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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

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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

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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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Thursday, October 18, 2018

My Pick For Superintendent of Public Instruction: Kathy Hoffman

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2018 at 2:15 PM

KATHY HOFFMAN
  • Kathy Hoffman
Kathy Hoffman and Frank Riggs are putting up a spirited fight to become our next Superintendent of Public Instruction. Their campaign websites are filled with educational plans and proposals, too many to list or discuss without getting so deep in the weeds, I'd never find my way out. The short version is, I like Hoffman's ideas far better than Riggs', but that doesn't tell you much.

So let's take another tack. Let's talk about hammers and nails.

No doubt you've heard the saying, "When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail." Even if the hammer you're holding isn't the best, or the only tool for the job in front of you, you're going to try and find a way to use it. You know that hammer. You like that hammer. It's the first tool that comes to mind when you have a situation you have to deal with before you consider other options.

It's the same with the ideas you tend to favor. They are going to be readily at hand when you're looking for solutions to problems you have to deal with. You'll call on them before you consider alternatives. Likewise with your personal and professional experience. You're going to lean on what you know to guide you.

So let's look at the hammer —actually the hammers — Hoffman and Riggs have in their tool belts which they would tend to favor if they became our next education superintendent.

Kathy Hoffman knows public schools. She knows early childhood education. She works with students with disabilities. She speaks fluent Spanish and Japanese. She understands the value of being bilingual and the importance of bilingual education.

If Hoffman becomes superintendent, her first instinct will be to seek out public school solutions to problems or opportunities she faces. She's going to think about Spanish (and other language) speakers as well as English speakers. She's going to consider students who have to overcome problems to reach educational success. She'll consider whether early childhood education should be a part of the solution.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Teachers: VOTE! (For Education)

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2018 at 2:47 PM

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Apologies to fellow teachers. (I know, I've been out of the profession for 15 years, but once a teacher, always a teacher, even after you lose your class [badum-ching!]). I know how much teachers hate being told what to do. I always did. I keep promising I won't give teachers advice, but I keep doing it anyway. My excuse is, I spent 30-plus years in the classroom, so I'm cutting myself a little slack.

My advice to teachers 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.

Teachers, vote for education, whatever that means to you. More on that later.

Arizona has about 50,000 K-12 teachers. Roughly 40,000 of them work in school districts, and most of the remainder work in charter schools. That's a whole lot of people whose lives revolve around governmental decisions. Include an equal number of non-teaching staff, and it adds up to nearly 100,000 potential education-based voters in statewide races, 3,000 per legislative district. That's more than enough to make the difference in close races.

For some reason I've never understood, teachers aren't reliable voters. I've heard figures as low a 35 percent show up for elections, which astounds me. Anything lower than 80 percent from a group of people who dedicate themselves to serving the public interest, who perform their civic duty every working day, seems wrong. Maybe some teachers feel like they use up their quotient of public service in the classroom, then when it comes time to vote, they think, "Screw it, it's time for the rest of you to step up while I work on tomorrow's lesson plan for your kids!"

OK, so this year, don't think about voting as another civic chore to add to your physically and emotionally draining teaching schedule. This year, vote out of self interest.

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McSally, Sinema Stress Voting Records During Their Only Senate Debate

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2018 at 1:50 PM

Martha McSally (left) and Kyrsten Sinema attacked each other’s voting records during a live debate Monday night. - PHOTO BY CHRIS MCCRORY/CRONKITE NEWS
  • Photo by Chris McCrory/Cronkite News
  • Martha McSally (left) and Kyrsten Sinema attacked each other’s voting records during a live debate Monday night.
In a debate peppered with accusations of lying and treason, U.S. Senate candidates Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema took shots at each other Monday in their only public debate of the 2018 election, each calling out the other’s voting record as proof that the other candidate is not a true representative of Arizona.

Sinema used the debate, which was broadcast live on Arizona PBS, to portray herself as an independent, echoing the campaign ads supporting her candidacy. She painted herself as someone willing to step over party lines, embracing the fact that she had voted largely with President Donald Trump’s agenda since 2017.

“Over the past six years, I’m proud to say I’ve taken the time to learn and grow and occasionally even change my opinion,” said Sinema, who has served three terms in Congress. “Over time, I think it makes sense for individuals, who are willing, to learn and to grow.”

She attempted to dodge questions about how she would have voted during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing, calling the event a “circus.” She expressed disappointment with the way the Senate handled the confirmation, but ultimately said she would have voted no because it appeared to her that Kavanaugh lied under oath.

On other issues, she attempted to downplay that some of her positions are Democratic, pointing them out as good for Arizona. She referenced the price of beer cans when saying she opposed the Trump administration’s tariffs on aluminum imports because they hurt the state’s people.

“That’s something I think we should all agree on, that beer shouldn’t cost more,” she said.


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Monday, October 15, 2018

Nothing Scares Republicans More Than Angry Democrats

Posted By on Mon, Oct 15, 2018 at 3:41 PM

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"Channel your fury." That was the subject line of one of the hundred-plus Democratic fundraising emails in my inbox on Sunday. Was it from MoveOn? Nope. From Bernie Sanders 2020? Nope again. It was from the Democratic Governors Association.

