A further argument for voting ‘No’ on Prop 208

The district schools were granted their monopoly in the hope they would produce good citizens. There is a lot of evidence — at the national level — that the teachers’ unions have turned or tried to turn the district schools into factories designed to produce social justice warriors. At their 2019 annual meeting, the National Education Association (NEA) rejected a motion here to “re-dedicate itself to the pursuit of increased student learning in every public school in America by putting a renewed emphasis on quality education.” The NEA went on to adopt motions including one to “incorporate the concept of ‘White Fragility’ into NEA trainings,” here, and “to push reparations” here. More on this topic here.

The Arizona Education Association (AEA) is an affiliate of the NEA, and our local teachers’ associations such as Kyrene Education Association is an affiliate of the AEA. The Kyrene school district acknowledges the national controversy in their administrators’ blog, but says such things are not happening in Kyrene.

What’s happening is more subtle. Kyrene’s governing board did not, like Tempe Elementary School District, adopt a resolution in favor of Black Lives Matter, but the district curriculum is nevertheless a choice that has been imposed on the families in the district without any real public deliberation. Arizona law requires Kyrene to expose its curriculum choices on its website for 60 days (science is there now, here), and parents and community members may view educational materials by appointment on the district premises. The governing board approves the curriculum in the following, very narrow sense: they are presented choices where the research is done by the staff. They approve if the material is within budget and within the vague guidelines (English Language Arts here, History and Social Science here) of the Arizona Board of Education. (There must be some reference to the Holocaust, for example.) Governing board members are not expected to read the material.

It is hard to read, partly because it is mostly online. The big education publishers — McGraw-Hill, Savvas (once known as Pearson), National Geographic — provide interactive material, which is supposedly more engaging for kids than pages of text. Actual books –fiction –are assigned in Language Arts. They are exclusively modern works because they are chosen to reflect the values of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Those values are not only the values of the Kyrene staff; they are imposed by the publishers. Here is an email to the Savvas national sales staff describing their goals:

Savvas’ business is supplying the enormous school districts. They do not sell to small, independent schools. They want to sell the same product nationwide, and, thanks to the NEA, there is a big market for Culturally Responsive Learning (CRL). If a governing board member wanted his district to adopt a text like Wilfred McClay’s American history Land of Hope, the struggle would be hard.

Kyrene provides a 20 minute video about their Social Studies curriculum here. The narrator describes Kyrene’s goal as creating global citizens.

If each Kyrene school sought its own charter there might be a school devoted to CRL, and perhaps another devoted to anti-racist training. Parents might freely choose to send their kids to these schools. What is missing is choice. The best way to promote quality education in our neighborhood is to vote ‘No’ on Proposition 208 and use the Arizona Tax Credit to encourage more independent schools.