Arizona Educators Pledged to Teach Critical Race Theory, Regardless of Law or Parental Consent

Arizona Educators Pledged to Teach Critical Race Theory, Regardless of Law or Parental Consent

By Corinne Murdock |

Over 200 Arizonans who identified themselves as educators have signed onto a pledge to teach Critical Race Theory (CRT) and all other social justice-oriented curriculum to children, regardless of the law or the wishes of parents. They conveyed a unified message: that they desired to teach the “truth” and the “true history” of this country’s history. 

The pledge was created by the Zinn Education Project, a Washington, D.C.-based collaborative effort between Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change. Prominent socialist and author of the anti-American exceptionalism book, “A People’s History of the United States,” Howard Zinn founded the project. Zinn propagated CRT concepts that America suffers from systemic racism, and that its imperialism and capitalism are evil. He also sparked controversy in topics previously associated with American pride by claiming Christopher Columbus was evil, President Abraham Lincoln was indifferent on slaves’ freedom, the Allies and Axis Powers weren’t much different, and that the Vietnam War wasn’t about communism.

The following includes those who signed onto the pledge as Arizona educators:

Avondale: Natalie Cardenas

Bisbee: Etta Kralovec

Black Canyon City: Matthew Schock

Casa Grande: Sharon Tuttle

Chandler: Amy Shinabarger, Angela Thomas, Ann Cicero, Audra Johnson, Beth Herbert, Deanna Celaya, James Wallace, Judith Simons, Julia Palazzi, Melanie Ohm, Rachel Kulik, Shasta Payne, Teri Moser

Flagstaff: Russell Randall, Ricardo Guthrie, Michelle Novelli, Angelina Castagno, Beth Sanborn, Derek Thibodeau, Elizabeth Merrill, Erin Hiebert, Joe Wegwert, Leslie Grabel, Patricia Roach, Sarah Shamah, Stacy Clark, Tami Butters, Yvonne Parent

Fountain Hills: Vincent Sepe

Gila Bend: Josie McClain

Gilbert: Andrea Barker, Cary Tyler, Heather Gossler, Heather Schlemmer, Kaylie Aguilar, Kim Klett, Leda Devlieger, Monica Darugna, Rebecca Garelli, Stefanie Campanella

Glendale: Erin Chisholm, Carlos Velazquez, Craig Lewis, Deanna Bakker, Electra Stafford, Galindo Jack, Jamie Prichard, Kari Vargas, Lisa Cantella, Maggie Malone, Melanie Cobos, Nick Friedman, Rachel Schmidt, Romy Griepp, Valerie Sun

Goodyear: Jill Helland, Catherine Barnett, Nikole Brasch, Susan Hennessy

Laveen: Miguel Ramirez, Nancy Schwartz

Litchfield Park: Melissa England

Mesa: Elisabeth Tanner, Marissa Felix, Quiana Washington, Robin Dodder, Andrea Box, Anica Erickson, Ann Marie Geair, Anne Greer, Christina Bustos, Christina Jameson, Claudia Bloom, Dave Medley, Jacqueline Tambone, Julie Quiroa, Kay Crittenden, Kelly Wright, Kisha Delgado, Michelle Lantz, Paul Kreutz, Quiana Washington, Rachael Clawson, Steve Munczek

Paradise Valley: Justin Brooks

Peoria: Paige DeHaan, Breanna Malmos, Chelsea Charlton, Kaitlin Griffin, Melissa Girmscheid, Stephanie Churchill, Tina Sanders

Phoenix: Karen Hawkes, Susannah Keita, Natasha Alston, Kareem Neal, Admaira Roman, Wilma Rice, Tom Moore, Kerrilee Wing, Sariah Winn, Nishta Mehra, Kelsey Knutson, Courtney Rath, Darcy Heath, Kelly Cutler, David Lee Carlson, Jay Barbuto, Nicolas Culley, Alexandra Zamarron, Alicia Messing, Carla Garcia, Claudia Chiang, Erika James, Ginette Rossi, Janel Vaughan, Judith Robbins, Kelley Gribuski, Kristin Cervantez, Lauren Gaston, Lauren Spenceley-Sheoran, Michelle Schulke, Mike Sarraino, Rodrigo Palacios-Tenorio, Roger Baker, Sarah Bennett, Shana Hornstein, Susan Rego, Tara La O’Garcia

“The thought of censoring the truth of our history in this country at this time in our nation is horrifying. I will not be silenced by frightened white supremist[s],” wrote Karen Hawkes of Phoenix. “We cannot heal and move forward without knowing and understanding the roots of our institutionalized racism.”

