Arizona Department of Education: Social-Emotional Learning Will Solve Children’s Mental Health Decline

Arizona Department of Education: Social-Emotional Learning Will Solve Children’s Mental Health Decline

By Corinne Murdock |

Following an advisory from U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on youth mental health, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) encouraged educators to expand social-emotional learning (SEL) implementation. SEL encompasses a wide swath of subjects, including the controversial Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) and Critical Race Theory (CRT), to educate children on handling emotionally-charged issues while building social and self-awareness. SEL often centers around identity, emotions, attitudes, and beliefs.

ADE suggested their free online SEL Course as a means of fulfilling Murthy’s suggestion for educators to create a positive, safe, and affirming school environment. Their course focuses on equity, cultural responsiveness, and trauma sensitive practices. ADE also suggested the PAX Good Behavior Game, only granting free access to teachers and schools. 

Citing Murthy, ADE insinuated that the mental health decline in youth would become the next crisis after the pandemic if left unchecked. ADE also asserted that schools are ideal partners for parents in addressing youth social and emotional wellness.

“Educators and school professionals are uniquely positioned to partner with families to best support student social, emotional, and academic wellbeing in our classrooms and schools,” stated the department. “[ADE] encourages school communities to read the latest Surgeon General Advisory to understand the position of young people better and implement the recommendations offered in the advisory.”

Although Murthy’s advisory pressed the importance of reversing the decline in youth mental health, he did also admit that the government lacked knowledge on the long-term impact of the pandemic on children’s mental wellness. In fact, Murthy further admitted that some youths actually “thrived” during the pandemic, reporting increased sleep and family quality time, less academic stress and bullying, and improved schedule flexibility and coping skills.

“Many young people are resilient, able to bounce back from difficult experiences such as stress, adversity, and trauma,” wrote Murthy. “Although the pandemic’s long-term impact on children and young people is not fully understood, there is some cause for optimism. According to more than 50 years of research, increase in distress symptoms are common during disasters, but most people cope well and do not go on to develop mental health disorders. Several measures of distress that increased early in the pandemic appear to have returned to pre-pandemic levels by mid-2020. Some other measures of wellbeing, such as rates of life satisfaction and loneliness, remained largely unchanged throughout the first year of the pandemic. And while data on youth suicide rates are limited, early evidence does not show significant increases.”

SEL hasn’t been the only controversial educational approach supported by ADE. Earlier this year, ADE advertised $5,000 teacher grants through the Pulitzer Center for those who would implement the 1619 Project. Simultaneously, the latest ADE statewide assessment results revealed that students are failing in English and math.

Although controversial among local parents and community members, SEL doesn’t appear to cause issues at the state level.

Governor Doug Ducey supported SEL expansion recently. In August, Ducey announced that a portion of the $65 million for learning programs would go to SEL. The controversial method received $1.6 million out of $20.1 million American Rescue Plan dollars.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobb nominated a Phoenix elementary school teacher for a national youth leadership award for her classroom activism rooted in and related to SEL.

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

Arizona Department of Education Advertised 1619 Project Teacher Grants

Arizona Department of Education Advertised 1619 Project Teacher Grants

By Corinne Murdock |

In March, the Arizona Department of Education’s (ADE) Social Studies newsletter advertised grant funds for teachers who would implement the 1619 Project. The Pulitzer Center offered a $5,000 grant to 40 educators; applications were due in March. The 1619 Project is an exercise of critical race theory, which holds that race is a socially-constructed idea created by white people to exploit and suppress anyone who isn’t white, and that all social, political, and economic institutions in this country were created by and operate on racism.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper series was debunked by historians roundly and subsequently edited significantly without any editor’s notes from its publisher, The New York Times. The initial goal of the project was to “reframe the country’s history” by establishing the year 1619 as the United States’s “true founding,” while focusing “the consequences of slavery and contributions of black Americans” as the lens through which to view past and present American society.

Parent and co-founder of West Valley Parents Uniting, Heather Rooks, resurfaced ADE’s newsletter promoting 1619 Project grant funds.

“Social Studies Newsletter back from January 2021, Arizona Department of Education to the Peoria Unified School District,” wrote Rooks. “Pulitzer Center offering grants to teachers to help implement the 1619 project ? So @azedschools is clearly using incentives to push CRT is AZ schools!”


In February, ADE’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion also suggested that the 1619 Project podcast was an appropriate educator resource for Black History Month.

In a statement to AZ Free News, Rooks questioned how ADE could be trusted with educating Arizona’s students if they promoted such unacademic materials. She urged parents to up their vigilance.

