Ducey Bans Government Entities From Asking About Vaccine Status But Businesses, Schools, Health Providers Can

Ducey Bans Government Entities From Asking About Vaccine Status But Businesses, Schools, Health Providers Can

By Terri Jo Neff |

An effort by the Arizona Legislature to craft permanent legislation to prevent a person from being denied access to businesses, government facilities, and even their child’s school unless they showed proof of being vaccination for COVID-19 was pushed aside Monday when Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order about the issue.

Under Executive Order 21-09, most private businesses in Arizona will be free to refuse service to “a customer” who does not provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Only companies which receive state funding to provide services to the public are banned from inquiring about someone’s status, although Ducey’s order does not protect those citizens who cannot receive a vaccine for a medical reason

“While we strongly recommend all Arizonans get the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s not mandated in our state — and it never will be,” Ducey said in announcing his latest COVID related executive order. “Vaccination is up to each individual, not the government.”

Daycares, schools, colleges, and universities would still be able to ask about a student’s vaccination record as already allowed by law, but parents could not be asked about their own vaccination status if the educational program receives any state funding.

In addition, hospitals and other healthcare facilities can inquire about the vaccination status of patients, prospective patients, vendors, visitors, and staff, even if the organization receives state funds.

There was initially some confusion Monday morning about what EO 2021-09 encompassed, as Ducey’s official Twitter account read “I’ve issued an Executive Order banning ‘vaccine passports’ and preventing state and local governments from requiring Arizonans to provide their #COVID19 vaccination status to receive service or enter an area.”

Many took the first sentence to mean businesses could not impose a vaccine requirement on customers. However, that misinterpretation was quickly corrected by the rest of the governor’s comments.

Ducey noted in the executive order that no person should be compelled to disclose their private health information -including their vaccination record- to a government entity as a condition of receiving services, obtaining a license or permit, or entrance to a public facility unless state law already requires proof of vaccination.

He added that federal and state laws allow individuals to refuse to be vaccinated, and that “it is not and will not be mandated in the State of Arizona.”

EO 2021-09 also prohibits any other state subdivision -including cities towns, counties, and state agencies- from adopting a policy or ordinance that contradicts the governor’s order. This ensures cities, towns, and counties cannot demand proof of vaccinations for people to use public parks and other public recreational and entertainment amenities.

Rep. Bret Roberts (R-LD11) first introduced legislation to ban such “vaccine passports” in Arizona. His effort was taken up by Sen. Kelly Townsend on March 28 in the form of HB2190, which would have protected Arizonans from having to divulge their vaccination record to shop, dine, or do most everyday activities.

HB2190 hit a snag in early April over concerns that it did not allow healthcare providers nor business owners to inquire about vaccination status of their employees. Negotiations have been underway all month on possible amendments to Townsend’s bill.

For his part, Roberts announced his support for EO 2021-09, noting Ducey’s “reasons for doing so are sound.” But he went on to note that many of those sounds reasons “also apply to the private sector.”

“No one should be required to give up their medical history to participate in commerce,” Roberts tweeted Monday morning. “When all businesses require it the individuals choice is lost. Allowing private business to do this amounts to segregation.”

Roberts also expressed concern that executive orders are intended to be temporary. After the governor’s announcement, Rep. Leo Biasiucci (R-LD4) said SB2190 should be voted on in the coming days as it “solves the issue with businesses requiring vaccine mandates.”

Also on Monday, Ducey rescinded a section of his EO 2020-51 which had directed K-12 schools to require masks.

“We will continue to work with public health professionals and Arizona’s schools as more students return to the classroom and our state moves forward,” the governor said.

Arizona Legislature Approves Teacher Lunches During School Events – But Only If They Meet School Nutrition Guidelines

Arizona Legislature Approves Teacher Lunches During School Events – But Only If They Meet School Nutrition Guidelines

By Corinne Murdock |

The Arizona legislature has voted to allow schools to feed teachers during school events – but only if they use Arizona Department of Education (ADE) nutritional guidelines. That means that teacher meals will be constrained to the five food group components of meat/meat based alternatives, grains, vegetables, fruit, and fluid milk.

One of the nutritional standards is zero grams of trans fat. That would nix out fried foods, like doughnuts, and certain baked goods like biscuits or crackers. Further, there are limits on the types of desserts made available. Any grain-based desserts can only be offered at a rate of 2.0 oz/eq of grain a week.