Queen Creek: Joanna Auclair

Sahuarita: Dawn Demps

Scottsdale: Louis Sugar, Carole Ancona, Jan Kelly, Kandice Nelson, Mariah Moritz

Sun City West: Harriet Luckman, Stacy Green

Surprise: Jon Alfred, Paula Auble

Tempe: Kelsey McAlarney, Sharon Hansen, Bernadette Lissner, Carol Johnson, Cortney Milanovich, Danielle Degain, Deanna Smith, Dylan Wince, Haylee Newton, Jacob Bley, Jo Anne Craig, Lawdon Haglund, Leslie Ringer, Maren Mueller, Valerie Craig

“All Americans deserve to know the truth about our racist, white supremacist history of violence against BIPOC. I should not have had to have been 66 years old before I confronted this history for the first time,” wrote Sharon Hanson of Tempe. “Although the sins of my forebears are not my personal sins, the current racist situation America IS my problem. America will never move forward until, like Germany, we hold up our ugly past, learn what actually happened (not some whitewashed version of the truth), and endeavor to make reckoning with it all.”

Tucson: Susan Whorley, Katie Vera, Arthur Almquist, Megan Carney, Isabella Porchas, Margaret Chaney, Amber Leeson-Curtis, Lee Foulkes, Peter Blankfield, Julie Elvick, Victoria Bodanyi, Meghan Hipple, Alyssa Cossey, Jenna Brito, Andrea Espinoza, Elizabeth Valenzuela, Jessica Williams, Kari Warner, Kati Gilson, Rita Verdin, Ryan Knst, Adrian Provenzano, Alexandra Mazur, Alison Climes, Ann Marie Palmer, Avis Judd, Barbara Wayne, Brieanne Buttner, Caryl Crowell, Chelsea Forer, Chris Parisoff, Corey Knox, Corina Ontiveros, Devon Holden, Edvina Velagic, Eric Donaghy, Farid Matuk, Jennifer Mullet, Jennifer Quigly, Carole Edelsky, Jessica Bernal Meija, Jim Byrne, Kate Van Roekel, Wes Oswald, Kevan Kiser-Chuc, Kristel Ann Foster, Linda Archuleta, Manuel Palacios-Fest, Mario Garcia, Natalie Taylor, Nataly Reed, Peter Blankfield, Rachael Eggebeen, Rebecca Kristensen, Sheila Wilenksy, Steven Ernsky, Tom McElhaney

“I will not let the white establishment silence me. I will continue to teach an accurate account of history,” wrote Jenna Brito of Tucson. “This includes teaching about how racism, sexism, xenophobia, etc is deeply embedded into our society and how it continues to shape out [sic] experiences.”

Vail: Drew Fellows

Yuma: Dorothy Higuera

At least one Arizona educator didn’t identify their city or town: Andrea Barrera.

It appears that these educators may have some level of support from the state. The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) encourages educators to pledge that they will teach social-emotional learning (SEL), which also propagates social justice concepts including CRT.

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

Lawsuits Against Schools For Violating Parental Rights Under Consideration

Lawsuits Against Schools For Violating Parental Rights Under Consideration

By Corinne Murdock |

Parents and guardians may be able to sue just about anybody that violates their rights under the Arizona Parents’ Bill of Rights, according to a bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The bill, SB1049, also classifies parents’ rights violations as a class two misdemeanor and enables the attorney general or a county attorney to sue school districts or charter schools alleged to have violated parental rights. Courts may impose fines of up to $5,000 for each violation that occurred at the school. 

The bill passed 5-3. State Senator Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) introduced the bill. During Thursday’s committee hearing, Townsend explained that the provisions of this bill were already law but lacked accountability.

The Arizona Parents’ Bill of Rights codifies the rights of Arizona parents to direct their child’s education, upbringing, moral or religious training, health care decisions, as well as the rights to access and review all of their child’s records, including medical records. 

