Over the past three years, many parents in a number of school districts across the nation have demanded more transparency and involvement with their children’s education. The Republican-led Arizona Legislature has been working on solutions, and Members have introduced new bills this session to give parents the access and information that they have been requesting.
Representative Justin Heap has introduced one of those bills, HB 2786, which deals with requirements for parental notification for teacher training. The bill “mandates a school district governing board develop parental notification and access procedures if the school district is involved with a training for teachers or administrators,” according to the bill overview provided by the Arizona House of Representatives. If passed by the Legislature and signed into law, the bill would “require a school governing board to notify parents of these trainings and give parents access to any printed or digital materials used for the training.” It also stipulates that the governing boards adopt “a policy to provide parents the information contained in its parental involvement policy in an electronic format.”
In an exclusive interview with AZ Free News on why he introduced this legislation, Representative Heap stated, “Transparency will have the added benefit of bringing school district and school boards back into alignment with the values of the parents of the students they serve. The knowledge that their training materials must be made public will discourage school districts from implementing policies that are hateful to the parents of students in their districts. If any school district official, any school board member, principal, or teacher believes that what is going on in their schools should be hidden from the parents in their district, then they have no business being involved in education.”
The legislation currently has ten co-sponsors: Representatives Neal Carter, Lupe Diaz, Liz Harris, Rachel Jones, Teresa Martinez, Cory McGarr, Barbara Parker, Jacqueline Parker, Michele Peña, and Beverly Pingerelli.
On Tuesday, February 14, HB 2786 cleared the House Education Committee with a 6-4 party-line vote. Republican Representatives David Cook, Liz Harris, Lupe Diaz, Michele Peña, David Marshall, Sr (Vice Chairman), and Beverly Pingerelli (Chairman) voted in favor; while Democrat Representatives Jennifer Pawlik, Laura Terech, Judy Schwiebert, and Nancy Gutierrez voted against passage.
Representative Pingerelli gave the following statement to AZ Free News on why she decided to hold a hearing on this bill in her committee: “Parents should have information readily available about what teachers are learning as part of their professional development programs. Are they receiving instruction about better ways to teach reading, math, or science? Or, as was pointed out during the February 14 hearing and testimony, are the topics covered controversial, ideological or morally objectionable to parents? As I’ve always stated, the focus in K-12 education should be academics. Since it is a reasonable assumption that the training teachers receive is translated into classroom instruction, parents should have the right to be informed. That’s why I decided to hear House Bill 2786 in my committee.”
HB 2786 generated much opposition leading up to and during the hearing in the Education Committee, starting with the Arizona House Democrats. They posted that Representative Heap’s bill demands that “parents get to review every type of training teacher gets (including copyrighted materials),” adding that “he was upset when he learned teachers can get training about equity, inclusion and cultural sensitivity. The Arizona Education Association tweeted that “teachers need to focus on students’ learning – not spend all their time trying to satisfy the demands of people who see our classrooms as a way to score political points.”
Representative Heap disagrees with these analyses of the bill, saying, “I believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant. My bill does not ban this teacher training, or any training, which a school district wishes to implement. It simply requires that if a school district requires, endorses, recommends, funds, or facilitates teacher training programs then they must make all those materials used (Digital or Physical) in that training available for parents to review.”
Due to the partisan breakdown of HB 2786s support and opposition in the early stages at the Arizona Legislature, it is highly likely that Democrat Katie Hobbs would veto this bill should it pass through both chambers and reach the Ninth Floor later this session.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
Two weeks after the Arizona Senate passed the state’s budget for 2023-2024, the House followed suit, setting the stage for another early legislative session showdown with Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs’ office.
Last week, the Arizona House attempted to pass a budget, but Republican Liz Harris voted with Democrats to stop progress on this front in a narrowly divided chamber. Rep. Harris tweeted after her February 9 vote that she “will reject this budget until we right size and restore it to a level that is commensurate with our economic growth.”
Time was ultimately on Speaker Ben Toma’s side, and this week, all House Republicans came together to join their Senate colleagues in passing the $15.8 billion budget. According to the communication from the Arizona Senate Republican Caucus on February 1, this budget is “$2.3 billion less than the state budget that was approved last year and $1.3 billion less than the Governor’s proposed budget.”
