Rep. Shawnna Bolick says a tweet she wrote Wednesday was not intended as a commentary on the Senate’s ongoing audit of Maricopa County’s election process. Instead, she was simply trying to draw attention to a double-standard by many state Democrats on the issue of public-private partnerships.
Bolick (R-LD20) is a strong supporter of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) which thousands of Arizona families can utilize to provide school choice for students. As Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, she has championed SB1452 which seeks to expand ESA eligibility to thousands more students.
But Bolick says she has seen many Democrats who do not support giving families more choice in a child’s education if that choice involves a privately run school. Then on Wednesday morning, Bolick was reading comments about the Senate’s election audit when an article caught her attention.
That article reported on how Maricopa County does not have the administrative passwords necessary to access key voting equipment the auditors want to review. Those passwords appear to be in the control of Dominion Voting Systems, a private company which leases voting equipment to the county.
And that, Bolick says, prompted a bit of a snarky retort “comparing how the Left is okay with our democratic process being turned over to a private entity for elections, but they are not okay with kids going to, say, a private school.”
“I see so much hypocrisy in the world, so it’s fun sometimes to point out an issue that might not even be related to another issue,” Bolick said, adding she did not mean to suggest private companies should never be involved in elections. “Just a little poke on hypocrisy between different governance structures and ideas. Nothing more, nothing less.”
An amended version of SB1452 which came through Bolick’s committee is slated to be considered by the House on Thursday. If it passes the legislation will have to return to the Senate for a final vote.
Bolick also serves as Vice-Chair of the House Criminal Justice Reform Committee.
Two topics that arise year after year, teacher’s salaries and public-school budgets, are often misunderstood and misrepresented. In fact, many say the RedForEd movement was created and nurtured with those misunderstandings and misrepresentations.
The misunderstanding and misrepresentation has led to frustration for taxpayers and parents. Many of whom feel that no matter how much they pay in taxes, nothing seems to get better in kids’ classrooms.
A new study by the Goldwater Institute indicates those feelings and frustrations might be justified.
According to Goldwater, the “20×2020” plan, approved by Arizona lawmakers in 2018, was designed to provide enough funding to give Arizona teachers a 20% raise. However, Goldwater has discovered that schools are not allocating the funds the way lawmakers intended them to be.
So what are schools doing with the extra funding that is being provided?
“District spending on administration, for instance, has risen by nearly $2,000 in inflation-adjusted terms per class of 20 students, even as teacher salaries were no higher through fiscal year 2020,” according to Beienburg.
Each year, teachers use their own money to buy supplies and decorations for their classrooms and to help offset the consistently growing list of “must buy” supplies sent to parents at the start of the school year. Yet, during the 1983-1984 school year almost 2,000 managers, supervisors, and directors were inexplicably added to Arizona school districts’ payrolls.
Many teachers have expressed frustration about not being a priority and tend to put pressure and blame on lawmakers as part of their demands for more money. It seems, though, that it is the school district administrators who need to feel the pressure and are to blame.
This last year has also placed additional stress on teachers and parents, with virtual and hybrid learning due to COVID-19.
Members of the state legislature requested that the COVID-19 stimulus revenue funds were given for school district use but the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) has declined to distribute much of the millions of dollars.
While it may be easy to blame political leaders and taxpayers for lack of support and failing to prioritize teachers, it seems to many observers that the attention should be on the ADE, school district administrators, and school boards who need to review and reconsider their budgets and priorities.
On Monday, the Arizona House passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 1044. The resolution allows voters to decide if students who are in the country illegally but have attended for two years and graduated from an Arizona high school can be eligible for in-state college tuition.
SCR 1044 also exempts post-secondary education from the definition of a state or public benefit. Currently, Arizona residents who do not have legal immigration status do not qualify to receive those benefits.
Last week, Republican State Reps. Michelle Udall and Joel John forced a vote on the resolution by joining all House Democrats. Republicans Rep. David Cook and Rep. Joanne Osborne joined the group later and voted in favor of the matter. The move shifted power away from the Republican Caucus momentarily, but left a deep division.
Speaker Rusty Bowers expressed his disappointment in the tactic employed by Udall and John before casting his vote against the measure:
The measure will now go before the Arizona voters on a ballot in 2022.
The ballot initiative would repeal a 15-year-old ban on in-state tuition for undocumented high school graduates, including about 2,000 Dreamers per year. Voters created that ban in 2006 when they approved Proposition 300, which denies public benefits to those not in the country legally, including reduced cost tuition.
