Thursday, May 4, 2017

Got a Bachelor's Degree? There May Be a Public School Teaching Job Waiting For You.

Posted By on Thu, May 4, 2017 at 2:00 PM

Sitting at your college graduation trying to decide what to do next? Why not teach in a public school? You don't need any education classes. You don't need to demonstrate subject matter proficiency. Just take off that cap and gown and stow it in the back of your car, drive to the nearest school district and put in an application for a job to teach in your major field. They're desperate for teachers, you know, so you've got a great shot at walking out with an offer. Soon, you'll have yourself a Subject Matter Expert Standard Teaching Certificate and a classroom of your own.

I mean, really, how tough can it be to teach? You were a K-12 student. You spent 13 years watching teachers take roll, say a few words to the class, give an assignment and put the kids to work. You know how it's done, right? Piece of cake. You can do it too!

Dear Reader: Just to be sure you're clear on the concept, that second paragraph is pure satire. I spent 30-plus years in the classroom, and it stayed challenging all the way through my last day. Teaching ain't easy. But the first paragraph is for real. When the recent bill making it easier to get a teaching certificate in Arizona was signed into law by Governor Ducey, it meant that anyone with a baccalaureate degree in a subject taught in a public school can get a Subject Matter Expert Standard Teaching Certificate and start teaching right away. According to the law, there are two more ways you can get one of those certificates, potentially without even being a high school graduate. More on that later.

I've read what's been written about the new teacher certification law in other publications, and I'm almost certain the reporters whose work I've read misunderstood the legislation. The law has three requirements for obtaining a Subject Matter Expert Standard Teaching Certificate, and the articles appear to believe someone needs to fulfill two or more of the requirements to qualify, setting the bar higher than it actually is. I've gone through the Conference Engrossed Version of SB 1042 a number of times and read over the Senate Fact Sheet, and it's clear to me that an applicant only needs to fulfill one of the three to qualify.

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AP: McSally Urges Colleagues To Vote for This 'Fucking Thing,' aka Zombie Trumpcare

Posted By on Thu, May 4, 2017 at 10:55 AM

After declining to inform the public of where she stands on the Zombie Trumpcare bill, it appears that Congreswoman Martha McSally (R-AZ02) is fully behind it, according to AP reporter Erica Werner, who reports that McSally told her GOP colleagues it was time to get this "fucking thing" done.

The House is set to vote on the legislation today. The Hill is following the action on Congressional Hill.

Indivisible Southern Arizona is planning a "death march" on McSally midtown offices at 4400 E. Broadway at 5 p.m. today.

Here's New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait's take on this fucking thing:
The heart of the bill is the same one that was polling at under 20 percent and failed two months ago: a near-trillion dollar tax cut for wealthy investors, financed by cuts to insurance subsidies for the poor and middle class. They have added a series of hazily defined changes: waivers for states to allow insurers to charge higher rates to people with preexisting conditions and to avoid covering essential health benefits, and a pitifully small amount of money to finance high-risk pools for sick patients.

The implications of these changes are vast. The Brookings Institution notes that if a single state eliminated the cap on lifetime benefits for a single employee, then employers in every state could actually follow suit, thus bringing back a horrid feature of the pre-Obamacare system, in which people who get hit with expensive treatment suddenly discover that their insurer will no longer pay for their care. This would affect not only those getting insurance through Medicaid or the state exchanges, but also through their job.

The ambiguity of the details is the strategy. Republican leaders have been “assuring centrists that the Senate would make changes to allay their concerns and insisting that few states would actually use the waivers allowing higher premiums for pre-existing conditions,” reports The Wall Street Journal. Sean Spicer says it would be “literally impossible … to do an analysis of any level of factual basis.” Representative Fred Upton told reporters that if the Congressional Budget Office says the bill is underfunded he will push for more money — after it passes his chamber.

