Conservative Parents Find Hope In Superintendent and School Board Races

Conservative Parents Find Hope In Superintendent and School Board Races

By Loretta Hunnicutt |

From the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) to local school board positions, several conservatives are currently leading or have already won key races on the education front in the 2022 General Election.

As of press time, Republican candidate for SPI Tom Horne had increased his lead in his challenge of incumbent Kathy Hoffman. Horne previously served as SPI from 2003 to 2011, prior to successfully running for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. If the results hold up, Horne says his focus as SPI will be on improving student performance and eradicating Critical Race Theory-based curriculum from Arizona’s public schools.

In the Peoria Unified School District race, Heather Rooks won a hard-fought and challenging race. Her efforts to expose the Social Emotional Learning-based policies and practices in the district eventually led her to request an injunction against an activist parent. As reported by the Arizona Daily Independent, Rooks, a mother of four school-aged children, obtained the injunction based on threats from Democrat activist, Josh Gray.

Two other conservative candidates, Amy Carney and Carine Werner, secured seats on the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) Governing Board. Their victories serve as a powerful repudiation of out-going Governing Board Member Jann-Michael Greenburg. Greenburg was sued by parents who accused him of trying to silence them after they exposed his secret Google Drive dossier on them. As AZ Free News reported in April, that dossier included a trove of political opposition research on parents, who opposed the district’s adoption of Social Emotional Learning and Critical Race Theory.

In the race for Flowing Wells School District Governing Board—an area known for being blue—conservative Brianna Hernandez Hamilton is currently holding on to one of two open spots. A mother of three very young children, Hernandez Hamilton ran with the slogan: “Parents + Teachers = Quality Education.”

Kurt Rohrs, a long-time education activist and frequent contributor to AZ Free News, won a spot on the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board. Rohrs, like Horne, focused on improving student performance and eliminating the divisive Critical Race Theory from the district’s curriculum. Many see Rohrs’ presence on the board as an opportunity to restore calm to the district which had become the center of controversy thanks to out-going board member Lindsay Love.

In the race for Dysart Unified School District Governing Board, conservative Dawn Densmore was retained by voters. As current president of the board, Densmore successfully led the fight to end the district’s relationship with the Arizona School Board Association (ASBA). Jennifer Drake also won a seat on the board.

Sandra Christensen is set to win a seat on the Paradise Valley Unified School District Governing Board. Libby Settle and Madicyn Reid are in the lead for spots in Fountain Hills. Paul Carver should take a win in Deer Valley. Jackie Ulmer appears to have been successful in Cave Creek as well as Rachel Walden in Mesa and Chad Thompson in Gilbert. In the Higley Unified School District, conservative Anna Van Hoek also won a seat on the board.

In a tweet from earlier this week, former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos summed up what many parents have been feeling over the past few years – left out. In response to the National Education Association’s claim that teachers “know better than anyone” what students need in the classroom, DeVos responded, “You misspelled parents.” 

Arizona AG Is Asked To Take Immediate Action Against State School Board Event

Arizona AG Is Asked To Take Immediate Action Against State School Board Event

By Terri Jo Neff |

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has been called on to take immediate action to prevent public school districts from using taxpayer funds in an effort to reduce how many of the state’s K-12 students are eligible for up to $7,000 for educational expenses.

The Goldwater Institute worked earlier this year to expand eligibility for Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program from roughly 11,000 K-12 students to all of the estimated 1.1 million students. Gov. Doug Ducey signed the legislation in July and it takes effect later this month.

However, Democrats and special interest groups, including union organizations, have pledged to stop universal ESAs from becoming a reality. And Arizona’s public school districts appear poised to violate state law to do so, according to Scott Day Freeman, a Senior Attorney for the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.

“Arizonans would rightly be appalled to learn that school districts will be using taxpayer resources to have district employees participate in an event clearly geared toward a political objective: undoing Arizona’s innovative, new universal school-choice program,” Freeman wrote on Aug. 31 to Michael S. Catlett, the Chief Counsel of Special Litigation for Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

In the letter, Freeman outlines the Goldwater Institute’s concern that many of the state’s school districts are poised to use taxpayer dollars to send representatives to a politically motivated meeting later this week at which attendees will be encouraged to help overturn Arizona’s new ESA opportunity.