More leeway exists with the USDA guidelines for “Smart Snacks” – those food or drink items sold elsewhere, like through vending machines. It is unclear if the bill will allow schools to provide meals to teachers with foods or drinks that would qualify as “smart snack” items – such as candy or sodas. The “smart snacks” are technically considered “competitive” foods to meals provided through the school.

No analysis of the estimated fiscal impact accompanied the bill.

The Senate passed the bill enabling school boards to provide food and drinks during district events on Tuesday. The bill also clarified that boards acting under this legal authority would be subject to the Arizona Gift Clause.

State Representative Daniel Hernandez (D-Tucson) is the sponsor on the bill. The House Education Committee recommended the bill for passage quickly.

“Statutes don’t explicitly allow school districts to be able to provide food for teacher trainings, board meetings, [etcetera,]” explained Hernandez, in brief.

No further questions were asked of the bill.

Only six House members voted against the bill, all Republican. State Representatives Walter Blackman (R-Snowflake), John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction), Gail Griffin (R-Hereford), Jacqueline Parker (R-Mesa), Judy Burges (R-Prescott), Travis Grantham (R-Gilbert), Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek), Bret Roberts (R-Maricopa), and Joseph Chaplik (R-Scottsdale) voted no.

An amendment to the bill, introduced by Hernandez in February, deleted the provision that would’ve enabled school boards to provide food and drinks via a cafe open to the public. Another amendment to the bill was what added the stipulation that these food and drink provisions would be subject to the Arizona Gift Clause, added by the Senate Education Committee.

The Senate passed along the bill quickly without discussion. Six senators voted against the bill, all Republicans again – State Senators Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix), David Livingston (R-Peoria), Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa), Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale), Sine Kerr (R-Buckeye), and Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert).

The bill will now head to the governor’s desk for approval.

Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to corinnejournalist@gmail.com.

Arizona Teachers Round Up for Lessons on Advancing Critical Race Theory Again

Arizona Teachers Round Up for Lessons on Advancing Critical Race Theory Again

By Corinne Murdock |

2021 marks the seventh year of The Equity Event, an annual speaker series for teachers hosted by the Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA). This event serves as a touchstone for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives enshrined in school policies statewide.

ASBA characterizes itself as a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that offers training and leadership assistance to public school governing boards.

According to The Equity Event save the date published by ASBA, this year’s Equity Event will have a special focus on culture, race, and ethnicity.

Following the clarifying statement of this year’s focus, the ASBA site insinuated in the following paragraph that the gaps in opportunities and outcomes across school districts might have to do with equity concerning culture, race, and ethnicity.

“Every school district has gaps in opportunity and outcomes,” wrote ASBA. “What are the barriers preventing your district from closing them so that every student can reach their full potential? How can you and your board overcome them?”

The event description continued on to say that past series have uncovered the realities that adversely impact students, such as family income, physical ability, or immigration status. ASBA then stated that culture, race, and ethnicity are related to each of these realities.

Then, ASBA says that race should be focused on more intensely. The association encouraged attendees to become aware of barriers or biases that they aren’t aware existed in themselves.

ASBA has three keynote speakers lined up this year. Calvin Terrell, known for his Ted Talk that advances a kind of secular humanism; Dr. Jennifer Harvey, gay reverend and proponent of antiracism and critical race theory; and Bill de la Cruz, an all-around advocate for racial awareness and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

A pre-conference to The Equity Event on April 21 will include scheduled appearances from a similar string of guests focused on the Latino and Latina communities in the state.

Guest speakers will be Arizona Poet Laureate Alberto Rios; Executive Director of ALL in Education, Stephanie Parra; President & CEO of Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Monica Villalobos; University of Arizona Ph.D. Associate Dean for Community Engagement, College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, Maribel Alvarez; Arizona State University School of Social Work’s Office of Latino Projects Director, Dr. David Becerra; University of Arizona School of Education Educational Policy and Practice Associate Professor, Dr. Nolan Cabrera; Chief Development Officer and Former Valle del Sol Leadership Development Director, Angela Florez; National Association of Latino Elected/Appointed Officials (NALEO) Education Fund Director of Civic Engagement Research, Dorian Caal; and four school board members from across the state, Eva Carrillo Dong, Devin Del Palacio, Monica Trejo, and Tadeo De La Hoya.

