According to researchers at the Harvard University, Edmond J. Safra Center For Ethics, I live in a State that is home to the most political corruption in America. I am 75-years old and have been an educator all my life. I have taught, mentored, pioneered, and researched. I am a leader in experiential education. I have been involved in Arizona education since 1991.
What have I experienced? Great things at all levels Pre-K-University! Dedicated teachers and administrators constantly working to improve our schools; dedicated human beings fighting for children and quality education. They are pitted against an economic system that has created pockets of poverty which damage children and their potential for learning, and political ideologues who want to destroy or profit financially from public education.
I am witnessing first-hand the calculated destruction of Arizona public schools and the professional educators who serve our children.
Arizona is a ‘right-to-work state.’ No worker’s rights means no organized opposition to the politicians who control the State. As with other public employees, educators have no power to confront and expose abuses and those who damage our schools and children.
Arizona is a ‘one-party-rules state.’ One powerful political party controls what happens to our children and our community schools. That party is closely aligned with the religious right. Those groups gets access to the education tax dollars citizens pay. With tax dollars, they inject religious bias into the curriculum in the schools they run. Politicians in Arizona have effectively broken down the barriers between church and state.
How do they do it? Too many make profits from the education tax dollars citizens pay for our children. They do this by privatizing schools, bypassing safeguards, and taking over or eliminating elected school boards that stand in their way. They exempt, stop, modify, or eliminate accountability. They stop full audits and the release of specific information about what these profit-driven schools do to, or for children. They maintain a chokehold on information.
In Arizona, under the cloud provided by the Legislature, hundreds of millions of dollars are not accounted for. As a result of legislation, well over 600 charter schools have been created since the mid-90s. There are over 450 of these partial schools active now. Whole industries including banks and finance systems, school management services, and curriculum businesses have risen to get a ‘free’ piece of the public education pie. Public tax dollars are being diverted into private ventures. All of these services come out of the tax dollars that citizens are led to believe educate children.
Services already provided by law in our public district schools are being duplicated at great cost to taxpayers. In Arizona, ‘schools- of-choice’ spend valuable resources on rent and purchases of buildings. This results in public funding used to buy, build, or lease space. It often pays the property mortgages for private corporations and crooked individuals who will end up owning the buildings. What a great deal for kids. Right?
Besides siphoning off teaching money for buildings, kids are not getting the comprehensive curriculum and services that our district schools must provide. Partial schools cheat children by not exposing them to at least 10 disciplines taught by certified and vetted professionals.
Teachers take the hit. After you take out profits, management fees, Real Estate commissions, and rent, there is not much left for quality professional teachers and supplies. Cut personnel costs and you increase profits. One sees why the political machine ruled that trained and certified teachers are not necessary in ‘partial schools’. Interesting to note that the lie, “Bad teachers are responsible for school failure,” is a cover up for, “Cutting teachers with training and experience increases profit.”
Arizona is a state controlled by ALEC (Alliance Of Legislative Executive Councils). Much of the Alliance’s agenda comes from the teachings of the radical right-wing John Birch Society, the legacy the Koch Brothers continue to force on America. The Koch Brothers, ALEC, and the Arizona political machine advocate the destruction of public education in America, the end of workers’ rights and worker organizations, and the right to access public tax dollars for their own profit. They call it “privatizing.”
Much of ALEC’s work is to bypass democratic processes including elected school boards. In Arizona, those in political power have made certain the Superintendent of Public Instruction is not an educator, but rather one who follows their directions. They ensure this by controlling the primary elections and bankrolling the agents they put in charge of public education. In a recent contest, their candidate was exposed (by his own doing) as a bigot and a thug. He lost in the primaries. An educator ran to replace him. The educator was defeated by a completely unknown, non-educator who was elected because of her party, not her qualifications.
More often than not, legislators allow ALEC teams to write the legislation they will introduce and vote in. This process subverts the democratic process of representative government. It is in fact, corporation representation.
Today, all across the state, public district schools which serve over 85% pf Arizona kids are being intentionally starved to destroy them. Communities are seeing the Legislature intentionally deprive them of the necessary funds to serve all children and to follow Federal and State laws. In many areas, (Phoenix for example) the Legislature is supporting segregation, allowing the establishment of “special” partial schools for children of color. “Separate but unequal,” is the idea.
District public schools are struggling to serve the children in Arizona. They do not fail because of bad teachers or difficult students. They struggle because the support they need to excel is intentionally bled off by Arizona politicians. This environment is conducive to those who profit from access to our education tax dollars. These beneficiaries are private corporations in the guise of innovation, data mining, and selling unnecessary tests and teaching materials created by outfits like Pearson PLC: For profit, not for kids.
The ideological assumptions of those who try to destroy public education – or to profit from the funds provided for children – have been proven wrong and harmful. Even with crooked politicians, the facts must get through.
In Arizona, few speak against the corruption. That must end.