“Arizona Revised Statute Section 15-511 prohibits school districts from spending or using district school resources to influence the outcomes of elections, including the support or opposition of ballot measures,” Freeman wrote. “But school districts are doing precisely that, and the Attorney General is statutorily empowered to stop it.”

Freeman notes numerous public school district employees plan to attend a “Law Conference” presented by the Arizona School Boards Association at the J.W. Marriott Camelback Inn in Paradise Valley on Sept. 7 through 9 that will include programming by Friends of the ASBA, a 501(c)(4) organization opposed to school choice.

Friends of the ASBA, Freeman wrote Catlett, “will be working at the conference to gather signatures on a petition to overturn the universal school choice reform via ballot referendum.” He added that the ASBA “has brought its political advocacy to a fine point in its upcoming Law Conference.”

The Goldwater Institute is asking the Arizona Attorney General’s Office (AGO) to immediately investigate and “take all appropriate legal action to enforce Arizona’s law prohibiting school districts from using public recourses to support a ballot measure seeking to invalidate Arizona’s universal ESA program,” Freeman wrote.

The authority of the AGO to act is provided in ARS 15-511 “but only if your office acts promptly,” he added.

In a follow-up public statement, Freeman said the Goldwater Institute is dedicated to exposing the plans of entrenched interests in education to use hard-earned taxpayer dollars to deprive parents of the educational freedom provided by ESAs.

“All Arizona families should be free to make educational choices for their children without having the government work against them by rigidly defending a status quo that protects bureaucrats and government unions,” he stated.

Arizona AG Is Asked To Take Immediate Action Against State School Board Event

ASBA Drops Its Membership In National School Board Association

By Terri Jo Neff |

Earlier this week the Arizona School Board Association voted to end its relationship with the National School Board Association, a group which has been under fire by parents, school officials, and legislators for several months.  

In her Feb. 16 letter to NSBA, Dr. Sheila Harrison-Williams said the ASBA board of directors voted to discontinue membership in the national organization. Harrison-Williams, who is ASBA’s executive director, referenced a missive the national organization issued to President Joe Biden last fall in which the actions of parents trying to be involved in their children’s education were compared to acts of domestic terrorism.

NSBA has since replaced its executive director and launched a third-party review of certain association activities. But that has not eschewed further concern among Arizona’s school district officials and parents, Harrison-Williams wrote.

“Despite these efforts, it has become clear that ASBA’s continued membership in NSBA has become a hinderance to the work we are undertaking in Arizona on behalf of Arizona’s public school students,” she wrote, adding that the ASBA’s primary obligation is to advocate on behalf of Arizona’s students.

“We are unable to do that if we are continually called to account for the actions of NSBA,” Harrison-Williams wrote.

The ASBA’s announcement comes after state lawmakers were asked to support Senate Bill 1011, which would prohibit public school districts across Arizona from using taxpayer dollars to pay for membership in a state or national school board association. The bill is opposed by the Arizona Association of County School Superintendents and the Arizona School Administrators Association.

However, the issue has become a lightning rod among several school district boards outside Maricopa and Pima counties.  Many of those boards have expressed dissatisfaction with what they see as partisan political interference by the NSBA. This, in turn, put pressure on ASBA’s board to cut ties with the national organization.

Learn more about SB1011 HERE http://azfreenews.com/2022/01/bill-would-bar-use-of-taxpayer-funds-for-school-board-association-dues/

Arizona AG Is Asked To Take Immediate Action Against State School Board Event

Bill Would Bar Use Of Taxpayer Funds For School Board Association Dues

By Terri Jo Neff |

A state senator has introduced a bill to prohibit public school districts from using taxpayer dollars to pay for membership in a state or national school board association.