State Senator Martín Quezada (D-Glendale) claimed that the “overwhelming majority” of parents’ frustrations could be resolved if they brought their issues to the educators for a conversation. Quezada said that this bill would only make parent-teacher relations more adversarial. 

“Nobody is out to violate parent’s rights. Nobody is out to harm parents and nobody is out to make an enemy of parents,” said Quezada. “I want to encourage people to leave their emotions aside, have conversations with your school district leaders and then hold them accountable in the way that you have been granted at the school board elections.”

Quezada’s claim doesn’t align with comments from others within his party across the country, such as the viral comments of Wisconsin State Representative Lee Snodgrass (D-Appleton), who tweeted that parents should either homeschool or pay for private schooling if they wanted to have a voice in their child’s education. Snodgrass deleted the post, issuing a follow-up simultaneously backpedaling with an apology and claiming that those upset by her remarks were misinterpreting her.

“I deleted my Tweet since it was lacking in nuance and easily misinterpreted. I wouldn’t want anyone to think that parents do not have a role in their child’s public education-I sure did. I encourage all parents to engage in voting for school board, join [parent-teacher organizations] PTO and meet with teachers,” wrote Snodgrass. “To clarify, my point is we should be fully funding our public schools and that diverting funds away from our public schools only makes it harder for parents to have the relationships we deserve with our kids’ teachers and their schools. Of course parents need to have a say in their kids’ education and their classrooms! I’m a parent, and I have a say, as should every parent. I shouldn’t have been cavalier or glib—that wasn’t my intention, and I apologize. Carry on!”

State Senator Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff) rebutted Quezada’s remarks, reading a text she received from a constituent while the committee reviewed the bill, describing how the Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD) governing board refused to work alongside parents. 

One mother who spoke in favor of the bill reminded the committee that hundreds of Arizona educators signed a pledge last year to continue teaching what they desired, irrespective of parental consent or the law, in response to states implementing bans on Critical Race Theory. As of press time, there were over 200 Arizona educators that signed the pledge. 

About 8,000 educators nationwide have signed that pledge. There are about 3.2 million public school teachers and 500,000 private school teachers in the country. 

Those who signed onto the pledge as Arizona educators included the following:

Avondale: Natalie Cardenas

Bisbee: Etta Kralovec

Black Canyon City: Matthew Schock

Casa Grande: Sharon Tuttle

Chandler: Amy Shinabarger, Angela Thomas, Ann Cicero, Audra Johnson, Beth Herbert, Deanna Celaya, James Wallace, Judith Simons, Julia Palazzi, Melanie Ohm, Rachel Kulik, Shasta Payne, Teri Moser

Flagstaff: Russell Randall, Ricardo Guthrie, Michelle Novelli, Angelina Castagno, Beth Sanborn, Derek Thibodeau, Elizabeth Merrill, Erin Hiebert, Joe Wegwert, Leslie Grabel, Patricia Roach, Sarah Shamah, Stacy Clark, Tami Butters, Yvonne Parent

Fountain Hills: Vincent Sepe

Gila Bend: Josie McClain

Gilbert: Andrea Barker, Cary Tyler, Heather Gossler, Heather Schlemmer, Kaylie Aguilar, Kim Klett, Leda Devlieger, Monica Darugna, Rebecca Garelli, Stefanie Campanella

Glendale: Erin Chisholm, Carlos Velazquez, Craig Lewis, Deanna Bakker, Electra Stafford, Galindo Jack, Jamie Prichard, Kari Vargas, Lisa Cantella, Maggie Malone, Melanie Cobos, Nick Friedman, Rachel Schmidt, Romy Griepp, Valerie Sun

Goodyear: Jill Helland, Catherine Barnett, Nikole Brasch, Susan Hennessy

Laveen: Miguel Ramirez, Nancy Schwartz

Litchfield Park: Melissa England

Mesa: Elisabeth Tanner, Marissa Felix, Quiana Washington, Robin Dodder, Andrea Box, Anica Erickson, Ann Marie Geair, Anne Greer, Christina Bustos, Christina Jameson, Claudia Bloom, Dave Medley, Jacqueline Tambone, Julie Quiroa, Kay Crittenden, Kelly Wright, Kisha Delgado, Michelle Lantz, Paul Kreutz, Quiana Washington, Rachael Clawson, Steve Munczek

