Arizona Legislature Fails This Year To Pass Bill Critical To Student Learning

Arizona Legislature Fails This Year To Pass Bill Critical To Student Learning

By Dr. Thomas Patterson |

The Arizona legislature failed this year to pass a bill that would have required third grade students to be held back if they failed to learn to read adequately. The unsuccessful bill uncovered some unhappy truths about the state of education.

Third grade is recognized as a critical progression point for reading proficiency. Students through third grade are taught to read, after which they are expected to read to learn. Those unable to do so suffer a lifelong handicap in today’s knowledge economy with enormous economic and social consequences.

In 2019, 60 percent of Arizona’s third graders failed to meet our own reading standards. Unfortunately, nothing really new here.

Yet this ongoing failure is largely ignored by educators. There is little sense of urgency. Almost all of the failing third graders are routinely promoted to fourth grade, as if nothing of consequence had happened.

Here’s the worst of it. These dismal scores were recorded in the year before Covid, during which teachers’ unions refused in-person instruction. There was never the least evidence that school children suffered from Covid nor spread it.

Nevertheless, teachers received full pay and benefits. Ignoring “the science”, the unions insisted their work was far too dangerous.

No matter how much their students and families suffered, they stubbornly persisted. We’ll be years assessing the educational damage caused by their intransigence. Third graders mostly losing a year of reading instruction will be especially hard hit.

Yet even under these circumstances, government educators fiercely resisted the notion of a do-over, as they had before. They claimed that holding students back would cause more to drop out and result in worse outcomes. (Harvard research suggests the opposite).

Admittedly, holding back all non-reading third graders would be logistically difficult, although the long-term benefits to students and heightened accountability for educators would be well worth it. But educators’ real objection is that thousands of students in remediation would shine a bright light on their failure to perform what is arguably their most important duty: teaching basic literary skills to students who need them the most.

American education, with achievement levels lagging behind most other industrialized nations, has badly needed an overhaul for some time. The irony is that we know how to teach children effectively.

The Success Academies in New York, KIPP schools nationwide, Arizona charter schools and others have shown that it is a lie to pretend that disadvantaged students are “ineducable.“

Thomas Sowell found that New York City charter schools achieved proficiency levels several times that of district schools housed in the same building. Tuition scholarship programs in Arizona, DC and elsewhere have provided life-changing opportunity for thousands of children who otherwise would not have been so fortunate.

But in spite of their successes, school choice programs have been met with implacable hostility  from an educational status quo that sees only threats, not opportunities to better serve. Some teachers’ unions even demanded further charter school restrictions as a condition for returning from their Covid vacation.

The result has been that critical reforms have been stymied. Tuition scholarship programs and charter schools, though growing, still have waiting lists. The default option for too many students is still the failing school closest to their home.

But the Covid debacle could be the springboard to wide sweeping reforms. Parents noticed the callous disregard for their children’s welfare from those they trusted. Some parents were shocked by the pervasive ideological indoctrination in the zoom lessons they observed.

They became comfortable with homeschooling and other options that put them more in charge of their children’s education. Not coincidently, Education Savings Accounts, funds made available to parents for any educational expenses in lieu of public school attendance, have been introduced in over twenty legislatures this year.

The fallout from our failing schools is enormous. We have produced a generation too many of whom are uneducated, entitled and angry. They are enamored with socialism and disdainful of American culture, including free speech. Moreover, income inequality has been widened by the very education activists so vexed by it.

Covid is our best chance to finally open up and modernize the structure of American education. Viva la Revolución!

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.

Sky Harbor cash seizure undercuts 2017 police reform

Sky Harbor cash seizure undercuts 2017 police reform

By Alexa L. Gervasi and Daryl James with the Institute of Justice |

North Carolina business owner Jerry Johnson needed a new semi-truck for his logistics company in summer 2020. So he scraped together his savings, borrowed money from family, and flew west from Charlotte to try to negotiate a cash deal at an auction house near Tolleson.

Unfortunately, the Phoenix Police Department and Maricopa County Attorney’s Office made other plans for the money. Acting on a tip from an informant, officers got ready to intercept the currency at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

A detective started by obtaining Johnson’s itinerary and running a background check. Then he and two other plain-clothed officers took positions in the baggage claim area and waited. When Johnson arrived and picked up his suitcase, they surrounded him and demanded to know whether he was carrying a large amount of currency.

