Thursday, June 13, 2019

Ding Dong, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is Gone

Posted By on Thu, Jun 13, 2019 at 2:52 PM

  • Flickr/DonkeyHotey
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has resigned from her post, effective at the end of June.

The announcement, which was proclaimed by Donald Trump on Twitter today, comes after Huckabee Sanders' continued lack of press conferences, going 94 days without a media briefing, according to the New York Times.

Trump not-so-subtly hinted at a new career path for Huckabee Sanders, in the second of two tweets, saying she should follow in the footsteps of her father, Mike, by running for governor in the state of Arkansas.

....She is a very special person with extraordinary talents, who has done an incredible job! I hope she decides to run for Governor of Arkansas - she would be fantastic. Sarah, thank you for a job well done!

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Rabies Confirmed in Cats Attacked by Skunk

Posted By on Tue, Jun 11, 2019 at 2:27 PM

Several cats were exposed to a rabid skunk in Amado, according to the Pima Animal Care Center. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Several cats were exposed to a rabid skunk in Amado, according to the Pima Animal Care Center.
A dastardly skunk has left more than a dozen animals in quarantine after a confirmed case of rabies in Amado, according to the Pima Animal Care Center.

PACC was called on June 4 by a resident of the Southern Pima County enclave who reported that she and several of her cats had encountered a possibly rabid skunk.

The run-in reportedly occurred two weeks prior to the woman's call to PACC, according to the release, with 15 cats/kittens and two dogs removed from the property by animal protection officers.

Four of the kittens died, with two of the four testing positive for rabies, according to the release. The other kittens are in a 120-day quarantine due to not having a vaccine. The two dogs exposed will be placed in a 45-day quarantine, as they have been vaccinated against the disease.

The skunk is still on the lam, having evaded capture after its encounter with the four-legged compadres.

PACC Chief Veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Wilcox said anyone living in the Amado region that comes into regular contact with pets and livestock should remain under close examination, looking for changes in their health.

For more information or to report someone that's been exposed, contact the Pima County Health Department at (520) 724-7797. 

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Monday, June 10, 2019

Is The Charter School Bandwagon Losing Momentum?

Posted By on Mon, Jun 10, 2019 at 3:14 PM

  • Illustration from graphic

"The charter school movement is in trouble." So begins an article in the Washington Post. I think that's an exaggeration. Charter schools aren't in trouble as such — their numbers are still on the rise — but they may be cresting. Their once-shiny reputation is tarnishing. Charter proponents' mouths have made too many promises the schools can't keep, and people are beginning to take notice.

Some folks who have read my charter-related posts think I'm opposed to charter schools. Not so. I support any school — district, charter or private — with good teachers, a good curriculum and a strong overall educational philosophy. Plenty of charters fit that description. I would have no problem recommending a charter school to parents if I thought it was a good fit for their children.

What I'm against is the charter school PR machine, part of the ridiculously well funded "education reform"/privatization movement. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every year demonizing public education while praising charters as the answer to our educational prayers, then propping up the schools with funding above and beyond what they get from the state.

District schools deserve criticism, but not the "failing schools" slam they get from privatizers, and charters hardly deserve the lavish praise they receive from their financial patrons. That's why I go heavy on charter criticism. With all the money and effort perpetuating the myth of charter school superiority, I feel it's my duty to debunk their myth-making whenever I can.

The first charters began in the early nineties. Arizona's charters opened for business in 1995. The schools have had nearly 30 years to prove their worth. Yet when you look at legitimate studies comparing charters and district schools, the results are pretty much a wash. In one state, charter school students have better scores than similar students in district schools. In another state it's the district schools that have the edge. Charter students may have higher test scores in fourth grade math while district schools top charters in eighth grade English, or vice versa.

People on both sides of the argument can cherry-pick the data to fit their narrative, but when you look at the numbers as a whole, the differences in student achievement are so slight as to be insignificant. If parents choose well, they can send their children to excellent charter schools, but if they fall prey to false advertising, they might end up sending their children to some of the worst schools you'll find anywhere.

Continue reading »

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Reports of Dangerous Prison Conditions Prompt Calls for Removal of AZ Corrections Director

Posted By on Mon, Jun 10, 2019 at 2:20 PM

  • Arizona Department of Corrections
  • Director Chuck Ryan
The American Civil Liberties Union, Democratic state lawmakers and local community organizations have all called for the removal of Arizona Department of Corrections Director Chuck Ryan following news reports of shocking conditions at multiple state prison complexes.

