“School Choice is the civil rights issue of today.” These powerful words are from a powerful civil rights icon named Reverend HK Matthews. Rev. Matthews made this statement on a video he recently provided in his support for Senate Bill 1452 which is legislation that will help low-income families receive the best education possible through a school choice program called Empowerment Scholarship Accounts or ESA’s.
Rev. Matthews marched in Selma, Alabama in 1965, demonstrated with Martin Luther King Jr., was beaten, and was jailed 35 times in his advocating for equality, so if anyone is qualified to speak on civil rights, it is Rev. Matthews. At 93 years old, he is considered a living legend and is still fighting for civil rights, and that fight is for school choice.
I agree with Rev. Matthews because I was a product of school choice myself and know personally what a lifesaving tool it is. As a poor black kid from the south side of Chicago, I was able to attend one of the best private schools on a football scholarship and going to that school allowed me to achieve my dreams of playing in the NFL.
Education is the one great equalizer that can provide the best way out of a bad situation, it was for me and I know that this is especially true for our low-income and minority children.
Some people ask me, ‘What is school choice?” and put simply, it is the freedom for parents to have their child receive whatever education they think is best. We know that all children don’t learn the same, so having different education options is crucial. Options include district, charter, and private schools, online/virtual options, in-home tutoring, micro schools, pods, or whatever helps with each child’s individual learning needs.
Remember, education dollars are really just tax dollars from parents, so parents ought to be able to have a say on how their dollars are spent on their kids’ education.
Rev. Matthews and I are not alone in supporting school choice for our students especially during this dire time where students of color are failing at record numbers due to distance learning. In committee, Senator Paul Boyer referenced a very recent poll conducted in Arizona by Cygnal (named by the New York Times the most accurate pollster in the nation) which had irrefutable results:
77% of Arizonans believe that COVID has caused students to fall behind in their learning because of the mass school closures and distance learning.
75% said they support school choice.
73% said low-income kids in Arizona should have access to an ESA to help them catch up in their learning loss (only 12% disagreed).
The poll shows that minorities and Democrats, of which I am both, support school choice and ESA’s even more so than Caucasians and Republicans. This only reinforces what we are seeing both nationally and in Arizona, that people of all parties and race support low-income and black and brown students (who are now about 12 months behind their white counterparts) to receive the help they desperately need. While this disparity has always been a problem in the minority community, COVID has made it even worse.
All of this brings me to the recent vote on Senate Bill 1452, legislation that would provide ESA’s to low-income families which will allow them to use their tax dollars to provide the best education for their children. Even though Democrats like myself (and the 73-75% of Democrats surveyed that support school choice and ESA’s for low income kids), not one Democrat has yet to vote for this needed legislation.
On top of that, the Democrat Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman even sent her lobbyist (paid by public tax dollars) to oppose this bill when it was heard in Committee last week.
They keep saying they want to increase funding to schools, but we should care more about students rather than buildings, that’s why it’s called per-pupil funding, not per-school funding. We need to get out of the mindset that we need to prop up and support physical schools ahead of supporting kids.
This leads to my disappointment of the anti-school choice group Save Our Schools, who also testified against the bill. Their problem starts with their name as they are more interested in supporting brick and mortar schools and the funding that goes to them then they are in supporting or “saving” our students.
In closing, to address those who will not support giving low-income and minority kids every option possible to make up learning losses from COVID, I once again refer to the words of Rev. Matthews and say, “Shame on you!”
(Drew Anderson currently serves as Lead Pastor of Legacy Christian Center in Phoenix and the Chaplain of the NFL Alumni Association in Arizona, and played linebacker in the NFL for the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals)
A bill originally disguised as a nature-loving resolution passed by the Senate was rewritten completely through an amendment to qualify illegal aliens for in-state tuition. The same wouldn’t apply to nonimmigrant aliens.
“Notwithstanding any other law, a student, other than a nonimmigrant alien as described in 8 United States Code Section 1101(a)(15) […] is eligible for in-state tuition at any university […],” reads the amendment. “Persons without lawful immigration status are eligible for in-state tuition […]”
State Representative Daniel Hernandez, Jr. (D-Tucson) introduced the amendment. The proposed change comes into play as the border crisis continues to surge. Rural communities at Arizona’s border are pleading with federal authorities for help, as the number of migrants have more than doubled since Biden took office.
Yuma Border Patrol Special Operations Supervisor Vincent Dulesky reported one week ago that they are seeing surges of up to 100 illegal aliens at a time crossing the border.
