Rep. Gillette’s Bill Seeks To Bring Transparency to The Classroom

Rep. Gillette’s Bill Seeks To Bring Transparency to The Classroom

By Daniel Stefanski |

District and charter schools have been under much more scrutiny from parents since COVID-19, and one bill from an Arizona Representative this session seeks to increase awareness and understanding on what is being taught in children’s classrooms.

The legislation, HB 2533, which was introduced by Representative John Gillette, deals with posting requirements for classroom instruction. According to the overview provided by the State House of Representatives, this bill “directs a school district or charter school, for each school, to post a free electronic copy of specified classroom instruction materials on its website.” These materials include “each educational course of study offered, a list of all learning materials being used (including the source of any supplemental educational materials, and each lesson plan being used or implemented.”

Representative Gillette’s piece of legislation has 13 co-sponsors both in the House (Representatives Biasiucci, Grantham, Gress, Harris, Jones, Kolodin, Marshall, B. Parker, Peña, and Smith) and Senate (Senators Borrelli, Rogers, and Shamp).

HB 2533 passed out of the Education Committee on Tuesday, February 14, with a party-line 6-3 vote – with one member absent. Republican Representatives David Cook, Liz Harris, Lupe Diaz, Michele Peña, David Marshall, Sr (Vice Chairman), and Beverly Pingerelli (Chairman) voted in favor; while Democrat Representatives Jennifer Pawlik, Laura Terech, and Nancy Gutierrez voted against passage. Democrat Representative Judy Schwiebert was absent from committee action Tuesday and did not cast a vote.

After introducing his bill on January 24, Representative Gillette tweeted a picture of the bill and co-sponsor list, writing, “You demanded school transparency during the campaign…This will require public schools to put the curriculum, program of instruction and vendor on-line free of charge.”

In an exclusive interview with AZ Free News on why he supports this legislation, Representative Austin Smith (and bill co-sponsor) said, “Curriculum transparency is paramount for parents to have total autonomy over what their children learn in school. This is a great step in the right direction for parents.”

Senator Sonny Borrelli, also a co-sponsor of HB 2533, told AZ Free News that he supported this bill because “transparency to empower parental authority is a good thing.” Responding to a question from AZ Free News on this bill, House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci stated, “This bill will allow parents to know exactly what is being taught to their children.”

This bill generated a great deal of interest – both in support and opposition – in the lead-up to the committee hearing and vote. The Arizona Association of County School Superintendents, Stand for Children, the Arizona School Administrators Association, the Arizona Education Association, Save Our Schools Arizona, the American Civil Liberties Union of AZ, and the Arizona Charter Schools Association were recorded among the hundreds opposing HB 2533 in the Arizona Legislature’s system.

The Center for Arizona Policy listed HB 2533 as one of its “Other Bills of Interest.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

ASU ‘Election Denialism’ Panel Featured Maricopa County Supervisor

ASU ‘Election Denialism’ Panel Featured Maricopa County Supervisor

By Corinne Murdock |

Arizona State University (ASU) hosted a panel discussing “election denialism” and President Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” about the 2020 election on Monday.

The event featured faces from the last two contentious election cycles, including Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates. Gates and several other panelists responded to questions from a group of “self-identifying election-deniers” placed in the center of a room as an audience of college students and faculty watched and occasionally posed questions themselves.

Nearly all of the “election-deniers” raised their hands when asked if they thought Trump had won the 2020 election. 

Gates assured the crowd that the 2020 election was the “most scrutinized in the world.” Gates reminded them of some of the results of investigations over the years, such as that the election machines weren’t connected to the internet.

“If you don’t believe what happened in 2020, then you don’t believe your neighbors, your family members — they were the ones who ran the election,” said Gates. 

Gates then urged those who challenged the results of the 2020 election to sign up as poll workers or volunteers to better understand the process. He expressed that he was upset by those who didn’t have confidence in the election processes.

“I want you to understand, we care about you,” said Gates. “If you guys don’t think it doesn’t hurt my heart to hear this tonight, it does. We want to convince you guys, we want to give you faith in [elections].”