In April, an ABC15 investigation found that many cell doors inside the Lewis state prison in Buckeye did not have functioning locks, which resulted in assaults on inmates and corrections officers. ABC15 reported that at least two inmate deaths have occurred as a result of the broken doors.

At the same prison, video surveillance showed inmates lighting fires outside of their cells, while correctional officers watched and did not intervene, due to a fear of having to report the incident to the Arizona Department of Corrections.

At the state prison in Douglas, the Arizona Republic reported inmates being given bottled water after the facility experienced low water pressure over the weekend.

KJZZ reported pregnant women in Arizona prisons being subjected to "deficient and dangerous prenatal and postnatal care," with some women giving birth alone in their cells or having miscarriages due to inadequate or nonexistent healthcare services.

In response to these concerning events, Governor Doug Ducey's office has indicated to press that they plan to investigate the Arizona Department of Corrections, but over a month has passed since then and no investigation has commenced.

The Tucson-based American Friends Service Committee, a nonprofit that works to promote criminal justice reform among other causes, has requested a meeting with Gov. Ducey to "convey the urgent concerns of incarcerated people and their families about the failed leadership of ADC Director Ryan, and to offer a new perspective for the way forward."

“If Gov. Ducey’s goal for ADC is to reduce recidivism and rehabilitate people, then he must acknowledge that Charles Ryan is unfit to lead the Department in that direction,” Caroline Isaacs, AFSC-AZ’s Program Director, said in a press release. “Ryan is one of the last vestiges of an outdated and ineffective culture of strict ‘custody-and-control’ prison management.”

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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The First Glimmerings of Charter School Accountability In Arizona

Posted By on Wed, Jun 5, 2019 at 3:15 PM

  • Illustration from graphic

Arizona's Department of Education may begin taking a more active role in charter school accountability, thanks to some terrific investigative reporting from the Arizona Republic, which woke people up to the potential for corruption and profiteering in the charter sector, and a Department of Education headed by Superintendent Kathy Hoffman who cares about such things.

Two connected southern Arizona charters, Lifelong Learning Academy in Tucson and Jack Thoman Air and Space Academy and Performing Arts Studio in Green Valley, have been denied alternative-school status by the state, the first denial in five years.

Getting alternative-school status is a big deal. Because the schools are supposed to serve students who are potential drop-outs, they don't get an A-F grade from the state.

That makes sense. Students enrolled in alternative schools are likely to be behind academically, meaning their state test scores will be low. As a result, the schools' state grades, which are mainly based on student scores, would usually be D's and F's even when they are serving their students well. Two F's in a row and a school loses its contract with the state. So, to allow alternative schools to remain in operation, the state doesn't give them grades.

The problem is, if no one is paying attention, a charter school doing a lousy job can slide under the radar by calling itself an alternative school. It looks like that's been happening. According to the Republic article, the number of students in alternative schools has increased 40 percent since 2010.

Continue reading »

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Pima County DOT Expects $26 Million for 118 Miles of Road Repair

Posted By on Wed, Jun 5, 2019 at 2:11 PM

  • Courtesy

In anticipation of the Pima County Board of Supervisors' final budget adoption next Tuesday, June 18, the county's Department of Transportation has released a list of roads it intends to repair in the next fiscal year.

The department has $26 million to work with: $15 million from the county's share of Arizona's Highway User Revenue Funds, $6 million from remaining road bonds and $5 million from the general fund.

The Pima County Transportation Advisory Committee, which recommends transportation improvements to the supervisors, would like to see the $15 million "prioritize the local, arterial and collector road repairs," according to a county press release. The $6 million would go toward major roads and collector streets and the $5 million is for regional recreational roads that impact tourism, such as Kinney Road which leads to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

In a memo to the supervisors, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said this amount of road funding was a result of growth in HURF and Vehicle License Taxes, a reduction in debt service and cost savings in the transportation department's operations.

At yesterday's Board of Supervisors meeting, District 1 Supervisor Ally Miller said she was pleased with the $26 million.

"Is it enough? It never will be. This is going to be an ongoing problem and we'll be facing it every year," she told her fellow board members. "As we all know it's going to be an ongoing challenge, and this board will need to collaborate to find this money, even more money, to fix the roads as we move forward."

The Transportation Advisory Committee specifically recommended that the $15 million be allocated in equal amounts to each of the county's five districts. The supervisors could decide to go against that and put more money into certain districts than others.

