The Daily Agenda: Fall break doesn't slow school news
Q and Kari snap pics ... Chaplik trolls the Indigenous Peoples Caucus ... And he's new to this, so what exactly are the Proud Boys?
Schools, amirite? It’s a couple months into the school year, and schools are dominating the headlines. So let’s catch up.
Arizona public K-12 schools saw declining enrollment last year, as the pandemic disrupted in-person schooling significantly. But this year’s preliminary data shows signs of improvement, the Arizona Department of Education said yesterday. Overall, student counts increased by 3.5% from last September to this September. For kindergarteners, the increase was 15.7%. Enrollment is still below pre-pandemic September 2019 numbers, though.
But there’s still a lack of qualified teachers in classrooms, the latest annual survey by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association showed.
And schools face a looming deadline that could cut off a big chunk of their budgets. The state needs to approve an exemption to voter-protected spending limits to allow schools to spend money they’re collecting that’s already baked into spending formulas, Howie Fischer reports. The deadline is March 2022; it’s unclear how a vote would fare next legislative session.
Police officers in schools continue to be a contentious debate. Last night, the Tempe Union High School District voted 3-2 to phase out their agreements with police that put officers on campuses. Phoenix Union High School District voted to get rid of their school resource officers last year.
Yana Kunichoff @YanazureTempe Union High School District's governing board is weighing tonight whether to phase out its school police program. The district contracts w/ two different police departments (including Phoenix PD, under investigation by the Justice Dep) + was scaled down last year
And yesterday, in the Balsz School District, the board approved funding for a school safety officer. Board member Redeem Robinson voted against the measure, saying on Twitter that he thinks these officers make students, particularly Black and brown students, “at risk of becoming part of the school-to-prison pipeline.”
Separately, the Scottsdale Unified School District, no stranger to scandals, got hit with complaints of open meeting law violations, courtesy of the Goldwater Institute. The complaints stem from an Aug. 24 meeting where people could stream online but had to wait outside of a boardroom and be let in one at a time to speak, if they wanted to. The bifurcated meeting setup came after combative school board meetings and on the advice of police, the board president told the Republic’s Renata Clo.
(This is neither here nor there, but because we were on the Balsz website, we saw a note from acting Superintendent Zeek Ojeh to parents yesterday that called out a spate of bizarre “Tik Tok challenges” for each month, ranging from the rude to the illegal. These include kissing your friend’s girlfriend in November, jabbing a breast in January, ditch day in May and flipping off the front office in June. “These challenges are not funny and will not be condoned by the School or District administration,” Ojeh wrote. We’re no longer hip so we honestly don’t know if these are real or one of those manufactured outrage situations.)
When members of the Arizona Indigenous Peoples Caucus invited Republican state Rep. Joseph Chaplik to a meeting about tribes’ perspective on the Colorado River shortage on Tuesday, he announced he couldn’t make it because he was celebrating Columbus Day, which was Monday.
The email reply pissed off Democrats, who then fired off a series of replies alternately mocking him and calling for his resignation — emails that found their way to us.
After explaining that Columbus Day (or Indigenous Peoples’ Day) had already come and gone, Rep. Lorenzo Sierra, a Democrat, offered solidarity with his holiday-extending colleague. “If it is your family tradition to extend this federally recognized day of observance past its scheduled date, all I can say is rock on my good man!”
He noted that the meeting, though hosted by indigenous people, had nothing to do with Indigenous Peoples Day.
“I would be happy to schedule some time to show you how federally recognized days of observance and water briefings are two completely different things. Just give me a day or so to put together a PowerPoint,” he cracked.
Democratic Rep. Jamecita Peshlakai, who chairs the Indigenous Peoples Caucus, didn’t think it was funny.
“This trolling of our Indigenous Peoples Caucus members is beneath the dignity of your office. As IPC chairwoman, I ask for your immediate apology or resignation,” she wrote.
Another untimely fundraising trip: Is there no one on U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s team who can tell her when things look bad? This week, the senator headed to Europe on a fundraising trip while her party’s spending plan still awaits passage. Her critics can’t find her in the bathroom or on a plane on another continent, we suppose. Skipping town for a fundraiser should sound familiar: She came back to Arizona amid negotiations, saying it was for a medical appointment, and tacked on a fundraiser then, too. The details of her trip are scarce, but the New York Times did what they could with a lawmaker lacking any sense of transparency.
She has donors, not friends: In a piece that caught up with some of her old Arizona allies, The Daily Beast’s Sam Brodey declared this morning that Sinema is “Unfriending Her Network Into Oblivion” and no longer returns calls from old friends.
If you subscribe today for just $7 per month, we promise to return your calls.