The Arizona School Board Association (ASBA) held The Equity Event April 21st – 23rd. Among the keynote speakers was the founder and lead facilitator of Social Centric Institute, Calvin Terrell.
ASBA is the primary source for policies adopted by public school governing boards across Arizona. Critical Race Theory is currently being discussed by educators who hope to adopt and implement it into schools statewide.
Many parents and school board members have questioned Critical Race Theory-based curriculum. Those that question the curriculum and disagree with the implementation are being called “toxic,” “evil,” “bigots,” etc., and Terrell says they should be removed and states that those people are creating “whitelash.”
“Whitelash” is a term that Terrell uses to describe people who disagree with what he says or believes.
In his TEDx talk at Phoenix College, Terrell promoted the bizarre Aztec-based mysticism embodied in a creed students were forced to adopt as part of the Mexican American Studies classes in the Tucson Unified School District. Concerned teachers noted that the premise of the creed was one that prompts a student to adopt a collective and or amorphous identify rather than an identify as an individual.
Terrell spoke to school board members at last month’s event about how they can help end the “deification of whiteness and the demonization of non-whiteness.”
Terrell criticizes the media for posting lies or half-truths often does it himself. During the event, he stated, without evidence, that the reason the Irish and Scottish immigrates play bagpipes during police funerals is that when they first immigrated to America to prove themselves to the whites, they became overseers of slaves.
With a quick Google search, that statement can be proven false. Experts say by providing false information like accusing a group of people of being slave overseers can only lead to the dangerous outcome of villainization and dehumanization. A technique used by some of the most heinous regimes known to man.
Terrell told board members “when you can name your part in social sickness, you can identify your role in the remedy. Be part of the healing.”
Terrell spoke freely of eliminating voices from conversation – and schools – that do not comport with his own world view.
When word of Terrell’s statements became public, the ASBA rushed to defend his divisive message and released the following statement:
“ASBA Condemns Racism and Stands Committed to Equity
Public schools have a responsibility to ensure the highest ideals of justice, citizenship, and human dignity are demonstrated and upheld, from the governing board table to the classroom. They must stand committed to leading toward and advocating for more equitable and inclusive educational environments, free of racism, where every student, teacher, staff, parent, and community member is treated with dignity and respect. As an association, we have that responsibility, too, and we take it seriously.
In fact, in June 2020, the ASBA Board of Directors passed a resolution condemning racism and affirming the association’s commitment to equity – the opportunity, access, and inclusion necessary for every student to succeed. The resolution affirmed that “purposeful action against all forms of racism, both individual and organizational, is necessary to dismantle racism.”
Today, an Arizona talk radio host targeted two Black leaders who spoke at our invitation at the ASBA Equity Event. Although the event featured 30 speakers from a wide variety of backgrounds and races and tackled the difficult but important subjects of culture, race, and ethnicity and their impact on students and education, these two speakers — who were black — were singled out, maligned and their comments were mischaracterized. As an organization committed to equity and also to being anti-racist, we believe it necessary and appropriate to condemn this.
In addition to being simply wrong, such tactics and portrayals harm all students. When concepts like equity are wrongly defined or misinterpreted, with racist intent or not, it puts up roadblocks to the school board’s essential work of building greater opportunity, access and inclusion so that every student can succeed, regardless of their culture, race, ethnicity, family income, home setting, ability, gender or any other influence or characteristic that can contribute to inequities.
We have never shied away from the fact that the pursuit of greater equity is hard work. It’s part of our core beliefs. Rest assured, we will not shy away from the work itself, either. Arizona’s students are worth it – and they are counting on us.
We have said it before and will continue to say it again. School board members should never feel that they are placing themselves or their families at risk by serving their communities or doing what is right for kids. Remember, ASBA is here to serve you and will always be your association.”
Still, parents have questions. Among those unaddressed by ASBA is a simple one: are parents and/or board members not allowed to question what is being presented to them without being seen as “racist?” Parents want to know how they are supposed to feel comfortable and approve of the Critical Race Theory curriculum when the information their kids are being provided many times is based on misinformation or at times, outright lies?
House Bill 2241 requires Arizona students to be taught about the Holocaust and other genocides twice between seventh and twelfth grades. Although the bill passed unanimously in February of this year, at issue is a proposed Senate amendment defining anti-Semitism in accordance with the definition adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
The sponsor of HB 2241, State Rep. Alma Hernandez, is a self-declared progressive and staunch Zionist. The Mexican-American Jewish Democrat is a refreshing and important voice in Arizona’s pro-Israel community, especially at a time in American politics when the term “progressive” is often associated with with anti-Israel sentiment. In an interview with the Haym Salomon Center, Hernandez expressed her support for the IHRA definition, but not in the context of this bill.
