Wednesday, April 18, 2018

So, What Do People Think About Teachers?

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 2:14 PM

The teacher demonstrations, walk-ins, walkouts and strikes around the country are playing pretty well with the public. That surprises and encourages me. Republicans have led a decades-long onslaught against teachers, beginning in earnest with the "Our schools suck!" rallying cry from the Reagan administration in its 1983 report, "A Nation At Risk." It was a blatantly political scare screed about how terrible our schools—and by extension, our teachers—are. So terrible, they might as well be a Commie plot to destroy our country. Here's the money quote:
"If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war."
It's been wall-to-wall anti-public education, anti-teacher, anti-teachers union grandstanding from Republicans ever since.

And yet, public sentiment over the past month has been generally favorable to teachers' demands for better pay and increased school funding. If a savvy politician like our own "[not] Education Governor" Ducey is forced to concede that teachers might have a point, that maybe they deserve a pay raise twenty times higher than what he proposed a year earlier, you know Ducey knows the public is siding with teachers.

I guess the Republican onslaught hasn't been as successful as they hoped. Oh, it's had an impact. In the late 1980s, I was honestly shocked by the growing level of anger directed against my profession—generally parroting conservative talking points — the likes of which I hadn't experienced in my previous 20 years of teaching. But in spite of that, teachers still garner a great deal of respect.

A few recent polls tell the tale. A story in Education Week pulls together the numbers.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

The Wrongheaded Decision To Remove Auggie Romero As Pueblo High Principal

Posted By on Mon, Apr 16, 2018 at 4:20 PM

  • Courtesy of Bigstock
Dr. Auggie Romero, principal of Pueblo High School, got screwed by the TUSD board majority when it decided in a 3-2 vote not to renew his contract at the April 10 board meeting. Very likely, current and future Pueblo High students lost out as well.

The story behind the vote against Romero is both simple and complex, depending on how it's told, and it tends to come out differently depending on who's telling it. Let me try and reduce the story to its essentials.

Two years ago, Romero changed the course grades of 6 seniors at Pueblo High from F to D in the last days of the school year, which allowed them to graduate (Actually, one student didn't graduate because he failed another class). In doing so, Romero violated state law and TUSD district policy, both of which state that a principal is not allowed to change a grade given by a teacher. On the surface, that's the primary issue which led the board majority to decide not to renew his contract, though they didn't discuss the issues much before the vote. More on the reasons behind their decision later.

However, the story is more complicated than that, as you learn when you read the 13 page report on the grade changing incident produced by the law firm, DeConcini, McDonald, Yetwin & Lacy. You can read it on the KGUN9 website.

According to the report, the six students complained to Romero that the teacher had not allowed them to make up work they had missed, which led to them failing the class. The report substantiated their claim and said the teacher violated district policy by refusing to allow them to complete the make-up work. Romero gave the students the opportunity to complete the assignments they missed. After their work was graded, each of the students had enough points to pass the class. That's when Romero changed their grades from F to D in violation of state law and district policy.

The law firm's report came to the conclusion that "Dr. Romero was not flouting the law or policy intentionally. I think he believed that the students in question were in fact denied the opportunity to complete the assignments and that, by allowing them to do so, he was simply providing them the opportunity that their teacher should have provided to them under district policy." The report recommends "Dr. Romero be directed not to change students' grades in the future, regardless of the reason." It also recommends that Romero be counseled on better ways to handle similar situations in the future. No further actions are suggested.

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Thoughts on Ducey's 19 Percent Solution (Is Ducey Lucy?)

Posted By on Fri, Apr 13, 2018 at 12:10 PM

Ducey’s offer of a 19 percent raise for teachers is a moving target. Here are a few random thoughts, some of which may be out of date by the time this post hits The Range.

Did Ducey Blink?
Ducey didn’t just blink. His knees buckled, he reached for the white handkerchief in his breast pocket, straightened himself out, waved the kerchief over his head, put on his best smile and tried to pretend his offer of a 19 percent raise for teachers is what he wanted to do all along.

