Threats to the Court Are the Real Threat to Democracy

Threats to the Court Are the Real Threat to Democracy

By Dr. Thomas Patterson |

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, with the concurrence of much of the Left, believes our democracy is once again under attack, this time from our own “rogue” Supreme Court. MSNBC agreed that “the Supreme Court has gone rogue.” The Congressional Progressive Caucus insists “we must hold these rogue justices to account.”

It goes beyond coordinated hysterical rhetoric. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez demanded that Democratic Party leaders share their plans for “solving the problem of the rogue Court.” The New York Times advised “the Constitution provides a number of paths by which Congress can restrain and discipline a rogue Court.” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse introduced the Supreme Court Review Act to “check the Court’s rogue decisions.”

From the Left’s point-of-view, not only is the Court rogue, but so are the six justices who normally form the majority. According to protesters at a recent anti-Court rally, Roberts is an “impotent fool,” Kavanaugh a “drunken rapist,” and Thomas a “traitor and perv.” “Strong women scare” Alito. Gorsuch “stole his seat.” Barrett is in “an actual cult.”

Scholars like Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky write that none of the justices should be there. Georgia State Law professor Eric Segall argues that the Court’s illegitimate rulings should just be ignored.

But what rulings from this last term were radical, extra-legal interpretations of the Constitution? Here are some of the purportedly rogue rulings:

    • An administrative agency must have congressional authority to make far-reaching decisions.
    • If states subsidize students in private schools, they can’t exclude religious schools.
    • Since the Constitution is silent on abortion regulation, per the 10th Amendment, states retain the authority.
    • The Second Amendment actually prescribes the right to bear arms.

Reasonable people can disagree with these as policy prescriptions. However, the rulings are hardly constitutionally outrageous by any standard. They are not even that politically unpopular, except on the activist Left.

Still, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre claimed, with no substantiation attempted, that overturning Roe v. Wade was an “unconstitutional action.” But most Court critics don’t argue about constitutionality. They simply don’t like the results of the rulings.

Americans have politicized the Court through failure to understand its role and purpose. Commentators commonly characterize justices as liberal or conservative, implying their personal ideologies are the legitimate basis of their judicial opinions. Sometimes they’re even referred to as Democrat or Republican.

Indeed, Barack Obama, himself a former constitutional law professor, wanted his Supreme Court nominees to “understand that justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory.” Rather, they should have “empathy…understanding and identifying with peoples’ hopes and struggles.”

But as the late Justice Antonin Scalia pointed out, there are fundamentally two grounds for federal court rulings: the text of the Constitution and laws or…what? Ideological chaos where ultimately the personal opinions of the judges prevail.

Americans not only tolerate this practice, they demand it. Partisans fully expect the Court to protect their ideological interests, to be their backup when the legislative process fails to produce the desired results.

Thus, another critic claims the current Court is deemed to have rogue status because it “acted under conservative control, as if it stands above the constitutional system, unaccountable to anyone other than itself.” But the Court by design is not supposed to be “accountable” to the political process.

Justices don’t face elections precisely so that they can be an independent third branch. They are free to protect minority rights and serve as a check against populist excesses in the democratically elected branches.

In return for their independence, judges bear a solemn responsibility to follow the Constitution. Any other course leads to government by black-robed tyrants not subject to any checks or balances.

In our cancel culture, justices have been seriously threatened with physical harm. Leftist politicians have proposed structural reforms like packing the Court, blowing it up, or ignoring it. But these are dangerous threats to the rule of law.

Those unhappy with the current Court’s decisions should utilize the traditional means available to effect change. Amend the Constitution, change the laws, appoint new judges when the time comes.

An independent judiciary is a hallmark of all successful democracies. Attempts to punish and threaten judges for their decisions is the real threat to our republic.

Dr. Thomas Patterson, former Chairman of the Goldwater Institute, is a retired emergency physician. He served as an Arizona State senator for 10 years in the 1990s, and as Majority Leader from 93-96. He is the author of Arizona’s original charter schools bill.

It’s Time to Examine the Relevant Facts and Dispel the Myths About Teacher Salaries in Arizona

It’s Time to Examine the Relevant Facts and Dispel the Myths About Teacher Salaries in Arizona

By Kurt Rohrs |

A lot of rhetoric is continually thrown around in discussions about teacher’s salaries in Arizona. So just what are the relevant facts?

Here we examine current teachers’ average salaries and starting salaries nationwide, in Arizona, and in the Chandler Unified School District (CUSD). This data is also compared to relative academic performance in those jurisdictions. This study is restricted to district school data for clarity. Charter and private schools were not included.

