislators and statewide officeholders. We're supposed to believe the people who have always coddled charters and condemned school districts are going to take charters to task for their corruption and profiteering. And they'll do it after the elections are over, when they have a years-long window before they face voters again.

If you believe that, I've got some beach-front property in Marana you can buy with all the money you get back from Trump's middle class tax cuts.

The Republic article begins with the Arizona Charter Schools Association, the state's biggest cheerleader for charter schools, which is very influential in state Republican circles. After seeing all the bad publicity charters have gotten from recent investigative reporting, Eileen Sigmund, the association's CEO, has decided it's the right time to say, some changes should be made.

In 2016, the ACSA got a $1.6 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation. It's a yearly contribution from the multi-billionaire family which owns Walmart, and the money amounts to half the association's budget. The Foundation gave out $190 million in K-12 education grants that year, the majority of which either went to organizations with the word "charter" in their name or to privatization/"education reform" groups. There's no bigger financial supporter of charter schools in the country than the Walton family. Sigmund isn't about to anger her benefactors. Post elections, she will make it her prime mission to be sure any changes to charter regulations happens around the edges, if they happen at all.


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Friday, October 19, 2018

Parents: VOTE! (For Education)

Posted By on Fri, Oct 19, 2018 at 3:30 PM

parents-out-voting.jpg
No one has a greater stake in Arizona education than parents of school-aged children. No one. Except maybe parents of children too young to attend school who will be in kindergarten in a few short years (It'll be sooner than you can imagine!). And people who are planning to have kids, whose future children will enter school within a decade. All of you are going to gain or lose based on the results of the upcoming elections.

So, my advice to parents is, VOTE! If you have a mail-in ballot sitting around beginning to gather dust, pick it up, fill it out and mail it in. No stamp required. If not, there's early voting at the polls. And there's November 6.

Vote for your children, which means, vote education — whatever that means to you. More on that later.

I figure there are about 400,000 of you parents with school-aged children registered to vote. (I'll explain how I arrived at that ballpark figure at the end of the post.) If you vote at 35 percent, which is typical for non-presidential elections, that's 140,000 ballots cast. Some of you who normally sit on the sidelines could, and should, decide this election is important enough to make the extra effort. If the number goes to 50 percent, that's 200,000. If you double your voting rate, you'll be pushing a quarter million.

Parents are an electoral force to be reckoned with. If you split along party lines as usual, not much will change. But if you vote for candidates who are long-time supporters of public education, not candidates-come-lately who, after years of bashing "failing schools" and "failing teachers," have decided it's politically expedient to say our schools deserve a little more money and support, you can be game changers.

I know what it means to me when I say, "Vote for education," but it may mean something different to you. Here's a thumbnail guide you can use to decide what you think "Vote for education" means.

Vote Democratic if you believe our public education should be fully funded, that Arizona should no longer occupy the nation's bottom rung in per-student funding.

Vote Republican if you don't want to "throw money" at failing schools and failing teachers because more money doesn't translate to better schools.

Vote Democratic if you think charter schools need more oversight and regulation to get rid of the bad actors and profiteers.

Vote Republican if you think the current lax charter rules and regulations are just fine, that we should let the "invisible hand of the marketplace" work its magic.

Vote Democratic if you think our two backdoor private school voucher programs, Tuition Tax Credits and Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, take money away from public education and favor wealthy families who would send their children to private schools anyway.

Vote Republican if you like the idea of vouchers for everyone who wants them.

Whatever you decide, parents, VOTE!

A Number-Of-Voting-Parents Note: Maybe the numbers are out there somewhere, but I didn't find them. So here's how I got to 400,000 Arizona parents of school-aged children who are registered voters.

Start with a million K-12 students. Estimate 2.5 children per family, figuring the range from big families and those with one child. That comes to 400,000 families. Estimate 1.5 parents per family. Now we're at 600,000 parents. Estimate a third of the parents either didn't make the effort to register or aren't citizens and can't vote. That leaves 400,000 parents of school-aged children who are registered voters.

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