The biggest political news in Arizona recent weeks was the smackdown between Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas and Governor Doug Ducey. Douglas fired two employees from the state Board of Education. Ducey said, “Oh no you don’t!” and reinstated them. Douglas went along, at least temporarily, but not until she fired off a statement attacking Ducey with the most in-your-face language I’ve read in an official press release, maybe, ever.
If it were me, I’d be ashamed. If a judge told me I had cheated children out of money I owed them, that I had violated the law by giving them less money than I was legally bound to give, I would hang my head in shame, and I’d ask the judge, “How much do I owe?”
Here’s your first lesson in government for the year. No, we’re not going over the hundred questions on the new high school civics test. We’re taking a look at what we’ve learned about government and politics from our new Governor Doug Ducey. Spoiler alert: the lesson will not be uplifting. Our new Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas might even say it’s too cynical to be taught to elementary school children. But we can take it. We’re all adults here.
It took me awhile, rummaging through the photo files on my computer, to locate the pictures I took during an anti-Iraq War march in Portland, Oregon. How long ago was it? I eventually found them in a 2003 folder. It was over a decade ago.
How’s this for an idea? Pay parents to keep their kids home from school. And how about this? Encourage parents to skimp on their children’s educations by promising to pay part of the cost of college.
This is a bit presumptuous, I admit. I’m climbing on my columnist’s soapbox and proclaiming a set of New Year’s resolutions for myself and anyone else who chooses to adopt them. They’re a little late, I admit, but with one column a month, my choice was either to write them way back in December or wait until my first opportunity this year.
It’s that time of year again when you can bring a little holiday cheer to an underfunded Arizona public school -- and that includes every public school in the state. Funding for K-12 education is down 17 percent from where it was six years ago, so all our schools are hurting financially. You can give $200 to the school of your choice -- $400 from a couple - at absolutely no cost to you thanks to the Arizona School Tax Credit. There’s no need to have a child in school or live in a certain school district. If you pay Arizona income taxes, you qualify.
Last week the stock price for K12 Inc., a Virginia based, for-profit education corporation, plummeted almost 40 percent in a single day. Why, you may ask, should we care about the fortunes of some Virginia corporation? The reason is, K12 Inc. is the parent company of Arizona Virtual Academy and its 4,200 students scattered around the state, many of whom get very little in the way of education. Some get none at all. Understanding the causes of the stock plunge helps us understand what’s wrong with the Arizona school.
What if you woke up tomorrow morning with your IQ 13 points lower than it is today? Think what that would mean. You’d still be able to go through your normal, everyday tasks - the ones that don’t take a great deal of thought -- without much problem. In fact, you probably wouldn’t notice the difference until you had some mental stretching to do. If you’re a crossword or sudoku fan, for instance, your daily puzzle would be far more difficult. Those real life tasks and decisions requiring you to draw inferences, synthesize information or go through multiple steps to reach a conclusion would likely set your mind reeling.
I have to say, I expected this to happen. The only question was when.
I rarely find myself agreeing with anything my conservative counterpart here at The Explorer, Richard Brinkley, has to say. The two of us are usually miles apart on the issues – centuries apart sometimes. But every once in awhile, the stars and planets align in strange ways, creating odd alliances, and this is one of those moments. Brinkley and I agree that there’s something very wrong with the latest national educational directive, the Common Core Curriculum.
The country is having an important debate about how much of our personal information the government should collect. The privacy issue is making for strange political bedfellows, with people on the left and right staking out a wide range of positions. But regardless of political stripe, we all should be able to agree that no one should be gathering private and personal information about our children to put onto one gigantic national database, right?
Let’s say you decide to start a school for sixth through 12th graders that gives students a rigorous, world class education: demanding courses, lots of homework, sky-high expectations.
What if a business planned a move to Arizona that would pour more than a billion dollars into our economy every year while creating 21,000 jobs? Now imagine those jobs would be spread around the state, including areas hardest hit by the economic downturn. And there’s this added bonus: the money would be spent on pollution-free activities, which would actually increase the health and welfare of Arizonans.
“Clean coal” is a fantasy created by mining and power companies to convince us we can keep burning coal forever without harming ourselves, or the environment. The truth is, coal is dirty, harmful stuff. In the short term, we need to install scrubbers to catch coal’s noxious emissions before they make their way out of the smokestack. In the long term, we need to phase out coal-powered energy sources and replace them with cleaner alternatives.
From Franklin Delano Roosevelt on, Democrats have created bold, visionary plans to improve the quality of life for Americans. Social Security. Civil Rights legislation. Medicare. The Affordable Care Act. They’ve pushed to clean up the environment and educate our children. For more than half a century, Democrats have done the heavy lifting to help make this country a better place, giving their efforts names like The New Deal, The New Frontier and The Great Society.
Maybe you read about the recent international tests in reading, math and science. If so, you might have read that U.S. students didn’t stack up so well next to the rest of the world - another “proof” our schools are failing. If so, you were steered wrong. The truth is, our students did very well in world rankings.
I’m ending the year with a nonpartisan column about holiday giving the easy way. I recommend you take advantage of Arizona tax credits that let you give money to public schools and worthy charities and get all of it back at tax time. Doing good for others without making a dent in your wallet: that’s a deal no one should refuse.