Gates then said that he isn’t a fan of progressive dark money mega-donor George Soros, and urged the crowd to believe him that he’s been a Republican his entire life.

Other members of the panel were Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, CBS News Washington correspondent Major Garrett, and Center for Election Innovation & Research (CEIR) Executive Director and Founder David Becker. Longtime political and communications consultant Frank Luntz moderated the event. In addition to ASU’s McCain Institute, support came from CBS, University of Southern California, and Greater Phoenix Leadership.

Although the panel didn’t focus on this most recent election, controversies remain concerning its administration in Arizona. Last month, Maricopa County announced it was investigating the mass failures of its ballot-on-demand (BOD) printers on Election Day. Over 17,000 voters were affected by the incident. 

Tensions appear to remain between Maricopa County and GOP lawmakers.

The county initially refused to meet former State Sen. Kelly Townsend’s deadline for a subpoena of election records. The county explained it was busy with court proceedings; at the time, they were facing GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake’s challenge of the election results. 

Townsend announced early last month that she did receive the records, though didn’t say when or where they might be publicized. Several weeks later, she said that much of the audit information still needed to be reviewed and scanned.

Earlier this month in response to a report that State Sen. Wendy Rogers (R-LD07) asked fellow lawmakers not to use the phrase “conspiracy theory” during Senate Elections Committee meetings, the county quipped that some lawmakers based their bills on conspiracy theories. 

Watch the entire ASU event here:

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Parental Right To Know Teacher Training Bill Passes Out of House Committee

Parental Right To Know Teacher Training Bill Passes Out of House Committee

By Daniel Stefanski |

Over the past three years, many parents in a number of school districts across the nation have demanded more transparency and involvement with their children’s education. The Republican-led Arizona Legislature has been working on solutions, and Members have introduced new bills this session to give parents the access and information that they have been requesting.

Representative Justin Heap has introduced one of those bills, HB 2786, which deals with requirements for parental notification for teacher training. The bill “mandates a school district governing board develop parental notification and access procedures if the school district is involved with a training for teachers or administrators,” according to the bill overview provided by the Arizona House of Representatives. If passed by the Legislature and signed into law, the bill would “require a school governing board to notify parents of these trainings and give parents access to any printed or digital materials used for the training.” It also stipulates that the governing boards adopt “a policy to provide parents the information contained in its parental involvement policy in an electronic format.”

In an exclusive interview with AZ Free News on why he introduced this legislation, Representative Heap stated, “Transparency will have the added benefit of bringing school district and school boards back into alignment with the values of the parents of the students they serve. The knowledge that their training materials must be made public will discourage school districts from implementing policies that are hateful to the parents of students in their districts. If any school district official, any school board member, principal, or teacher believes that what is going on in their schools should be hidden from the parents in their district, then they have no business being involved in education.”

The legislation currently has ten co-sponsors: Representatives Neal Carter, Lupe Diaz, Liz Harris, Rachel Jones, Teresa Martinez, Cory McGarr, Barbara Parker, Jacqueline Parker, Michele Peña, and Beverly Pingerelli.

On Tuesday, February 14, HB 2786 cleared the House Education Committee with a 6-4 party-line vote. Republican Representatives David Cook, Liz Harris, Lupe Diaz, Michele Peña, David Marshall, Sr (Vice Chairman), and Beverly Pingerelli (Chairman) voted in favor; while Democrat Representatives Jennifer Pawlik, Laura Terech, Judy Schwiebert, and Nancy Gutierrez voted against passage.

Representative Pingerelli gave the following statement to AZ Free News on why she decided to hold a hearing on this bill in her committee: “Parents should have information readily available about what teachers are learning as part of their professional development programs. Are they receiving instruction about better ways to teach reading, math, or science? Or, as was pointed out during the February 14 hearing and testimony, are the topics covered controversial, ideological or morally objectionable to parents? As I’ve always stated, the focus in K-12 education should be academics. Since it is a reasonable assumption that the training teachers receive is translated into classroom instruction, parents should have the right to be informed. That’s why I decided to hear House Bill 2786 in my committee.”

