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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 1st General Session
Volume 5, Issue 44• Week of November 6, 2023

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Supt. Horne Jumps the Shark

At a recent Moms for Liberty event in Mesa, Supt. Tom Horne took aim at Chandler public schools, claiming that the district is forcing “equity math” on kids and getting rid of AP courses as part of a “left-wing plot.” We’re not sure what equity math is, but listening to Horne explain it sure was interesting (read on!).

The extremist hate group hosted a town hall with Horne as their star speaker, who took the opportunity to make baseless accusations against the neighboring district with zero evidence. According to the AZ Mirror, Horne told attendees that college-educated folks are claiming that math is a “male chauvinist, phallocentric, imperialistic plot and we gotta put a stop to this craziness” — and then encouraged his followers to run for their local school board. 

Supt. Horne has made his derision for public schools clear, but it’s becoming more and more clear that he is truly unfit to hold public office, much less to serve as the leader of our schools as the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

For their part, Chandler Unified School District set the record straight. No one is teaching “equity math,” nor have they removed advanced classes. According to the district: “We are not sure where Mr. Horne received his information, but we are not eliminating AP courses in CUSD. Across the district in 2023, 7,439 AP tests were taken and 82.2% passed. We are proud of our AP offerings.” 

But when the AZ Mirror reached out to Horne, he doubled down, saying that parents have been complaining at school board meetings and are “likely to move their children to charter schools…. This is a typical left-wing strategy around the country to eliminate advanced learning for capable students in order to have ‘equity.’” 

He then changed his tune from equity math to “reasonable math” and accused the district of counting wrong answers as right: “In China, they are teaching students to come up with right answers, so this philosophy is going to hurt our competitiveness.” However, any fourth grader in the state can tell you that assessing reasonableness in math simply means using estimating or problem solving to check whether the calculation is correct.  

Horne has attacked the growing practice of equitable grading, which accounts for a child’s mastery of the subject instead of focusing solely on rote work completion. This practice intends to remove racial biases in grading and help students focus on learning. 

Upcoming Events!

Team SOSAZ is excited to launch our Education Advocacy Series for November and December! Starting Sunday, Nov. 12th, join us weekly to gain skills and knowledge that will empower you to take action as we head into 2024 and the legislative session. 

Register here: bit.ly/SOSAZseries

Sunday, Nov 12 at 3:00 pm – Speaking of Schools: How to Talk About AZ’s K12 Crisis – Register here!

K-12 Roundup

The State Board of Education has released updated A-F School Letter Grades, and Arizona’s public schools showed incredible growth in the 2022-2023 school year with 74% of schools now rated an “A” or “B.” This is a significant increase from 61% in 2018-19, demonstrating how far public schools have come since the last pre-COVID school year. An astounding 95% of Arizona’s public schools received “A,” “B,” and “C” ratings for the 2022-2023 school year. Only 15 schools across the state received a failing grade, meaning that more than 99% of Arizona public schools received a passing grade. 

These results are even more impressive given that Arizona’s chronically underfunded public schools have woefully inadequate resources and low teacher pay. They prove that the manufactured rhetoric around “failing” public schools is unequivocally false.

Former Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, who presided over this dramatic growth in letter grades, deserves to be commended for her department’s work to increase mental health support, improve the student-to-counselor ratio, advocate for more classroom resources, and ensure an equitable distribution of funds.

It is important to note that school letter grades are heavily dependent on standardized test scores, which correlate very closely with the socioeconomic background of a school’s student population. A recent analysis of SAT and ACT scores by the New York Times found that “test takers whose families were in the top 20 percent of earners were seven times as likely as those in the bottom 20 to score at least a 1300” on the SAT.

Voucher Watch

Florida: Much like in Arizona, parents of students with special needs in Florida’s voucher program are furious with the state’s program following universal expansion in March of this year. Families who use vouchers for therapies and other special education services have been forced to deal with inaccessible reimbursements, massively delayed payments, “horrible” customer services, and countless confusing rule changes. The parents are now launching a social media charge to ensure their students aren’t left behind in the wake of universal vouchers. Meanwhile, Florida lawmakers are gathering to discuss pouring further money into the failing program.

Just months ago, ESA parents in Arizona attended State Board of Education meetings en masse to express their “disgust” with Arizona’s ESA voucher program after universal expansion. Their concerns? Inaccessible reimbursements, massively delayed payments, “horrible” customer services, and countless confusing rule changes. This is no coincidence: while voucher programs for special needs families were designed to suit their unique needs, universal programs designed by special interests like the DeVos-backed American Federation for Children are focused solely on maximizing the number of students leaving public school. Special needs families rightfully feel exploited and used.

Texas: A proposed expansion of the state’s school voucher program is likely dead… for now. Despite a Texas-sized onslaught of lobbying from school privatizers and arm-twisting from Gov Abbott, Democrats, and rural Republicans in the Texas State House are holding the line against school vouchers, saying “Don’t Mess with Texas Public Schools.” 

Despite Gov. Abbott’s claim that he had “reached an agreement” with the House to increase public education funding alongside the voucher expansion, lawmakers adjourned on Wednesday without taking action on the voucher bill passed by the Senate. This adjournment all but kills the bill, as the current special session (the third attempt this year to pass vouchers) ends early next week. While the special session was originally focused solely on voucher expansion, this week Abbott expanded the mandate to include additional support for public schools in an attempt to appease hold-out votes. Rep. Bailes, a rural Republican who opposes vouchers, dismissed the announcement, sharing that “if public education, teachers and our kids’ safety was truly important, that would have been added on the call on Day Zero.”

It is likely that the legislature will be called into a fourth special session in another attempt to pass the bill. Texas students are counting on rural Republicans and Democrats to remain steadfast in their support for public schools! 

Public School Proud!

Check out some incredible pictures and stories from across the state that make us #PublicSchoolProud!

Students at Pima Butte Elementary School in Maricopa took a fun twist on Halloween by dressing up as their favorite book characters.

Though the Diamondbacks' incredible World Series run is over, we wanted to give a special shoutout to starting pitcher and hometown hero Merrill Kelly, a graduate of Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale.

At Gilbert High School, students and staff celebrated Dia De Los Muertos by honoring their passed loved ones.

Get Plugged In!

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1000 Strong for Public Education

We’re excited to announce 1000 Strong for Public Education, a Save Our Schools Arizona Network campaign to demonstrate the overwhelming support for public education in communities across Arizona. 

We’re asking 1,000 people to make a meaningful financial investment in our work by the beginning of 2024. All fully tax deductible gifts go directly to our largest budget expense — our people, who live and work in the communities they organize. Every dollar helps!

DONATE HERE TO BECOME A CHARTER MEMBER

Thank you for helping us work toward a future where a high-quality, fully-funded public education is available to all Arizona students.

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