Right now, there’s a growing conflict between whether our schools should be focused primarily on academic instruction or social instruction.
Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), stated recently that teachers must assume the role of “Social Justice Warriors” in classrooms across the country. The National Education Association (NEA), another very large teachers’ union, urged the U.S. Justice Department to label concerned parents as “Domestic Terrorists” in an attempt to silence their objections. It’s clear that these teachers’ unions simply want to dismiss parents as being unworthy of advocating for their own children.
But parents need to be involved in the education of their children now more than ever.
Just look at what’s going on with Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman. She was recently sued for advertising links to chat rooms where minors discuss sex and gender with adults present and without parents necessarily knowing.
Then, there’s Chandler Education Association Union President Katie Nash, who is on video at a Chandler Unified School District Board (CUSD) meeting actively promoting the teaching of White Supremacy Theory, the 1619 Project, and “Anti-Racism” programs typically derived from Critical Race Theory (CRT).
What does any of this have to do with academic instruction? Nothing.
But it’s being pushed in our schools, and while it can be tempting to blame teachers for this, we need to be careful. Most teachers should be considered as dedicated and trustworthy professionals. Instead, this is a failure of union leadership and their minions who have lost interest in academic education in favor of a growing obsession with political power. What has been the result? Declining academic scores across the country.
Of course, all of this is in direct contradiction with Arizona statute, which clearly defines these social activities as fundamental rights reserved to parents to be directed by them in the home. But these teachers’ unions don’t seem to care. They’d rather do whatever it takes to usurp these parental rights—even if it means lower academic scores.
Is Academic Proficiency Now a Secondary Consideration?
As social instruction grows, academic proficiency suffers. Consider a recent CUSD presentation of a “Portrait of a Learner” program, which described several social aspirations for students, yet somehow omitted any reference to academic proficiency. Shouldn’t we expect academics to be the primary focus of something that involves “Learning”? Either that, or you would think it would at least push students toward developing practical job skills training.
This continued lack of focus on academic proficiency is resulting in a continued decline in student test scores across the state. There does not seem to be any comprehensive plan to recover from this.
One of the unintended consequences of this movement to focus on social instruction is “Parent Flight” to other educational alternatives such as charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling. The recent expansion of the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program in Arizona now allows for parents to choose from these alternatives over unsatisfactory district schools.
But as you might expect, teachers’ unions and their political arm, RedforEd, vigorously oppose this legislative expansion, claiming that it defunds schools. But what they won’t tell you is that it clearly does not defund a student’s educational opportunities. Equally important, it enhances a parent’s choice as to where they believe their children would receive the best education.
The program has been so popular that parents already overwhelmed the website in an effort to get out of undesirable district schools. Yet somehow it does not seem to occur to opponents of ESAs that, if they had district schools that were satisfactory to parents, then those parents probably would not even consider moving their kids to another competing educational alternative.
Quasi-Religious Woke Doctrine?
Perhaps what’s most frustrating about the growing social instruction in our schools is that, for years, our nation has been gradually removing religious (mostly Christian) influences from our public schools. In fact, it feels like the First Amendment right to “Freedom of Religion,” which was fundamental to the first European immigrants to this continent, has gradually been reinterpreted by the Left to mean “Freedom from Religion.”
But you can’t help but notice how certain aspects of woke doctrine seem to have become “articles of faith” that cannot be questioned by anyone without facing severe social backlash. It’s clear that Christian doctrine has been suppressed in schools and replaced by Secular Humanism, the belief that humanity is capable of morality and self-fulfillment without belief in God, and the more extreme Cultural Marxism, the Neo-Marxist movement seeking to apply critical theory to matters of family composition, gender, race, and cultural identity within Western society.
If teachers’ unions want to apply the “Freedom from Religion” doctrine in public schools, they should also apply a “Freedom from Extremist Political Doctrine” as well. It’s the only way to ensure our schools remain on neutral ground for political ideology, and it leaves social development at home with the child’s parents—where it should be.
Finally, along with our First Amendment rights comes a prohibition on “compelled speech,” which prevents a person from being forced, under threat or duress, to say things they don’t really believe in. But we hear regular reports of teachers being bullied and harassed by other “activist” colleagues to force them to go along with their extreme Leftist political doctrine. Many teachers simply comply because they are concerned about having to work in a hostile environment or having their livelihoods threatened.