“We’ve gone from months where we were seeing twenty [illegal aliens] a day, and now we’re seeing upwards to 450 a day,” said Dulesky. “We’re seeing groups of ten, twenty, thirty, all the way up to 100 [illegal aliens] coming through at a time.”
Their border patrol also noted that the border crossings aren’t occurring in the areas where previous President Donald Trump built miles of 30-foot-tall steel walls. The main flood of crossings have occurred where the Normandy fencing exists. The X-shaped barricades only serve to stop vehicles, not so much the foot traffic.
The amendment to S.C.R. 1046 would also loosen residency restrictions for American citizens. Other non-resident students could also qualify for in-state intuition, as long as they have attended any public or private high school option or homeschool equivalent in the state for at least two years, or graduated from any of those schooling options while physically in the state.
However, the amendment was clear in drawing the distinction between non-Arizona resident students and illegal alien students. Illegal aliens wouldn’t be held to those standards.
The amendment was scheduled to be considered on Tuesday by the House committee on education.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
A scathing ad campaign was launched on Sunday by the Club For Growth targeting Sen. Mark Kelly for his decision to vote against a student’s right to an education. Specifically, Kelly voted against Senator Ted Cruz’s Amendment #969, which would have helped students find open classrooms.
The amendment, which would have expanded parental choice in education, narrowly failed, with 49 Republicans voting in favor and all 50 Democrats voting against.
The Club for Growth announced the launch of the issue ads to be aired in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire, as part of its effort to support parental educational choice.
The Club noted in a press release that it hopes to “hold Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), and Raphael Warnock (D-GA) accountable for siding with education bureaucrats and voting against Senator Ted Cruz’s Amendment #969.”
The amendment, according to the Club, “would have allowed our taxpayer dollars to follow students and parents, not education bureaucrats and would have provided children with an option for in-classroom education instruction if the child’s local public school does not commit to reopening.”
The Covid pandemic initially forced many K-12 schools closed. Across the country, many public school classrooms still remain closed due to pressure from the teachers unions.
Continuous learning, hybrid learning, and blended learning are terms utilized in defining teachers’ return to school by March 15. Online learning occurred between the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and this period where teachers are required to return to school, to their designated classrooms. However, students are granted the option to participate in remote learning.
The opinions regarding the return to classrooms proposals vary, with some vehemently opposing it. For instance, teachers disagree with each other, citing the overplaying their hand in letting students suffer through distance learning. There are also lingering questions concerning teachers’ silence over time, with reasons such as a fear of retaliation and isolation being cited. Teachers point to the fear of their contracts not being renewed and the subsequent “blow back” from not engaging in group think. In my opinion, this is quite unbelievable because this is a free world. Teachers should be heard, and after this, a return-to-work framework that favors them should be put in place.
Those supporting returning to classrooms, especially parents, argue that the right to accessing proper education was violated through remote education. Furthermore, individual learning strategies were not adequately addressed, resulting in the plans becoming ineffective over time. This resulted in substantial learning disparities between students. My opinion, based on the above, is that the option of remote learning should not be granted to students since the learning plans may not work.
In conclusion, I concur that teaching is a calling. Therefore, the debate concerning returning to classrooms should involve heavy consultation with teachers to formulate an appropriate return-to-work strategy. This will require cooperation from teachers and parents, and will be vital through the start of the healing process. However, I oppose the idea that those viewing the task as hard should quit their jobs because we need everyone’s input for an adequate return to class strategy. Therefore, instead of them quitting, they should offer ideas to facilitate learning in a post-Covid world.
Catherine Barrett is an Arizona Governor’s Master Teacher and currently Chair of citizens initiative petition, A Classroom Code of Ethics For Public Schools K-12. You can find her on Twitter @ReadersLeadPD, and on Facebook at Yes4Ethics
Reading, writing, arithmetic…these aren’t controversial topics, and neither should be the education of our children. Kids are supposed to go to school to learn life skills and become productive members of society. This isn’t complicated. And yet, schools are increasingly becoming the primary tool of a radical agenda to indoctrinate children in leftist ideology.
Take the 1619 Project for example. Various schools across the country have adopted a history curriculum centered on this series of essays from The New York Times,which claims that the United States was actually founded on slavery in the year 1619.
But the radicalization doesn’t stop there.
A school district policy in Madison, Wisconsin not only helps children adopt transgender identities, but it instructs teachers to lie about it to parents.
And right here in Peoria, Arizona, parents are dealing with similar frustrations after district officials denied them access to review learning materials that appear to be based on the principles of the Black Lives Matter organization.
In a year that’s already been challenging enough for parents as they’ve navigated through COVID, online learning, “sick outs,” and more, you would think that school districts would seek to build trust with them.