The Arizona Department of Education sends out newsletters to school districts across the valley. You would think the Department would have resources to help students with loss of learning. But instead, there’s a newsletter from January 2021 showing a promotion from Pulitzer Center giving out grant money to teachers who implement the 1619 project in their classrooms. I am a parent who wants the best education not only for my children, but for all children in Peoria Unified School District. Finding this newsletter through public records in emails of the curriculum team with the Peoria Unified School District was incredibly sad and shocking to say the least. If we can’t trust The Arizona Department of Education, how do we trust the Districts? Parents need to be aware of these newsletters coming to school districts from the Arizona Department of Education. Offering incentives to push Critical Race Theory into schools is completely wrong. West Valley Parents Uniting stands for transparency for parents and academics for students. Apparently the Arizona Department of Education doesn’t stand for Truth.

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

Hoffman Grateful For “American Rescue Plan’s” $2.6 Billion In Funding

Hoffman Grateful For “American Rescue Plan’s” $2.6 Billion In Funding

By Lori Hunnicutt |

After having already received over $1 billion in CARES ACT ESSER and ESSER II funding for Arizona’s schools, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman issued a publicly paid for press release to expressed her gratitude to Arizona’s democratic congressional delegation for the passage of the American Rescue Plan.

According to Hoffman, the Plan will provide nearly $2.6 billion dollars to Arizona for K-12 education, of which the Arizona Department of Education will allocate 90% of those funds directly to public schools.

“The latest round of federal relief and recovery dollars comes at a time of high need for Arizona’s schools and families as many prepare for a return to some degree of in-person learning. From teaching and learning to providing critical wrap around supports, over the past year, every Arizonan has seen just how essential our schools are to our communities,” said Hoffman in her press release. “I am grateful to the members of Arizona’s delegation who supported the American Rescue Plan, their advocacy and their votes are essential to our recovery as a state.”

As noted by Hoffman, schools are essential, and as a result, parents have gone in search of those essential service providers. Public school enrollment is down by approximately 38,000 students for the 2020-2021 school year compared to last year.

Despite the fact that the Arizona Department of Education released a report showing public school enrollment is declining dramatically, funding for schools is growing due to COVID by nearly the same dramatic rate.

ESSER allocations were only for Title I districts and were set by the federal government. Non title I districts did not receive a direct allocation from the federal government through the CARES act so the Department used its discretionary funds to ensure they had access to relief dollars, according to Richie Taylor with the Arizona Department of Education.

TOP 20 ESSR RECEIPIENTS TOP 20 ESSR II RECEIPIENTS
LEA NAME ESSER Fund Allocation ESSER II Allocation TOTAL
Tucson Unified District $18,558,099.29 $76,396,636.50 $94,954,735.79
Mesa Unified District $17,062,873.58 $70,241,361.27 $87,304,234.85
Phoenix Union High School District $11,993,688.79 $49,373,455.48 $61,367,144.27
Cartwright Elementary District $7,999,141.31 $32,929,422.74 $40,928,564.05
Washington Elementary School District $7,318,952.59 $30,129,344.49 $37,448,297.08
Alhambra Elementary District $6,507,560.37 $26,789,151.34 $33,296,711.71
Sunnyside Unified District $5,721,902.88 $23,554,897.94 $29,276,800.82
Glendale Elementary District $4,804,642.37 $19,778,885.64 $24,583,528.01
Roosevelt Elementary District $4,701,263.40 $19,329,140.54 $24,030,403.94
Paradise Valley Unified District $4,513,659.06 $18,581,882.84 $23,095,541.90
Phoenix Elementary District $4,420,353.51 $17,741,161.13 $22,161,514.64
Peoria Unified School District $4,230,397.55 $17,414,938.09 $21,645,335.64
Glendale Union High School District $4,163,991.22 $17,141,568.48 $21,305,559.70
Dysart Unified District $3,914,351.21 $16,114,569.28 $20,028,920.49
Isaac Elementary District $3,839,593.72 $15,565,659.76 $19,405,253.48
Deer Valley Unified District $3,656,154.10 $15,072,832.22 $18,728,986.32
Chandler Unified District #80 $3,276,351.66 $13,574,728.96 $16,851,080.62
Creighton Elementary District $3,317,717.18 $13,452,995.34 $16,770,712.52
Amphitheater Unified District $3,173,678.01 $13,002,600.04 $16,176,278.05