Johnson assumed he was safe because he had done nothing wrong. Traveling with cash—any amount—is legal on domestic flights, so he consented to a search.

Officers discovered no drugs, weapons or contraband of any type, but they did find $39,500 in Johnson’s bags. What followed was a backroom interrogation and threats of arrest if Johnson did not sign a waiver purporting to release his claim to the money.

As someone with felony convictions in his younger years, Johnson felt he could not afford to call the bluff. He also had no attorney present to explain the waiver or its implications, so he bowed to the pressure and signed it. Then he left the airport without his money.

More than eight months later, nobody has charged Johnson with a crime. Yet the government has attempted to keep the cash permanently through civil forfeiture. The moneymaking scheme, which generates an average of $32 million annually in Arizona, does not require a conviction or even criminal charges. Some property owners lose their assets without even receiving a hearing.

Worried about the lack of due process, Arizona lawmakers raised the burden of proof necessary for civil forfeiture in 2017. Previously, the government only had to build a case that was more likely true than not—basically a coin flip. Now, the government must produce “clear and convincing evidence” before permanently taking property.

The new standard requires prosecutors to show that it is highly and substantially more likely true than untrue that seized assets are connected to criminal activity. Yet the court system did not hold the government to this standard.

Instead, during a preliminary hearing on Jan. 6, the Maricopa County Superior Court shifted the burden to Johnson. Specifically, the judge required him to prove he was the innocent owner of the property—a standard higher than the one imposed by Arizona law, which merely requires a person to prove he is the owner of seized property.

Johnson did more than enough to meet his obligation. He swore under oath that the money was his and demonstrated that it was seized directly from him. This evidence alone should have been sufficient, but Johnson went further. He provided bank statements, tax returns, business documents and affidavits to back up his testimony.

None of this satisfied the court, which dismissed Johnson’s claim for the cash without making the government prove anything. With no one else claiming ownership, the court issued an order permanently giving the cash to the state without the government ever needing to show clear and convincing evidence of anything.

If the ruling stands, it would render the 2017 reform meaningless. Essentially, anyone carrying cash in Arizona would be guilty until they prove themselves innocent.

Rather than accept the outcome, Johnson has partnered with the nonprofit Institute for Justice and taken his case to the Arizona Court of Appeals. Even if he wins, his struggle highlights the need for additional reform.

House Bill 2810 could help. Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, and other sponsors drafted the measure to require a criminal conviction prior to forfeiture. That would be a step in the right direction, but the bill has stalled in the Senate as law enforcement officials—the same people who profit from forfeiture—demand amendments that would gut the reforms.

The government already has shown a willingness to exploit loopholes, sidestepping the requirement to produce clear and convincing evidence. Property owners like Johnson will not be safe unless their rights are guaranteed with airtight language, and courts show a willingness to restrict policing for profit.

Alexa L. Gervasi is an attorney and Daryl James is a writer at the Institute for Justice in Arlington, Va.

Getting Back To Normal Shouldn’t Require Vaccine Passports

Getting Back To Normal Shouldn’t Require Vaccine Passports

By the Free Enterprise Club |

Vaccines should always be voluntary and never be forced. But COVID-19 came in like a wrecking ball last year, and perhaps its most significant contribution to the world has been an overwhelming growth in government overreach.

From the abuse of emergency orders to the senseless “mask mandates,” some government officials have leapt at the chance to dangle the carrot of “normalcy” in the faces of their citizens in order to take away more of their freedoms. Unfortunately, many have taken the bait. And now, we find ourselves at a crossroads.

The latest promise to return to normal comes in the form of “vaccine passports.” This ridiculous concept would serve as “proof” that a person has been vaccinated so he or she can have access to all the freedoms they should already be able to enjoy as an American citizen. As you would expect, Big Tech is first in line to team up with the government on such an initiative. And New York has already implemented the “Excelsior Pass” so that its citizens can “be a part of [the state’s] safe reopening.” (Given Governor Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic, what could go wrong?)

But nothing about this is normal.

It’s not normal for companies to collect the private health data of individuals. And it’s certainly not normal to force American citizens to submit to certain medical procedures as the price of doing business.

Thankfully, some of our lawmakers here in Arizona have not fallen asleep on this issue. Earlier this month, Congressman Andy Biggs introduced his No Vaccines Passports Act. This piece of legislation would prevent federal agencies from issuing any standardized documentation that could be used to certify a U.S. citizen’s COVID-19 status to a third party, such as a restaurant or an airline.

