From the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) to local school board positions, several conservatives are currently leading or have already won key races on the education front in the 2022 General Election.
As of press time, Republican candidate for SPI Tom Horne had increased his lead in his challenge of incumbent Kathy Hoffman. Horne previously served as SPI from 2003 to 2011, prior to successfully running for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. If the results hold up, Horne says his focus as SPI will be on improving student performance and eradicating Critical Race Theory-based curriculum from Arizona’s public schools.
In the Peoria Unified School District race, Heather Rooks won a hard-fought and challenging race. Her efforts to expose the Social Emotional Learning-based policies and practices in the district eventually led her to request an injunction against an activist parent. As reported by the Arizona Daily Independent, Rooks, a mother of four school-aged children, obtained the injunction based on threats from Democrat activist, Josh Gray.
Two other conservative candidates, Amy Carney and Carine Werner, secured seats on the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) Governing Board. Their victories serve as a powerful repudiation of out-going Governing Board Member Jann-Michael Greenburg. Greenburg was sued by parents who accused him of trying to silence them after they exposed his secret Google Drive dossier on them. As AZ Free Newsreported in April, that dossier included a trove of political opposition research on parents, who opposed the district’s adoption of Social Emotional Learning and Critical Race Theory.
In the race for Flowing Wells School District Governing Board—an area known for being blue—conservative Brianna Hernandez Hamilton is currently holding on to one of two open spots. A mother of three very young children, Hernandez Hamilton ran with the slogan: “Parents + Teachers = Quality Education.”
Kurt Rohrs, a long-time education activist and frequent contributor to AZ Free News, won a spot on the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board. Rohrs, like Horne, focused on improving student performance and eliminating the divisive Critical Race Theory from the district’s curriculum. Many see Rohrs’ presence on the board as an opportunity to restore calm to the district which had become the center of controversy thanks to out-going board member Lindsay Love.
In the race for Dysart Unified School District Governing Board, conservative Dawn Densmore was retained by voters. As current president of the board, Densmore successfully led the fight to end the district’s relationship with the Arizona School Board Association (ASBA). Jennifer Drake also won a seat on the board.
Sandra Christensen is set to win a seat on the Paradise Valley Unified School District Governing Board. Libby Settle and Madicyn Reid are in the lead for spots in Fountain Hills. Paul Carver should take a win in Deer Valley. Jackie Ulmer appears to have been successful in Cave Creek as well as Rachel Walden in Mesa and Chad Thompson in Gilbert. In the Higley Unified School District, conservative Anna Van Hoek also won a seat on the board.
In a tweet from earlier this week, former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos summed up what many parents have been feeling over the past few years – left out. In response to the National Education Association’s claim that teachers “know better than anyone” what students need in the classroom, DeVos responded, “You misspelled parents.”
Aside from the notable lost learning associated with masks among early readers, and the irritability masks foster, the most common criticism I hear from parents is that the masking policies are selectively applied and enforced.
The biggest disparity in the application and enforcement of masking policy appears to be between younger and older students. While younger students are statistically less likely to carry and spread Covid-19, the mandatory masking anecdotally is more strictly enforced in the younger age groups.
This disparity in treatment between different ages of students is obviously not based on the science of contagion and transmissibility. Yet, despite the fact that we have some of the best minds studying infectious disease and months of accumulated data about COVID-19 upon which to create strategies to address this pandemic and develop sound policies to ensure acceptance of them, we still insist on imposing scientifically baseless mandates.
Worse yet, as previously noted, the mandates are disparately enforced in our schools.
How can we explain this phenomenon? Is it a result of something as innocent as a misunderstanding of the science, or something more insidious?
That disregard could stem from a bevy of malfeasant managers or politically motivated praxis pushed out by our colleges of education.
Too often we see overcrowded classrooms filled with teachers who have been denied basic training in classroom management by administrators who prefer to spend money on the training of failed restorative practices because the purveyors of such practices offer their trainings in more desirable destinations. On the other hand, too many teachers display co-dependent tendencies that compel them to control every aspect of their students’ behavior.
Unfortunately, because the largest teachers’ union, under the management of Randi Weingarten, a childless bully who has not spent any considerable time with third graders this century, is pushing masks, one might safely assume that the mandate is more political than anything else.
Still, what could make the average human being who selflessly serves society by training our youth to go along with the unions’ demands and so heartlessly impose such demeaning measures? I believe it could be a result of something that has evolved naturally in the K-12 setting over decades; a loss of regard for the individual.
Years ago, while taking a deep dive in the Critical Race Theory-based curriculum offered in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), we discovered the systematic effort to erase individual identity. Children at an early age were stripped of their individuality through a series of exercises intended to groom them as foot soldiers from a radical cause.
Rather than address children by their given names, they were referred to as “mija” and “mijo.” The patronizing practice left children feeling small, defenseless, but cared for. The children were then encouraged to repeat a pledge of allegiance similar to the message a sexual predator would send to a child: if you hurt me by telling our little secret, you will hurt yourself more.
