Despite the fact that the Senate Appropriations committee approved Democratic legislation to help with Arizona’s housing and diabetes crises, the Arizona Senate’s Democratic Caucus offered a pejorative nickname for the Senate Appropriations Committee, calling it a “garbage can.”
The caucus’ discontent may concern the fact that the committee schedule included bills that were rewritten to include language from other bills killed previously in the House. This included HB2637, prohibiting financial institutions from discriminating against others based on their “social credit score” — it took on the language of HB2656, a controversial bill killed on the House floor by Democrats with the help of two Republicans.
Insults aside, the committee passed several bills from Democrats on that day unanimously. These included HB2528, appropriating $100 million from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) to the Housing Trust Fund (HTF); and HB2083, requiring the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) to cover costs of up to 10 annual program hours of diabetes self-management training (DSMT) services.
The caucus then referred followers to the committee agenda for that day: 39 bills, and another two that were struck from the agenda.
Noteworthy bills included HB2633, requiring hospitals to develop visitation policies for daily, in-person visitation; HB2637, prohibiting banks from discriminating against individuals based on their political affiliation or “social credit scores” including their environmental, social, governance, or similar values-based or impact criteria; HCR2001, altering the state constitution to prohibit compelled or solicited beliefs constituting critical race theory (CRT) tenets from K-12 and collegiate institutions; HB2493, establishing a $12 million election integrity fund; HB2278, eliminating Algebra II as a required course for high school graduation and instead requiring an alternative course such as personal finance, computer science, statistics, or business math; and HCR2027, asking voters to approve the difference of $1 million plus death benefits to the surviving spouse or defendant of a first responder killed in the line of duty.
Last week, the Arizona House passed a bill removing algebra II from the mathematics pathway required for high schoolers to graduate, instead offering alternative courses including personal finance, computer science, statistics, or business math. The bill, HB2278, passed mainly along party lines, with several Democrats voting in support of it: State Representatives César Chávez (D-Phoenix) and Mitzi Epstein (D-Chandler). HB2278 appeared before the Senate on Monday for a second reading.
State Representative John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction) told the House Education Committee earlier this month that he introduced the bill because high schoolers need more practical math skills.
“We’ve been taking our kids and pushing them with more college-oriented programs such as trigonometry, algebra, and advanced algebra III. But basic math for the kids to understand, have the ability to amortize a loan, and do business discounting and understanding that sometimes 60 percent off an item in a retail store still may not be a good deal even with that 60 percent, depending on what that margin rate was when they bought it,” said Fillmore.
State Representative Jennifer Pawlik (D-Chandler) attempted to introduce an amendment to have the State Board of Education create multiple alternative math graduation pathways, require that high school graduation pathways have two additional courses teaching algebra II critical thinking skills, and eliminate personal finance from courses suggested for the math graduation pathway. Pawlik’s amendment failed.
During the House floor vote last week, State Representative Michelle Udall (R-Mesa) asserted that, from her perspective as a math teacher, this bill would better equip high schoolers with applicable critical thinking and math skills. She read a list of algebra II standards to the floor, asking them to consider whether they were applicable to everyday life.
“We do use common sense, logic, reasoning. These are things we do need to learn, and there are several different math classes that would teach you those concepts: personal finance, business math, statistics. You’re going to learn real-world, real contexts, and ways to use math — not only to do that critical thinking and reasoning, but in a way that might be more engaging to some students,” said Udall.
Epstein concurred with Udall’s assessment. She noted that she was disappointed Pawlik’s amendment wasn’t passed, and wished that four years of math would be required of high schoolers.
“I do think it makes sense that we want to have rigorous math, we want to have relevant math. And currently, our standards are not achieving relevant math,” said Epstein.
In opposition to the bill, Minority Leader Reginald Bolding (D-Laveen) said that the bill would only “dumb down” the standards.