There were a few surprises for everyone in the November 6 elections, but only one bit of post-election news left me stunned. On election day, Mitt Romney was so sure he was going to win, he didn’t bother to write a concession speech. He had to throw one together in the hour before he went on stage to acknowledge he lost and congratulate the reelected President. Paul Ryan, who is supposed to be a serious number cruncher, also thought the Romney-Ryan team had it pretty much sewn up, as did their campaign staffs and the gaggle of pundits at Fox News. How could they all have been so wrong?
The ballots for the November election have hit voters’ mailboxes, so it’s endorsement time. I don’t have enough space to cover the entire ballot in any detail, so I’m focusing on one race -- Pima County Supervisor, District One -- and one initiative -- Prop 204. Then I’ll do a quick run through other candidates on the ballot.
Here’s the most important thing you need to know about Proposition 204: It will give our children increased opportunities for success in their educations and their lives. That translates to a brighter future for our children and for Arizona.
It should come as no surprise to people who read this column, I think our country needs stronger gun regulations and more effective enforcement of the regulations we already have. That’s what you’d expect from a proud, unrepentant liberal like me.
“Obamacare is taking away our freedoms!” I hear that constantly from people who make “Obamacare” sound like a swear word. And whenever I hear it I find myself asking, which of our sacred freedoms are being taken away?
The only reasonable conclusion I can draw from the legislative session that just ended is this: Republican legislators think nothing is more important to Arizona than teaching the Bible in public schools and restricting women’s access to contraception and abortion. Jobs? Education? The economy? Not nearly as important.
The Obama Derangement Syndrome is as strong today as it was when Obama first became the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008. Examples pop up in my email on a regular basis. I keep them in my “Chock full o’ Crazy” folder.
“Don’t be evil.” That’s Google’s unofficial motto, adopted when it was young and idealistic. But now Google is all grown up, and it’s willing to do whatever it takes to boost corporate profits. Among its questionable practices: tracking our every move on the web to boost its “targeted ad” revenues, even overriding security measures people set up to protect themselves from unwanted invasion of privacy.
According to ex-Intel CEO Craig Barrett, 90 percent of our children are “stuck” in terrible schools.
Note: This column was written before Gabby announced her decision to step down.
Most of the rhetoric we’ve heard from Republican Presidential candidates can be boiled down to one theme. They want to take government apart, piece by piece, and move its services over to the private sector, where their rich contributors can make a profit.
As I read about the Occupy Wall Street movement gaining strength in New York and spreading to cities across the country, including Tucson, my reaction is: What took so long?
How can a political party deny established science with one breath and complain our children are falling behind the rest of the world in science education with the next? That simply defies logic. But apparently, the fact- and logic-challenged Republican Party thinks it makes perfect sense.
Here’s a short political quiz. See if you can guess who made all the following statements:
Let’s take a look at the state of education in the country of Massachusetts.
The world’s most dangerous energy source may be heading into the nuclear waste dump of history sometime in the next half century. It can’t happen soon enough for me.
The bad old days of the Spoils System could be returning to a state or local government near you if Governor Brewer and Republican legislators have their way. Brewer has been making noises about calling a special session as soon as October to end Arizona’s merit protection system.
A year ago, I was a panelist at a forum discussing education in Arizona. Sitting next to me was Ann-Eve Pedersen, the president of the Arizona Education Network. When she went to grade school in Arizona in the 1970s, Pedersen told the audience the state supported education and funded it adequately. We ranked in the middle of the country in per-student spending, not dead last like we are today.
Secede from Arizona? Create the 51st state? Can these people be serious?
Get ready for vouchers to rear their ugly heads in the Arizona legislature once again. Except this time when they propose the idea of taking tax dollars away from public schools to pay for private school tuition, they won’t be calling it “vouchers.” They’ll be using a market-tested phrase that would make any Madison Avenue ad exec proud: “School choice.”
I always thought the idea of income redistribution was the exclusive property of tax-and-spend liberals like me. We’re the ones conservatives accuse of “class warfare” for wanting to have one group of Americans pay higher tax rates to benefit others.
Those of you who aren't diehard Democrats or Republicans – those of you who vote on both sides of the aisle — here's something to think about.
There's an old mob term: "Going to the mattresses." It's when the mob's "soldiers" hide out in an apartment filled with mattresses for days or weeks, waiting until they're told it's time to act.
An oil spill is spreading across the country, and Arizona is among the areas that will be hard hit. Tucson has already felt the spill's impact.
Three prisoners broke out of a privately run, for-profit prison in Kingman on July 30. Two were murderers. The third was convicted of attempted murder.
In 1914, Henry Ford doubled the wages of his workers, hoping to cut down on turnover. As a result, fewer workers left, people flocked to Detroit looking for work and productivity went up.
The minds and spirits of school children don't fit neatly onto the rows and columns of an accounting ledger like a corporation's profits and losses. Try though they might, number crunchers will never create an Excel spreadsheet that can accurately tally up teacher inputs and student outputs.
Better schools, brought to you by the people who brought you the housing bubble and the financial meltdown.
I can always tell when something I've written hits a nerve. The opposition rushes to The Explorer website to slam the column and its writer.
Which Southwest governor said it's a state goal to "become the solar capitol of America … and I think we're on our way"?
I wrote my last column when the ink was barely dry on legislation to revise SB 1070, our recently passed anti-immigrant law. At the time, I couldn't tell if the revisions wiped out some of the most vile provisions of the original or if they just made cosmetic changes so SB 1070 looked less ugly than it really is.
As I write this column, our legislature just adjourned. In the closing hours of the session, Republicans experienced a rare moment of sanity and reversed some of their worst, most ideologically driven decisions.