CUSD Board Trashes Parents’ Concerns in Recent Meeting

CUSD Board Trashes Parents’ Concerns in Recent Meeting

By Kurt Rohrs |

Several statutes that were passed by the Arizona legislature to reinforce parental rights in schools recently went into effect. The Chandler Unified School District Board (CUSD) was asked to vote on updates to their policies to conform to these state law changes.

Here are some of the new state laws that needed to be incorporated in district policies:

    • HB 2498 – Prohibits vaccination requirements for staff in order to work
    • HB 2453 – Prohibits masking requirements for staff in order to work
    • HB 2371 – Prohibits vaccination requirements for students in order to attend school
    • HB 2616 – Prohibits masking requirements for students in order to attend school
    • HB 2439 – Provides for parent’s access to a list of school library materials and a list of materials borrowed by their children. However, this law exempts libraries that are run jointly by school and municipal entities.
    • HB 2495 – Prohibits the referral of sexually explicit materials to students
    • HB 2161 –Provides for parent access to records that relate to their child and gives parents the right to file suit if the fundamental rights to raise their children are usurped
    • SB 1165 – Requires participation in school sports to be based on biological sex of the student and gives parents the right to file suit for injunctive relief
    • HB 2632 – Raises the passing grade requirement on the required civics exam from 60% to 70%, making it similar to the citizenship exam given to naturalized citizens.
    • HB 2325 – Provides for school time for remembrance of the September 11 terrorist attacks on or around that anniversary.

What happened during the board member comments section of the meeting was a stunning display of contempt for parents’ rights and for these legislative actions.

Board member Lindsay Love, who is unmarried and has no children, voted against complying with these state laws as a “conscientious objector.” This is an apparent contradiction to her oath of office to  “… support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and Laws of the State of Arizona.” She then went on to imply that some recent student suicides are the fault of parents and that the district must somehow step in and save students from their parents’ cruel behavior. Ms. Love is not running for re-election.

Board member Lara Bruner, who is running for re-election, stated that “It is truly disheartening that some of the representatives in our legislature have decided to increase their control from the top,” seemingly oblivious to the fact that these legislative actions were made to address the concerns of parents.

Board member Joel Wirth expressed that he was “very disappointed in the legislature in its efforts to micromanage school districts and force their political beliefs on the district,” apparently dismissing parental concerns as irrelevant.

Board Member Jason Olive concurred and called the recent legislation “garbage” in evident contempt of the Arizona legislature that provides the funding for his school district.

Board President Barbara Mozdzen refrained from comment.

Whose Children Are they?

Does the CUSD Board really support parents’ rights as protected by state law?

Not one board member stepped forward to defend the stated policy that “parents ultimately direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children.” This is the long-standing policy of the State of Arizona as codified into law in A.R.S. 1-601 and A.R.S. 1-602.

It is unclear why CUSD Board members are so dismissive of parents and their concerns, and of the direction from the Arizona legislature. This appears to be the attitude of several school districts around the valley where a parent’s rights to raise their own children are routinely suppressed in violation of several statutes described in the Arizona Department of Education’s Parental Rights Handbook.

New School Board Leadership Needed

That’s why it is time for new, more responsive, leadership on school boards throughout the state. Please vote on November 8 for new school board members that truly respect parents and their rights to raise their own children.

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

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.

The Chandler Unified School District Must Refocus Its Priorities and Improve Its Transparency

The Chandler Unified School District Must Refocus Its Priorities and Improve Its Transparency

By Kurt Rohrs |

Just what exactly are the priorities of the Chandler Unified School District (CUSD)?

Every parent and taxpayer would love to know. But unfortunately, these priorities do not seem to be clearly presented in any readily available public communication. This makes it difficult to understand what the district is doing, why they are doing it, or hold them accountable for their performance. It’s time for the district to be much more transparent with the public.

That’s why I would like to suggest these five priorities for CUSD, which should be communicated clearly and made readily available to the taxpaying public that supports them.

  1. Catch up on learning loss from recent school closures. Some information indicates that our students are up to two years behind on their academic achievement. Many are falling behind, and CUSD must take this seriously.

  2. Ensure that Reading and Math proficiency is greater than 50% at every school. CUSD should direct massive amounts of resources to any school that falls far below this standard.

  3. Increase student retention. The district must compete effectively to increase their headcount by better satisfying the demands of parents who will ultimately make the decisions on which schools their children attend.

  4. Increase staff retention. It is critical to reduce the turnover rate for Certified (Teaching) Staff and Classified (non-Teaching) Staff. But CUSD must remember that issues with staffing aren’t always about money. While that is certainly something that needs to be examined, staff working conditions should be carefully considered as well. And the district should ultimately work to determine the primary reasons that staff leave their positions and take appropriate corrective actions.

  5. Improve career and technical education. CUSD should refocus attention back to developing practical knowledge instead of social conditioning. The primary mission should be to develop functional adults capable of supporting themselves and contributing economically to the community.

If CUSD is serious about the future of its students, it must refocus its priorities. And it should take a much more pragmatic approach to its communication. This will not only make the district more relevant, but it will improve engagement with the community, especially the parents who have the ultimate say in how their children are educated.

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