Paradise Valley: Justin Brooks

Peoria: Paige DeHaan, Breanna Malmos, Chelsea Charlton, Kaitlin Griffin, Melissa Girmscheid, Stephanie Churchill, Tina Sanders

Phoenix: Karen Hawkes, Susannah Keita, Natasha Alston, Kareem Neal, Admaira Roman, Wilma Rice, Tom Moore, Kerrilee Wing, Sariah Winn, Nishta Mehra, Kelsey Knutson, Courtney Rath, Darcy Heath, Kelly Cutler, David Lee Carlson, Jay Barbuto, Nicolas Culley, Alexandra Zamarron, Alicia Messing, Carla Garcia, Claudia Chiang, Erika James, Ginette Rossi, Janel Vaughan, Judith Robbins, Kelley Gribuski, Kristin Cervantez, Lauren Gaston, Lauren Spenceley-Sheoran, Michelle Schulke, Mike Sarraino, Rodrigo Palacios-Tenorio, Roger Baker, Sarah Bennett, Shana Hornstein, Susan Rego, Tara La O’Garcia

“The thought of censoring the truth of our history in this country at this time in our nation is horrifying. I will not be silenced by frightened white supremist[s],” wrote Karen Hawkes of Phoenix. “We cannot heal and move forward without knowing and understanding the roots of our institutionalized racism.”

Queen Creek: Joanna Auclair

Sahuarita: Dawn Demps

Scottsdale: Louis Sugar, Carole Ancona, Jan Kelly, Kandice Nelson, Mariah Moritz

Sun City West: Harriet Luckman, Stacy Green

Surprise: Jon Alfred, Paula Auble

Tempe: Kelsey McAlarney, Sharon Hansen, Bernadette Lissner, Carol Johnson, Cortney Milanovich, Danielle Degain, Deanna Smith, Dylan Wince, Haylee Newton, Jacob Bley, Jo Anne Craig, Lawdon Haglund, Leslie Ringer, Maren Mueller, Valerie Craig

“All Americans deserve to know the truth about our racist, white supremacist history of violence against BIPOC. I should not have had to have been 66 years old before I confronted this history for the first time,” wrote Sharon Hanson of Tempe. “Although the sins of my forebears are not my personal sins, the current racist situation America IS my problem. America will never move forward until, like Germany, we hold up our ugly past, learn what actually happened (not some whitewashed version of the truth), and endeavor to make reckoning with it all.”

Tucson: Susan Whorley, Katie Vera, Arthur Almquist, Megan Carney, Isabella Porchas, Margaret Chaney, Amber Leeson-Curtis, Lee Foulkes, Peter Blankfield, Julie Elvick, Victoria Bodanyi, Meghan Hipple, Alyssa Cossey, Jenna Brito, Andrea Espinoza, Elizabeth Valenzuela, Jessica Williams, Kari Warner, Kati Gilson, Rita Verdin, Ryan Knst, Adrian Provenzano, Alexandra Mazur, Alison Climes, Ann Marie Palmer, Avis Judd, Barbara Wayne, Brieanne Buttner, Caryl Crowell, Chelsea Forer, Chris Parisoff, Corey Knox, Corina Ontiveros, Devon Holden, Edvina Velagic, Eric Donaghy, Farid Matuk, Jennifer Mullet, Jennifer Quigly, Carole Edelsky, Jessica Bernal Meija, Jim Byrne, Kate Van Roekel, Wes Oswald, Kevan Kiser-Chuc, Kristel Ann Foster, Linda Archuleta, Manuel Palacios-Fest, Mario Garcia, Natalie Taylor, Nataly Reed, Peter Blankfield, Rachael Eggebeen, Rebecca Kristensen, Sheila Wilenksy, Steven Ernsky, Tom McElhaney

“I will not let the white establishment silence me. I will continue to teach an accurate account of history,” wrote Jenna Brito of Tucson. “This includes teaching about how racism, sexism, xenophobia, etc is deeply embedded into our society and how it continues to shape out [sic] experiences.”

Vail: Drew Fellows

Yuma: Dorothy Higuera

At least one Arizona educator didn’t identify their city or town: Andrea Barrera.