Average Annual Teacher Base Salaries

Arizona embarked on a “20 by 20” program in 2018 that aimed to provide funding to school districts in order to raise teacher salaries by 20% over a three year period. This resulted in an average teacher salary in Arizona of $57,465 in the 2020-21 fiscal year compared to the U.S average of $65,090. More state funding was recently provided by the State of Arizona. Chandler Unified, in particular, then provided another 7% increase in teachers’ salaries for the current 2022-23 school year. This is projected to result in an estimated average annual salary of over $68,000 for CUSD teachers.

Average Teacher Salary (2020-21)

U.S. $65,090  

New York  $87,838 

Massachusetts  $86,315

California  $85,892

Arizona  $57,465

Chandler Unified  $63,552

Chandler Unified (2022-23)   $68,000 proj. (calculated after recent 7% raise)

Does It Pay for College Students to Go into Teaching?

According to the National Education Association (NEA), the national average annual starting salary for a new teacher in the 2020-21 school year was $41,770 compared to that in Arizona of $40,554 (about 3% less).

Currently, the starting salary for a new teacher in CUSD is $52,715. When you compare that to the reported average salary of a new Arizona State University graduate in all degree programs of $54,400, it’s about 3.2% less. But presumably the starting salaries for high demand technical degrees would more likely pay better than teaching degrees.

Average Starting Teacher Salary

U.S. (2020-21)  $41,770

Arizona (2020-21)   $40,554

Chandler Unified (2021-22)  $52,715

ASU Four Year College Degree (2022)  $54,400

Pay for Academic Performance?

Teachers in neighboring California were paid an average of $84,531 in the 2019-20 fiscal year, far more than the $56,234 that their counterparts in Arizona were paid in the same period. The well-funded CUSD paid their teachers an average of $62,723 that year.

The latest scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a program run by the U.S. Department of Education, shows that Arizona students score as good or better in key academic proficiency measures as compared to California. Arizona students also scored only slightly below national averages. This appears to indicate that there is little correlation between teacher pay and student academic performance. A comprehensive update should be available soon, but preliminary reports indicate that academic scores have deteriorated significantly from this last report.

Location4th Grade Reading8th Grade MathAvg Teacher Salary

Arizona Selected School District Comparisons

Arizona’s largest school districts also show little correlation between teacher pay and academic proficiency. There appears to be a wide range of district academic proficiency scores as compared to a much smaller range in district average teacher salaries.

DistrictEnrolledSchoolsTeacher Avg PayAcademic Proficiency MathAcademic Proficiency Reading
Mesa Unified57,89781$63,1323831
Chandler Unified43,72545$63,5525749
Tucson Unified41,83291$60,4083314
Peoria Unfied35,28145$59,2654236
Gilbert Unified32,56839$58,5215249
Phoenix Union HS26,99519$65,3721910
Scottsdale Unified21,46230$55,4435553

Arizona Teacher Salaries by County

One way to look at the state’s demographic effect is to look at salary data by the state’s fifteen counties. Arizona has one large metropolitan county, Maricopa, some smaller metropolitan counties, Pinal and Yuma, and several rural counties. Except for a few outliers, average salaries in each county seem to be mostly grouped around the state average of $57,465. This would indicate that, except for some special circumstances, teacher salaries are not greatly affected by where teachers live and work in the state.

CountyEnrolledSchoolsTeacher Avg Pay
La Paz2,33412$56,556
Santa Cruz9,49921$51,689

Some Conclusions

  • Arizona average teacher salaries are below the national average. However, that average is significantly affected by much higher salaries in Massachusetts, New York, and California.
  • Arizona academic proficiency scores are only slightly below national averages. Scores appear to be pulled down by poor performance particularly in the Mesa, Tucson, and Phoenix Union Districts.
  • Student academic proficiency scores are not greatly affected by teacher salaries.
  • Teacher starting salaries in Arizona are only slightly below the national average.
  • Teaching graduates from ASU hired into the Chandler Unified School District would start at salaries only slightly below the average starting salary of all graduates of ASU programs.
  • Average teacher salaries do not seem to be greatly affected by where teachers live and work in the state.

Hopefully this research will help answer some questions and dispel some of the myths surrounding the teacher pay issues here in Arizona. The data sources are provided so individuals can do their own analyses and reach conclusions based on published facts.

Kurt Rohrs is a candidate for the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board. You can find out more about his campaign here.

Should We Do More Job Skills Training in Schools?

Should We Do More Job Skills Training in Schools?

By Kurt Rohrs |

In the ongoing struggle between academic and social instruction in schools, perhaps we are leaving out the most practical instruction of all—job skills training.

