It’s not just teachers influencing children on issues like sexuality and gender identity. Kristin Downing, a Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona troop leader in Tucson for over eight years, advocates heavily for gender identity rights for children. Downing has repeatedly helped fundraise and advocate for LGBTQ+ activist organizations with dedicated efforts to influence children such as the Trevor Project, Southern Arizona Gender Alliance (SAGA), and the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Prior to volunteering with the Girl Scouts, Downing served five years as a children’s ministry leader with the Church of the Apostles.
On Wednesday, Downing addressed the House Government and Elections Committee that they passed, HB2294, which would require state documents to list an individual’s sex as either male or female. Downing explained that her 15-year-old daughter announced that she was non-binary at 12 years old, and was celebrated and praised by their entire community, including coaches, medical care providers, friends, family, and Downing’s fellow Girl Scout troop leaders.
Downing asserted that her daughter feels unsupported when state paperwork requires her to list her biological gender. She claimed that the same wouldn’t be true of “more welcoming states” like California — a state that recently allowed a 26-year-old male convicted of molesting a 10-year-old girl to serve out his prison sentence in a girl’s juvenile detention facility because he claimed he was a transgender female. Downing said her daughter’s excitement over the prospect of getting her driver’s license was dampened by the fact that she would be required to list her biological gender, and not be able to identify legally as “nonbinary.”
Downing suggested allowing nonbinary adults and children to mark an “X” instead of acknowledging their gender as either male or female.
“It’s very difficult every time we have to start a new semester, or go to a new activity, we have to have a whole conversation ahead of time about my child’s pronouns,” said Downing.
On social media, Downing has expressed that those against transgenderism in any way are inciting harm. In a Facebook post, Downing characterized opposition to transgenderism as “violence.” She insisted that “kids should be allowed to be kids” by allowing them to use the bathroom or join the sports team of their choice, regardless of their biological sex.
“They shouldn’t have their existence debated. Nobody should. I’m so exhausted from this discussion that is happening on a national stage — the kids are watching, they hear it all, and you are harming them,” wrote Downing. “Trans and non-binary kids deserve the same rights and the same ability to be their damn selves as everyone else. So I guess that’s today’s post about the trans week of visibility. A bit of a rant, because this is all f*****g b******t and I’m so tired of trying to tiptoe around it and make room for people’s discomfort and feelings — let’s call it what it is — it’s bigotry and transphobia. It’s an act of violence against the trans community and our children. There shouldn’t be allowances made for that.”
Girl Scouts allows transgender girls to join troops on a case-by-case basis, so long as the boy “is recognized by the family and school/community as a girl.” They also sell rainbow LGBTQ pride “fun” patches to encourage girls to show their inclusivity and support for the LGBTQ community.
In 2019, Girl Scouts recognized a member as one of their National Gold Award Girl Scouts for that year, their highest award, because she started a now-defunct online magazine for children within the LGBTQ community. The publication, Gliterary Magazine, mainly showcased fanfiction-style works about children discussing their LGBTQ experiences.
Pastor Drew Anderson called for the Arizona Board of Education to revoke the teaching license of controversial elementary school teacher and prominent Red for Ed, Save Our Schools activist Wes Oswald. As AZ Free News reported, Oswald posted a video of himself cutting up a national school choice scarf as a “really fun craft” in honor of National School Choice Week. Anderson — lead pastor of Legacy Christian Center, chaplain of the NFL Alumni Association, and former NFL player — appeared on the Conservative Circus radio show on Monday to discuss his petition against Oswald.
Anderson’s perspective on the issue wasn’t borne out of mere opinion. The pastor explained in an Arizona Daily Independent opinion piece that he was one of the lucky few that benefited from school choice. Anderson recounted that the opportunity likely saved his life.
“Growing up, I had to attend the same K-8 government assigned schools that the rest of the black kids in my neighborhood had to go to and it was challenging to say the least. Many kids did not see graduation day and my five closest friends were either in prison or dead by the time we were 18 years old. Fortunately for me though, I was able to escape those schools and by the grace of God was able to attend an outstanding private Catholic school which led to me graduating high school, going to college on a scholarship, and ultimately living my dream and playing in the NFL,” said Anderson. “Today I am a pastor and not only do I fight to win souls for Jesus, but I also fight for children, especially minority kids, to have the same opportunity I did growing up and attend the right school to help them achieve their goals in life like I did.”
In a follow-up with Conservative Circus host James T. Harris, Anderson asserted that school choice is the key to achieving equal opportunity. He lambasted Oswald for calling himself a champion for children’s needs while opposing school choice.
