Sunday, November 1, 2009


Are the people who complain about Halloween being a "Pagan holiday" often the people who whine about Christmas time being overly crowded with other holidays (because god forbid other faiths get to celebrate)?

I wish people would actually realize the roots of Halloween. Suprisingly there is Christian street cred for the holiday, however much like all other holidays (including Christmas and Easter) it has been manipulated to be a money maker.

People need to get their heads out of their holy book and rear ends of their preachers and LEARN about what their profess to believe in and what they are condeming others for believing in.

Ok... feel better. Haven't had a rant on here for awhile.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Since B was born, Jeff and I have been struggling with how to deal with religion in our household. Considering our backgrounds, you can understand our dilemma. Jeff was raised a Catholic, but is very much a “recovering Catholic” now. He has outright rejected any forms of organized religion, going as far to say we could not consider daycares in churches. My dad was raised Buddhist and my mom Methodist, so very little middle ground there. Growing up we went to different churches, and finally settled on a non-denominational approach that presented views from all faiths. It was a great environment because we were told that church should be a presentation of values, beliefs, etc. and we should only take away the useful lessons to guide us in our everyday lives. I learned a lot of things about my belief system, the prime being that the whole concept of religion/belief/faith is incredibly overwhelming and it would be ridiculous of me to think I—this inexperienced human—could possibly comprehend it.

How does one possibly translate her confusion, coupled with her partner’s disdain, and turn that in to a lesson of personal faith for her child? We have discussed the possibilities. First of all, it would be hypocritical for us to go with the flow and label ourselves “Christian”. I decided long ago that while I certainly believe in Jesus and that he died for our sins, I don’t believe he was resurrected. That’s pretty much the linchpin of Christianity, right? Also, atheism was thrown around, but I can’t quite commit myself to that. Plus, Jeff didn’t get why we couldn’t tell our son there is no God, but Santa does exist. Stopping the perpetuation of lies is a biggie there for atheists.

As an educator it is important for me to be able to understand things fully—this often means putting labels on things, people, and ideas. That doesn’t necessarily mean I stick with the label, it’s just a nice jumping off place while I mull over all the nuts and bolts. As the mother of a toddler I feel I have to explain things in concrete terms—there is very little appreciation of the abstract. So how do I apply the concrete to the abstract when I am not really actually sure myself?

When I finally came across my answer I was even more perplexed. If you’ve read closely, you have already guessed the answer. I told you the whole concept of religion is overwhelming and incomprehensible for my simple brain. I am an agnostic. This label was surprisingly disappointing. I mean, it makes sense, but what it means is that I am accepting not knowing—in fact I am embracing it. So what does this mean for what I can tell my kids? “Well, mommy knows there’s something, but I don’t get it.”

The other thing that disappointed me was how closely atheism and agnosticism are associated. I know there are varying degrees of both, as there are with any belief system, but my concept of agnosticism is so far on the opposite end of the spectrum. I believe there is something out there, so big, so powerful, so beyond words, that it is almost insulting to think I could begin to wrap my brain around it. I do have faith that something like that exists, so I am not living without faith.

I don’t think it is my job as a parent to direct my child in his faith-based belief system. I have encountered so many people burned by their parent’s enforced beliefs. Rather I think my work should be to present all of the information and allow him to make his own decisions. Of course I will have my preferences, but his life is not mine to live.

It took a lot for me to get to the point of embracing the unknown: I went to church for years, took courses in college, I read about all sorts of religions, and I have studied and taught the Bible. I hope to pass this love of learning about religion on to my children. Perhaps—maybe, hopefully—they will come away with a different perspective than me. Whatever their path, I hope it is informed, well-rounded, and with an open heart and mind.

Monday, September 7, 2009

TV, part II

Days later, I cannot tell you how sincerely disappointed and shaken I am with the reaction to tomorrow's Obama speech to students. STILL! I just wrote about this on Friday, but the sensationalism has built to a fever pitch. I don't consider myself a naive person, but what these far right Conservatives are spewing is just astounding.

In my Friday post I went as far to call these people sissies, but I'd like to add on to that with closet racists and anti-Americans. Don't like that? Sorry. I didn't have a glowing recommendation of W, but I respected his position as President. I even went as far to sympathize with him at times because I acknowledged the hellish demands of that position. Being the leader of "the free world" is not an easy thing, but never did I think that there would be more hatred and anger coming from within our own nation towards our commander-in-chief.

Now that the speech is released and it is shown to be nothing more than a "go get 'em kid", the crazies are turning to the lesson plan proposed by the Dept of Ed and the obvious rewrites. As a teacher, the lesson plans were never a requirement, just activities for teachers to use if they wanted. Don't believe me? How is the DoE going to enforce that? As to the rewrites: really? Really?! I mean, you are SO sure? I am pretty sure there are aliens out there. I think there is more proof to that than your allegations of a nefarious first draft.