As our local economy continues to develop, there has been a shortage of both skilled and non-skilled workers who can take jobs that are available. This has frustrated business owners and slowed economic growth. A prime example is Intel, which is building two world class wafer fabrication facilities here in Chandler. These projects will employ thousands of workers in high-paying jobs during their construction and once it is completed. We should be preparing our local Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) kids to fill those jobs. That requires a plan.

What Would It Take to Get There?

An education plan that incorporates job skills training could take the following form:

  • Elementary School (PreK – 6th grade). Provide a firm foundation in reading and math skills that prepare students for the next steps in their education. In fifth and sixth grade, introduce general career choices for students to consider.
  • Middle School (7th and 8th Grade). Broaden curriculum into other education areas such as science and history, and also introduce specific career path opportunities to students to form a basis for potential career choices.
  • High School (9th and 10th grade). Students should start making choices on specific career paths and learning the details about these choices.
  • High School (11th and 12th grade). Involve students in off-campus work/study programs, internships, and job training programs in addition to classroom learning programs in their specific fields of interest.

Present a Broad Array of Choices

One criticism of CUSD is that they are too narrowly focused on a university education as the preferred, if not only, goal of a graduate. Career counselors typically do not present other options as equally beneficial to students. This ignores the reality that not all students are suited for a university education and not all good-paying jobs require a university degree. There are also some university degree options that have rather doubtful economic value to students. They can then become saddled with excessive student debt and little opportunity for reasonable job prospects.

In addition to a university education, other suitable options that should be presented to students are:

  • Trade Schools. There is a significant shortage of skilled trade workers. These are often well-paying jobs with detailed training programs. Students typically complete these programs with no debt and have a good job waiting for them.
  • Technical Certificate Programs. The technology field moves very quickly. In order to keep pace, many technology companies often offer their own certificate programs specific to their technology, such as application development, database management, cybersecurity, and network management. These are the jobs of the future.
  • Military Enlistment. Some of the best technical skills training is provided by the military. They are very proficient at taking young people from all types of backgrounds and training them in complex operations.

Keeping Students Engaged and Motivated

One of the common complaints heard from parents and teachers is the challenge to keep their kids engaged and motivated. Igniting a student’s interest in a career path early on in their education may help them be more keenly aware of their purpose for being in school. Students who typically ask the question “Why am I here?” or say things like “This is boring” would have a clear and immediate reference to the purpose of being in school and participating. The goal changes from just merely “graduating” to “I have a plan after graduation, and I know what I need to do to realize it.”

K-12 education is sometimes regarded as a monolithic entity unto itself with tenuous connections to continuing activity after graduation. Perhaps it should be regarded as just one part of a journey of a student’s development into a productive adult.

Partnering with Other Education Entities

Effective cooperation with other educational entities, such as the East Valley Institute of Technology, Trade Schools, and Community Colleges that offer critical opportunities is the key to developing the pathway to successful careers for our students. However this can be hampered by interagency squabbles, mostly about control and funding since there is a lot of money involved here. Which entity “owns” the kid and the funding that comes with that kid is often a serious point of contention. These obstacles need to be removed for there to be effective cooperation between these entities. This may require some legislative fixes since funding rules and regulations come primarily from State statutes. But when it’s all said and done, these fixes shouldn’t be about the institution’s best interests. They should be about the student’s best interests.

Partnering with City Government and Local Businesses

The City of Chandler also has a keen interest in the availability of a skilled workforce as an integral part of their economic development plans. Companies will be reluctant to locate here if they cannot hire the employees they need to operate their facilities. The City should be sharing critical information on projected workforce needs to help CUSD develop useful programs and for students to better understand what opportunities are available to them. Local business hiring managers should frequent the schools to talk to students and explain the expectations for when they eventually enter the workforce. This should also help connect students to the business community outside the classroom and expand their perception of the very real world that awaits them after they graduate.

So, What Is the Purpose of Education?

Schools should be more than just “babysitting” duty or fulfilling a state-mandated curriculum. There must be tangible and well-defined goals that engage our students and develop a sense of purpose in them. Teachers may find it useful to help motivate students if those students more clearly understand why they are in school and what the intended result of their education is. It’s time to redefine the purpose of public education as the process of producing capable adults who can effectively participate in the economic activity of the community.

Kurt Rohrs is a candidate for the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board. You can find out more about his campaign here.

It Is Critical to Drain the School Board Swamp This November

It Is Critical to Drain the School Board Swamp This November

By the Arizona Free Enterprise Club |

Public schools are out of control. And it’s going to get worse if we don’t do something about it. Unfortunately, for far too long, school board elections have been some of the most ignored around our state. But whether you have kids in public school, private school, or homeschool—whether your kids are out of school or you don’t have kids at all—this year’s school board election will affect you.