“Next to anything in this modern-day era, school choice is the only way that inner city kids right now are having an opportunity to even remotely catch up or get up out of the poverty situation that they’re living in. So to see somebody that calls themselves an educator be so heinous to me is one of the most appalling things I’ve ever seen,” said Anderson. “How do you call yourself a champion for kids and you’re discriminating against kids based on your own opinion, which to me is crazy.”
In response, Harris opined that the destruction of an image of hope for so many children, especially those of color, was especially appalling.
“I think it’s a powerful image of why parents should be pulling their kids out of government-run schools or at least have the choice to put them where they want to,” said Harris.
On the topic of current teacher’s unions, Anderson added that removing choice from education could be likened to a modern-day slavery: an “educational slavery” that he asserted lends to the school-to-prison pipeline. The pastor insisted that the state could reduce the more than $30,000 it spends on prisoners by investing in the $15,000 he asserts it would cost to give students school choice.
“Back in the day, there was a union that fought hard to keep slavery because slavery was so productive for the people in the South, and right now, James T., we have what I call ‘educational slavery’ and we need to abolish educational slavery. Educational slavery is what’s funding all these private prisons, because there’s this thing called the ‘public school to prison pipeline’ that nobody wants to talk about,” said Anderson. “If I can chain you up to a public school that’s failing and a public school that’s in a bad area, then eventually I can chain you up to a wall in a prison and have you working for thirty cents a day instead of being a productive, tax-paying citizen. It’s time for us to start properly incarcerating people and it’s time for us to properly educate people. And the way you properly educate people is to give them a choice to pick whatever school’s best for them.”
Anderson noted that he’s praying for individuals like Oswald that are against school choice.
“I pray for them because most of them have no idea of what they’re even talking about because none of them are black, first of all. None of them are from the inner city, second of all. And none of them, when they say ‘save our schools,’ none of them are talking about saving our schools that over 79 percent of most minorities have voted to say that they do want school choice,” said Anderson. “I’m not against public schools at all. But what I am against is hindering people from picking what education works best for them. I’m praying for people like that because the ignorance that they spew and the ignorant view that they hold, they’re hindering kids from being properly educated.”
Arizona State University (ASU) President Michael Crow faced questioning from State Representative Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) concerning the root of some of the university’s controversies that made national headlines. However, it wasn’t Crow’s fate to face Hoffman’s inquisition alone — he found an intercessor in Chairwoman Regina Cobb (R-Kingman).
Hoffman posed questions during Wednesday’s House Appropriations Committee meeting relevant to ASU’s funding. The legislator’s first question pertained to the cancellation of a fundraiser for a conservative program at ASU: the Political History and Leadership (PHL) program.
As AZ Free News reported last week, ASU’s initial response to the event cancellation was murky. Out of the three reasons given to various individuals involved in the situation, Crow asserted that an unnamed staff member’s failure to follow planning policy was the reason for the event cancellation, which he insisted was really a postponement. At the time, ASU spokesman Jerry Gonzalez concurred with that statement.
“The event at the Desert Botanical Garden was canceled due to a breach of scheduling protocol by a faculty member in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies,” stated Gonzalez. “The university welcomes the opportunity for this event to be rescheduled following the required protocols.”
However, several of the scheduled speakers for the event were informed by ASU officials prior to publication of our report that the event was canceled due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases. Those speakers were informed that Crow wasn’t aware of the event or its cancellation at the time. Others reported that the choice of speakers was deemed too controversial: Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ-05) and former Utah congressman and Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz.
Hoffman addressed this most recent controversy first in his line of questioning for Crow. The representative’s question flowed seamlessly with Crow’s closing request: that the legislature afford more funding for ASU’s “Freedom School”: the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (SCETL). Hoffman applauded SCETL, but asked about the treatment of the PHL program.
“I’m wondering how you feel about the political history and leadership program that you canceled the event on?” asked Hoffman. “How come that doesn’t get the same level of praise considering its disproportionate impact on the department?”
Crow responded that the event was delayed, not canceled, and blamed an unnamed faculty member for not following proper schedule procedures, which he didn’t elaborate. He promised that the event was rescheduled.
“This is an event I’m very familiar with. We’re very happy to host that event, we’re very happy to host all of the individuals that are coming to the event,” said Crow.
When Hoffman attempted to follow up with another question, Cobb said Hoffman’s line of questioning wasn’t appropriate for the subject.
“That’s a question that shouldn’t have been asked, so don’t do a follow-up on that one,” said Cobb.