And on a related note: We asked to sit in on Sinema’s classes at Arizona State University (the university profile for her shows she teaches two this semester: legal issues in social work, and developing grants and fundraising). We thought it would be useful for the public to know what a public servant teaches at a public university. We’ve sat in on classes before for reporting purposes and know how to do so without disrupting class or harming students’ ability to learn. ASU denied our request. We’ll keep asking.
We can’t wait to support small borderlands businesses: Murphy Woodhouse, a KJZZ reporter based in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, would like everyone to know that the easing of border restrictions means much more than leisure travel to famed Nogales, Sonora, restaurant La Roca, (which Hank could have been doing this entire time because it was never too hard for U.S. citizens or permanent residents to go to Mexico). Instead, Woodhouse reported, the border restrictions lifting means relief for struggling businesses north of the border.
We do still wonder why this is an elected job: Fernanda Santos, writing in the Washington Post opinions section, followed one of the Tucson constables who doesn’t dress like a cop as she made rounds for a day. Constable Kristen Randall made brochures to give out to people who may face evictions and provides her cell phone number to help, which keeps her phone constantly ringing, Santos reports.
Don’t taxpayers pay a ton of money for these prisons to operate?: The Eyman prison in Florence has experienced ongoing water problems, leaving people incarcerated there with overflowing toilets or porta-potties, minimal drinking water and restricted showers, reports the Republic’s Jimmy Jenkins.
Trust the untrustworthy process: We guess the final Cyber Ninjas report is still coming? And it should make the Cyber Ninjas look like their work wasn’t completely made up, as other auditors have pointed out since the Arizona Senate hearing on the findings. That’s what audit liaison turned former audit liaison turned current audit liaison again Ken Bennett is saying, anyway. Bennett and company embark on a statewide tour about the audit starting next week.
Sure, why not: There’s another Republican in the U.S. Senate race now, a sentence that absolutely no one was clamoring for. Justin Olson, an Arizona Corporation Commissioner, former state lawmaker and failed Congressional candidate, wants the job. He’s off to a rocky start, having announced his run with a confusingly worded email and a bad link website. That makes five Republicans vying to face U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly in a general election.
The man who is most likely “Q” of QAnon fame posed for photos with gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, and Lake is hopping mad that the media would dare cover it.
If you don’t know the backstory of Ron Watkins, AKA CodeMonkeyZ, or much about QAnon in general, we highly recommend listening to this incredible Reply All podcast episode explaining the origin of the all-encompassing conspiracy that has slowly consumed huge sections of the GOP. (He denies he’s Q — in fact, he denies there is a QAnon.)
So it’s noteworthy that Lake posed for photos with him. She wasn’t the only one: Superintendent of public instruction candidate and former Attorney General Tom Horne grabbed dinner with him (current AG Mark Brnovich wouldn’t meet with him, Watkins noted).
But according to Lake’s keen news sense — developed in her nearly three decades as a member of what she calls the corrupt, lying media — this is not news. She posted a video rant complaining that the media isn’t covering the amazing movement of people “wanting to take their government back,” but would rather focus on the picture.
As an aside, we’re not sure how seriously to take this but KJZZ producer Dillon Rosenblatt flagged a statement of interest Watkins appeared to file as the first step for a run as a Republican in Congressional District 1. Nobody answered when we called the phone number listed on the statement of interest early this morning. Does Watkins even live in Arizona?
In other CD1 news, Republican state Rep. and CD1 candidate Walt Blackman praised the Proud Boys at a rally in September supporting “political prisoners” AKA Jan. 6 rioters who were charged with crimes, saying that “the Proud Boys came to one of my events and that was one of the proudest moments of my life.” Blackman, who is the first Black Republican ever elected to the state House of Representatives, then condemned the Proud Boys, a racist and misogynistic organization, when CNN asked why he would praise them.
"I'm not a career politician. ... I'm new to this, and at the time of the rally, wasn't familiar with the totality and breadth of the Proud Boys conduct, which I unequivocally condemn," he said in a statement to CNN.
Several school boards in the Phoenix area meet tonight: Cartwright at 5 p.m., Isaac at 5 p.m., Laveen at 5:30 p.m., Washington at 7 p.m.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jim Lamon, who tweeted yesterday that we should ban mail-voting, has a busy schedule. He’s slated to speak to Republican Women of the Hills at 3 pm at Vu Bistro at 14815 E Shea Blvd, Fountain Hills, and to LD12 Republicans at 6:30 at Ben Franklin High School (formerly owned by Republican Sen. Eddie Farnsworth of audit subpoena fame) at 18864 E. Germann St., Queen Creek.