Some school districts and politicians contend that Critical Race Theory isn’t taught in schools — but that’s not what educators have to say. One of the educators who signed the pledge, School District of Philadelphia Special Education Compliance Manager (SPECM) Aisha Eubanks, explained that educators use alternative names for Critical Race Theory when teaching it. Eubanks works at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

“It is not Critical Race Theory in K-12 it is called being Culturally Responsive and teaching truth-based history, which is based on systemic racism,” wrote Eubanks. “I plan to continue doing just that.”

In addition to Culturally Responsive Education (CRE), sometimes called Culturally Responsive Instruction (CRI), other names for Critical Race Theory include social-emotional learning (SEL) and comprehensive equity plans.

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

Parental Right to Decide Child Masking Passes House Committee

Parental Right to Decide Child Masking Passes House Committee

By Corinne Murdock |

On Wednesday, the House Government and Elections Committee narrowly approved a bill from State Representative Joseph Chaplik (R-Scottsdale) prohibiting government entities or schools from requiring minors to wear a mask without the express parental consent. All Democrats voted against HB2616, ensuring Republicans edged out a narrow 7-6 victory.

“I believe parents should make decisions for their children, not the government,” asserted Chaplik. “The states of Florida and Virginia, with bipartisan support, have passed this similar policy. I will continue to stand for freedom in Arizona for our constituents.”

HB2616 would’ve had greater reach than government and K-12 education: the original bill also prohibited mask mandates in private businesses for both adults and for minors, unless the business had express parental consent for the child to wear one. An approved amendment to HB2616 from State Representative John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) struck those additional provisions.

During the committee hearing, Chaplik explained that obtaining consent was up to the schools. When State Representative Sarah Liguori (D-Phoenix) expressed confusion as to whether schools would be required to obtain written consent for a child that showed up to school wearing a mask, Chaplik clarified that the child arriving to school in a mask was sufficient parental consent. 

Liguori lambasted her colleagues for “buying into a political narrative.” She claimed that school districts with mask mandates have opt-out options for parents. That is incorrect. Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), for one, doesn’t mention the option to not wear a mask on school property.

“I hate to get caught up in the politics of the masks, which I believe was intentionally designed as an illusion but its even more of a fantasy to think we as legislators know more than the experts who have trained their entire lives in these fields and have studied the science and data on this day in and day out for the past two years,” said Liguori. 

State Representative Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) challenged Liguori’s assertion that the experts were infallible and that the masks were a political issue. Hoffman reminded the committee of the CDC’s track record of changing their guidelines and goalposts constantly. 

“In reality, the science is on the side that kids should not be forced to wear masks,” said Hoffman. “This is not a political argument, it’s an actual medical science argument. There’s countless medical studies to support this, and there are countless health professionals at the highest levels — especially medical doctors, not just public health professionals because there’s a very big difference between an actual medical doctor and a public health professional — they support this.” 

On Tuesday, the American Federation for Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten pushed back in an interview with MSNBC against the beginning trend to drop mask mandates in schools. Weingarten admitted that masks are not only intolerable but an impediment to learning.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has also pushed back, arguing in an interview with Reuters this week that “now is not the moment” to drop mask mandates.  

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

Democratic NFL Chaplain to Arizona Senate: School Choice Is Today’s Civil Rights Movement

Democratic NFL Chaplain to Arizona Senate: School Choice Is Today’s Civil Rights Movement

NFL Alumni Association chaplain and Phoenix-based pastor Drew Anderson addressed the Senate Education Committee in favor of a bill to expand Arizona’s school choice system, SB1657, calling school choice the “civil rights movement of our era” and condemning the modern K-12 public school system as “educational slavery.” He insisted that the current education system fails the black and brown community. 

“There is nothing more important to humanity right now than school choice,” said Anderson. “In 1865, it was an unpopular decision for a lot of legislators to get together to end a system that was as American as apple pie,” said Anderson. “But here we are in 2022, asking a group of legislators once again to make an unpopular decision, which is to end educational slavery.”

SB1657 would expand eligibility for Arizona’s school choice system, the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program, by allowing students with: disabilities identified by public school systems in other states; a parent that is a veteran, first responder, or full-time health professional; income that qualifies for federal free and reduced-price lunch programs; a household that receives benefits from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or Section 8 Public Housing Assistance; participation in federal Title I services for low-income students under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); residence in the attendance boundary of a school that qualifies for schoolwide Title I Program funding under ESSA or whose governing board submitted a plan to the School Facilities Oversight Board within the last two years requesting additional construction or funding due to exceeding existing capacity; or current or past participation in the Education Recovery Benefit Program, Open for Learning Recovery Benefit Program, or any successor state grant program. 