Hoffman responded that they could discuss the subject later and insisted he wasn’t done.
“Well, you’re only addressed to when I addressed you,” said Cobb.
“Which you have already authorized,” responded Hoffman.
“I said ‘Don’t follow up,’ and you said, ‘Okay, then.’ Do you want a different question, Mr. Hoffman?” asked Cobb.
“I want less hostility from my chairman. That’s what I’d like,” responded Hoffman.
Cobb repeated whether Hoffman would like to ask a different question, and Hoffman confirmed. Hoffman then asked what Crow was doing about the multiple incidences of high-profile racism on his campus.
“Unfortunately the racism that we’re seeing is permeating from a cultural and institutional level[,]” asserted Hoffman.
Before Crow could respond, Cobb intervened with an assertion that Hoffman’s question wasn’t relevant to their budget material being reviewed that day. Cobb would only interrupt Hoffman as he attempted to ask her if or when the committee would bring Crow back for questioning on the subject of additional funding.
“Are you going to have him back to testify in front of us so we can ask him that question? Because if you expect us to sign off on more funding for ASU…” said Hoffman.
Cobb ignored Hoffman and called on State Representative Lorenzo Sierra (D-Avondale), who lavished praise on Crow for his work. When Sierra said to Crow that he only had one question for him, Cobb chimed in to say, “Thank God,” and chuckled to herself. At that point, a soft, inaudible exchange occurred between Cobb and an unknown male as Sierra continued to address Crow. It is unclear whether that exchange was related to Cobb’s next response; after Sierra finished asking Crow about what work ASU was doing with the state’s economic agencies, Cobb chimed in again to accuse legislators of grandstanding.
“Again, that’s off the subject. I really want to stick to the appropriations. We got a lot of people here to speak today, we can grandstand all we want to —” said Cobb.
Hoffman interrupted Cobb to call a point of order.
“This is not grandstanding from Sierra or myself. These are things that will impact how we vote on funding for this man’s school,” insisted Hoffman.
Cobb seemed to agree.
“And what we’re talking about is the funding right here, okay…” said Cobb.
“Correct. And he’s standing in front of us and we have material questions for Arizona State,” responded Hoffman.
Cobb disagreed. She insisted that she determined neither Sierra or Hoffman’s questions were relevant to the task at hand, but refused to elaborate why. Hoffman insinuated that there was no point to the committee’s presence, if what Cobb said was true.
“So this is just a dog and pony show?” asked Hoffman.
“No, this is to let us know what their initiatives are this year. That’s what they’re here to do, is to let us know what their education initiatives are coming forward to this year,” said Cobb.
When Hoffman attempted to insist that Crow should answer to “substantive questions, like issues of racism on campus,” Cobb threatened him with removal from the committee if he didn’t stand down.
It appeared that Cobb’s refusal to allow any substantive questions caused the remainder of the committee to dare not pose any questions of their own. Several questions from State Representative John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) were permitted prior to Cobb shutting down the subject: Kavanagh asked about foreign enrollment and online learning trends.
In a statement to AZ Free News, Hoffman expressed disappointment that Crow didn’t step up and answer for the controversies plaguing ASU.
“Michael Crow’s refusal to answer for the extremely concerning allegations of institutionalized racism, viewpoint discrimination by professors, and rampant wokeism at Arizona State University during yesterday’s House Appropriations Committee is yet another glaring example of his utter disdain for any level of transparency, oversight and accountability,” stated Hoffman. “Under his watch, racism and wokeism by professors and staff has led to an increase in high profile incidents of discrimination on campus, yet when questioned during his testimony in front of the state’s top appropriators he chose to hide behind Ms. Cobb, the committee chairwoman. Mr. Crow’s appalling behavior has given legislators merely one more in a long line of reasons to oppose any new funding for his university.”
Tucson elementary school teacher and prominent Red for Ed activist Wes Oswald derided school choice in a Twitter video posted earlier this week. In addition to teaching the third grade at Manzo Elementary School in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) and his Red for Ed activity, Oswald has been active in Arizona Educators United (AEU) and Save Our Schools (SOS) Arizona.
Oswald claimed that private schools aren’t held to the “same high measure” as public schools. He insinuated that taxpayer dollars mostly funded private and religious schools through vouchers.
“Vouchers really are just coupons frequently used by the wealthy to send their kids to private schools at a discounted rate,” said Oswald. “Let’s stop falling for school choice schemes. The vast majority of American families choose to send their kids to public schools. Our public tax dollars belong to public schools, not private and religious ones.”