It wasn’t. The teachers forced his hand. Instead of demonstrating, patting themselves on the back and retreating to their classrooms, they refused to go away. They were out last week, they were out this week, and they’ll be out next week in ever growing numbers. It’s a rolling thunder sweeping across the nation, from West Virginia to Oklahoma to Kentucky to Arizona, and the storm is building in intensity. First the media covered the spectacle, then it covered the issues. (Lesson learned: If you want media coverage, earn it. Make a spectacle of yourself, then do it again. Say something outrageous, then say it again. That's catnip for journalists.) Nearly all the coverage has been on the teachers’ side, because the teachers are right and because they impressed the nation with their tenacity, their unity, their fearlessness.

If I sounds like I’m proud of the practicing members of my profession . . . you goddam betcha I am.

Did I See This Coming?
Nope. Didn’t even imagine this moment was possible, let alone that it could come this soon.

Should Teachers Cheer?
Absolutely. They won a big victory. They should cheer for a full minute. Hell, this is a biggie, make it ten minutes. Then get back to the business of guaranteeing increased funding levels for teacher salaries, for support staff salaries, for school repairs, for school supplies — for all the stuff the "Dismantle public schools" Republicans who run this state have refused to pay for.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Pima Supe Ally Miller Says She'll Support Sales Tax for Roads If Chuck Huckelberry Quits

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 at 3:44 PM

Supervisor Ally Miller continues her role as Pima County's greatest laughingstock. - FILE PHOTO/RANDY METCALF/TUCSON LOCAL MEDIA
  • File photo/Randy Metcalf/Tucson Local Media
  • Supervisor Ally Miller continues her role as Pima County's greatest laughingstock.
Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller told a radio show host this morning that she’d support a proposed half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements—but only if Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry agreed to resign from the top post.

Miller told Wake Up Tucson host Chris DeSimone that she would break her promise to voters to never support a sales tax if Huckelberry quit because she is convinced that the longtime county administrator has a “stranglehold” on the county and his removal would eliminate what she views as rampant cronyism in Pima County.

“It will eliminate that cabal, it will stop it,” Miller said. “There will be new people coming in. We’re seeing people retire left and right already. And we’re going to get new people in, and I believe the Board of Supervisors may—even if the same people stay in there—they would stand up and start doing their job. Because right now, they’re completely controlled by Chuck Huckleberry.”

Huckelberry told The Weekly he had a counteroffer.

“I’ll resign the day she’s recalled,” said Huckleberry, who expressed skepticism that Miller would follow through on her promise to support the tax even if he did resign.

“She has a habit of being untruthful,” Huckelberry said. “I think she’s lied once or twice before.”

Huckelberry said the offer to pass an ordinance if a county official resigned is something he’s never seen before in his 43 years in government, but he’s not surprised “because I’ve never seen a supervisor represent her district as poorly as Ally Miller.”

He added that Miller is out to create “false narrative” in order to “for purely political purposes to destroy the brand of Pima County. The brand of Pima County, in my opinion, is pretty strong.”

Miller had a few other conditions for her support of a sales-tax hike, including a promise that all the money from the sales tax go to road repair (she took particular exception to the idea that any money be spend on pedestrian walking signals or bike paths) and all projects go out for competitive bid (which is already done, as required by state law).

Teachers, Ducey and Politics

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 at 3:04 PM

Wednesday, teachers "Walked In" all over the state. They gathered outside their schools before class, then walked into the building together. Lots of teachers. We'll have to wait for the news coverage and Facebook posts to know how many. The walk-in is in preparation for a possible walkout. Not a strike, not yet. A walkout. A show of solidarity. Maybe a prelude to a strike, maybe not.

The one near-strike I participated in was way back in the 1970s in a district outside of Portland, Oregon. I remember sitting in the band room after school with the rest of the faculty as the school's union leaders discussed our options with us. Unannounced, the principal walked through the door. "If any of you plan to go on strike," he said, looking around the room, "I want you to come to my office and tell me first."

His words set off a mild rumbling of fear inside my 20-something body. But when he opened his mouth to continue, one of the union leaders, a mild mannered older teacher, interrupted him. "We are holding a union meeting," the teacher said quietly but firmly. "It's after school hours, so we're on our own time. You are not allowed in here. I ask that you leave, now." The principal stood still for a few moments, then turned and left. If we weren't absolutely united before, we were when the door closed behind him.