They are rushing through a chamber of Congress a bill reorganizing one-fifth of the economy, without even cursory attempts to gauge its impact. Its budgetary impact is as yet unknown. The same is true of its social impact, though the broad strokes are clear enough: Millions of Americans will lose access to medical care, and tens of thousands of them will die, and Congress is eager to hasten these results without knowing them more precisely. Their haste and secrecy are a way of distancing the House Republicans from the immorality of their actions.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Do Arizona Republicans Want to (a) Dismantle; (b) Damage; (c) Degrade; and/or (d) Devalue Public Education?

Posted By on Tue, May 2, 2017 at 8:54 PM

No question about it. Republicans with most of the power in Arizona are enemies of public education. They've demonstrated it over and over, for years. But what would they do to public education if they could do anything they wanted? It sounds like a simple question, but it's a tough one to answer. I'm going to take a stab at it.

We have to begin by defining our terms. "Public education" and "publicly funded education" are two different things. Public education is both funded and run by the public, with publicly elected school boards which have the power to make the final education and personnel decisions. Only school districts fit that description. Charter schools are a public/private hybrid, publicly funded but privately operated, answering to the owners and their appointed boards. At one time, private schools were both privately funded and privately run, but with the growth of vouchers, they're becoming kind of a charter/private hybrid, getting a whole lot of their funding from the public but having even less public oversight and control than charter schools.

Arizona's supporters of public education often say Republicans want to "dismantle" public education. I've always been uncomfortable with that term. It sounds too much like the plan is to take public education apart, piece by piece, until it's no longer there. To my ears, "dismantle" sounds a lot like "destroy," and I don't think that's accurate. About 75 percent of Arizona's school children attend public schools. Of the remainder, almost 20 percent are in charters and between 5 to 8 percent are either in private schools or home schooled. There's no plausible way to create enough charters and private schools to get take care of the 75 percent currently in public schools. I suppose districts could be made into collections of charter schools, an experiment currently being tested in a few cities in other parts of the country, but I don't see it happening here, at least not on a statewide scale. Public education is here to stay, and I think most Republicans are OK with that. They don't want to dismantle, as in destroy, school districts. What the want to do is damage, degrade and devalue them.

Regardless of the words we use to describe it, the question is, if Republicans had their way, what would the damaged, degraded, devalued public education look like? I doubt many Arizona Republicans have thought this question through and have a coherent answer, but if they did, I think it would go something like this.

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McSally Declines To Take a Stand on Zombie Trumpcare

Posted By on Tue, May 2, 2017 at 5:11 PM

  • Courtesy AMC/The Walking Dead
The GOP’s so-called zombie Trumpcare bill—the American Health Care Act that was left for dead last month after President Donald Trump warned House members that if they didn’t vote for it then, he was moving on—is shambling around Washington again this week, seeking a vote that would restore it to life once more.

But if you're wondering how Southern Arizona Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-AZ02) is voting, don't expect to find out. It turns out her position on the latest version of the legislation is a big secret.

Earlier today, The Hill's Cristina Marcos tweeted that McSally said "I'm not publicly sharing my position" when asked how she'd vote on the revised American Health Care Act.
Asked by the Weekly is McSally is supporting the legislation, McSally spokesperson Kelly Schibi said today via email:

The status quo is not an option, especially for Arizona where the ACA has left counties with one choice for coverage. Rep. McSally is deeply concerned that the most vulnerable in our communities receive care, which is why she has taken the lead in negotiating on their behalf. She has secured $60 billion in Medicaid for the elderly and disabled, and $90 billion for tax credits for individuals aged 50 to 64. She has also won an additional $15 billion for mothers and their newborns, and for those who struggle with mental health disorders and substance abuse. As her track record shows, she brings a constructive voice to the legislative process on behalf of all of her constituents for improved health care for Arizona.

