On Wednesday, the state’s teachers union protested against the Arizona Department of Education’s newly-launched hotline for parents to report inappropriate class materials.
The Arizona Education Association (AEA) had educators and activists march around the state capitol and ADE building, holding signs and chanting. Some signs read, “Stand with Educators,” and “Stop the Attacks.”
AEA also issued a letter on Wednesday to ADE Superintendent Tom Horne. The activists delivered a copy of the letter to the ADE office following a short speech outside the building. The AEA characterized the hotline as another political game.
The body of the letter is reproduced below:
Consider this an open invitation to visit Arizona schools and meet with educators. Come see for yourself the hard work, expertise and passion that go into each day. The constant attacks, along with low wages and underfunded classrooms, are causing far too many of our colleagues to leave the profession and the state. Our students and our schools deserve better. Take down the ‘hotline.’ Stop the attacks and stand with us.
Horne toldFox News on Wednesday that he was aware of the hotline’s unpopularity with certain groups, and criticized the teachers that participated in the protest. The superintendent implied that those teachers protesting were opposed to transparency and accountability.
“I served 24 years on a school board, and our rule was anybody could come in and watch the teaching, and the teachers never complained because they were proud of what they were doing, so those who are protesting, maybe they are not so proud of what they’re doing,” said Horne.
ADE launched the hotline last Tuesday. The department clarified in a corresponding press release what qualified as inappropriate school lessons: those focused on race or ethnicity, rather than individuals or merit; promoting gender ideology; social-emotional learning (SEL); or sexual content. ADE cited our reporting as an example of those committed to teaching inappropriate materials, in which AZ Free News documented over 200 educators who signed onto a statement proclaiming that they would teach outlawed materials like Critical Race Theory (CRT) even if banned.
ADE stated that the hotline represented their administration’s commitment to transparency and empowering parents.
Under former Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, ADE’s commitment to transparency looked slightly different. As AZ Free News reported in January, the former administration neglected the state’s school choice program: it had less than one-third of the staff designed to run the program and nearly 171,600 unfulfilled expense requests, despite receiving millions in additional funding for hiring and operation expansions.
AEA President Marisol Garcia claimed that the hotline would invite harassment of educators, and allow for accusations to be vulnerable to open records requests.
“Inviting the harassment of educators, without due process at their local level, with the ability of these ‘accusations’ to be FOIA’d?” asked Garcia. “As if nothing bad is going to happen here?”
Teachers union members and supporters filled the Capitol following the march.
Gov. Katie Hobbs won’t disclose how much her inauguration ceremony will cost, or how much donors paid for it. Hobbs’ decision to withhold the donors’ identities not only contradicts her campaign promises but past administrations’ transparency on the subject.
Hobbs listed 137 sponsors for the event, but didn’t disclose how much they paid.
Sponsors include the Arizona Education Association, APS, Arizona Coyotes, Banner Health, BlueCross BlueShield, Boeing, Cigna, Cox, CVS, Deloitte, Gila River Indian Community, Greater Phoenix Leadership, Healthcare Rising Arizona, Horizon Strategies, Human Rights Campaign, Intel, Motorola, Pepsico, Phoenix Suns, PhRMA, Southwest Gas, SRP, Comcast, Amazon, Anheusesr-Busch, CoreCivic, Lockheed Martin, Paypal, and Safelite.
Tickets were $150 for the public to attend. Following widespread reporting on the lack of transparency around the event, ticket registration was listed as free.
In a statement to Arizona Capitol Times, Hobbs’ press aide Murphy Hebert said the event is a private one not paid for with public funds.
The secretive nature of Hobbs’ first days in office may be a lasting trait throughout her administration. The governor barred reporters from attending a swearing-in ceremony on Monday.
Hobbs’ first promise when she announced her candidacy for governor was to “deliver transparency.”
Hobbs continued that promise throughout her campaign, right up to the election.
Hobbs’ bio on the newly revamped governor’s website also promises transparency from this new administration.
“A fearless advocate for Arizona, Katie will bring transparency and accountability to the governor’s office and deliver real results for all of us,” reads the bio. “Katie knows firsthand that government only works well if it’s led well. For Katie, that means transparency and accountability.”