The Senate Education Committee passed the bill along party lines, 5-3. Even Anderson’s testimony on how the current education system fails the children of his community, and how school choice initiatives helped him escape a life of crime, poverty, and even early death wasn’t enough to persuade the three committee Democrats.

State Senator Paul Boyer (R-Glendale), the bill’s sponsor, explained that voters overwhelmingly showed bipartisan support for school choice expansion.

“I just have to mention this — and I don’t normally talk about voters in the chamber — but it’s been brought up twice now,” stated Boyer. “I have a poll from last year, Signal, considered the most accurate pollster by the New York Times. Once voters heard the description of this particular bill last year, they supported this. Seventy percent support. That was last year. This year, again when the particulars of this program were described, 74 percent. It’s an increase of four percent just this year, with strong majorities among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. This is simply what the public wants and what the parents want.”

During his testimony, Anderson challenged the rhetoric that systems needed to end and funding needed to increase or be left untouched, pointing out that the current system of public funding trapping and hurting minority children was steeped in financial self-interest. He said that the school-to-prison pipeline was the elephant in the room.

“We have school districts who sit and complain about losing funding while all these black and brown kids are going to prison. Nobody complains about public funds going to private prisons to incarcerate black souls, but everybody wants to complain about public funds going to educate black minds,” asserted Anderson. “Why is it okay for public dollars to go to private prisons, but it’s not okay for public dollars to go to private schools?”

Anderson argued further that the $31,000 spent by the state on each prisoner could be mitigated by allowing the $15,000 it would take to offer a student school choice.

“We need a lifeline in the black community right now,” said Anderson. “In 1864 we were chained to plantations, but in 2022 we’re chained to failing schools.”

Boyer asked if Anderson had personally seen ESAs help minority children. Anderson revealed that he had, and was also one of those children who benefited from school choice. The pastor described how he was able to avoid being recruited for selling crack cocaine because he received a scholarship to attend an elite private school in Chicago, Illinois — one that his mother couldn’t dream of affording, though she worked three jobs. Anderson recounted how that education set him on a path to playing for the NFL and eventually earning enough money to ensure his mother didn’t have to work again. Anderson added that of his five childhood friends, three were in prison and two were dead by the time he graduated high school. 

“I’m not here because of what I heard. I’m here because of what an ESA did for me,” explained Anderson. “We talk all the time about funds, we talk all the time about test scores. You know what we need to talk about? These private schools that are offering our black and brown kids a 98 percent graduation rate and a 90 percent continuation rate. I’m not worried about an AzMerit score. To hell with that! What I’m worried about is, if I send my kid to Brophy [Preparatory School], 98 percent of those kids are graduating. If I send my kid to Brophy, 90-odd percent of those kids are going to college. Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t.”

Senator Theresa Hatathalie (D-Coal Mine Canyon) expressed concern that there weren’t accountability measures for the academic progress of ESA students. Boyer reiterated what Anderson pointed out: that private schools have better graduation rates and other indicators of success than public schools have shown.

Anderson brought up data that the graduation rates at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were higher for students coming from private schools than those from public schools. He said that it wasn’t just about the success metrics, but safety. Anderson described how, just that morning, he witnessed eight black elementary school children exposing themselves to danger because they had to walk to their public school in South Phoenix before daybreak.

“If you’re going to a school where 98 percent of the people are graduating, there’s no other proof, there’s no other test you could give somebody to say the school is succeeding,” said Anderson. “I’ve never watched the news and it says, ‘Harvard graduates rob Circle K, details at six.’ That’s not what you see. But what you do see is, ‘South Mountain High School dropout mugs lady, details at six.’ So instead of test scores, why don’t we worry about graduation rates and continuation rates? If black and brown kids are going to college, that means they’re not going to penitentiaries.” 

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

Three Republican Legislators Push For Testing Requirements to Access School Choice

Three Republican Legislators Push For Testing Requirements to Access School Choice

By Corinne Murdock |

Certain House Republicans have decided to shift from the defensive to the offensive concerning their opposition to school choice as proposed by the rest of their party. 

Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate and State Representative Michelle Udall (R-Mesa) introduced HB2185, a bill to require annual standardized testing for Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) recipients from grades 3-12. It would also require schools to post an aggregate of the test scores on their website, organized by grade level. The bill would exempt students with disabilities. State Representatives Joel John (R-Buckeye) and Joanne Osborne (R-Goodyear) signed on as cosponsors.

The bill continues the three legislators’ arguments that ESAs needed greater oversight. Udall stated last October that she’s not opposed to school choice outright if it comes with “appropriate accountability measures.” Udall explained that charter schools initially had the same problems that plague certain schools receiving ESAs currently.

“The issue I have with ESAs is the lack of accountability. When I tried speaking to proponents about appropriate accountability, they walked away from the conversation (on multiple occasions),” tweeted Udall. “When we first started charter schools, we had the same problem. The lack of accountability led to subpar education for many. We had to add accountability over the years. Our students can’t afford to repeat that mistake again with private schools that have even less accountability. Children at subpar public schools (D/F letter grades) already have access to ESAs. And when I submitted a proposal with some modest accountability and a restriction that children eligible for the expansion could only use ESAs to attend high achieving schools, they walked away.”

Udall’s latest bill was assigned to the House Education Committee, but hasn’t been given a date for review. 

Last December, there were talks that the Maricopa County Republican Party would censure Udall, John, and Osborne for voting against State Representative Shawnna Bolick’s (R-Phoenix) expansion of the ESA program as part of the summer budget bill. The party passed the resolution to oppose the three legislators in their campaigns — “In Support of Parental Involvement and Choice in Education,” introduced by former State Senate President Russell Pearce — with nine votes in favor, one against, and one abstention. The following is the text of Pearce’s resolution:

“Whereas Republicans, like most Americans, believe that parents, not bureaucrats, should be making decisions for their children’s education; Whereas it is a core conservative belief that the people who matter most in our schools are our students and our teachers, even though liberals believe it is the administrators, diversity training officers, and vaccine mandate supervisors; and

Whereas what remains of the old public school monopoly continues to fight to obstruct efforts to

expand school choice in Arizona, because they are desperate to hang on to as much money and control as they can for as long as possible; and Whereas today’s Democrat Party is targeting parents and has weaponized the Department of Justice to pursue parents who oppose radical curriculum like Critical Race Theory; and Whereas Arizona parents know what is best for their children and deserve as many education options as possible; now, therefore, be it Resolved, that the Maricopa County Republican Party remains 100% committed to expanding

school choice options for students and parents; and further be it Resolved, that the Maricopa County Republican Party encourages parents to rise up, run for school board offices, and make their voices heard, and that the Maricopa County Republican Party will support those efforts whenever possible; and further be it Resolved, that the Maricopa County Republican Party calls attention to, and opposes Republicans who campaign as conservatives while voting against school choice and against the best interests of students and parents – specifically Representatives Joanne Osborne, Michelle Udall, and Joel John.”

The party also opted to pass a resolution to hold Udall accountable for her voting record. 

Udall aligns neatly with her party on other school-related issues: opposition to masking and vaccination mandates, and critical race theory, to name a few. On the topic of school choice, however, Udall disagrees, coming from the perspective of an educator and candidate for the state’s superintendent of education.

Udall has also supported efforts to make public schools more flexible for students’ unique needs.

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

Arizona House Bans Critical Race Theory, Sexually-Explicit Materials From K-12 Schools

Arizona House Bans Critical Race Theory, Sexually-Explicit Materials From K-12 Schools

By Corinne Murdock |

On Thursday, the Arizona House approved two separate bills cracking down on divisive and adult content in K-12 schools: a bill banning critical race theory from curriculum, HB2112, and a bill outlawing sexually-explicit materials from schools, HB2495. Both passed along party lines, 31-28. 

Both bills received a similar partisan reception when passed by the House Education Committee: in their opposition of the bills, Democrats doubted their efficacy and necessity, whereas Republicans championed their cause and applauded them.

