OP-ED: Why is Arizona at War Against Students?

Editor October 19, 2013 1

By Michael Martinez

Photo by Frank Espich/AP

Photo by Frank Espich/AP

Arizona has been attempting to fully implement Common Core in our schools. These increased standards aim to ensure a higher number of Arizona students graduate from high school with skills that make them college and career ready. They push students to not only learn information, but also to develop the skill to actually use what they learn in real life.

That’s a good thing, right?

WRONG! At least according to the Tea Party it’s wrong.

Here in Arizona, in the 2013 legislative session, HB 2047 passed through the House. It would have ended AIMS testing, aligning testing with Common Core standards. The bill was dead on arrival in the Senate after the Tea Party threatened that Sen. Kimberly Yee (R-LD20) chair of the Senate Education Committee would face a primary if a vote was allowed.

The Tea Party has argued that Common Core being a “stealth jihad directed at America’s children;” and that these standards somehow give away our sovereignty to the United Nations.

Does Sen. Yee care more about retaining her seat in the legislature than fixing our declining school system? It seems Yee believed that far-fetched theories of non-existent threats carried more weight than the need to address the deficiencies of AIMS testing by adopting Common Core.

But there’s more.

The 2013 legislative session saw bills attacking students on many different levels. From the introduction of HB 2467, which would have required all high school students to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution — against both foreign and domestic enemies, in order to graduate; to HB 2169 (which was signed into law), defunding the Arizona Students Association, effectively silencing the voice of our college students. Our legislature has apparently been engaging in an all-out assault on our students.

Three Republican senators and 19 Republican representatives even voted against SB 1421, a bill providing funding for schools to buy epinephrine shots because it would cost the state $200 per school.

That’s what we face in Arizona; legislators believe $200 is too high of a price tag to save a student’s life. Is this the message we want to send?

No wonder why — nationwide — so many were willing to believe a false news report stating our schools were implementing a “Gay-to-Straight” program.

Why are so many people afraid to establish goals and curricula to ensure our children are college and career ready by the time they graduate from high school?

Should we not implement policies that promote students success in school — and beyond?

Should we not provide schools with resources they need to address the different ways students learn?

Should we not adequately fund schools, enabling them to pay teachers salaries that promote retention rather than burnout? How many more young would be teachers are choosing different career paths?

Is it not time that we take a stand against this war on Arizona students?

Education is the foundation of success both for individuals and Arizona’s economy.

Every year we fail to address our broken education system leads to our students falling further behind.

Enough is enough.

**Michael Martinez LD26 Precinct Committeeman is Executive Vice-Chair of the Young Democrats of America College Caucus and currently majors in political science at Arizona State University.

  • StephenStollmack

    There are a number of problems with Mr. Martinez’s OP-ED piece you published regarding the Common Core Standards (CCS). The writer accepts without question, for example, that the Common Core are “increased standards (that) aim to ensure a higher number of Arizona students graduating from high school”. He must mean the word ‘increased’ to refer to the difficulty children are having dealing with tests based on these standards. For example, the CCS requires teaching conceptual reasoning skills (required for learning Algebra) 4 to 5-years earlier than has been the norm in the past. This change ‘flies in the face’ of knowledge coming from Behavioral Psychology, Neuropsychology and the other brain sciences that a child’s brain is not developed enough to deal with such concepts until the Prefrontal Cortex develops, usually at age 11 to 16 or even later for developmentally challenged children.

    The author also claims that the new Common Core Standards (CCS) “push students to not only learn information, but also to develop the skill to actually use what they learn in real life.” Again, no reference source is given but this time none could be found except in another paper the author, himself, had published 2-days earlier in an YDA publication Op-Ed titled “D26 Democrats”. The two pieces are word-for-word
    identical. In other words, Martinez dreams up a phrase that sounds good and then accuses the Republicans of not supporting this imaginary concept. I wonder what
    school’s debating team he was on.

    Martinez pulled a statement from some Tea party ‘rag’ that suggested that Obama’s RTTT program (which has provided discretionary funds to pay for the development of the Common Core) was akin to “a form of stealth jihad … sneaking into our country”. While the quote is accurate (that is, the phrase did appear in a Tea-party article), the rest of the article happens to have a lot of relevant complaints about CCS and the tests (based on them) including reference to the fact that the Obama Administration used federal funds to bribe the states to accept the standards, in an obvious effort to circumvent the US Constitution which clearly relegates the administration of Education to the states. This is an obvious attempt to discredit anything Republicans might have said against the CCS or the rest of the ‘reform
    program’. It seems that it is more important to the author to sucker punch the Tea party Republicans, than to get to what all the opposition to the CCS is all about. This is what I would call yellow journalism.

    The opposition to these standards from well-respected sources has been getting more intense and vocal lately. Many say that the ‘standards make it more difficult for children to get passing grades’. Point being, that even a 10 to 12-year old could have easily found numerous arguments to quote to produce an op-ed piece that stimulated discussion of the real issues surrounding these standards.

    In addition, Martinez claims that Tea Party Republicans blackmailed a Republican Legislator (Sen. Kimberly Yee (R-LD20)) saying she would “face a Primary challenger if she let HB 2047 (Pupil assessments; AIMS transition) … come to the floor”. This is the bill that laid out how tests based on the PARCC standards (being
    developed with federal funds by a 26-state consortium) were to replace the AIMS
    tests (that Arizona has been using since 2002). The author presents no proof as
    to what the Senator’s real motivation was and, from the volume of objections (to
    the CCS) from very credible sources on the internet every day, there could well
    have been other reasons that motivated her.

    Last but not least, Martinez makes no mention of the fact that HB 2047 was tabled by the Senate (after passing the House by a 90 to 4 vote) back in March 2013 and remains stalled until the Administration can cut a deal with the Legislature to revive it and bring it out of its grave, which is perhaps the most Important for someone backing the standards would want to mention and comment about.