I don't think I have ever been more disgusted with my fellow Americans. Are people so angry that they an lost election STILL? Are people so unsure a biracial man can lead us? Are people so afraid of considering different perspectives?

Please don't tell me that this is a small few who believe the President is a bogeyman--crazies that CNN are picking off the streets or the typical FOX personalities. Sadly, these are people who are commenting on news boards, students in my classroom, Facebook friends, and sadly even family.

Now, schools are sending out permission slips to allow students to watch the President speak, or to avoid controversy altogether they are not watching. I don't remember having an option of watching Reagan or Bush Sr. when I was in school, I would have never considered NOT watching as it was simply unpatriotic and an act of apathy. Last year when I invited Jeff Flake (a self-described Conservative) to speak to my students and he thankfully accepted, I don't recall people screaming that I was trying to indoctrinate or brainwash. My students and I were thrilled to have him, whether we agreed with his position or not, because we care about being informed and involved citizens.

So many questions, so much sadness, so much regret that my children have to wander the world with this outright lunacy.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Obama on TV

You knew I wouldn't be able to stay silent on this one. I have more questions on this one than anything. What are people so afraid of? Why are they so threatened by a speech by the President? What type of "indoctrination" can happen with a back-to-school speech?

I've heard my students say things like...

"Parents are upset because they can't watch it." Sweetie, it's on CSpan. As much as we would like that channel off the air, it is still there. The last time I checked it was accessible to everyone.

"My parents don't let me watch something they haven't watched before." BS. BS. BS. I doubt your dad screened the new episodes of Tool Academy you were talking about the other day.

"It's dangerous for little kids to watch something that might brainwash them." It's the President of the effing US. Isn't it brainwashing to tell someone the President is out to brainwash you?

I just cannot get past the ridiculousness of this entire situation. As long as I have been teaching, if the President (this includes Bush) was giving a speech, our TVs were on. It wasn't required, but I thought it was a learning opportunity and important to show an interest in national affairs. I guess that stuff is only ok if you voted for the guy.

PS- I don't recall such outrage over Bush being on TV from Dems, this is making the Repubs look like a screaming bunch of sissies. Sorry for the name calling, but c'mon, Repubs, do you really need anymore bad press?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Back to school message:

So we froze your salaries, but if the budget override doesn't pass in the November election you teachers will suffer a massive paycut.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Here are a series of emails between me and Rich Crandall, a former MPS school board prez and current legislator. This was before the governor vetoed the budget (bless her). I have heard him speak a couple times and as the head of the education committee he talks the talk but certainly doesn't walk it.

Mr. Crandall,
After hearing you speak in Walter Delecki's leadership class in the Spring I thought for sure you would be the advocate for education you said you would be. It was clear in your emails, newspaper interviews, and such you try to portray yourself as a positive representative for AZ education. Your involvement with the MPS board would seem to support this. Alas, Mr. Crandall, you are no better than the rest of the legislation. Even Russell Pearce who you try to distance yourself from. Your vote today for cuts against education shows this. How sad. As a native Mesan, product of Mesa schools, and present day teacher in Mesa, I was happy to support you. You no longer have my support. Enjoy the increased budget the House and Senate budget are proposing--and no doubt will pass. If it means anything to you, I 100% support the tax hike the Governor is proposing. Keiko Dilbeck

Note: my favorite part is the burn regarding Russell Pearce because no one really likes this guy and RC alluded at one point just because he was from Mesa and LDS didn't mean they were two peas in a pod.


Keiki (Ahem, yes, that is how he spelled my name. Classy.)
Thanks for your email. Now you know the challenge of solving a $3 billion hole. Even with the governor's tax referral to the ballot, which I support, we are still $2.7 billion short. You can disagree with me all you want and not support me, that's the greatness of the political process, but in the end I still have to find $2.7 billion. I was elected to make the tough choices, not the popular ones. I still respect your opinion, even though I disagree.
Sincerely, Rich Crandall

Note: I can totally imagine him cueing the patriot music on his boombox as he composed this.


My response #1:

Rich, Thank you for your response. In regards to the lack of cuts in legislative programs, I sincerely hope you are not with Burns and Kavanagh who believe that cutting their budgets, which would interfere with staffing, would be unfair and open them up to "legal errors". Well, join the club. Plus, I believe the legislature is doing just about enough accruing of legal debt at the taxpayers expense.Thanks for your time and response. Keiko

My response #2:

I am sending this email hours after a previous response I sent. One portion of your email kept rolling around in my mind. You say you were elected to make the tough choices, not the popular ones. Well, that sounds quite contrary to the idea of democracy. Elected representatives do just that: represent. Representatives need to start cutting the "I" out of their statements. If you are not representing the popular choice--which is the majority--then who are you representing? I have watched as theRepublicans have side lined Democrats during these budget talks and I am extremely troubled by these actions. Isn't good government one that involves everyone? After the last couple months I have seen "top" legislatures holding close door meetings, keeping other legislatures outof the loop, etc. This is not democracy, these are bully tactics. My representative could be excluded, which means I am not represented. How frustrating.