HB 2786 generated much opposition leading up to and during the hearing in the Education Committee, starting with the Arizona House Democrats. They posted that Representative Heap’s bill demands that “parents get to review every type of training teacher gets (including copyrighted materials),” adding that “he was upset when he learned teachers can get training about equity, inclusion and cultural sensitivity. The Arizona Education Association tweeted that “teachers need to focus on students’ learning – not spend all their time trying to satisfy the demands of people who see our classrooms as a way to score political points.”

Representative Heap disagrees with these analyses of the bill, saying, “I believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant. My bill does not ban this teacher training, or any training, which a school district wishes to implement. It simply requires that if a school district requires, endorses, recommends, funds, or facilitates teacher training programs then they must make all those materials used (Digital or Physical) in that training available for parents to review.”

Due to the partisan breakdown of HB 2786s support and opposition in the early stages at the Arizona Legislature, it is highly likely that Democrat Katie Hobbs would veto this bill should it pass through both chambers and reach the Ninth Floor later this session.

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Arizona Superintendent Will Block Grants for Schools Lacking Police Presence

Arizona Superintendent Will Block Grants for Schools Lacking Police Presence

By Corinne Murdock |

Public schools who refuse to have armed officers on campus won’t receive grant money for school safety.

In a press release last Wednesday announcing the latest round of $80 million in funding from the School Safety Grant Program, Arizona Department of Education (ADE) Superintendent Tom Horne told schools to prioritize having armed law enforcement. Otherwise, the superintendent said that ADE wouldn’t recommend the school for funding to the State Board of Education.

“Every school should have a law enforcement officer to protect students and staff, and this should be accomplished on an urgent basis,” said Horne. “Delay in implementing this goal could leave schools more vulnerable to a tragic catastrophe. Schools that currently have no armed presence yet submit grants applications that do not request an officer will not receive a recommendation from this Department to the State Board of Education.”

Under former Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, funding from the grant program could be applied to school resource officers or counselors. One of Hoffman’s main priorities during her first term and re-election campaign was to shrink the disparity between the number of students and counselors. 

Hoffman stated that her administration slashed the student-to-counselor ratio by 20 percent. However, Horne’s administration noted that school violence has increased in recent years.

The ADE cited an increase in reported incidents of school threats, real and fake weapons found on campus, and “disturbing” social media posts inferring school violence. ADE also reported numerous receiving phone calls from Phoenix-area high school teachers about fights that, in at least one instance, risked a female teacher’s safety. 

Horne noted in the ADE press release that this push for schools to have armed officers wasn’t in order to exclude other school safety measures that the program funds, such as counselors. He recalled his support for counselors as far back as 1978 during his services as a school board member, when he voted against eliminating counselors from their district.

“Schools still ought to have counselors but providing a safe school atmosphere that requires an armed presence is the first priority,” said Horne.

Horne later told ABC 15 that there wasn’t any reason why schools should refuse police protection on campuses.

“I can’t understand how anybody doesn’t understand how important it is that we be sure we don’t have any massacres in Arizona,” said Horne. “The first priority has to be the safety of the students and we don’t want a situation where 20 or 30 students are killed because no one was there to defend them.”

In a tweet, ADE posed a hypothetical, asking what a school would do if an armed “maniac” invaded a school that only had counselors and no armed officers.

Several days after ADE announced its decision on school safety grants, a 13-year-old Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District student making a “kill list” was arrested; school officials determined that the student posed a credible threat. 

State Rep. Jennifer Pawlik (D-LD13) called Horne’s decision “disappointing.” Pawlik also criticized the decision to make the announcement during National School Counselors Week.

The ACLU of Arizona asserted that school safety couldn’t be achieved with police presence on campus.

In addition to this funding, ADE is working with former Phoenix Police Department leaders to provide additional safety resources and procedures to schools.