Supervisor Steve Christy asked Miller at the meeting if she agreed with the committee's recommendation, to which she said "I'd like it all in District 1 ... If people feel very strongly that it should be evenly split and that's the way the board decides, I can live with that. As I said I'd rather not have that, but we have to make sure we accommodate everyone and treat everyone fairly."

Check out the list to see if any of your nearby streets could get fixed next year!

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Friday, May 31, 2019

Arizona's Education Budget Increase: Too Little And Ten Years Too Late

Posted By on Fri, May 31, 2019 at 3:34 PM


If you look at the numbers in next year's state budget, you might think education made out pretty well. There's all this new money: $136 million in additional assistance for schools; $130 million for teacher raises; $20 million to hire counselors or security officers; $30 million for results based funding.

You might also think I made out pretty well if I told you my boss said I'm doing a great job and handed me a crisp new hundred dollar bill. Until I told you the boss cut my salary by five hundred dollars.

Same thing with the state budget. All that brand spanking new education money sounds good until you realize, the decade-long cuts to education have been so deep, even with the new money, schools are a billion dollars behind where they were in 2008. And back then, Arizona had the lowest per student spending in the country.

To see how we dug ourselves in a hole so deep that adding $300 million to the education budget still leaves the schools a billion dollars behind, we need to start back in 2008 with the Great Recession.

Like most other states, Arizona was hit hard when the economy sank like a stone. The state was desperately short of funds. The budget had to be cut, and education took a big hit. The Republicans in charge told us, shaking their heads sadly, we have no choice. There just isn't enough money to go around.

A few years later in 2010, after more cuts to education, Governor Jan Brewer decided we did have a choice. She defied the standard Republican "No new taxes" mantra and supported a ballot measure for a one cent sales tax increase for education. The voters agreed with Brewer. The measure passed with 64 percent of the vote.

The problem was, it only lasted three years.

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Kathy Hoffman Is Doing What She Was Elected To Do

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 2:36 PM

  • Kathy Hoffman
Four years ago when Republican Diane Douglas was the new Superintendent of Public instruction, I'd written four posts about her by the end of May, much of it positive. I'm a bit ashamed to admit I've gone this long without writing about our current superintendent, Democrat Kathy Hoffman. It's time to correct that.

My posts about Douglas were sighs of relief that she wasn't acting like the fire-breathing ultraconservative she played on the campaign trail. In the early going, Douglas was making reasonable, inclusive statements about Arizona's schools and students. She was doing no harm, which was the best I could hope for. To my surprise, she even did some good. So I offered her praise and encouragement during the early going. When Trump came into the picture, Douglas reverted to wingnut type, but that was years later.

Hoffman, meanwhile, began doing the kind of job I hoped she would from her first days in office. I've been waiting to see if the trend would continue, and it has. Almost halfway through her first year, Hoffman has created enough of a track record for me to say, I'm impressed.

It's important to understand the nature of the superintendent' job to put Hoffman's accomplishments in perspective. She administers a multi-billion dollar budget but has no direct impact on legislators or legislation. Any political clout Hoffman has comes from the way she uses her bully pulpit. Thus far, she's used it effectively. She continues to emphasize her perspective as an educator, which is a welcome relief after three decades of non-educators running the Department of Education. Hoffman makes it clear, she knows teachers, she knows students, she knows public schools.

Hoffman took her oath of office with her hand on a children's book. That could be called gimmicky, I suppose, but I appreciated the symbolism. She was swearing an oath to serve the students, to put their needs foremost. Most teachers make a similar oath to themselves every year before the first day of school. It was a promising start.

There was no symbolism involved in Hoffman's strong stance against the Arizona law stating that sex education courses can't say anything positive about what the law calls "a homosexual life-style." Referring to it as the "no promo homo law" in her State of Education speech, Hoffman said the policy is "outdated . . . harmful and wrong."

The law may have been on the way out regardless. The board of education was facing a suit over the statute, and Attorney General Mark Brnovich said he wouldn't come to its defense. The board of education voted unanimously against it, then in April the legislature repealed the law. Whether or not Hoffman's aggressive stance on the topic moved votes, her full-throated condemnation of the old law helped clarify the issue and boost it into statewide prominence.

Continue reading »

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Staff Pick

All-Breed Horse Show

The Southern Arizona Arabian Horse Association hosts an all-breed circuit show beginning at 9 a.m., the fourth… More

@ Pima County Fairgrounds Fourth Saturday of every month 11500 S. Houghton Road.

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