Oswald also claimed that 95 percent of Arizona families “choose” public schools. Recent polling suggested otherwise: according to Data Orbital, over 80 percent of 600 Arizonans polled supported school choice.
According to recent research by the Goldwater Institute, Arizona’s K-12 public schools are more expensive than a four-year university: over $14,300 per student annually when combining state, local, and federal dollars, versus the cost of over $11,300 for higher education tuition.
AZ Free News attempted to contact Oswald to ask why he opposed ; however, his TUSD email appeared to be disconnected, and we couldn’t reach him for comment by press time.
During the 2018 election, Oswald was featured by Tucson News Now for his “Knoctober” initiative, where Red For Ed supporters attempted to knock on 80,000 doors statewide to campaign for their preferred, pro-public school candidates. In several of the clips, Arizona Department of Education (ADE) Superintendent Kathy Hoffman could be seen knocking doors and giving presentations alongside Red for Ed activists. Hoffman was campaigning for her current office at the time.
“We’re all banking on big change in November. We’ve already come this far — we had 75,000 people walk out in April, and we can’t come this close and just give up,” said Oswald.
Several years later, Oswald was a featured speaker for ADE’s event last April, “The Health of Our Democracy: Civics Here and Now,” as part of the “Educating For American Democracy Initiative.”
Around the same time, Oswald lamented to KGUN about handling the challenges of in-person teaching with some students learning remotely. Oswald has been opposed to in-person learning when any increase in COVID-19 cases occurs.
A transgender woman testifed to the Arizona House Education Committee that he opposed a bill to expand parental rights, HB2161. The Arizona Daily Independent identified the individual as Liberty Elementary School District Governing Board Member Paul Bixler. The bill that Bixler opposed would prohibit government employees from withholding information from parents concerning their children, or interfering in any capacity unless there’s a compelling interest. The bill also included provisions specific to schools, such as prohibiting school districts or their employees from withholding information from parents related to purported gender identity or requested gender transitions. It also required schools to obtain written informed consent from parents prior to administering any survey soliciting personal information, as well as share a copy of the survey in question seven days prior to administering it. Violations of the bill could result in disciplinary action to the offending employee, a $500 fine for school districts, and lawsuits against the governmental entity or official from the parents.
During Monday’s House Education Committee hearing, Bixler asserted that the legislation would cause harm to befall teens: drug use, depression, dropping out of school, homelessness, depression, and even suicide. Bixler contended that the protections for parents already exist in legislation and no additional ones are necessary.
Bixler also recalled his personal experience with attempting to transition his gender, referencing the difficulty of it. He insinuated that the legislators were handling the topic of transgenderism lightly by approving the bill. Bixler asserted that the bill would put health care practitioners at “personal physical risk” while eliminating much-needed help for children.
“When you threaten a child’s disclosure with exposure, those children will continue to question but will not seek the highly qualified individuals that could assist them. Threatening dedicated, trained caregivers with litigation also threatens the welfare of the children within that same population,” stated Bixler. “By pursuing this legislation, you risk the life that already is fragile of these children. If you pursue this, expect a rise of teen and pretend drug use, drop-out[s], depression, homelessness, and suicide. How do we know this? We know this because we see it over and over and over again. When you marginalize this student population and force them to go into hiding, they won’t stop questioning. They simply will not receive the help that they need. But I believe there’s a bigger question here. This is not only personal proposed legislation targeted on a specific membership within Arizona’s community. It does not appear coincidental that so much proposed legislation is focused on transgender members of Arizona. I have one question for you: what are you afraid of?”
Bixler was elected to his school district in 2020, and will serve until 2024. According to his governing board member profile, Bixler would describe his educational philosophy as “free appropriate education.”
“Sound familiar? I hope so. The words free and appropriate are a promise. A promise rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment and guaranteed in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. All this promise asks is to attend. I believe that this is every child’s constitutional, more importantly, human right. I believe in public education,” stated Bixler. “I am a fiscal realist. This belief is honed from more than 30 years of public school experience. As a 20-year public school administrator, I have served as both member and leader of teams that made tough implementation decisions. I would now like to work cooperatively to make tough policy decisions.”
On another profile, this time with Arizona List, a pro-choice Democratic women’s commitee, Bixler revealed that he spent four years in the Navy and Marine Corps after two years at Northern Arizona University (NAU) in the late 1960s. After that, Bixler received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Arizona State University (ASU), then spent over 30 years in public schools as a teacher, guidance counselor, coach, and administrator. Bixler revealed that he’s married to a woman.
According to Arizona List, Bixler qualified as the first transgender woman to be elected in Arizona. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona (PPAA) endorsed Bixler in his campaign.
