Republicans Join Democrats To Force Vote On In-State Tuition For Students In County Illegally

Republicans Join Democrats To Force Vote On In-State Tuition For Students In County Illegally

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.

Arizona School Board Association Defends “Deification Of Whiteness” Speaker

Arizona School Board Association Defends “Deification Of Whiteness” Speaker

By B. Hamilton |

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?

Holocaust Education, IHRA And Anti-Semitism In Arizona

Holocaust Education, IHRA And Anti-Semitism In Arizona

By Paul Miller |

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.

Is Critical Race Theory Coming To A Public School Near You?

Is Critical Race Theory Coming To A Public School Near You?

By the Free Enterprise Club |

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.”


School Districts Respond To Mask Mandate Controversies As Outsiders Are Accused Of Political Manipulation

School Districts Respond To Mask Mandate Controversies As Outsiders Are Accused Of Political Manipulation

By Terri Jo Neff |

The Vail School District abruptly cancelled its Tuesday night board meeting after nearly 200 people showed up to push for an end to the district’s mandatory mask policy for staff, volunteers, and 13,500 students.

Deputies with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department were called to the Vail Education Center when dozens of people refused to leave the building once the meeting was cancelled. Officials noted that the crowd exceeded the building’s adjusted COVID-19 occupancy limit and the majority of the attendees refused to abide by the district’s mask-wearing and social distancing policies.

Some among the crowd then decided to elect a new school board based on nomination offered and a vote taken right in the lobby of the building. The first act taken by the “new board” was to do away with the mask mandate.

Several participants claim the election was legal due to the fact they followed Robert’s Rules of Order. However, several attorneys have come forth to point out Arizona has strict open meeting laws and election laws, thus making whatever vote took place Tuesday night irrelevant.

But while the Vail District’s board meeting never got started Tuesday night, the governing board of the state’s largest district heard argument for and against its plans to phase out mask mandates in the coming days.

Mesa Public Schools announced the mask phase-out shortly after Gov. Doug Ducey rescinded his executive order which had required the wearing of masks for its staff, volunteers, and 63,000 K-12 students. Masks are current strongly recommended” but not required for students when they are outdoors, but are mandatory on school buses and all school facilities including gyms.

District officials will announce Friday whether the mask mandate will be dropped next week on Mesa buses. In the meantime, staff continue to promote physical distancing and personal hygiene practices despite the fact current district COVID-19 policies are more restrictive than those being recommended by many in the science and medical communities.

The Maricopa County Public Health Department “strongly recommends the use of face coverings” by students and staff in schools and on buses or other public transportation, according to its website, but does not mandate such use. Those policy decisions “will be made by the local school or school district authority,” according to the department.

A board meeting of the Dysart School District in Surprise also experienced a larger than usual turnout for its Wednesday night meeting. At one point district personnel locked the doors from the outside to stop people from entering the building when occupancy and social distancing capacities were met, and local police officers provided security.

One school board attorney told AZ Free News that knowingly allowing more people into the building than legally allowed puts district officials and employees at risk of being held personally, even criminally, liable if anyone is injured.

That appears to be one of the reasons behind the Tanque Verde Unified School District’s cancellation of its Wednesday evening board meeting after reports that a similar mask “protest” was planned. A statement from the district announcing the cancellation noted officials first conferred with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department before determining the district would “be unable to conduct the meeting safely.”

With district officials from Vail to Tanque Verde to Surprise and beyond aware of reports of future the mask-mandate protests, the question is whether they will move their public meetings to larger venues, such as cafeterias and gymnasiums, instead of cancelling meetings.

Since Tuesday night, nearly 100 parents in the Vail District have used social media to express their frustration about losing the opportunity to express their opinion to the board.  At the same time, others wrote of concern that so many parents lack a basic understanding of how school districts are governed.

They say that lack of awareness makes those less-informed parents vulnerable to manipulation by people from outside the district who have political agendas. And they point to self-identified members of the upstart Patriot Party of Arizona who do not live in either Surprise or Vail who posted about their involvement in trying to force entry into those board meetings.

Rally Draws Support For Police, Minority Unification Amid Push For Student Scholarship Expansion

Rally Draws Support For Police, Minority Unification Amid Push For Student Scholarship Expansion

By Terri Jo Neff |

Many attendees at Monday’s “Unification Rally” outside the Arizona State Capitol held signs which read “Unity – Protect and Educate Our Children” while speakers talked about bringing together law enforcement officials and religious leaders to build better relationships between peace officers and minorities.

The event also served as a show of support for Sen. Paul Boyer’s pending Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) legislation which supporters say will bring an end to the school to prison pipeline by expanding Arizona’s student funding program to an additional 470,000 children between preschool and grade 12.

An ESA allows an eligible child to receive credit for a large amount of the government education funding that would have been paid to the student’s public or charter school. Those funds can then be used toward private school expenses, including tuition, counseling, tuition, and other necessary costs.

SB1452 cleared the state Senate back in mid-February on a 16 to 14 party line vote, but has been stalled in the House after being amended in March by the Ways & Means Committee. Monday’s rally about the importance of educational options for parents who want additional educational options for their children highlighted Boyer’s ESA legislation.

Less than 10,000 students currently utilize ESAs, but speakers at the rally believe expanding eligibility criteria will allow nearly 726,000 children to have the option to receive an ESA. Among SB1452’s supporters are the Barry Goldwater Institute for Public Policy Research, AZ Families for Home Education, and the American Federations of Children.

Currently there are 256,000 students eligible for the ESA program based on one of eight criteria, such as children with disabilities, children with a parent on active duty in the Armed Forces or whose parent was killed in the line of duty, children who are wards of the court with a permanent guardian, and children attending schools or school districts with a “D” or “F” rating.

According to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC), Boyer’s bill as amended by the House would expand eligibility to children who qualify for a free or reduced-priced lunch program, as well as about 63,000 students who are the children of veterans. That would make approx. 726,000 preschool to grade 12 students eligible for ESAs under at least one of the criteria.

The JLBC estimates the participation rate of the newly eligible students at around four percent, which would boost ESA enrollment by 1,926 students in Fiscal Year 2022, 3,877 in FY 2023, and 5,982 in FY 2024. Based on that increased participation, the Arizona Department of Education expenses would increase by $1.7 million, $3.6 million, and $6.4 million in those years, respectively.

However, JLBC noted the overall effect on the General Fund would be annual savings of $7.1 million to $9.4 million during the same three-year period. Those savings do not include estimated increases in annual administrative expenses of $2.2 million to $4 million.

Boyer’s bill has not been placed on a House agenda for a Third Reading as of press time.