We have seen a reference to that pledge, In Lak Ech, plainly in Corwin’s Deep Equity program. However, that type of secret bonding is materializing in more subtle ways as Critical Race Theory-based curriculum is adopted for K-12 classrooms.
While I am not suggesting that those who are adamant about masking mandates are driven by a desire to build through problematization an angry army as the teachers were in TUSD, that is exactly what they might be doing.
They certainly have created an army of concerned parents. Parents are concerned about learning loss, the undermining of their authority, the arbitrary and capricious nature of quarantines, and the insistence that merit-based advancement is racist.
We have all seen the justifiable anger in our schoolboard meetings as parents fight desperately to stop the indoctrination of their children or the passage of pandemic-related policies that have zero foundation in science while sending families’ routines into chaos.
That chaos has created the need for more daycare providers, or left one parent out of a job, plunging families further into financial hardship and creating more victims of poverty.
As for young students, masking has a deleterious effect on language learning and as we know, language is our identity. As a result, the benefits of masking are far outweighed by the risks to young children. It is therefore imperative, that we step back and rethink the masking mandates in K-12.
Even if we are to ascribe the best motives to those who crafted the current policies, we are still obligated to reassess the situation and craft policies going forward that are neither influenced by politics or fake science.
Third graders cannot stay in third grade until we finally get this right. They have to move on and so we have to move on with crafting fact-based policies with urgency.
After vigilant parents sounded the alarm about a consent form they were asked to sign electronically that would have asked their children highly personal questions, Scottsdale Unified School District leadership apologized.
The District’s leadership advised parents that they would not be asked to authorize the District to “complete an emotional health and wellness screening of my child and to collect personal information, medical history or medical information, mental health history or mental health information, and quality of home and interpersonal relationships, student biometric information, or illegal, antisocial or self-incriminating behavior critical appraisal of individuals within a close relationship and gun/ammunition ownership.
The District claims those issues were mentioned inadvertently in a portion of students’ annual verification packet:
On May 4, 2021, Scottsdale Unified School District’s (SUSD) administration recommended that the Governing Board approve the FastBridge program as a social emotional learning screener for students in Kindergarten through 12th grades. It was already being used as an academic screener for grades K through 3.
This social emotional screening program, which the Board voted to adopt, is used to evaluate students overall general behavior including but not limited to, social, academic and emotional behavior. Screening is typically completed within three minutes, with results available immediately to parents and staff. These findings enable our teachers, social worker and guidance counselor professionals to help identify students who may be in need of additional support and intervention programs and to make that support available as early as possible.
The screening tool is optional and one that parents have a choice to authorize for use with their children each school year.
Notwithstanding this, SUSD’s initial parent acknowledgment form incorrectly stated that the FastBridge screener might ask for personal information about income family matters, medical or family medical history, mental health history and other categories of private information.
To be clear, the FastBridge screener does not and has never sought this information. The waiver form that initially appeared in ParentVUE as part of the parents’ annual acknowledgment was a standard waiver form that had not yet been properly tailored to SUSD’s use. The form has since been amended to reflect the information that is actually collected. We apologize for this oversight and offer our services that SUSD does not support, endorse or collect any family personal information through FastBridge.
Leadership goes on to claim that Scottsdale parents “have stressed to us how important it is for schools to support their students social emotional learning.”
“Our sole goal in acquiring FastBridge,” wrote leadership, “is to be able to support the whole child and offer help to students sooner when we see that academic and behavioral issues in the classroom are limiting their opportunities to learn and grow.”
This “apology” raises too many questions and red flags. From the implication that a child’s social emotional well-being can be assessed in three minutes, to the claim that leadership is responding to parents’ pleas that the schools support their students’ social emotional learning, the missive misses the mark for any discerning reader.
Any educator who believes that they can assess a child in any meaningful way in three minutes is misguided at best and likely committing educational malpractice at worst.
The fact that our schools continue to cater to the fear-mongering teachers’ unions, thus strongly encouraging masks and vaccines for students K-8, clearly shows that they have put the students’ social and emotional well-being far down their list of priorities.
While the apology is appreciated by many parents, I fear that it will prompt them to drop their guard and not look carefully at the other consent forms they are asked to sign. There is also the danger that parents might assume that their children are not turning over this information in their classrooms at all when nothing could be further from the truth.
Parents need to be on guard at all times, and at all times they must assume that their children are products – the data they produce, the insights they give, the very supplies they prefer to bring to school are all of value to those who benefit – in one way or another – from the education industrial complex.
Recently, the Arizona Attorney General settled civil rights cases involving Uber Eats, Postmates, and DoorDash in a case he was corporations with the “best of intentions” doing the “wrong thing.” The “wrong thing,” in this case, was offering “price distinctions based on a person’s race.”
The corporations in question planned on waiving delivery fees for black-owned restaurants. The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) found that the plan squarely violated equal access laws and the corporations were charged with public accommodations discrimination based on race.
