Over 900 Arizona Schools Refuse To Answer Questions About CRT, SEL Instruction

Over 900 Arizona Schools Refuse To Answer Questions About CRT, SEL Instruction

By Elizabeth Troutman |

More than 900 Arizona schools declined to answer if they teach Critical Race Theory. 

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne released figures showing that 900 schools would not answer five academic focus questions related to matters such as ensuring schools do not inappropriately expose students to explicit content and avoiding instruction that promotes racial division such as Critical Race Theory.

Of Arizona’s 2,467 district and charter schools, as of Feb. 29, 1,565 have affirmed that they are following these guidelines, but 902 have not.

Other questions attempt to ensure that any sexual content is developmentally appropriate, administrators fully support teacher discipline, and schools avoid excessive distractions such as Social Emotional Learning. 

Social Emotional Learning claims to equip children with the ability to manage emotions, feel empathy for others, and maintain positive relationships, but it integrates Critical Race Theory in the education system.

“It is scandalous to see that more than 900 schools have declined to be transparent with parents who entrust their children to be educated by these schools,” Horne said. “Parents have the right to be fully informed about what their neighborhood schools value and how instructional time is used.”

The media claims public schools don’t teach CRT, Horne said. The superintendent said this is false, as the Balsz Elementary District on the east side of Phoenix explicitly and publicly teaches CRT. 

“The fact that more than 900 districts and charter schools did not answer the question proves that the problem is widespread and distractions from academics are contributing to low test scores,” he said. 

“Every instructional minute is precious, and every minute should be devoted to academics, not unnecessary distractions, lessons that divide people by race, or exposing students to subject matter that is not developmentally appropriate,” Horne continued. 

The schools that declined to answer the questions will have that information on their school report card provided on the department’s website. If schools eventually choose to respond, their report card will be updated with that information. 

Early next week, the department will finish compiling and releasing information on whether schools are following state law that requires instruction on the Holocaust and other genocides. 

“Schools have a responsibility to teach to the state standards and graduating students who are academically proficient,” Horne said. “This is simple common sense and easily achievable by every school in the state.”

Elizabeth Troutman is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send her news tips using this link.

ASU Mandates DEI Training

ASU Mandates DEI Training

By Elizabeth Troutman |

Arizona State University requires employees to complete inclusiveness training every two years. 

This includes three modules: Inclusive Communities, preventing harassment and discrimination, and Title IX duty to report. 

Mandatory training videos include “Fighting Gender Bias at Work,” and “Understanding Intersectionality.”

“The view here is actually an expansive view of inclusion, not a very narrow one,” said Bryan Brayboy, vice president of social advancement at ASU in an introduction video. 

The stated goal of training on inclusive communities is to “help create awareness, develop skills to meet the needs of diverse students and develop teams of people capable of working together to advance the ASU mission,” according to the webpage with the training modules. 

Other available trainings at ASU include:

  • Affirmative action
  • Age discrimination
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Diversity in the workplace
  • How to strategically address social justice matters in the workplace
  • Implicit bias and microaggressions
  • Implicit bias in recruitment
  • Tackling implicit bias and microaggressions

The webpage says ASU has more than 80,000 students on its campuses and more than 90,000 learners online. ASU is home to students from all 50 states and nearly 150 different countries. 

“That creates a rich blend of backgrounds, making ASU highly inclusive and socioeconomically diverse,” the site says. 

Arizona’s three public universities all promote diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, according to a Goldwater Institute report

In the fall of 2022, ASU began requiring diversity statements from approximately 81% of job applicants. 

Northern Arizona University required diversity statements from almost 73% of job applicants, and the University of Arizona required diversity statements from almost one third of job applicants.

The universities also encouraged applicants to incorporate critical race theory in written portions of their applications. 

In August 2023, all three universities eliminated the use of diversity statements for job applicants after the Goldwater Institute’s report.

Elizabeth Troutman is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send her news tips using this link.

Report Shows Nearly 40% Of Disciplined Teachers In Trouble For Sexual Misconduct

Report Shows Nearly 40% Of Disciplined Teachers In Trouble For Sexual Misconduct

By Elizabeth Troutman |

A report shows that almost 40% of educators disciplined in 2023 were punished for sexual misconduct. One third of cases were associated with assaultive (non-sexual) behaviors. 

“From only the cases adjudicated in 2023, 39% of cases were associated with sexual misconduct, followed by 28% associated with assaultive (non-sexual) behaviors,” the Arizona State Board of Education’s 2023 Enforcement Action Report says. “Substance-related cases decreased to 15% of all the 2023 cases, while breaches of contract decreased to 7%. Cases associated with fraud and theft remained constant at 11% in 2023.”