But apparently some public schools are too committed to their agenda.
Thankfully, the Arizona Senate is seeking to create more transparency through SB1058. This bill, which has now been transmitted to the House, requires district and charter schools to post a list of procedures used to review and approve learning materials on a prominent portion of their websites. In addition, they would also have to post procedures by which a parent can review learning materials in advance.
But what about district and charter schools that do not have such procedures? They would have to clearly state this on their websites.
While Arizona law currently allows for parents to review learning materials, the process hasn’t always been easy. And many parents have grown frustrated by officials who block access to curriculum.
But SB1058 would allow for more transparency from schools without burdening the staff. This should be a win-win for everyone involved, except of course for schools that have something to hide.
After all, any school that’s currently featuring the 1619 Project as part of its history curriculum probably doesn’t want parents to know that several renowned historians have criticized it for being inaccurate and pushing a false narrative. And they also probably don’t want them to know that Nikole Hannah-Jones, the architect behind the 1619 Project, has admitted that the whole point behind it is to make an argument for slavery reparations.
But a bill like SB1058 would help bring this to light. And while more work needs to be done, this is definitely a step in the right direction. Parents have a right to know if ahistorical and fringe topics are being taught to their children. And now the House needs to pass this essential piece of legislation to give parents the transparency they deserve from the schools their children attend.
Despite the clearly expressed wishes of Arizona voters that public schools teach in English only, state lawmakers are working to undo those requirements so taxpayers will have to fund bilingual education for foreigners. Experts warned of devastation for non-native English speakers.
In 2000, voters in the state elected to enshrine English only in their government-school system through Proposition 203. Non-native English speakers were offered English immersion to bring them up to speed in the language as quickly as possible.
But now, lawmakers have passed HCR2005 and SCR2010 to repeal those measures. Instead, tax-funded government schools would establish “dual-language immersion programs” for non-native English speakers, allowing them to take classes in their native languages, too.
Immigrants, especially, expressed outrage over the plot. AZ Rapid Response Team Founder Jose Borrajero, who immigrated legally from Cuba, expressed shock and bewilderment that lawmakers would seek to introduce bi-lingual teaching in American government schools.
“It is hard for me to understand why anyone would promote teaching public-school students who are English learners using the bi-lingual method,” Borrajero said, suggesting there may be a “sinister agenda in mind” among proponents of the scheme.
In fact, his own experience as an immigrant “strongly supports” the notion that total immersion in English is necessary for foreign-born students to succeed in America. Without having been forced to study in English — and English only — Borrajero suggested his life may have been very different.
“The most important hurdle for a learner of English, or any other foreign language, is learning to think in that language,” he said, noting that being totally immersed in the language is what makes that possible. “It is absolutely, positively impossible to do that using bilingual education.”
In any case, most experts also agree that the best way to learn a foreign language in a foreign land is by total immersion in that language, he said. Failing to provide this to foreign-born, non-native speaking students will “condemn them to a lifetime of menial, low-paying jobs,” Borrajero added.
English language immersion experts are also speaking out. English teacher Johanna Haver, who taught for two decades and wrote three books on education, blasted lawmakers seeking to erase the only protection available to Arizona’s Hispanic English learners to be able to learn America’s language.
“Let’s not behave stupidly,” warned Haver, who published the book Vindicated: Closing the Hispanic Achievement Gap through English Immersion in 2018 on this very subject. She also noted that federal schemes initiated under Obama were at work behind the scenes, at the expense of students.
Former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas also blasted the effort in comments to The Newman Report. “Their ‘good intentions’ (and we all know what road THOSE pave) will relegate these non-English speaking students to second-class citizen status,” she warned.
Douglas, who now serves on the Advisory Board of Public School Exit urging parents to get their children out of government schools, warned of systemic problems, too. “If English Immersion is a failure it is only due to a system that can’t teach English Language Arts to native English speakers; never mind teaching English to non-English speaking students,” she said.
The bill to end the English immersion mandate passed the Arizona Senate overwhelmingly, with just 7 out of 16 Republicans voting against it. The only “no” vote in the House came from Representative Quang Nguyen (R-LD1) – an immigrant who learned English through immersion. If it is not stopped in either chamber on the next vote, voters will have one opportunity to stop the scheme before it takes effect.
The powerful forces behind the scenes supporting this effort do not have the well-being of foreign-born children in Arizona in mind. Instead, they have a subversive agenda to create a divided America where people do not share the same history, culture, love of liberty, or even the same language. The agenda to divide and conquer America must be stopped.