One of the guest speakers for the pre-conference, Cabrera, has caused controversy in recent years. His past work within the Tucson Unified School District with Mexican American Studies classes was panned, and in 2019 he accused University of Arizona President Dr. Robert Robbins of not recognizing White Supremacy because Border Patrol agents were visiting a campus career fair.

The rest of the speaker series will focus on equity across all races overall.

The Equity Event will take place virtually from April 22 through the 23. Registration opened March 8, and the deadline to register was Wednesday, April 14.

Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to corinnejournalist@gmail.com.

A Mother’s Journey Through Arizona’s K-12 School System

A Mother’s Journey Through Arizona’s K-12 School System

By Heather Rooks |

I am a busy mom of 4 wonderful children and a wife of a hard working husband. I had the best memories of watching each of my children experience their 1st year of school in the Peoria Unified School District (PUSD). Their teachers were kind, engaging and overall the same experience I had in PUSD growing up. My husband and I had the great memories at Frontier Elementary and Sunrise Mountain High School.

Something in the schools changed in January 2021. I noticed a shift in my two older children’s content in the classrooms. My oldest had said he felt uncomfortable one day after watching the Presidential Inauguration in class. I had no clue that both my 2nd grader and 4th grader had a classroom activity that involved the viewing of the inauguration. I reached out to their teachers who have always been very helpful. I was surprised by the reason for the inauguration being shown in class.  I was told by my 4th grader’s teacher that “the team” decided to change the lesson plan from Martin Luther King Jr. week to the viewing of the Inauguration as a “teachable moment” – although the same could not be said of the 2016 inauguration. This is where I began my journey into figuring out what was going on in the District.

I began reaching out to other parents for information and attending Governing Board Meetings. I wanted to know if there were other parents going through similar situations. And of course there was.

I started learning about parental rights under Arizona Revised Statutes and how they applied in the schools. I worked together with a support group of parents. Together we formed a parent Facebook group so we could stay in touch and have meetings to share what we learned. We started going through governing board agendas and seeing what was being voted through. We wanted to learn more about how the process works, how much power came from the Board and how much the Board really knew about what administration is putting into our kid’s education.

One thing I noticed was how little effort the Peoria Unified School District puts into helping parents and the community understand the whole governing board process such as the adoption of district policies, requesting public records and more.

For example, I learned curriculum resource materials are only allowed to be viewed at the district office. We need better access and more effort by the District to make materials /curriculum proposed for Board approval available especially now that so much of the curricula and supplemental materials are digital.

With help from a few people on the outside who knew how things worked, I learned how to request public records on professional Teacher development programs and communication emails in the District that included curriculum.

I talked with other parents about the curriculum and the ideas that were being taught to their kids in the upper grade levels. I learned that topics such as discrimination throughout American history is being taught with black lives matter;  George Floyd, mob mentality, CNN news resource in classroom assignments and students knowing their teachers political affiliation was all showing up in middle school classes.  During all my years as a student in the Peoria Unified School District – K-12 – I never knew any of my teachers’ political affiliations.

I started to learn more about Critical Race Theory and the idea behind diversity, equity and inclusion.

As a parent with two children with disabilities on Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s) that affect their everyday lives I thought the inclusion idea was great. But the diversity, equity and inclusion that I had researched was twisted and not actually for children with disabilities.

I didn’t want any curriculum or program teaching my children that they were privileged based on their race. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to teach a child that their skin color determines who they are in life. My mother and grandparents always taught me to reach for my goals and work hard for my future. America has always taught that anyone can succeed in this country.

I started reading through the different items on the April 5th board meeting agenda. Once I started looking at the supplemental material vendor lists of three contracts under the Consent Agenda I reached out to our group. We worked together to figure out what was on each vendor website.

The content for some of the vendors was not easily accessed without subscription; some vendors had their message of the same concept of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and more. The ones that really stood out were Cengage, Gale, Savvas Learning Company (formerly Pearson Publishing known for Common Core) and Everfi . These are just a few of the vendors which are all part of the SAVE consortium contract on the Consent Agenda. Topics on these websites included Social justice, gender identity book titles for all grade levels, Culturally Responsive Learning, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, LGBTQ even for younger grades like kindergarten and more.

