- Your Voice
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.
Every year around this time, my wife and I make a $400 donation to public schools and I write a column about it. It may sound like I’m bragging about my generosity, but I’m not. See, I get the entire $400 back at income tax time. And you can do the same thing: give $200 as an individual or $400 as a couple to a public school – or spread it out over a few schools if you want – and get all your money back when you pay your state taxes. I highly recommend it. It’s a great deal, everybody wins. You get to do something good for school children, you get to feel good about yourself, and it doesn’t cost you a dime.
I am a tax-and-spend liberal. I know I’m supposed to whisper that apologetically, and maybe add that I’m in a 12-step program to curb my dangerous taxation addiction, but I’m not about to apologize. Arizona is likely to take a steep slide into budget deficit territory soon. We’re expected to be a billion dollars in the red next fiscal year, and that doesn’t include the hundreds of millions the state is supposed to add to its school funding, by court order. So my saying we need to raise more revenue to meet our fiscal obligations isn’t some crazy, radical notion. It’s just plain common sense.
It’s that time again, when I write up my election endorsements. Anyone who’s read this column knows I’m a strong Democrat, so it should come as no surprise I’m supporting Democrats all the way down the line. However, to those of you who vote for both Democrats and Republicans, here are a few reasons to favor the D’s this time around.
Why is it that David Garcia, the Democratic candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction, has locked up major endorsements from Republicans, Democrats, the business community and educators, while his Republican opponent Diane Douglas has no big names in her corner?
We are now aware that the event in Ferguson, MO, was similar to the Trayvon Martin case in this respect: an unarmed black male was killed after attacking an armed person.
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.
It’s still summer vacation — the kids are out of school for a few more weeks — but we have some big news on the education front — billions of dollars big. A Maricopa County judge ruled that the legislature has to add about $300 million to its budget for Arizona’s K-12 schools right now and as much as $2.9 billion over the next five years.
In the June 11 edition of the Explorer, a reader complained that politics didn’t belong in a weekly shopper, but then proceeds to weigh in on Richard Brinkley’s so-called hoax on climate change. I agree with the writer about Mr. Brinkley’s article especially where he pulled out his facts from his (derriere), but I don’t agree with his premise that The Explorer is a weekly shopper.
People who shout loudest about how low our kids rank on international tests are the same folks who want to make the most radical changes to our schools. Under the umbrella term, “education reformers,” these critics suggest we cripple teachers unions, lower the credentialing standards for teachers, expand the reach and power of standardized testing and abolish teacher tenure.
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?”
Gays, guns and God: the three G’s. They’re the trifecta of Republican campaign issues. Use one, use them all, mix in a little immigration, abortion or Obamacare, and Bingo. You’ve got a campaign.
The Explorer failed to note that an article in its 2/19/14 issue that criticized the school voucher system for students was written by Mr. Safier, who is/was a school teacher and is, therefore, biased about the relative success of public schools vs. charter schools. Charter schools have enabled tens of thousands of underprivileged children to acquire superior educations by avoiding failed public school systems.
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.
In a recent column, Mr. David Safier criticized the digital learning model employed by the Arizona Virtual Academy (AZVA). Many of his assertions about our school are simply not true, which is not surprising coming from someone who actively opposes school options for students and educational choices for parents. The Internet and technology have enabled educators to provide new ways to reach populations of students who were otherwise isolated due to economic status or geography. The schools I lead -- Arizona Virtual Academy (AZVA) and Insight School of Arizona (ISAZ) -- are public schools dedicated to providing access and opportunities to more than 5,000 students combined. Contrary to Mr. Safier’s claim, neither school is in “academic probation.” They received satisfactory marks from the Arizona Department of Education and remain in good standing with the State Charter Board. Our teachers are hardworking, professional educators. They are state-certified and highly qualified. We want to see students enroll in schools that are right for them. Online schools are a great option for some, but not for all students. When parents contact us, we provide them information they need to make a fully informed choice. In our online schools, engagement is the key to success. Online schools require a significant amount of commitment and student participation, and we ensure families know this before they enroll. Students who engage – regardless of their academic history – can succeed in online schools. Some critics argue online schools should “filter out” certain students or restrict access based on academic history or socioeconomic status. We reject that view. As public schools, we cannot and will not discriminate. Our obligation as educators is to serve all students who come to us. No student is zoned-in or required to enroll in one of our schools. They are there by choice, and we respect parent choice. We are proud to serve a diverse group of students, from accelerated learners to special needs children to victims of bullying. Our staff, teachers and parents are committed to our mission to meet the individual needs of every child.
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.