Friday, April 20, 2018

The Strike Is On: Arizona Teachers Prepared for Walkout Next Week

Posted By on Fri, Apr 20, 2018 at 12:03 PM

Along with many Tucson schools, educators at Amphitheater High School hold a Red for Ed walk-in before school on April 11. - DANYELLE KHMARA
  • Danyelle Khmara
  • Along with many Tucson schools, educators at Amphitheater High School hold a Red for Ed walk-in before school on April 11.

Educators’ strike will start on Thursday, April 26, across Arizona, according to leaders in the Red for Ed movement.

Votes from all public school teachers and classified staff who chose to participate were tallied last night. Arizona Educators United and Arizona Education Association said they counted more than 50,000 ballots and about 78 percent voted to strike.

Marea Jenness, a Tucson High Magnet School teacher and leader in the Red for Ed movement, said she’s excited about the vote.

“This is just the opportunity of a lifetime, to fight for our schools and public education in Arizona,” she said.

The Red for Ed movement, led by the grassroot group Arizona Educators United, or AEU, has been pressuring Gov. Doug Ducey and the state legislature for weeks to give teachers 20 percent raises, among other things.

Arizona educators are currently among the lowest paid in the country. And in response to mounting pressure, Ducey agreed last week to provide 20 percent raises for teachers over a three-year period as well as some additional education funding, but that did not meet all of AEU’s demands.

“No one wants to see teachers strike,” Ducey said in a prepared statement. “If schools shut down, our kids are the ones who will lose out. We have worked side by side with the education community to give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020. I am committed to giving teaches this raise, and I am working to get this passed at the legislature.”

Apart from the 20 percent raises for teachers, educators are demanding wage increases for all education support staff that’s competitive with other states, scheduled annual raises for teachers, education funding restored to 2008 levels, and no new tax cuts until per-pupil spending reaches the national average.

Jenness organized one of the first local Red for Ed rallies, which resulted in more than 1,000 educators and allies marching out of their downtown schools earlier this month. She said Tucson High is going to have minimal staff during the strike, mostly administrators and some custodians and cafeteria staff, to make sure the students still get breakfast and lunch. She also said there will be limited bus service.

“We’re prepared to stay out longer than the state is prepared to watch kids not graduate,” Jenness said. “The state of Arizona and the Legislature is going to have to deal with the crisis they create.”

Another complication of strikes is that any day of school closure will have to be made up in order for students to complete grade requirements. Therefore, students who are ready to graduate will still need to complete days they miss.

The Marana Unified School District put out a statement yesterday, signed by MUSD Superintendent Doug Wilson, that said the district hopes such extreme measures as a strike will not be needed.

“Our educators would much rather have the state legislature and Governor implement solutions to address salaries and public school funding,” the letter read. “District Administration and our Governing Board do not support a walkout or any activity that disrupts instruction and negatively impacts our students and families; however, we continue to support advocacy toward greater funding for public education and salaries”

MUSD said the schools will stay open as long as they have enough staff to supervise students. But if they don’t, they will be forced to close, a measure that would be district wide rather than school by school.

The Amphitheater Public Schools district also sent out a letter saying they may be forced to close schools if there are not enough staff to adequately supervise the children. But Amphi will look at school closure on a case by case basis rather than district wide.

Catalina Foothills Unified District also said they may have to close schools if there’s not enough staff to supervise students.

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.

Continue reading »

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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.

Continue reading »

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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.

Continue reading »

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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.

Claytoon of the Day: Witch Hunt

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 at 11:02 AM


Find more from cartoonist Clay Jones here.

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