McSally’s silence on her position on latest version of the GOP's legislation is a big contrast to where she was on the version that never made it to vote last month. On the day before the legislation was pulled just before it was supposed to go up for a vote, McSally went all in on that legislation, taking credit for adding $15 billion to help with the costs of providing maternity care coverage as well as treatment for mental illness and drug addiction. However, those are conditions that insurance companies must now cover under the existing Affordable Care Act, so the additional funding wouldn’t have been needed if McSally weren't supporting legislation that strips those essential health benefits from the law.

The latest version of the American Health Care Act appears to violate one of McSally’s key promises to voters in the highly competitive Congressional District 2: It does not keep intact protections for people with preexisting conditions.

To provide a bit of background: The lightning strike that jolted zombie healthcare back to its feet was an amendment from Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), who brought back on board many of the conservative Freedom Caucus members who torpedoed the earlier effort. The Freedom Caucus members weren’t satisfied with a bill that, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates, led to 24 million Americans being uninsured (including many of those low-income citizens covered by the Medicaid expansion) and huge jumps in insurance costs for seniors. They balked at several provisions in the original repeal-and-replace legislation, such as protecting people with preexisting conditions from discrimination and requiring that the essential health benefits—such as maternity care and mental-health treatment—be covered. That legislation had dropped in the polls to 17 percent approval before House lawmakers gave up on passing it.

Under the new version of the legislation, states would be able to obtain a waiver to get rid of those protections for consumers as long as they jumped through a few hoops, such as setting up a “high-risk pool” to dump people with pre-existing conditions—cancer survivors, diabetics, and the like. (Arizona never actually implemented a high-risk pool before the Affordable Care Act passed, but it’s hard to believe the current Legislature would be willing to fork over the funding that a high-risk pool would require, although it’s easy to see state lawmakers seeking a waiver anyhow.)

Or, as Kevin Griffis, a former Obama administration Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and current vice president for communications of Planned Parenthood Federation of America puts it, GOP lawmakers took "a bad bill and figured out how to make it worse.”

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Back When Arizonans Cared About Public Education, and Were Willing to Fight For Their Initiative Rights

Posted By on Mon, May 1, 2017 at 2:07 PM

It's in an old Arizona guide book published in 1940, 500 pages long with lots of photos. The first chapter, Contemporary Scene, makes this statement about the state's commitment to public education.

Ah, for those thrilling days of yesteryear, a time Arizonans were "almost extravagant" when it came to spending on their children's educations!

The next paragraph celebrates the state's "liberal spirit" as embodied by its embrace of the initiative, the referendum and the recall.

Back then, folks believed their initiative process was such a treasure that if anyone—the legislature, say, or the governor—even suggested surrendering that right, they "would be smothered under a storm of protest."

Almost 80 years later, it's time we honor our forebearers by renewing our commitment to funding public education and ensuring the viability of our initiative process.

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Zona Politics Tonight: Councilwoman Regina Romero and City Council Candidate Tom Tronsdal

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 4:44 PM


Tonight on the televised edition of Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel: I talk with Tucson City Councilwoman Regina Romero about Prop 101, the city's ask for a half-cent sales tax to fund roads and public safety, as well as her reaction to the Trump administration's push against so-called sanctuary cities, the city's new hands-free smart phone ordinance and other city issues. Then I introduce you to Tom Tronsdal, one of three Democrats seeking to replace retiring Tucson City Councilwoman Karin Uhlich in Ward 3.

Tune in to Zona Politics at 6:30 p.m. on Cox Channel 20 and Comcast Channel 74. The show repeats at 9 a.m. Sundays on both channels.

On the radio edition of Zona Politics: I talk with Tucson City Council candidate Felicia Chew, one of the other Democrats seeking to replace Uhlich in Ward 3. (The third Democrat is Paul Durham, just FYI.) The radio edition airs at 5 p.m. Sunday on community radio station KXCI, 91.3 FM, and at 1 p.m Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday on Tucson progressive radio station KEVT, 1210 AM.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ed Shorts

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 9:00 AM

A few thoughts from recent Arizona education news.