And just a few days ago, Arizona became the sixth state to ban COVID-19 passports when Governor Ducey signed Executive Order 2021-09. This prevents state agencies, counties, cities, and towns from issuing measures that require an individual to provide documentation of their COVID-19 vaccination status in to order to enter a business, building, or area to receive a government service, permit, or license. It also prevents businesses that contract with the state to provide services to the public from requiring documentation.

While this is certainly a step in the right direction, Governor Ducey’s executive order still allows for businesses, schools, and health providers to ask about an individual’s vaccine status.

That’s why lawmakers should consider additional action on this issue. One option being considered is HB2190. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Bret Roberts (R-LD11) and Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-LD16), would prohibit a company that conducts business in Arizona from refusing to provide everyday services, transportation, or admission because a person does not divulge whether they have received a particular vaccine. It would also prohibit a state, county, or local government entity from offering anyone a special privilege or incentive to receive a vaccine.

Currently, HB2190 is awaiting action in the senate, and negotiations are underway on potential amendments to the bill. Regardless of what those amendments are, Arizona lawmakers need to work toward stopping vaccine passports. They are a serious threat to our civil liberties. And while we all want to return to normal, we must remember that “normal” shouldn’t come with a price tag.

Ducey Acted Maliciously With Veto Of Sex Ed Bill

Ducey Acted Maliciously With Veto Of Sex Ed Bill

By Diane Douglas, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction 2015-2018 |

When it came to SB1456 (sex ed instruction, parental rights), IF I were a bettin’ woman, I would have been betting Governor Doug Ducey would take the cowardly way out and have allowed the bill to pass into law without his signature.

Instead Ducey took the malicious way out – on so many levels. He vetoed SB1456 and replaced it with yet another worthless Lord Ducey decree – Executive Order 2021-11. One can’t help but wonder if this veto isn’t a bone Ducey threw to Kathy “no promo homo” Hoffman as it came just one day after he rescinded the school mask mandate she loved so much. But I digress.

Ducey’s statement in the veto letter that sex education in Arizona is “Opt-In” is disingenuous at best; if for no other reason than the conflicts and loopholes in statute – none of which were addressed in his executive order.

ARS 15-102(A) (4) reads: If a school district offers any sex education curricula pursuant to section 15-711 or 15-716 or pursuant to any rules adopted by the state board of education, procedures to prohibit a school district from providing sex education instruction to a pupil unless the pupil’s parent provides written permission for the child to participate in the sex education curricula. (All emphasis mine)


Except ARS 15-716(E), which defines requirements for HIV/AIDS instruction, reads: At the request of a parent, a pupil shall be excused from instruction on the acquired immune deficiency syndrome and the human immunodeficiency virus as provided in subsection A of this section. The school district shall provide a description of the course curriculum to all parents and notify all parents of their ability to withdraw their child from the instruction.


ARS 15-102 (A)(5) reads: Procedures by which parents will be notified in advance of and given the opportunity to withdraw their children from any instruction or presentations regarding sexuality in courses other than formal sex education curricula.


And I would remind parents that when the Genderbread Person was taught in a Flagstaff school it was brought into an elementary English Language Arts class. And while technically the teacher notified parents “in advance” the actual subject of the lesson and content of the instruction was not disclosed to parents.

So which is it – opt-in or opt-out? As any good attorney will no doubt tell you the answer is – it depends. But I can virtually assure parents under current law it will be whichever is most expedient for the district, which is opt-out.

SB1456 would have corrected these contradictions in statute and made Arizona truly an opt-in state.

But most importantly what SB1456 would have prohibited is the sexualization of children in Kindergarten through 4th grade.

Ducey’s “rationalization” for his veto of this vital protection for our youngest students is that SB1456 will stand “in the way of important child abuse prevention education in the early grades for at risk and vulnerable children.” It would be laughable if the subject was not so serious and his veto not more threatening to susceptible children.  Exposing these young children to comprehensive sex education can for some children have the effect of desensitizing them and making them MORE vulnerable and, in the wrong hands, potentially groom them for sexual abuse.

Child abuse and comprehensive sex education are NOT one and the same and should NEVER be put under the same umbrella. Isn’t child abuse protection services one of the reasons Ducey added $20 million to the $15 million in grant funding for school counselors and social workers?