And that's why Republicans are making such a big deal about Democrats being angry, or one of the reasons anyway. Sure, they want to use the "Democrat angry mob" attack to rally their base by conflating the Democratic Party with their usual grab bag of scary people, the immigrants and gangs and just about any people of color — you know, the usual suspects in the Republican "Be very afraid, they're coming to get you!" campaign. But as important, they don't want Democrats to use anger to rally their base. The DGA email says Democrats have to "channel all our fury into fighting as hard as we can for the next 23 days until Election Day," so Dems will vote in large enough numbers, they'll win close races. Republicans expect that kind of talk from lefties like MoveOn and Bernie Sanders. But when it comes from the usually staid, measured Democratic Governors Association, that's scary.

Anger and vitriol are supposed to be exclusive Republican weapons used to pummel Democrats into submission, according to Republicans anyway. They know anger works. It gets voters' adrenalin pumping. It's especially effective when Democrats respond as they have historically, with measured tones, using logic to explain why Republican anger isn't justified.

"See?" the aggressors crow after a weak Democratic response. "Republicans are strong, we know how to fight! Democrats are wusses."

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Friday, October 12, 2018

My Pick for Legislative District 11 House of Reps: Hollace Lyon

Posted By on Fri, Oct 12, 2018 at 2:00 PM

HOLLACE LYON
  • Hollace Lyon
Legislative District 11, which straddles Pima and Pinal counties, has enough Republican voters it might look like an easy win for Republicans who have held it since 2013. But don't try to tell that to Hollace Lyon, a Democrat making her second run for a house seat in the district.

Lyon started campaigning and fundraising last September and has amassed a war chest of $150,000 and counting, larger than the two Republican candidates put together. The campaign funds combined with her targeted, persistent ground game—volunteers have knocked on 13,000 doors—put her solidly in the running, especially in an election season which continues to be full of surprises.

I sat down with Hollace Lyon over coffee where we discussed the campaign and her stance on the issues.

Full disclosure: I've known Hollace for years and would love to see her pull out a win in LD-11. This post is certainly an endorsement. It's also a way to let readers know who she is.

Hollace Lyon is a moderate Democrat who has a detailed platform on her website laying out her stands on the major issues facing the state. However, she says her main focus is fiscal responsibility. She developed skills with budgets and negotiation during her 26-year career in the Air Force, and she wants to bring those skills to the legislature.

Lyon says her Air Force experience taught her she's a moderate. "One of the more important aspects I took out of the Air Force was, I learned I don't always have the answers I think I have," she said. "When I think I'm right about things, I've learned I'd better stop, get some input, weigh things and see the consequences of certain decisions before I press forward."

Lyon puts her Air Force service front and center in her campaign. "When I knock on doors," she told me, "I say to people, 'I'm a retired Air Force colonel with 26 years experience. I commanded two squadrons. I did strategic planning. I ran the NATO satellite system during the Bosnian War. I negotiated with Microsoft to save the Air Force $200 million. I negotiated fielding the NATO nuclear planning system between Turkey and Greece.'"

Lyon continued, "I want to use my skills in budgeting and negotiation to figure out where the money we've been paying into the state has gone, money that we thought was going to fund schools and fix roads." Voters have seen their taxes go up, most often at the local level "because the state has stopped paying for things they're supposed to pay for." The reason state funds have been insufficient? "You've heard this before, it's the cumulative tax giveaways. And every year, the Legislature and the governor add more."

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Make Food Count at Tucson Meet Yourself

Posted By on Thu, Oct 11, 2018 at 12:49 PM

ERIK STANFORD
  • Erik Stanford
At this weekend's Tucson Meet Yourself Festival, the Food Justice Expo will be featuring different organizations, food businesses and non profits from Southern Arizona. Through sampling, interactive displays and demonstrations, the expo will shed light on the many food initiatives that Tucson has to offer.

The Food Justice Expo is a partnership between Tucson City of Gastronomy and Southwest Folklife Alliance. Tucson was selected to be the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the United States due to the region's agricultural history and vibrant culinary scene.

Erik Stanford, who works for Tucson City of Gastronomy and is the coordinator of the Food Justice Expo, said that the intention of the expo is to highlight food justice organizations and their initiatives in Tucson.

Organizations like Compost Cats will be working with food waste activism and an organization called Tierra Y Libertad that works to improve food access in Southside neighborhoods will also be at the festival.

There will be  13 different food justice organizations that will be represented throughout the weekend of the festival including Mission Garden, Café 54, Community Food Bank, L.O.C.A.S and Felicia's Farm. 
Women in the Food Justice Organization, L.O.C.A.S, hand out food samples. - L.O.C.A.S - LOCAL ORGANIC CROPS AND STUFF
  • L.O.C.A.S - Local Organic Crops And Stuff
  • Women in the Food Justice Organization, L.O.C.A.S, hand out food samples.

Café 54, a non-profit training program in addition to being a restaurant, will be one of the local food businesses featured at the Food Justice Expo. The café is a program of Coyote TaskForce, which is an employment-training program for adults recovering from mental illness.

Joanna Kyl, a development coordinator for Coyote TaskForce through Café 54, said that the café will offer samples of the their signature rosemary rolls and will be teaching their trainees bread making at the Tucson Meet Yourself festival.

"I think the event will do a great job of showing the incredible resources that Tucson offers and will bring attention to the culture and culinary diversity in Tucson as well," Kyl said.

Visit the Tucson Meet Yourself Festival and the Food Justice Expo this weekend Friday, Oct. 12, Saturday, Oct. 13, and Sunday Oct. 14.

For more information about the Tucson Meet Yourself Festival click here.

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Staff Pick

Trunk Or Treat

Join us as we celebrate Halloween in a fun & safe environment,get dressed up, bring all the… More

@ Northwest YMCA Sat., Oct. 27, 5-8 p.m. 7770 N. Shannon Road.

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