Writing about U.S. News' Best High Schools rankings: When in doubt, read the instructions. The story that BASIS dominated the U.S. News & World Report high school rankings got lots of press in Arizona, but few reporters bothered to look carefully at how the ratings were calculated. The four steps are neatly laid out on the website. The first three are hurdles schools have to jump over—state test scores, achievement by disadvantaged and minority students, graduation rates—to make it to the final round. Over 20,000 schools made the cut. Then the actual judging is all about the percentage of seniors who've taken Advanced Placement courses and how well they did on the tests. The first three steps don't figure into the final results, contrary to the impression left by most articles on the topic. BASIS long ago decided to require a slew of AP courses in high school, and part of the reason was so the schools would score high in national rankings. You don't get that many schools at the top of the heap without figuring out how to game the system. Any reporting on the rankings that doesn't understand and explain the ratings system is doing BASIS a big favor while it misleads readers.

BASIS believes it costs more to educate low income students. BASIS is planning to open a few new Arizona schools in low income areas to see if its educational model will work with a less academically select group of students, but it says it needs more money to do it.
[BASIS.ed CEO Peter] Bezanson said the Basis model can be replicated to teach more diverse students, and his team would like to be the one to do it. But they can only do it with adequate funding. 
Elsewhere, Bezanson said he's planning to look for outside funding to make the new schools work. I find that fascinating. I'd like to see him testify up at the Capitol to ask for extra funding for all schools in low income areas. If BASIS thinks it can't teach those kids with the same amount of money it gets for its wealthier, more academically prepared kids, maybe that would help Republican legislators understand it takes more money, not less, to give low income kids the extra enrichment they need. Other industrialized countries understand that. Apparently BASIS does too.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Once Again, It's Time to Deconstruct the U.S. News "Best High Schools" Rankings

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 6:00 PM

  • PhotoSpin
Once again, BASIS swept the U.S. News & World Report's list of best public high schools, taking five of the top seven places. University High placed number 15. Does that mean BASIS has five of the seven best schools in the country and University High is the 15th best? Only if you think "best school" means a place filled with high achieving students who take lots and lots of Advanced Placement classes and tests. The more AP courses seniors have taken and the more tests they've passed, the higher a school's ranking. AP courses are the basis of the BASIS curriculum. University High emphasizes the courses, but not quite as much.

Unfortunately, if you read the Star's misleading front page article, you get a different, and incorrect, picture of how a high school makes it to the top.

To get a high U.S. News ranking, you have to jump over a few hurdles, like performance on state tests and graduation rates, to be in contention. Once you've cleared those hurdles, a school's ranking is based totally—not partially, totally—on how many Advanced Placement classes seniors have taken and how well they do on the tests. That's it. This year, the contest didn't even include the International Baccalaureate program as it has in the past. It was all AP, all the time.

Someone who read the Star article would think the ranking uses a more complex, inclusive formula where AP course work is "considered." Nope. Not so. Here's what the Star wrote about the ranking process with my comments and corrections in brackets.
The list, published annually, looks at data from more than 22,000 schools focusing on student outcomes with an emphasis on graduation rates [Nope. If graduation rates are 75 percent or higher, you make it into the all-important AP round.] and state proficiency tests [Nope. If you're in the top 10 percent in state test scores, or lower if you have more economically disadvantaged students, you make it into the all-important AP round]. Diversity [Doesn't matter if you're in the top 10 percent in state test scores], enrollment [Of very little importance], participation in free and reduced-price lunch programs [Nope. BASIS schools don't have free/reduced lunch, so under that category, U.S. News simply says "Not Applicable"] and Advance Placement are also considered [Misleading. AP isn't simply considered, it's the only thing that matters once a school makes it into the all-important final round].

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Staff Pick

Frida: Portraits by Nickolas Muray

Tucson Botanical Gardens and Etherton Gallery are collaborating to bring the photography show Frida: Portraits by Nickolas… More

@ Tucson Botanical Gardens Oct. 10-May 31, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 2150 N. Alvernon Way.

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