One of the vendors, Everfi, has a description of Diversity Foundations for High school that introduces learners to key concepts of identity, bias, power, privilege and oppression. In that lesson learners explore the concepts of power, privilege, oppression, discrimination and racism.

The real shocker was the day of the board meeting when I was able to access the Peoria Public Library’s database list. Of course Gale Academic One File, the vendor listed on the SAVE Contract, was listed. I clicked on the link and was taken to the actual website where I had to type in the barcode of the library card.

From there I typed in a title provided by the contact from Colorado (who had the same situation with Gale and Cengage Company in their child’s district) called Abuse Porn: Reading Reactions to Boys Halfway House. The article was very descriptive on an adult website for boys and at the bottom of the article I saw the sources listed with 4 blue links. The 1st link took me off the Gale website and directly to a gay pornographic webpage. To say I was shocked is an understatement.

I had in four days discovered controversial topics, hidden content and links to pornographic websites off of one contract the District wanted to purchase for their teachers to use in our children’s classrooms.   The curriculum department explained that the district had to choose curriculum that matched changes to the AZ State Standards. When they began their “process” they turned to a preapproved contract complied by Mesa Public School District for the SAVE Consortium so that the work was done for them and would be a “cheaper” process.

My questions are why is no one else in the district curriculum department checking through these vendor websites before bringing them to the Board for approval and into our children’s classrooms?

How could the Superintendent Reynolds and his staff in the Curriculum Department fail our children and our trust by not researching EVERY single vendor listed on that contract?

Why would the district not want to invest in the time and money searching for outstanding and appropriate resources for our kids learning?

This contract was on the Consent Agenda for approval of the Board without discussion and only as a financial expenditure with no information being provided by the curriculum department about the content.

I am grateful to James T. Harris for having me on his radio show so other parents could hear what is going on. These same parents came to the standing room only board meeting to voice their disapproval of the content of these supplemental materials and the associated websites.

It reminded me of America and how strong it can be when we come together. I spoke at the board meeting and talked about my findings of links to porn websites from the supplemental vendor resources.

Thankfully, board member and Representative Beverly Pingerelli (R LD21), with support of board member Rebecca Hill, motioned to table all three contracts and have the curriculum team bring forward exactly which vendors they wanted to use in the schools. The board all voted in favor of this idea and Beverly Pingerelli asked to allow the parents to view the content of each vendor.

There’s nothing better than sending your child off to school for their first day. These are moments you cherish for a lifetime. You trust the teacher. You trust the principal. You just trust. Then all the sudden the trust is gone and you’re left with fighting those you trusted. Those you trusted to educate your child.

Arizona Legislature Passes Bill Requiring Parental Permission for All Sex Ed Curriculum

Arizona Legislature Passes Bill Requiring Parental Permission for All Sex Ed Curriculum

By Corinne Murdock |

Wednesday, the House passed a bill requiring schools to have parents’ written consent before teaching Sex Education to students. Rather than having parents opt their children out of Sex Ed curriculum, this legislation requires schools to have parents opt in their children.

The bill passed along party lines, with only one Democratic representative abstaining their vote: State Representative Denise “Mitzi” Epstein (D-Tempe).

Summarily, the bill prohibits schools from providing Sex Ed to any students below the fifth grade – including education on AIDS and HIV. It would also require schools to make all Sex Ed curriculum available for parental review two weeks in advance, at minimum.

Under the bill, schools may or may not choose to implement a Sex Ed curriculum. If they do, the bill would simply require them to prioritize parental consent and communication, and those schools would have the option for state-level health or education officials to review the materials. It would also require that AIDS and HIV education be grade-level appropriate, promote abstinence, discourage drug use, and dispel myths of HIV transmission.

The legislation also requires that all committee meetings to develop, adopt, revise, or update Sex Ed courses be open to the public. Additionally, all materials must be made available and two public hearings must occur at least 60 days prior to any approval of materials.

Both Arizona House and Senate Democrats tweeted against the passage of the bill.

“This bill is a huge step back from the progress Arizona made in 2019 when we removed barriers for LGBTQ+ representation in schools. This bill makes all HIV/AIDS instruction opt-in, labeling this important education as taboo & only available via a permission slip,” wrote the Arizona Senate Democrats.