Those interested in watching the inauguration ceremony may do so here:
The State of Arizona has great reason to celebrate. In a case that the Club joined as a plaintiff, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah ruled against Prop 208, determining that the money raised from the tax would exceed the constitutional spending limit for education. This decision followed the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling last August that Prop 208 was unconstitutional. And now, it officially puts the nail in the coffin of the largest tax hike in Arizona history.
This is probably hard to believe, but there once was a day when journalists didn’t feel the need to include their own slants and biases. When they didn’t make themselves a part of the story. When they would simply report the news.
Unfortunately, those days are long gone. Today’s establishment media is much more concerned with protecting its own interests—and the interests of those they’re in bed with. We’ve seen this mentality at the national level for quite some time, but now it’s taken over our local media as well—especially right here in Arizona.
The latest comes from ABC15 news anchor Steve Irvin. If you’re not sure what Steve stands for, you don’t need to look much further than his professional Twitter account where he regularly spews liberal talking points, refers to people he disagrees with as “bigots,” and shares his disdain for school choice.
The Arizona Secretary of State’s Office announced last week that enough valid signatures were turned in to let voters decide next year whether they support substantially reduced income tax rates set to take effect in 2022 or want to maintain the current higher rates.
But whether voters can actually weigh in on such issues in the November 2022 General Election is something the Arizona Supreme Court will likely be asked to decide.
In June, Gov. Doug Ducey signed an overhaul of Arizona’s income tax system as part of the $12.8 billion budget packet approved by the Legislature. It changes the state’s current five-tier income tax rates -from 2.59 percent up to a 4.5 percent base- to a two-tier plan with lower rates in 2022.
The legislation which created the new tax structure could even trigger a single 2.5 percent tax rate as soon as 2023 if Arizona’s revenues meet certain levels.
The flat tax system also addresses the impacts of Prop 208, which voters narrowly passed last year. Known as the Invest in Education Act, Prop 208 imposed an additional 3.5 percent tax surcharge effective 2021 on any income above $250,000 for a single filers or $500,000 for joint filers. The surcharge is on top of the current 4.5 percent base rate.
The revenue from the surcharge is slated to be used for public K-12 schools, but it does so by kicking Arizona’s highest earners to an 8 percent income tax. This put businesses in the state at a competitive disadvantage with Texas and Nevada which have no income tax, while New Mexico has a top rate of 4.9 percent.
Because the 3.5 percent Prop 208 surcharge was put into law by voters, state lawmakers could not directly undo it. Instead, the new flat tax rate plan would top out at 4.5 percent by absorbing the 3.5 percent surcharge.
However, supporters of Invest in Ed, now known as Invest in Arizona, want to void the new tax rate law despite the fact all Arizonans would share in the projected $1 billion savings. The group is trying to kill the flat rate plan by utilizing a provision of the Arizona Constitution which gives citizens 90 days after the legislative sessions ends to attempt to refer new state laws for voter approval.
Last week Invest in Arizona successfully submitted enough valid petition signatures to get the matter on the ballot next November as Proposition 307. In response to the petition drive, Ducey’s spokesman has continued to champion the new income tax structure, which would ultimately be the lowest flat tax in the country if state revenue targets are met.
“It keeps Arizona competitive,” said C.J. Karamargin. “We are returning tax dollars to the citizens of Arizona.”
Whether new laws dealing with state revenues such as income taxes are eligible for voter referendum has never been ruled on by a state court.
A lawsuit by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club argues that the Arizona Constitution actually prohibits issues related to the support and maintenance of state government to be referred to the ballot. A decision by Judge Katherine Cooper of the Maricopa County Superior Court is expected any day.
Whichever side loses in Cooper’s court is expected to appeal, with the Arizona Supreme Court expected to hear the case eventually.
Another wrinkle in the tax saga is that the Arizona Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that Prop 208 can be challenged on the basis of the state’s constitutional spending limits for K-12 schools. The justices recently sent the matter back to the Maricopa County Superior Court for additional arguments although the case is expected to be back at the Arizona Supreme Court early next year.