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.
Parents can now call a hotline to report inappropriate lessons at their schools, under a new initiative launched by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) on Tuesday.
Superintendent Tom Horne discussed the hotline during a Wednesday interview on “The Mike Broomhead Show.” The superintendent said that teachers suspected of abusing their position may face disciplinary conduct and proposed that violations impact a school’s letter grade per the state’s A-F Accountability System.
“Teachers should be teaching the academic standards to their students and not abusing a captive audience by pushing their own ideology,” said Horne. “If they know that their kids have been taught those things, we want them to let us know so we can investigate it and try to do something about it.”
In a press release, ADE clarified that inappropriate public school lessons included those that focus on race or ethnicity, rather than individuals and merit; promoting gender ideology; social-emotional learning (SEL); or inappropriate sexual content. The department linked to our report documenting the over 200 educators who signed onto a statement proclaiming that they would teach outlawed materials like Critical Race Theory (CRT) – even if banned.
Anti-school choice activists and critics of Horne encouraged parents to flood the hotline, dubbed the “Empower Hotline.” Save Our Schools Arizona issued a call to action to drown out real reports from parents seeking help.
“[Please] report how amazing it is that teachers are doing so much for our kids despite the lack of resources provided to them,” stated SOSAZ.
The Empower Hotline rollout included a link to a page on the ADE site explaining Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL).
ADE claimed that CRT is being taught in many public schools, and rejected the claim that it’s a college-level curriculum. ADE published a list of key words and phrases associated with CRT: oppressors or oppressed, whiteness, white privilege, white supremacy, white complicity, white equilibrium, and white fragility.
“The claim that CRT or its principles and elements is not part of any school curriculum in Arizona is false. It is being taught to children,” stated the ADE.
ADE also characterized SEL as a gateway for CRT. The department also claimed that SEL took away precious instructional time by focusing on emotions and feelings.
“Student test scores have been declining since before the pandemic, and resources – especially the non-renewable resource of time – need to be spent to fully educate students in core subjects,” stated ADE. “Teachers are professionals. They know their students and are already trained to be alert for signs of emotional and behavioral problems. This doesn’t require a full-blown curriculum that detracts from teaching academics.”
Horne warned in a statement that CRT can be taught under different titles, such as “power diversity” or “deep equity.”
Arizona Education Association (AEA) President Marisol Garcia called the hotline a “recipe for disaster.”
“Inviting the harassment of educators, without due process at their local level, with the ability of these ‘accusations’ to be FOIA’d?” asked Garcia.
Those seeking to file a report may call the hotline at (602) 771-3500 from 8:30 am to 4:40 pm, or submit an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.