Any parents who has ever tried to get a school district to provide them access to instruction materials – before or after the fact – knows Arizona is NOT the land of parental rights that Ducey paints in his veto letter. Parental rights statutes in Arizona are about as effective as an old, toothless guard dog. There are no consequences for districts, schools or teachers that don’t comply with statute and fulfill the parent’s request for instructional materials.

As for Ducey’s self-congratulatory back slapping about encompassing what he deems the “heart of the bill” – parent “involvement” and online availability of sex ed curriculum – could have just as easily and effectively been expanded through State Board of Education rules which already set requirement for public meetings to review and adopt sex ed curricula. But whether by executive order or SBE rulemaking neither have stability nor durability of Arizona Revised Statutes. It has become very apparent over the past 13 months that our governor no longer respects a representative form of government for Arizona and continues to rule by decree rather than govern. But, again, I digress.

But no, Governor Ducey, the true heart of SB1456 was protecting the innocence of our youngest, students, ages 5 to 9 years old. Nothing is more important that safeguarding our precious children at the earliest ages, actually all ages, from the evil of Alfred C. Kinsey, Siecus and Planned Parenthood’s comprehensive sexual instruction and indoctrination. Well, nothing other than teaching our children to read, write and do arithmetic something else at which our system fails.

I’m sure glad that I am not a bettin’ woman because betting on Doug Ducey to protect parental rights and children’s innocence is a losing proposition – big time.

How Asset Forfeiture Undermines Government’s Legitimacy

How Asset Forfeiture Undermines Government’s Legitimacy

By Timothy Sandefur, Goldwater Institute |

Civil asset forfeiture—which allows law enforcement officers to seize people’s cash, cars, or other property by claiming it was involved with a crime—is often called “policing for profit,” because police officers and prosecutors can keep the proceeds of these confiscations—and are not required to prove that the owner actually committed a crime. Forfeiture is big business, too: Local, state, and federal officials seize more than $3 billion each year—an amount so large that many law enforcement agencies have become essentially dependent on this outside income. Rather than being funded with tax dollars, these agencies now derive a large portion of their budgets from money taken directly out of the pockets of citizens who are never convicted of, or even charged with, crimes.

The injustice of asset forfeiture has been a subject of debate for several years, but a Goldwater Institute policy paper released today, Predators, Not Protectors: How Asset Forfeiture Undermines the Legitimacy of Government, looks at how forfeiture doesn’t just violate the constitutional rights of due process, but also contradicts the more basic principles of government legitimacy.

A Mother’s Journey Through Arizona’s K-12 School System

A Mother’s Journey Through Arizona’s K-12 School System

By Heather Rooks |

I am a busy mom of 4 wonderful children and a wife of a hard working husband. I had the best memories of watching each of my children experience their 1st year of school in the Peoria Unified School District (PUSD). Their teachers were kind, engaging and overall the same experience I had in PUSD growing up. My husband and I had the great memories at Frontier Elementary and Sunrise Mountain High School.

Something in the schools changed in January 2021. I noticed a shift in my two older children’s content in the classrooms. My oldest had said he felt uncomfortable one day after watching the Presidential Inauguration in class. I had no clue that both my 2nd grader and 4th grader had a classroom activity that involved the viewing of the inauguration. I reached out to their teachers who have always been very helpful. I was surprised by the reason for the inauguration being shown in class.  I was told by my 4th grader’s teacher that “the team” decided to change the lesson plan from Martin Luther King Jr. week to the viewing of the Inauguration as a “teachable moment” – although the same could not be said of the 2016 inauguration. This is where I began my journey into figuring out what was going on in the District.

I began reaching out to other parents for information and attending Governing Board Meetings. I wanted to know if there were other parents going through similar situations. And of course there was.

I started learning about parental rights under Arizona Revised Statutes and how they applied in the schools. I worked together with a support group of parents. Together we formed a parent Facebook group so we could stay in touch and have meetings to share what we learned. We started going through governing board agendas and seeing what was being voted through. We wanted to learn more about how the process works, how much power came from the Board and how much the Board really knew about what administration is putting into our kid’s education.

One thing I noticed was how little effort the Peoria Unified School District puts into helping parents and the community understand the whole governing board process such as the adoption of district policies, requesting public records and more.

For example, I learned curriculum resource materials are only allowed to be viewed at the district office. We need better access and more effort by the District to make materials /curriculum proposed for Board approval available especially now that so much of the curricula and supplemental materials are digital.