“I have championed the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism in the past and hope to do so in the future with colleagues across the aisle in a separate bill,” said Hernandez, adding, “I worked with Holocaust survivors, families and organizations to create this bill. This is their bill, and I will keep my promise to them and pass their legislation.”
Hernandez is part of a chorus of bill supporters who believe the unanimous passing of the legislation sends an important message to students on the significance of Holocaust education.
Joining that choir is Sheryl Bronkesh, president of the Phoenix Holocaust Association. During our conversation she expressed how critical it is to pass this legislation now, with no amendments.
“We’ve been working on this legislation for three years,” explained Bronkesh. “This past year I lost 10 survivors. I don’t want to see another legislative session end without survivors and their families not witnessing Holocaust education being passed while they are with us.”
Disagreeing with Bronkesh is fellow Phoenix Holocaust Association member Marion Weinzweig. Weinzweig, a Holocaust survivor, believes “we need the IHRA definition in the bill. If we don’t define anti-Semitism – teach students about contemporary anti-Semitism – what stops this bill from being used against Jews and Israel?”
Weinzweig and other supporters of the IHRA amendment fear that without the definition, Holocaust education can be used to foment anti-Semitism.
Sounds absurd to some. But during a period in our history where disdain for Jews is growing, anti-Israel advocates and their anti-Semitic minions in government, culture, and academia intend to use the Holocaust to stir up Jew-hatred.
Holocaust inversion is an actual phenomenon. It’s the portrayal of Jews and Israel as modern-day Nazis. Anti-Semites claim Israel treats the Palestinians as the Nazis treated the Jews during the Holocaust.
This sad reality is one of the driving forces that led Arizona State Sen. Paul Boyer to author and sponsor the IHRA amendment. The Republican lawmaker believes the purpose of Holocaust education is not only to teach the history; it must also help eradicate anti-Semitism in the future.
Boyer notes that over 550 survivors, family members of survivors and concerned citizens emailed the Arizona legislature in support of the IHRA amendment.
“The IHRA definition must be part of any Holocaust education bill if the legislation is to have any teeth,” Boyer explained. “If educating students about the Holocaust is to be successful in preventing future injustices, we have to include safeguards to prevent Holocaust inversion.”
Boyer is not wrong in his concerns about contemporary anti-Semitism. In fact, it exists in the very legislative body in which he serves.
For example, Arizona State Rep. and Minority Whip Athena Salman took to the floor in April 2019 and claimed the Israel military has a history of abducting children.
An anti-Israel, anti-Semitic diatribe such as that of Democratic lawmaker Salman makes one wonder how this type of behavior is being tolerated in our society. Invectives spewed by Congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), who receive very limited scrutiny for their rank anti-Semitism, only reaffirm the position of IHRA definition supporters.
All the interested parties, on both sides of the debate, understand the importance of Holocaust education but disagree on how best to implement it. What is not up for debate, however, is that anti-Semitism exists even among publicly elected officials, and that Holocaust inversion is now part of contemporary anti-Semitism. Thwarting the trend necessitates a curriculum that includes a clear definition of anti-Semitism, past and present.
Paul Miller is president and executive director of the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow him on Twitter at @pauliespoint.
They’re at it again. You would think that public school districts would learn their lesson at some point. After all, many of them turned their backs on students and parents in the wake of COVID-19. And now, those school districts are paying the price.
But apparently, they’re too committed to their agenda.
Some school districts are ignoring the science and keeping their beloved mask mandates. Some would rather keep parents in the dark about classroom curriculum. While others are trying to adopt Marxist Critical Race Theory programs in their schools.
The latest culprit is Litchfield Elementary School District, where the school board recently published an “equity statement” along with a set of “equity goals.” The goals were presented at the school board meeting in March and crafted by, you guessed it, a “district diversity committee.”
If you’re unfamiliar with Critical Race Theory, it’s a movement that combines Marxist theories of class conflict within the lens of race. And it teaches that racism is present in every interaction. Races that have been “minoritized” are considered oppressed while those who are “racially privileged” are called “exploiters.” Proponents of the movement are good at disguising it. As Christopher Rufo from the Manhattan Institute points out, you’ll often find Critical Race Theory is present when you hear terms like “social justice,” “diversity,” “inclusion,” and “equity.”