The AGO alleged that the corporations unlawfully discriminated against non-Black owned restaurants and their patrons, in violation of the Arizona Civil Rights Act (ACRA).
“Even with the best of intentions, corporations can do the wrong thing. Altering the price of goods or services based on race is illegal,” said the Attorney General in a press release. “My office opened these investigations and pursued these settlements to protect civil rights and ensure businesses offer their services and products based on equal and neutral criteria.”
It is with the same good intentions that companies are doing the wrong thing across the country by funding “diversity,” “equity,” “inclusion,” and “anti-racist” programs in school districts.
There is little doubt that the average company participating in the promotion of programs based on the aforementioned buzz words believe that they are advancing civil rights and social harmony. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. The Critical Race-based programs are creating deep divides and distrust in communities just as the Critical theorists intended.
Given that the majority of corporations exist for the most part because of capitalism, it is hard to conceive that they would ever knowingly support programs based on Western-Marxist philosophy, but that is exactly what they are doing.
Some more cynical observers suspect that the mega-corps are funding the “antiracist movement” in order to divide the middle- and lower-classes and thus keep them conquered. While the cynics might find a rare case, for the majority of companies it is the trust they have in educators that is driving their funding decision-making.
As it stands, corporations with the best of intentions are doing the wrong thing and creating nightmares for parents and children. I have confidence that this is not the intended outcome.
Contrary to the implications made by “antiracists,” parents are not objecting to “diversity,” “equity,” “inclusion,” and “anti-racist” programs in school districts because they are bigots. It is quite the opposite: they do not want their children growing up to be the segregationists – the bigots – the Critical Race Theory-based proponents want them to be.
Companies have mostly relied on national and local chambers that mostly relied local educational organizations to decide where and what educational programs they funded. In the past, that process delivered good outcomes. Now, with the over-representation of the National Education Association by a wide margin on local school boards and state organizations like the Arizona School Board Association, the product of corporate spending on our classrooms can only lead to a proliferation of anti-capitalist, anti-corporatist, anti-American pedagogy.
As a result, it is essential that the small businesses that are the backbone of middle-America and the large corporations that benefit the most from them re-evaluate the resources they rely on to determine to whom those charitable dollars flow.
After having already received over $1 billion in CARES ACT ESSER and ESSER II funding for Arizona’s schools, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman issued a publicly paid for press release to expressed her gratitude to Arizona’s democratic congressional delegation for the passage of the American Rescue Plan.
According to Hoffman, the Plan will provide nearly $2.6 billion dollars to Arizona for K-12 education, of which the Arizona Department of Education will allocate 90% of those funds directly to public schools.
“The latest round of federal relief and recovery dollars comes at a time of high need for Arizona’s schools and families as many prepare for a return to some degree of in-person learning. From teaching and learning to providing critical wrap around supports, over the past year, every Arizonan has seen just how essential our schools are to our communities,” said Hoffman in her press release. “I am grateful to the members of Arizona’s delegation who supported the American Rescue Plan, their advocacy and their votes are essential to our recovery as a state.”
As noted by Hoffman, schools are essential, and as a result, parents have gone in search of those essential service providers. Public school enrollment is down by approximately 38,000 students for the 2020-2021 school year compared to last year.
Despite the fact that the Arizona Department of Education released a report showing public school enrollment is declining dramatically, funding for schools is growing due to COVID by nearly the same dramatic rate.
ESSER allocations were only for Title I districts and were set by the federal government. Non title I districts did not receive a direct allocation from the federal government through the CARES act so the Department used its discretionary funds to ensure they had access to relief dollars, according to Richie Taylor with the Arizona Department of Education.
TOP 20 ESSR RECEIPIENTS
TOP 20 ESSR II RECEIPIENTS
ESSER Fund Allocation
ESSER II Allocation
Tucson Unified District
Mesa Unified District
Phoenix Union High School District
Cartwright Elementary District
Washington Elementary School District
Alhambra Elementary District
Sunnyside Unified District
Glendale Elementary District
Roosevelt Elementary District
Paradise Valley Unified District
Phoenix Elementary District
Peoria Unified School District
Glendale Union High School District
Dysart Unified District
Isaac Elementary District
Deer Valley Unified District
Chandler Unified District #80
Creighton Elementary District
Amphitheater Unified District
Today, I am pleased to announce the allocation of ESSER II dollars to our state’s public district & non-profit charter schools. Every school must have the necessary resources to support its students, staff, and families throughout the #COVID19 pandemic.
At yesterday’s teacher roundtable, educators discussed the issues regarding teacher mental health and wellbeing. They also expressed viable solutions to help overcome the addressed challenges such as providing teachers with supportive resources and better financial opportunities. pic.twitter.com/K8e9kXLJJR
While multiple studies show that students are suffering greatly from school closures including increased anxiety and even suicide, Hoffman has been nearly silent on the subject of student mental health and what programs might be developed with the millions in surplus monies not allocated to schools to improve students’ mental and intellectual well-being.