The report provides an overview of the type and frequency of discipline it has imposed on educators, certificated and uncertificated, who have participated in unprofessional or immoral conduct.

The number of cases processed by the State Board Investigative Unit has increased, but the board claims this is due to increased staffing and improved efficiency in processing cases, rather than an uptick in activity by teachers.

Still, some parents and parent advocates said their increasing awareness of predators in public school classrooms and lazy administrators desperate to fill classrooms played a significant role in complaints.

“There are few things worse in our society than the abuse of our precious children,” former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas told the Arizona Daily Independent. “Parents send their children to school assuming they will be safe from predators. Yet according to this report 67% of the enforcement cases in 2023 were sexual misconduct or non-sexual assault. This is just of the cases that have been reported and investigated. How many cases go unexposed, unreported and in some cases under-disciplined?”

Douglas wondered how many children may not realize they are being abused because of how they are being sexualized in their school’s sex-ed classes.

“How can people who have been trained as the teachers of our children abuse them in such horrific ways? Shame on our ‘Colleges’ of Education – 25% of the disciplinary actions from ASU. Where is our Board of Regents?”

Male educators represent more than half of enforcement actions, while 39% of actions involve women.

The largest disciplined group, representing 30% of all cases, are educators with secondary teaching certificates, which are usually used to teach middle and high school. 

Educators with elementary teaching certificates and educators with substitute teaching certificates make up more than one third of all discipline cases.

Elizabeth Troutman is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send her news tips using this link.

Bill Remembering Victims Of Communism Heads To Senate

Bill Remembering Victims Of Communism Heads To Senate

By Daniel Stefanski |

A bill to help educate Arizona students about the history of communism is one step closer to the Governor’s desk.

On Thursday, the Arizona House of Representatives passed HB 2629, which “establishes November 7 of each year as Victims of Communism Day and requires the State Board of Education to create a list of recommended resources for mandatory instruction on the topic in certain public school courses” – according to the chamber. The proposal was sponsored by Speaker Ben Toma and received a vote of 33-26 (with one seat vacant).

In a statement, Toma said, “Teaching Arizona students about the evils of communism shouldn’t be a partisan issue, yet here we are. Thankfully, Republicans get it. As someone who lived in communist Romania, I can attest that Marxist ideology has left a lasting scar on our world. For more than 100 years and over 100 million lives lost, the legacy of communism is death, oppression, deprivation, economic suffering, and families being torn apart. It’s important to educate about this dark history, to ensure that the atrocities of communism are never forgotten, and future generations can learn from those who suffered in the past and gain a deeper appreciation for the democratic principles that underpin our free society.”

According to the State House of Representatives, if the bill was enacted, the “State Board of Education (SBE) would be tasked with developing a list of recommended resources on the history of communism that align with academic standards in statute. Starting in the 2024-2025 school year, high school taking American government courses will have at least 45 minutes of classroom instruction on the history of global communist regimes, encompassing figures such as Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, Fidel Castro, Vladimir Lenin, Pol Pot, and Nicolas Maduro. Students would learn about how victims suffered under such regimes, through poverty, starvation, forced migration, lethal violence, and the suppression of speech.”

Only two House Democrats supported the proposal on the floor, which was something that Representative Quang Nguyen, the bill’s cosponsor, highlighted. Nguyen stated, “I think if my colleagues on the other side of the aisle grew up under a communist regime, as Ben and I both did, this vote would have been unanimous. Opposing the education of Arizona students on the history of communism and those who have suffered from it is an extreme and shameful position that’s hard for Democrats to defend. And it’s certainly far from where most Arizona parents stand.”

On the Arizona Legislature’s Request To Speak system, representatives from the Arizona Education Association and Save Our Schools Arizona, signed in opposition to the bill.

Last month, the legislation passed the House Judiciary Committee with a 6-3 vote. All Republicans voted in favor, and all Democrats voted to oppose.

HB 2629 now heads to the Arizona Senate for consideration.

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Arizona Public Schools Have Over $1 Billion in Surplus

Arizona Public Schools Have Over $1 Billion in Surplus

By Corinne Murdock |

Arizona’s public schools have over $1 billion in surplus, according to the Arizona Department of Education (ADE).

Tim McCain, chief financial officer for ADE, announced the surplus during last week’s meeting in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State & Local Resources. According to McCain, the maintenance and operations (M&O) budget carry forward is now over $1 billion. 

Additionally, the M&O budget carry forward has a generally positive trajectory, growing from $400 million in 2020 to over $1 billion this year. These budgetary increases carried forward function to raise schools’ budgets. 