The district settled with the teachers the next day, so the strike was averted. Otherwise, we were more than ready to walk. [This story isn't a knock on principals or administrators in general, by the way, many of whom are very supportive of their staff. It's just this one guy and this one situation I'm talking about.]

That near-strike moment came to mind as I listened to the way our "education governor" has responded to teacher activism. Ducey's tactic, like my principal back then, is divide and conquer.

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Looks Like Lawmakers Are Moving To Squash That Ballot Prop To Block School Vouchers

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 at 12:00 PM

  • Courtesy of BigStock
Just last week, The Skinny advised y'all to keep on eye on Republican state lawmakers because they might try to find a way to prevent voters from deciding the fate of the expanded voucher program that GOP legislators and Gov. Doug Ducey tried to put into place last year.

Well, lookie here: the Arizona Republic reports that movement is afoot on that front:

A Republican state lawmaker is discussing with colleagues and outside groups a plan that could knock Proposition 305 off the November ballot before voters can decide the fate of Arizona's expanded school-voucher program.

The goal is to repeal last year's legislation that expanded the ESA program to all 1.1 million public-school students and replace it with legislation intended to address criticisms of the expansion, according to more than a half-dozen people familiar with the wide-ranging discussions.
The effort could backfire. Last year, Save Our Schools Arizona was able to gather enough signatures to force a referendum on the voucher plan. Making them go out and do it all over again with this kind of chickenshit dirty trick will energize teachers and other public ed supporters, which will make it even easier to turn them out in November—which is the last thing that Gov. Doug Ducey needs as he runs for reelection.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates On Education

Posted By on Tue, Apr 10, 2018 at 8:16 PM

  • Courtesy of Wikimedia
The three Democratic candidates for governor—Steve Farley, David Garcia and Kelly Fryer—debated at UA Saturday, April 7. They covered a lot of ground, but I want to focus on their statements about education.

Full Disclosure: I haven't decided who I'm going to vote for in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, though I do know who I'm voting for in the general: the last Democrat standing. Any one of them will be a vast improvement over the current officeholder, who somehow manages to call himself "the education governor" with a straight face. So I'm reporting what I heard at the debate, not expressing any personal preferences.

Though the three Democrats varied a bit, they stand pretty close together in their overall views about education and miles away from Doug Ducey, meaning they're for strong, well funded public education, including a substantial raise for teachers. All three agreed teachers should get at least a 20 percent raise. Fryer wants it to be 25 percent. Farley wants a 20 percent raise for the classified staff as well.

The only direct question about education in the debate was about where the new education money will come from.

The three had different proposals for how to add money to the state budget: raising taxes on the wealthy, getting rid of corporate tax exemptions or a combination of the two. None of them suggested we increase the sales tax.

David Garcia presented a both/and funding proposal. He wants to reverse corporate tax exemptions — carve-outs which allow specific corporations to pay lower taxes — and get rid of private school tax credits. He also wants to increase taxes on the one percenters. The result, he said, will be a more progressive tax structure in Arizona, which is currently one of the most regressive in the country. Garcia didn't put a dollar figure on the amount his plan would bring in.

Steve Farley said the state has 330 corporate tax loopholes, and by ending some of the loopholes, we can bring in $3 billion. He will use $2 billion for education spending, which is more than enough to cover a 20 percent raise for teachers as well as classified staff. The remaining billion dollars will be used to lower the sales tax by one percent.

Kelly Fryer doesn't believe much money can be raised by getting rid of corporate tax loopholes, so she essentially discarded that idea. She recommended a variety of ways to tax the rich. She wants to increase taxes for people who make over a million a year. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the income of Arizona's one percenters begins at $309,000, so she's looking at a smaller pool of taxpayers than Garcia. However, she also wants to put a sales property tax on every home over a million dollars, as well as what she calls a "vacation tax" on people who own homes in Arizona but don't actually live here. Fryer said her plan will raise $2.7 billion, and she'll give teachers a 25 percent raise.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel: Talking with City Councilman Steve Kozachik

Posted By on Fri, Apr 6, 2018 at 4:30 PM

On this episode of Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel, we talk with Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik about the future of Fourth Avenue, the Benedictine Sanctuary and Broadway Boulevard between downtown and Country Club Road, as well as the possibility that the F-35 may be coming to Tucson.

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