How? Take a look at some of the worst abuses in public school districts in the past year.

A Financial Mess

As a taxpaying citizen, you probably care a lot about where your dollars go. But most school districts don’t share your same concerns. Mesa Public Schools (MPS) is one of them. Back in March, MPS failed to explain where over $32.3 million of their federal emergency funds slated for COVID-related expenditures went—which should’ve resulted in an audit by the State of Arizona.

But Mesa isn’t the only problem…


The Plague of Pediatric Transgenderism Is a Grave Danger to Adolescents

The Plague of Pediatric Transgenderism Is a Grave Danger to Adolescents

By Dr. Thomas Patterson |

Phoenix Children’s Hospital has now confirmed on a Twitter feed that their standard treatment for gender dysphoria is “gender-affirming care.” This is strictly bad news for Arizona’s troubled  or gender-curious adolescents.

The wildly expanding world of transgender services has generated its own euphemisms, so a translation is in order. “Gender-affirming care” means that when any adolescent professes doubt or confusion about their gender, the only acceptable response is to agree that the child’s feelings are reality-based and immutable. Therefore, they must be encouraged to advance into treatment (more on that later).

Critics of this approach, even those simply urging caution, are ridiculed and threatened with professional sanctions.

Teenage females are the largest and fastest growing demographic for “transitioning.” Yet anyone who has raised, lived with, or been a teenage girl knows that they’re notoriously subject to mood swings and temporary infatuations.

Many adolescents today live in an Internet/social milieu that works to encourage transgenderism. Internet quizzes ask “Are you sure” you’re not trans.

Coming out as trans is seen as courageous.  It is rewarded with admiration and respect. It can be seductive for teens with self-esteem issues and limited ability to foresee long-term consequences.

But the gender-affirming care model is unique in believing the feelings of a teenager alone  justify life-altering medical and surgical treatments. There are no tests of any kind available to confirm or deny the diagnosis. According to this model, if the youngster reports they feel like the other sex, then they are transsexual. Period.

Gender dysphoria, feeling psychological discomfort with your biological sex, clearly exists. Some transgendered adults who made the considered decision to transform once maturity had been reached are living productive, satisfying lives.

Rare individuals who have been clearly gender dysphoric from birth seem to have a legitimate if ill-defined psychological disorder which can be ameliorated by passing as the opposite sex.

But these examples have no relation to the waves of transgendered teens now occurring.  In her meticulously researched book “Irreversible Damage,” Abigail Shrier recounts interviewing hundreds of parents with essentially the same story.

They thought they were raising a bright, well-adjusted daughter with normal emotional riffs. Then, suddenly, supported by her authority figures, she comes out as “trans.”

By the time they realize what happened, the deed is done, often medications have been prescribed, and the parents are out of the decision-making loop. If they don’t fully cooperate, they can lose custody of their child.

The result of this approach has been a huge leap in the incidence of transsexualism. Until recently, about 0.3% of Americans identified as transgender. Among today’s youth, that number is 1.8% and climbing.

In 2007 there was one American “comprehensive pediatric gender clinic.” Now there are 60.

It’s not logically possible that an identifiable, biologically-based condition would undergo such an enormous increase spontaneously. Yet patients continue to pour in from school clinics and pediatricians’ offices.

But what about those treatments? Once on the track, younger patients (i.e., some grade schoolers) are given puberty blockers which delay the effects of sex hormones, essentially causing an arrested development. 

Later in high school, patients are given the hormones of the opposite gender—most commonly testosterone for girls, followed by mastectomy and other surgeries to remove unwanted organs, implant facsimile organs, and produce desired cosmetic results.

These ministrations are depicted as benign and reversible, but they are neither. At a minimum, they permanently terminate key functions like fertility and breast-feeding. Complications of organ transplants like the phallus can produce grotesque results. The medical ethics of sacrificing a body function for aesthetic or psychological purposes is questionable at best.

The human toll of this departure from normal scientific standards of care is now coming into view. According to a 2022 study by the National Institutes of Health called “Suicidality Among Transgender Youth,” “56% of transgender youth reported a previous suicide attempt and 86% reported suicidal thoughts.”

We are in the throes of an epidemic, not a viral but a social one. PCH and the other group-thinking experts serve us poorly by promoting this faddish, non-medical behavior. They should review the Hippocratic oath: First, do no harm.

Dr. Thomas Patterson, former Chairman of the Goldwater Institute, is a retired emergency physician. He served as an Arizona State senator for 10 years in the 1990s, and as Majority Leader from 93-96. He is the author of Arizona’s original charter schools bill.