TOP 50 ESSR RECEIPIENTS TOP 50 ESSR II RECEIPIENTS
LEA NAME ESSER Fund Allocation LEA NAME ESSER II Allocation
Tucson Unified District $18,558,099.29 Tucson Unified District $76,396,636.50
Mesa Unified District $17,062,873.58 Mesa Unified District $70,241,361.27
Phoenix Union High School District $11,993,688.79 Phoenix Union High School District $49,373,455.48
Cartwright Elementary District $7,999,141.31 Cartwright Elementary District $32,929,422.74
Washington Elementary School District $7,318,952.59 Washington Elementary School District $30,129,344.49
Alhambra Elementary District $6,507,560.37 Alhambra Elementary District $26,789,151.34
Sunnyside Unified District $5,721,902.88 Sunnyside Unified District $23,554,897.94
Glendale Elementary District $4,804,642.37 Glendale Elementary District $19,778,885.64
Roosevelt Elementary District $4,701,263.40 Roosevelt Elementary District $19,329,140.54
Paradise Valley Unified District $4,513,659.06 Paradise Valley Unified District $18,581,882.84
Phoenix Elementary District $4,420,353.51 Phoenix Elementary District $17,741,161.13
Peoria Unified School District $4,230,397.55 Peoria Unified School District $17,414,938.09
Glendale Union High School District $4,163,991.22 Glendale Union High School District $17,141,568.48
Dysart Unified District $3,914,351.21 Dysart Unified District $16,114,569.28
Isaac Elementary District $3,839,593.72 Isaac Elementary District $15,565,659.76
Deer Valley Unified District $3,656,154.10 Deer Valley Unified District $15,072,832.22
Creighton Elementary District $3,317,717.18 Chandler Unified District #80 $13,574,728.96
Chandler Unified District #80 $3,276,351.66 Creighton Elementary District $13,452,995.34
Amphitheater Unified District $3,173,678.01 Amphitheater Unified District $13,002,600.04
Tempe School District $2,599,800.98 Yuma Union High School District $10,524,843.43
Yuma Union High School District $2,556,671.32 Chinle Unified District $10,485,054.40
Gilbert Unified District $2,361,129.01 Tempe School District $10,097,765.41
Chinle Unified District $2,311,140.03 Gilbert Unified District $9,719,870.46
Pendergast Elementary District $2,051,218.76 Academy of Mathematics and Science South, Inc. $8,669,827.51
Scottsdale Unified District $2,039,036.15 Pendergast Elementary District $8,495,439.77
Yuma Elementary District $1,987,817.13 Scottsdale Unified District $8,428,712.94
Academy of Mathematics and Science South, Inc. $1,936,851.39 Yuma Elementary District $8,183,087.04
Douglas Unified District $1,912,733.71 Douglas Unified District $7,873,997.23
Nogales Unified District $1,864,660.69 Nogales Unified District $7,676,098.84
Tolleson Union High School District $1,839,218.99 Tolleson Union High School District $7,571,365.40
Casa Grande Elementary District $1,718,113.97 Casa Grande Elementary District $7,072,934.77
Balsz Elementary District $1,649,049.88 Kingman Unified School District $6,767,033.37
Kingman Unified School District $1,643,832.54 Fowler Elementary District $6,728,290.92
Fowler Elementary District $1,634,421.24 Balsz Elementary District $6,676,508.92
Florence Unified School District $1,591,119.78 Florence Unified School District $6,608,113.68
Flagstaff Unified District $1,571,344.58 Whiteriver Unified District $6,545,727.43
Sierra Vista Unified District $1,446,034.29 Kayenta Unified District $6,308,720.55
Whiteriver Unified District $1,320,524.94 Flagstaff Unified District $6,137,515.48
Gadsden Elementary District $1,305,353.14 Sierra Vista Unified District $5,507,013.62
Coolidge Unified District $1,301,824.05 Gadsden Elementary District $5,373,642.41
Apache Junction Unified District $1,289,942.00 Flowing Wells Unified District $5,237,156.31
Flowing Wells Unified District $1,261,038.47 American Leadership Academy, Inc. $5,169,312.09
Osborn Elementary District $1,249,531.15 Apache Junction Unified District $5,111,069.81
Crane Elementary District $1,195,318.52 Coolidge Unified District $4,983,582.74
Kayenta Unified District $1,189,663.56 Crane Elementary District $4,920,671.69
Murphy Elementary District $1,169,915.43 Humboldt Unified District $4,801,577.92
Humboldt Unified District $1,166,388.53 Marana Unified District $4,777,558.60
Marana Unified District $1,151,547.40 Avondale Elementary District $4,761,816.09
Avondale Elementary District $1,149,022.62 Osborn Elementary District $4,751,065.08


While multiple studies show that students are suffering greatly from school closures including increased anxiety and even suicide, Hoffman has been nearly silent on the subject of student mental health and what programs might be developed with the millions in surplus monies not allocated to schools to improve students’ mental and intellectual well-being.