With help from a few people on the outside who knew how things worked, I learned how to request public records on professional Teacher development programs and communication emails in the District that included curriculum.

I talked with other parents about the curriculum and the ideas that were being taught to their kids in the upper grade levels. I learned that topics such as discrimination throughout American history is being taught with black lives matter;  George Floyd, mob mentality, CNN news resource in classroom assignments and students knowing their teachers political affiliation was all showing up in middle school classes.  During all my years as a student in the Peoria Unified School District – K-12 – I never knew any of my teachers’ political affiliations.

I started to learn more about Critical Race Theory and the idea behind diversity, equity and inclusion.

As a parent with two children with disabilities on Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s) that affect their everyday lives I thought the inclusion idea was great. But the diversity, equity and inclusion that I had researched was twisted and not actually for children with disabilities.

I didn’t want any curriculum or program teaching my children that they were privileged based on their race. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to teach a child that their skin color determines who they are in life. My mother and grandparents always taught me to reach for my goals and work hard for my future. America has always taught that anyone can succeed in this country.

I started reading through the different items on the April 5th board meeting agenda. Once I started looking at the supplemental material vendor lists of three contracts under the Consent Agenda I reached out to our group. We worked together to figure out what was on each vendor website.

The content for some of the vendors was not easily accessed without subscription; some vendors had their message of the same concept of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and more. The ones that really stood out were Cengage, Gale, Savvas Learning Company (formerly Pearson Publishing known for Common Core) and Everfi . These are just a few of the vendors which are all part of the SAVE consortium contract on the Consent Agenda. Topics on these websites included Social justice, gender identity book titles for all grade levels, Culturally Responsive Learning, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, LGBTQ even for younger grades like kindergarten and more.

One of the vendors, Everfi, has a description of Diversity Foundations for High school that introduces learners to key concepts of identity, bias, power, privilege and oppression. In that lesson learners explore the concepts of power, privilege, oppression, discrimination and racism.

The real shocker was the day of the board meeting when I was able to access the Peoria Public Library’s database list. Of course Gale Academic One File, the vendor listed on the SAVE Contract, was listed. I clicked on the link and was taken to the actual website where I had to type in the barcode of the library card.

From there I typed in a title provided by the contact from Colorado (who had the same situation with Gale and Cengage Company in their child’s district) called Abuse Porn: Reading Reactions to Boys Halfway House. The article was very descriptive on an adult website for boys and at the bottom of the article I saw the sources listed with 4 blue links. The 1st link took me off the Gale website and directly to a gay pornographic webpage. To say I was shocked is an understatement.

I had in four days discovered controversial topics, hidden content and links to pornographic websites off of one contract the District wanted to purchase for their teachers to use in our children’s classrooms.   The curriculum department explained that the district had to choose curriculum that matched changes to the AZ State Standards. When they began their “process” they turned to a preapproved contract complied by Mesa Public School District for the SAVE Consortium so that the work was done for them and would be a “cheaper” process.

My questions are why is no one else in the district curriculum department checking through these vendor websites before bringing them to the Board for approval and into our children’s classrooms?

How could the Superintendent Reynolds and his staff in the Curriculum Department fail our children and our trust by not researching EVERY single vendor listed on that contract?

Why would the district not want to invest in the time and money searching for outstanding and appropriate resources for our kids learning?

This contract was on the Consent Agenda for approval of the Board without discussion and only as a financial expenditure with no information being provided by the curriculum department about the content.

I am grateful to James T. Harris for having me on his radio show so other parents could hear what is going on. These same parents came to the standing room only board meeting to voice their disapproval of the content of these supplemental materials and the associated websites.

It reminded me of America and how strong it can be when we come together. I spoke at the board meeting and talked about my findings of links to porn websites from the supplemental vendor resources.

Thankfully, board member and Representative Beverly Pingerelli (R LD21), with support of board member Rebecca Hill, motioned to table all three contracts and have the curriculum team bring forward exactly which vendors they wanted to use in the schools. The board all voted in favor of this idea and Beverly Pingerelli asked to allow the parents to view the content of each vendor.

There’s nothing better than sending your child off to school for their first day. These are moments you cherish for a lifetime. You trust the teacher. You trust the principal. You just trust. Then all the sudden the trust is gone and you’re left with fighting those you trusted. Those you trusted to educate your child.