This implies that there is some sort of informal “political test” for teachers in our schools. It is often enforced by aggressive colleagues who are usually associated with a teachers’ union. The apparent message is: “comply and be welcome, or dissent and be ostracized.” It is no wonder teachers are under such workplace stress because of these implied threats.
However, there is a recent report of one brave, principled teacher, who, in looking over the daily SEL lesson, simply said, “we are not going to do this today” and put the controversial assignment aside. So, if parents have the right to “opt-out” their children from the presentation of controversial subject matter, that same rule needs to be extended to teachers who do not believe in these social lessons or deem them inappropriate for the children in their class. It’s time to give these teachers an “opt-out” choice as well.
In conclusion, here are a few ways we can start to clean up our public schools:
Return the primary focus of schools to academic instruction rather than social instruction.
Reduce the influence of the politically biased teachers’ unions.
Protect parents’ rights to direct the social upbringing of their children.
Prohibit political and social ideologies from being established in schools.
Protect teachers from being compelled to present controversial materials that they do not believe in.
Kurt Rohrs is a candidate for the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board. You can find out more about his campaign here.
Push a sympathetic message. Drum up a bunch of misguided support. And then aim for a ridiculous tax increase. That was the strategy from Red4ED after it launched a little over four years ago.
In that spring of 2018, the color red was popping up all over the place—from Facebook profile pictures to protests at the state Capitol. And it was supposedly all about increasing teacher salaries and funding for K-12 education. It was a movement that had great momentum, a sycophant media, and a political class that was terrified to stand up to them. Yet they figured out how to, in four short years, go from a political juggernaut to one of the largest and most expensive failures in Arizona political history.
Of course, defeating this multiyear assault on Arizona by Invest in Ed was a huge win for taxpayers, job creators, and the future prosperity of our state. And it would not have been possible without a combination of political miscalculations and blunders by the Red4ED decision makers and a consistent, sustained opposition from key organizations and elected officials willing to stand up to the bullies behind the movement…
This is probably hard to believe, but there once was a day when journalists didn’t feel the need to include their own slants and biases. When they didn’t make themselves a part of the story. When they would simply report the news.
Unfortunately, those days are long gone. Today’s establishment media is much more concerned with protecting its own interests—and the interests of those they’re in bed with. We’ve seen this mentality at the national level for quite some time, but now it’s taken over our local media as well—especially right here in Arizona.
The latest comes from ABC15 news anchor Steve Irvin. If you’re not sure what Steve stands for, you don’t need to look much further than his professional Twitter account where he regularly spews liberal talking points, refers to people he disagrees with as “bigots,” and shares his disdain for school choice.
Pastor Drew Anderson called for the Arizona Board of Education to revoke the teaching license of controversial elementary school teacher and prominent Red for Ed, Save Our Schools activist Wes Oswald. As AZ Free News reported, Oswald posted a video of himself cutting up a national school choice scarf as a “really fun craft” in honor of National School Choice Week. Anderson — lead pastor of Legacy Christian Center, chaplain of the NFL Alumni Association, and former NFL player — appeared on the Conservative Circus radio show on Monday to discuss his petition against Oswald.
Anderson’s perspective on the issue wasn’t borne out of mere opinion. The pastor explained in an Arizona Daily Independent opinion piece that he was one of the lucky few that benefited from school choice. Anderson recounted that the opportunity likely saved his life.
“Growing up, I had to attend the same K-8 government assigned schools that the rest of the black kids in my neighborhood had to go to and it was challenging to say the least. Many kids did not see graduation day and my five closest friends were either in prison or dead by the time we were 18 years old. Fortunately for me though, I was able to escape those schools and by the grace of God was able to attend an outstanding private Catholic school which led to me graduating high school, going to college on a scholarship, and ultimately living my dream and playing in the NFL,” said Anderson. “Today I am a pastor and not only do I fight to win souls for Jesus, but I also fight for children, especially minority kids, to have the same opportunity I did growing up and attend the right school to help them achieve their goals in life like I did.”
In a follow-up with Conservative Circus host James T. Harris, Anderson asserted that school choice is the key to achieving equal opportunity. He lambasted Oswald for calling himself a champion for children’s needs while opposing school choice.