Also, “to absorb any revenue loss, this approved budget leaves $1.8 billion in cash available by the end of fiscal year 2024, in addition to the $1.4 billion available in the state’s Rainy-Day Fund.”
In a release sent out by the Arizona House Republicans touting the passage of this budget, Speaker Toma proclaimed victory and challenged the governor to sign the legislation for the good of all Arizonans:
“House Republicans have acted today to pass a responsible state budget. It’s one that was crafted with the needs of the state, and of Arizona’s families in mind, families who are struggling during this economic recession caused by reckless federal overspending and far-left priorities….This budget passed today continues the same budget which was approved less than a year ago with a bipartisan majority and was cheered at the time by Governor Hobbs and Democratic Minority Leader Cano.”
Speaker Toma’s reference to then-Secretary of State Hobbs supporting the last budget was highlighted by Rep. Jacqueline Parker, who shared a tweet from Hobbs from the conclusion of last year’s process:
Arizona Senate Republicans also cheered this week’s action by the House:
Other House Republicans celebrated the budget passage after their votes on the floor. Rep. Austin Smith tweeted, “I voted YES on the budget today to keep the government running so no Arizonan is held hostage to special interests. Democrats keep threatening a veto from Katie Hobbs. They are willing to shutdown the government to protect special interests. SAD!”
Rep. David Livingston wrote, “Great news, the Arizona House just passed the 2023-2024 Budget! Now we transfer the budget bills to Governor Hobbs.”
House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci stated, “Arizona House passes budget to avoid Arizona shutdown. Will Governor Hobbs Veto this bipartisan budget or will she do what’s right for every resident of Arizona?”
Arizona House Democrats were much less complimentary of this week’s action to pass the budget and transmit to the governor’s office.
Rep. Laura Terech tweeted, “This is a budget that is destined for a veto. Hopefully, we will be sitting down together soon to do the real work of finding meaningful bipartisan solutions for Arizonans.”
Minority Whip Marcelino Quiñonez said, “The dynamics in Arizona politics changed in November 2022, & this rushed budget headed to the Governor’s desk ignores that reality. The final budget we pass as a body this session must be bipartisan, everything until then is only a distraction. The work starts after the veto.”
The Republican-led budget is dead on arrival at the Ninth Floor. Governor Hobbs released a statement in opposition to the incoming budget, saying, “The issues Arizonans are facing require more than business as usual. I will not sign a budget that is just more of the same and does nothing to demonstrate a desire to move our state forward.”
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
On Friday, Maricopa County issued an explanatory statement of two claimed fraudulent votes outlined in a new “ghost votes” theory challenging the integrity of the 2020 election. Failed state representative candidate and “Stop the Steal” leader Liz Harris led the investigation, reportedly executed by thousands of volunteers.
These were just two claims of hundreds of thousands made in Harris’s report. The grassroots effort claimed that just over 173,100 votes were “lost or missing,” meaning that the voters never saw records from the county that their mail-in vote was counted, and that nearly 96,400 mail-in votes were cast by voters who didn’t match the associated residential address or who had moved from the address prior to October 2020 – these Harris called “ghost votes.”
Maricopa County officials explained that they investigated two of the purported “ghost vote” addresses personally. They were able to identify the first address as an existing single-family home built in 2005 and located in Goodyear. According to their investigation, four registered voters resided in the home, three of whom voted by mail in the November election.
As for the second address listed by Harris, Maricopa officials explained that the voter in question had reportedly requested their ballot at a temporary address: the site of a formerly functional mobile home that they’d voted from in the 2016 election. The site in question held mobile homes through part of 2020 before the lot was cleared.
As for the remainder of the information, Maricopa County said that they were unable to conduct a more expansive investigation because Harris wouldn’t provide them with the information she’d gathered. The officials noted that they attempted to contact Harris multiple times about her report, but were unable to connect with her.
“The integrity of election and voter registration data is central to the mission of our Office to serve everyone who calls Maricopa County home. The Maricopa County Recorder’s Office and the Maricopa County Assessor’s Office have repeatedly asked Ms. Harris to provide details that support the findings of her report,” explained the office. “While we investigate any and all allegations of wrongdoing made, we cannot do so without credible evidence being provided. To date, Ms. Harris has refused to provide the Recorder’s Office or the Assessor’s Office with the kind of information we can use to conduct a full and thorough investigation into the claims made in her report.”