“Budget balance carry forward goes to the next year for their increase, so their budget will be increased by the amount that they carried forward to the next year,” said McCain. “[Schools] would be able to spend those monies in the future as they go forward.”

McCain also reported that the cash not committed to the M&O budget currently amounts to about $300 million, a decrease this year compared to last but an overall increase since 2020.

The school district fund balance increased from $3.5-$3.6 billion for all districts in 2017, to $6.4 billion for all districts in 2023. The percentage of revenue has remained in the 40-50 percent range since 2018.

McCain clarified that some of the funds within the latest balance consists of bond building funds, around $2 billion. 

The school district M&O balance has continuously increased from $355 million in 2017 to $1.38 billion in 2023, with the percentage of revenue likewise increasing steadily from six percent in 2017 to 19 percent last year.

McCain explained that these factors contributing to the budgetary growth could be attributed to increased K-12 funding; districts mitigating risk due to inflation, minimum wage increases, current year funding, and drop in enrollment; the teacher shortage; and the lack of a budget balance carry forward cap. Prior to 2017, there was a four percent cap that incentivized a “use it or lose it” approach to budgeting. 

Further, McCain said that the federal COVID-19 relief funds served as another factor contributing to budgetary growth. Arizona received over $4 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding. Over $277 million expired in September 2022, and over $1.1 billion expired last September. The remaining $2.5 billion are set to expire this September. 

“The districts have been able to utilize ESSER funds where they would have normally utilized M&O funds for certain purposes, and be able to carry those funds over into the future,” said McCain. 

Another budgetary growth factor according to McCain was the Classroom Site Fund expansion to include Student Support Services in 2022, and a $300-per-student increase in CSF funds. 

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

Peoria School Board Silences Grandmother’s Free Speech

Peoria School Board Silences Grandmother’s Free Speech

By Corinne Murdock |

The Peoria Unified School District (PUSD) governing board silenced a grandmother’s speech for calling public schools “evil” in a public comments portion of a meeting earlier this month.

Janet Klepacz was discussing her appreciation for Department of Education Superintendent Tom Horne implementing an optional curriculum from PragerU, a conservative nonprofit that supplies free educational materials. Klepacz’s contested speech included a Bible passage referenced to compare the quality and state of public school education to the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt.

“Pray with me, believers, as I paraphrase Exodus 3:7-8 for today’s Peoria’s schools’ and board’s evil: we are awakening Lord God to our children, our grandchildren’s cries and misery of the suffering you have literally seen,” said Klepacz. “God, come down and rescue our children now from the evil government federal schools —”

It was then that board member Melissa Ewing interrupted Klepacz. Ewing raised a point of order on Klepacz’s language: specifically, the fact that Klepacz accused public schools of being evil places. Ewing didn’t specify what Klepacz said that constituted a rules violation.

“The language being used about ‘the evil,’” said Ewing.

Board President Becky Proudfit then elaborated on Ewing’s point of order. Proudfit directed Klepacz to adjust her speech to not say that public schools were evil.

“I think what she’s referring to is not what is being said, but rather how it’s being said, and the rules for public comment is to not openly attack any members of the board or the public,” said Proudfit. “Please continue with that in mind.”

Klepacz continued, only lasting a few more seconds before Proudfit called another point of order.

“Rescue our children now, God, from the federal government school, pushing documents on our children wrapped up under educational learning,” began Klepacz.

Proudfit again interrupted Klepacz. She claimed that Klepacz’s accusation of “pushing” certain documents wasn’t allowed.

“I’m sorry, the language,” said Proudfit. “How you’re speaking about, saying that ‘we are pushing.’”

Klepacz challenged Proudfit’s judgment, arguing that her speech was protected by the Constitution.

“Well, guess what: my words, I feel it, I see it. It is! That’s what free speech is, hello?” responded Klepacz.

The board’s interruptions of Klepacz didn’t go unnoticed.

Although most of the other parents that spoke after Klepacz addressed their grievances with PUSD’s decision to move public comment to the end of meetings, another parent and PUSD board candidate, Jeff Tobey, spoke against the treatment of Klepacz.

Tobey said the interruptions were a potential violation of Klepacz’s constitutional right to free speech. Tobey suggested that the board read up on free speech court cases, referencing Ninth Circuit Court decisions on criticisms of public officials.

“The encounter that I just witnessed really bothered me just now, because as a Jew, obviously I don’t necessarily believe in Jesus Christ, but I respect somebody coming up here and voicing their opposition to policies that are being presented as a district or feelings that they have on the matter or thoughts that incorporate an aspect of religion: we have to respect that, whether we believe it or not,” said Tobey. “I believe that in squelching that, you might have infringed on her rights.”

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