Introduced by State Representative Michelle Udall (R-Mesa), HB2112 bans teachings rooted in the traditional, original definition racism: that one race, ethnic group, or sex is superior to any other, and that an individual’s race, ethnicity, or sex predetermines their moral character and makes them inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive. The bill also rings of Biblical wisdom: similar to what Ezekiel 18 imparts, teachers also may not assign guilt or lay blame on any student for the actions and events of others who share the student’s race, ethnicity, or sex. Additionally, the bill would reject teachings that academic achievement, meritocracy, or traits such as hard work ethic are racist or sexist. Violations of this legislation could result in teachers facing penalties such as suspension or the loss of their teaching certificate, and school districts receiving up to $5,000 in fines per violation. 

The legislature’s previous attempt to ban critical race theory was struck down in court last year because it was integrated in a bill that the judge ruled was a violation of the single subject requirement of the state constitution.

Udall explained that she received “countless” pleas from parents on the divisiveness and harms caused by critical race theory teachings in public K-12 schools at present. She cited several specific examples; for one, a Red Mountain High School teacher required students to study the critical race theory terms “intersectionality,” “anti-racist,” and “restorative justice,” then write a self-reflection paper about their privileges. Another example concerned an Arizona State University (ASU) teacher preparation program assigning a book called “Nurture Shock,” in which one chapter discussed “why white parents don’t talk about race.” Yet another example concerned a social studies teacher in Glendale who sent her colleagues materials to discuss race in class, focusing in part on how white people have a greater burden for being anti-racist, such as understanding their privilege.

“This categorization and scapegoating will not heal racial divides. Instead, it emphasizes ethnicity and gender as insurmountable barriers to peace,” said Udall. 

Udall then described the gaslighting parents endured when they contended the presence of critical race theory in classrooms: how parents were told their experiences were a one-off incident and that critical race theory isn’t being taught in schools, despite the National Education Association (NEA) repeatedly advocating for the theory after issuing a resolution last summer that they would make concerted efforts to instill critical race theory teachings in classrooms.

“These concepts should be things we can all agree on: that all men are created equal, that hard work and persistence pay off, that students of all races are capable of being held to a high standard of academic excellence,” said Udall.

Democrats’ arguments against the bill alleged that it would get in the way of teaching history. However, the bill didn’t outlaw teachings of certain history, such as slavery or Jim Crow laws — rather, the bill focused on conclusions and statements of fact imparted by critical race theory teachings.

State Representative Judy Schweibert (D-Phoenix) argued that critical race theory teachings imparted lessons of honesty, integrity, and freedom to pursue dreams.

“When we teach history, it’s not about assigning guilt or blame. It’s about teaching young people to think deeply and critically themselves so we don’t repeat the same mistakes,” said Schweibert. 

State Representative Richard Andrade (D-Glendale) insisted that critical race theory teachings were “the truth.” State Representative Mitzi Epstein (D-Ahwatukee) said that she agreed that “the sins of the father shouldn’t be visited on the children” and appreciated the intent of the bill, but feared that the bill’s wording would prevent teachers from placing any blame on anybody.

HB2495 bans the sexual explicitness of materials given to K-12 students. State Representative Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) introduced the bill. It would prohibit K-12 public schools from exposing or referring students to “sexually explicit material,” which was defined as depictions of sexual conduct such as masturbation, intercourse or physical contact with a person’s clothed or unclothed genitals, public area, buttocks, or a female’s breast; sexual excitement, meaning the sexual stimulation or arousal of human male or female genitals; and ultimate sexual acts, such as any form of or allusion to intercourse, fellatio, cunnilingus, bestiality, or sodomy.

The bill passed with Udall’s amendments to exempt classical literature, early American literature, and books required for a course awarding college credit, but only with written parental consent prior to exposure of each material. If parental consent can’t be obtained, the school must furnish the student with an alternative assignment without sexually explicit material.

“This is simply a practice that I believe a majority of Arizonans don’t want. I don’t believe that they want sexually-explicit material shown to their children,” said Hoffman.

In rebuttal, Democrats argued that there were already laws prohibiting inappropriate materials from being shown to children. They insisted that they were equally opposed to showing children pornography in schools. 

Schweibert argued that parents didn’t have a right to determine what other people’s children were to learn — even in this case. She asserted that the legislature was “treading on dangerous territory” tantamount to instigating a book burning movement. Schweibert cited bans on historically revered books like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Of Mice and Men,” and the Bible; however, those were the doing of left-leaning groups, often with blessings from Democratic leaders.

Both bills now head to the Senate for consideration. 

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