“Next to anything in this modern-day era, school choice is the only way that inner city kids right now are having an opportunity to even remotely catch up or get up out of the poverty situation that they’re living in. So to see somebody that calls themselves an educator be so heinous to me is one of the most appalling things I’ve ever seen,” said Anderson. “How do you call yourself a champion for kids and you’re discriminating against kids based on your own opinion, which to me is crazy.”
In response, Harris opined that the destruction of an image of hope for so many children, especially those of color, was especially appalling.
“I think it’s a powerful image of why parents should be pulling their kids out of government-run schools or at least have the choice to put them where they want to,” said Harris.
On the topic of current teacher’s unions, Anderson added that removing choice from education could be likened to a modern-day slavery: an “educational slavery” that he asserted lends to the school-to-prison pipeline. The pastor insisted that the state could reduce the more than $30,000 it spends on prisoners by investing in the $15,000 he asserts it would cost to give students school choice.
“Back in the day, there was a union that fought hard to keep slavery because slavery was so productive for the people in the South, and right now, James T., we have what I call ‘educational slavery’ and we need to abolish educational slavery. Educational slavery is what’s funding all these private prisons, because there’s this thing called the ‘public school to prison pipeline’ that nobody wants to talk about,” said Anderson. “If I can chain you up to a public school that’s failing and a public school that’s in a bad area, then eventually I can chain you up to a wall in a prison and have you working for thirty cents a day instead of being a productive, tax-paying citizen. It’s time for us to start properly incarcerating people and it’s time for us to properly educate people. And the way you properly educate people is to give them a choice to pick whatever school’s best for them.”
Anderson noted that he’s praying for individuals like Oswald that are against school choice.
“I pray for them because most of them have no idea of what they’re even talking about because none of them are black, first of all. None of them are from the inner city, second of all. And none of them, when they say ‘save our schools,’ none of them are talking about saving our schools that over 79 percent of most minorities have voted to say that they do want school choice,” said Anderson. “I’m not against public schools at all. But what I am against is hindering people from picking what education works best for them. I’m praying for people like that because the ignorance that they spew and the ignorant view that they hold, they’re hindering kids from being properly educated.”
Tucson elementary school teacher and prominent Red for Ed activist Wes Oswald derided school choice in a Twitter video posted earlier this week. In addition to teaching the third grade at Manzo Elementary School in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) and his Red for Ed activity, Oswald has been active in Arizona Educators United (AEU) and Save Our Schools (SOS) Arizona.
Oswald claimed that private schools aren’t held to the “same high measure” as public schools. He insinuated that taxpayer dollars mostly funded private and religious schools through vouchers.
“Vouchers really are just coupons frequently used by the wealthy to send their kids to private schools at a discounted rate,” said Oswald. “Let’s stop falling for school choice schemes. The vast majority of American families choose to send their kids to public schools. Our public tax dollars belong to public schools, not private and religious ones.”
Oswald also claimed that 95 percent of Arizona families “choose” public schools. Recent polling suggested otherwise: according to Data Orbital, over 80 percent of 600 Arizonans polled supported school choice.
According to recent research by the Goldwater Institute, Arizona’s K-12 public schools are more expensive than a four-year university: over $14,300 per student annually when combining state, local, and federal dollars, versus the cost of over $11,300 for higher education tuition.
AZ Free News attempted to contact Oswald to ask why he opposed ; however, his TUSD email appeared to be disconnected, and we couldn’t reach him for comment by press time.
During the 2018 election, Oswald was featured by Tucson News Now for his “Knoctober” initiative, where Red For Ed supporters attempted to knock on 80,000 doors statewide to campaign for their preferred, pro-public school candidates. In several of the clips, Arizona Department of Education (ADE) Superintendent Kathy Hoffman could be seen knocking doors and giving presentations alongside Red for Ed activists. Hoffman was campaigning for her current office at the time.
“We’re all banking on big change in November. We’ve already come this far — we had 75,000 people walk out in April, and we can’t come this close and just give up,” said Oswald.
Several years later, Oswald was a featured speaker for ADE’s event last April, “The Health of Our Democracy: Civics Here and Now,” as part of the “Educating For American Democracy Initiative.”
Around the same time, Oswald lamented to KGUN about handling the challenges of in-person teaching with some students learning remotely. Oswald has been opposed to in-person learning when any increase in COVID-19 cases occurs.