Neither the House or Senate GOP or the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix), published remarks on social media regarding the passage of this bill. Barto did tell reporters in an emailed statement that this served as a victory for parents’ rights.

“Parents should not have to worry about what schools are teaching their children about human sexuality,” stated Barto. “Too often parents learn after the fact that explicit or controversial materials were presented without their knowledge or consent.”

As AZ Free News reported previously, the Senate passed the bill early last month. Testimonies presented during committee hearings relayed a variety of issues. These included schools telling children that sex education classes are mandatory, refusing to share curriculum materials with parents, or circumventing parental notification on certain materials like “Genderbread.”

The legislation will now heads to Governor Doug Ducey. If signed into law as written, schools would have until December 15 of this year to comply.

The Arizona School Board Association condemned the bill’s passage as an effort to “undermine the authority of school boards. However, nothing in the bill prohibits school boards from approving curriculum. It merely sets a grade-level requirement and provides parents with an opportunity to exercise their authority over their own children.

Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to corinnejournalist@gmail.com.

Overwhelming Bipartisan Support for School Choice in Arizona Continues to Grow

Overwhelming Bipartisan Support for School Choice in Arizona Continues to Grow

Arizona voters are asking lawmakers to lead on Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs), and their voices just got louder.

The state’s ESA program—which allows families to use a portion of the state dollars allotted for their children to pay for private tuition, tutors, and other teaching tools—has transformed thousands of lives both before and during the pandemic. For years, the testimonies of parents have been nothing short of remarkable:

  • As one mother put it this past year to members of the State Board of Education, “ESA saved my son from a path that would have compromised him on a systemic level…”
  • From another mom: “I am a parent of three children on ESA, but I also have a master’s degree in elementary education, and ESA has saved the educational lives of my three children…. We have tried public, private, and charter schools… [and] my child was able to meet some of her IEP [Individualized Education Program] goals in four months that no school had helped her to achieve in four years.”
  • And from a mother in rural Arizona: “I want all to know that this ESA option to educate my children truly saved my family; my oldest has significant disabilities and she attended our public school through her ninth grade year… So many years were spent advocating and begging and pleading for her to be educated, and more importantly, even wanted… ESA has opened up our world to educational opportunities never to be found in the public school setting…”

Now, Arizona lawmakers are on the cusp of extending this same opportunity to thousands more children via SB 1452, which would provide ESA eligibility to low-income and veteran families.

Right now, only special needs students and select other groups, such as children whose parents are on active duty or were killed in the line of service, are eligible to participate in the program. But as Gaby Friedman of the Torah Day School testified to lawmakers in March 2021, the impact of ESAs on kids at her school has shown the need to give the same opportunity to even more families:

“Maya (not her real name) is six, comes from a low-income family, and is disabled…Maya is eligible for the ESA because she is a special needs disabled student…What I thought her story shows is that an ESA works for an individual child…Maya is not the only one with unique needs. There’s many parents out there… and their children aren’t getting the education that they want. Those children might be not disabled…but they need more than what they’re getting. And that’s why this bill is so important.”

Arizona voters increasingly agree.

Multiple recent polls have found overwhelming bipartisan support across Arizona for increasing access to ESAs. Now, a new Goldwater Institute poll has again found massive support among both rural and metropolitan regions of the state. The poll, which was conducted in March and April 2021 across three separate legislative districts (LD4, LD13, and LD25), found that over two-thirds of all respondents, including 70% of Democrats, 67% of Independents, and 71% of Republicans, voiced support for extending program eligibility to all low-income students in Arizona. In contrast, out of the overall sample (N=641), just 21% of voters opposed increasing ESA eligibility.

Conducted March 29– April 6, 2021. N=641. Margin of error <6%. Results above exclude respondents who identified their political affiliation as “Other.”

Union organizers and district superintendents may have the bigger megaphone and messaging apparatus, but our education system ultimately exists to serve Arizona students and their families. Especially in the wake of COVID-19 and the academic disruption unleashed by public school shutdowns over the past year, that truth seems increasingly clear to voters. May it be equally clear to Arizona’s policymakers.

This article was published by the in defense of liberty blog  on April 14, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from the Goldwater Institute