Current state law allows a school district governing board to budget and spend funds for membership in an association of school districts within Arizona. But a school district board is not permitted to spend taxpayers’ dollars to join an association which attempts to influence the outcome of an election. 

“The Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) has a consistent pattern of lobbying with a clear bias,” Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-LD16) said Tuesday. “This constitutes political activity and is often against the very taxpayers that funded them.”

ASBA “should be serving the parents, and not working hard against them,” Townsend added.

As a result, Townsend is sponsoring Senate Bill 1011, which would still allow a school district to join ASBA or another state association, as long as the membership dues are not paid by taxpayer funds. That leaves ASBA the option, Townsend suggested, of pursuing 501(c)(4) tax exempt status so it can fundraise for operational money “without relying on the taxpayer.”

SB1011 passed out of the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday via a 5-3 partisan vote.

The Arizona Association of County School Superintendents has come out against Townsend’s bill, as has the Arizona School Administrators Association. Among those supporting SB1011 include the Center for Arizona Policy and Diane Douglas, who served as Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction from 2015-2018.

School boards and associations have come under scrutiny the last two years due to COVID-19 protocols which have frequently pitted educators and administrators against the wishes of parents. It has led to a groundswell of parental interest in school operations and curriculum, as well as in how school boards spend funds.

Last September, the National School Boards Association got sideways with many school district governing boards and parents after sending a letter to President Joe Biden complaining about purported threatening and aggressive behavior on the part of parents toward school board members.

NSBA claimed such actions amounted to domestic terrorism which warranted federal law enforcement intervention. The fallout led several state school board associations to withdraw from NSBA.

And in Arizona, it resulted in the creation last year of the Arizona Coalition of School Board as an alternative to ASBA, which is still a member of NSBA.

Townsend recently requested records from ASBA about its expenditures for legal fees in connection with  any litigation involving the state. She said her intent is to determine whether those expenditures came from dues paid by any Arizona school board.

ASBA did not comply with her public record request, Townsend said.

“I would hate to know the dues this organization receives from school boards are being used to pay attorneys to sue our state and overturn legislation we’re crafting on behalf of these constituents,” she said. “This is completely inappropriate, and I will be looking into whether or not taxpayer money has been used in this fashion to undo our laws.”

Masking Lax at Arizona School Boards Association Conference Despite Mandate

Masking Lax at Arizona School Boards Association Conference Despite Mandate

By Corinne Murdock |

Not all attendees were masked up at the Arizona School Boards Association’s (ASBA) Annual Conference last week, despite having a mask mandate in place. ASBA fought for local school districts to be able to establish mask mandates; they joined a lawsuit that prevailed against Governor Doug Ducey’s mask mandate ban.

Pima County Superintendent of Schools Dustin Williams was one leader spotted maskless during the Superintendents Division Business Meeting. In addition to ASBA’s conference mandate, most of Williams’ school districts have mask mandates in place for their students: Ajo Unified, Amphitheater Unified, Catalina Foothills Unified, Flowing Wells Unified, Sunnyside Unified School District, Tanque Verde Unified, and Tucson Unified.

A number of school officials were also maskless as they recorded testimonies for ASBA. One of them was Red Mesa Unified School District Interim Superintendent Dr. Amy Fuller, former interim superintendent for Scottsdale Unified School District. Fuller’s district currently requires face masks at all times indoors. 

Unlike the county superintendent, Tanque Verde Unified Governing Board Member Anne Velosa wore a mask for her testimony. 

AZ Free News reported in September that a number of attendees at an ASBA conference also didn’t mask up. ASBA spokespersons explained that they had a loosely enforced mask mandate in place, and that the individuals were from various districts with different beliefs on masking. 

Parents have voiced concerns about their children’s social development, or the quality of education for those with special needs or disabilities. Current experts on the controversial social-emotional learning (SEL) admit that they don’t have complete studies on the impact of masking on children’s development. However, they speculated that educators could adjust somehow to work around the masks. Feasible solutions haven’t been presented for students who rely on seeing mouths to learn, such as deaf or hearing-impaired students — though some suggest clear masks, those present their own issues like fogging up.

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