The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) struck down rule changes advancing renewable energy usage that would’ve increased the cost to taxpayers. The energy mandates would have required energy utilities to rely more on renewable energies following a certain timeline, which would have increased the revenue requirements of Arizona Public Service Company (APS) by nearly $4 billion and Tucson Electric Power (TEP) by nearly $1.13 billion — costs which taxpayers would’ve borne, as high as 43 to 58 percent more monthly.
These were energy mandates similar to those rejected by voters in the failed Proposition 127 of 2018, which would have required electric utility companies to acquire a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable resources each year, from 12 percent in 2020 to 50 percent in 2030. About 68 percent of voters rejected Proposition 127.
Chairwoman Lea Márquez Peterson joined commissioners Jim O’Connor and Justin Olson in their “no” votes against the rule changes. Commissioners Anna Tovar and Sandra Kennedy voted for the rules.
APS, TEP, and the Grand Canyon State Electric Cooperative Association (GCSECA) all expressed support for the rule changes.
O’Connor said that the utilities are “serious and sincere” with their clean energy efforts. He said that the utilities don’t need rules from the state, especially since they will pose risks to ratepayers.
“The proposed energy rules represent a multi-year, good-faith effort by a great many. During this long process and after years of opposition, our state’s major electric utilities have embraced clean energy and our proposed rules. I was surprised and I made it the focus of my efforts to understand that turnaround,” said O’Connor. “I have concluded its best for the utilities to remain in charge of their resource plans just as they have in the past and it is better for the commission to continue to rely on its prudent standard for holding utilities accountable for the resource decisions and their costs.”
Tovar said the commissioners should be ashamed that they wasted years of staff and commission work from “getting in the way of what is right.” Tovar called out two of the commissioners, O’Connor and Peterson, for “flip-flopping” on their stance concerning the rules. She lamented that commissioners weren’t willing to compromise, like she claimed she had, for the greater good: economic growth, health, and environmentalism through these rule changes. Tovar added that the rule changes had diverse, bipartisan support statewide.
“What this tells me is that these rules are failing because of politics. And basing our votes on politics is a dangerous game, and it is a dangerous game to play with something so important to Airzona’s future. Ensuring clean energy in Arizona is our future, and it’s one of the top priorities I had even before running for this commission. When I took office, I wanted to change the rules. Make them more aggressive. Get us to a clean future, sooner. But I looked at the fads and I knew there was much work to be done on them,” said Tovar. “Let me be clear: this isn’t the Green New Deal. This is Arizona’s clean energy package and [I am] very proud of the work that has been accomplished thus far.”
Olson expressed confidence that renewable energy was still attainable without costing customers more. He also mentioned how he attempted to compromise by introducing amendments that would help reduce the cost to taxpayers with passage of the energy rules. Olson indicated that Tovar’s characterization of commissioners switching votes was unfair because their change reflected new information that came to light.
“We as a commission should have a very clear policy that tells our utilities that they should invest in the technologies that are the most cost-effective method of meeting the energy demands of our customers. And what we have before us in these energy rules is not that,” said Olson. “That is the appropriate demand. That is what the constitution requires of us to expect of our utilities, and that is what we should continue to pursue. That does not prohibit us and our utilities from increasing the amount of renewable energy resources that our utilities use to provide the energy for their customers. In fact, it creates a win-win scenario where our utilities will be investing in the renewable energy projects that are the most cost-effective. We can benefit rate bearers and adopt these technologies at the same time. That’s the approach we should take.”
Kennedy said that clean energy was cost-effective with modern technology. She asserted that it wasn’t possible to determine future outcomes based on present actions.
Márquez Peterson said she supported clean energy by 2050, but an equal priority for her was affordability for consumers. Márquez Peterson expressed confidence that utilities had turned a corner and were willing to adopt clean energy of their own volition.
“It took years to get actual cost data that consumers have been asking for,” said Márquez Peterson. “I believe utilities should be justly and reasonably rewarded when they make prudent and proactive investments in the next generation of clean and renewable energy resources, so long as they don’t jeopardize the safety and reliability of the grid or the affordability of rates.”
In a statement to AZ Free News, Justin Olson asserted that the commission’s vote respected the will of voters.
“First of all this is a tremendous victory for ratepayers. I fought to enact policies to make rates as affordable as possible. Many times I was a lone voice crying at the wilderness — I was the only vote against these mandates,” said Olson. “This was the commission telling the utilities that they must invest in technologies that are the most cost-effective method of generating energy.”