Opposition to armed officers on campus often comes from concerns over a racial divide. Tensions heightened in one school district last year over discussions of funding school resource officers (SROs), about one month after the Uvalde school shooting. Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) Board Member Lindsay Love said that she and too many others, including children and parents, felt uncomfortable with having more police officers on campus.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Hobbs Tells FOX News She Wants End of ESA Expansion

Hobbs Tells FOX News She Wants End of ESA Expansion

By Daniel Stefanski |

Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs has made no secret of her desire to dismantle the state’s school choice benefits for tens of thousands of children and their families, and this weekend, she was challenged on her desires by Fox News Sunday host, Shannon Bream, during an exclusive interview leading up to the Super Bowl in Glendale.

During the interview, Bream asked the governor why all students shouldn’t have a chance to have the educational opportunities that she had growing up – a reference to Hobbs’ high school graduation from Seton Catholic Preparatory. Governor Hobbs appeared to embrace the rhetoric of school choice proponents as she searched for justification for her positions, responding that her parents “made that choice” and that they “sacrificed a lot” to give her the chance at a private education.

Hobbs went on to say that she wants every student in Arizona to have access to high-quality public education – access that she claimed would not happen under Arizona’s historic Educational Scholarship Account (ESA) program, which was passed last year by the Arizona Legislature. Bream followed up by asking the governor if students should not have a chance to go elsewhere if their school system was failing. Hobbs’ reply was that “the schools are failing because we are failing to invest in them.”

But Governor Hobbs’ rampant claims of the ESA program bankrupting and failing Arizona schools were met with facts from several individuals. Corey DeAngelis, one of the nation’s premier “evangelists” of school choice, tweeted thanks to Shannon Bream for citing his January Wall Street Journal article, showing that Arizona’s ESA program could actually save the state more than $100 million.

And Andrew Clark, Executive Director of Yes. Every Kid. Foundation, tweeted, “The average cost for a family to homeschool is year is about: $2k per kid. Micro-schools and pods are about $5k. Private schools average $10k, charters around $12k. Public schools clock in around $15k. But sure it’s a spending problem for public schools…let’s ignore the facts…”

Governor Hobbs’ answers on school choice quickly went viral after the recorded interview went live Sunday morning, and Arizona Republicans, who are at the front lines of protecting the landmark ESA program, wasted no time in making their thoughts known.

The Arizona Senate Republicans Twitter account posted: “.@GovernorHobbs response makes absolutely zero sense, other than reinforcing why expansion of ESA school choice is so desperately needed.”

Senator Justine Wadsack tweeted, “So #HypocriteHobbs attended PRIVATE school, and her parents made “sacrifices” to put her there. Even found themselves on food stamps! Had #ESA/#SchoolChoice existed back then, her parents would have been given $7,000 to help with the cost of Katie’s education.”

Representative Quang Nguyen stated, “So if your parents afforded you this great opportunity, shouldn’t you make it possible for other parents to give their children the same opportunity you received as a child? Asking for Arizonans.”

Representative Cory McGarr disagreed with Governor Hobbs’ characterizations of district school funding, saying: “Our government schools are failing because we are supposedly starving them of resources?? 73% increase in funding since 2016… Perhaps they are failing because they focus on woke sexualization, feelings and racism and have no accountability because of politicians like this.”

Representative Matt Gress underlined the foundation of the school choice argument, writing: “.@GovernorHobbs’ parents struggled to provide her with an education THEY thought best. It’s unfortunate she wants AZ families to choose between being on food stamps or sending their kids to the school they choose. Let’s help families. Give them a choice, not push them down.”

Representative Austin Smith said, “Booed at the Phoenix Open, health nominee failed in the senate committee and called out for her hypocrisy on school choice on national Sunday show. Bad weekend for Hobbs. Is there anyone who thinks she’s actually an effective leader?”

Representative Justin Heap tweeted: “@katiehobbs is committed to ending Az’s ESA program which allows thousands of Arizona children to receive the same private school education she received. Katie Hobbs definitely believes in pulling the ladder up behind her.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.