Truly, you must understand that I am concerned that in the face of the worst fincancial crisis we have faced in our lifetime, Arizona is not pulling together and considering all perspectives. This deeply troubles and saddens me. Again your time and consideration is appreciated. Keiko

When I return from work the end of July, let's go to breakfast. I want to better understand where you are coming from and vice versa. I hope your summer is fruitful. Rich Crandall


We'll see if this actually happens. However, I will make him pay and I want to pick the place.

In the end the governor's line item veto on education forced the legislators to makes some adjustments and accept some stimulus money. There still won't be any textbooks or extar materials, my salary will still be frozen, teachers will still replace substitutes, but maybe classrooms won't be as stuffed, districts can rehire some teachers, and I might not have to take an additional paycut. This is certainly a temporary fix, we'll be right back here next year. Well, unless we can get a 1% tax hike. I can only imagine that will help. Some people are acting like this tax hike is going to swallow people alive, but if we want public services we need to be willing to pony up for them. I'm just sayin.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


If you want to know how bad things can get when there is one political party who squats in power, look at Arizona. The State Legislature is populated with bullies--who happen to be Republican. I could easily make this a slam on Republicans, but I believe this is more about a group (it can be any group) that has been in power so long that they forget that there are others out there who do not share their opinion--or they don't care.

We are facing a $3.1 billion deficit for the new fiscal year that the current legislature is hollering has come because of liberal spending, blaming it on the past Governor. Ok, let's go with that and say that the Governor vetoed bills and made other legislation difficult. Now that she is gone this group is making the changes (i.e. cuts) that they think should have been in place all along, starting with education. I know that education is a huge chunk of any state's budget and I will even go as far to say that with this economy it would be ever more ridiculous not to make cuts to education. But the depth of the cuts will reverberate through schools for decades to come. Teachers are magicians, trying to make something out of barely anything--books and other materials--but now my hands have been twisted and tied that I can't even help myself.

Instead of working to create a fair budget, the legislature has dragged its feet and played games. Last night they worked an all-nighter. Democrats who were excluded from meetings and left in the dark for hours ended up leaving. One Republican tried to leave, but...

Sen. John Nelson, R-Litchfield Park, was a late-night holdout, snagged by
Senate leaders as he was trying to leave via a back staircase. After about an
hour of closed-door meetings with Burns, as well as Adams, Nelson threw his
support behind a budget that, he said, resulted from a deeply flawed

So shady. So sick.

I hope Governor Brewer vetoes this budget. I hope she has the balls to really push the one-cent tax proposal. No one wants to hear tax hike, especially now, but how is cutting going to help us any?

Speaking of balls, I hope Arizonans have enough to vote out these incompetent idiots. All of them. I don't care if they are red or blue, they are a part of the problem.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Too often, our political leaders are just enablers, co-conspirators in a
disingenuous and greedy silence. Our children are unrepresented. The future is unrepresented. The moment is long overdue for us to become moral and worthy ancestors.

Pete Peterson's My Turn in Newsweek

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


It's no secret that I am all for allowing marriage rights to gays. When I heard that Miss California had offered her contrary opinion during the Miss USA pageant I was slightly annoyed. I was even more annoyed when I saw a clip from the pageant: Prejean starting off with a decent answer and then degenerating into a nincompoop (you are representing the USA, which encompasses all opinions, honey, learn audience sensitivity) and Perez Hilton for setting her up with a loaded question (considering he is a homosexual and apparently only satisfied with--and expecting--one answer).

My opinion of the whole situation has not improved.

I read Perez's blog on a daily basis and am sick of him picking on her. It is getting really old. However, she is doing nothing to improve her image by attaching herself to the No Offense Campaign (AKA National Organization for Marriage), who are the people who put out the Gathering Storm video that Stephen Colbert wonderfully mocked.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Colbert Coalition's Anti-Gay Marriage Ad
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorGay Marriage

Now, Prejean has this. (For you lazies, her boobies are in pictures.)

Anyway, what has this world come to when a person cannot openly state that she was raised in a home that valued marriage between a man and a woman? How intolerant of us, huh? We should learn to be more open-minded of other peoples' opinions, belief systems, and lifestyles.

Oh, wait.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Can someone explain to me why people are pissed about us lifting parts of the Cuban embargo. I mean, c'mon... I keep hearing crap about Cuban policy, etc. and no one is saying anything about China. Well, except for my boyfriend.

Tea Party

I know the Tea Party Protests are supposed to be for all types of citizens, but it is was predominantly promoted by conservatives, especially those against President Obama. If I recall correctly it was President Bush who started handing out money to bailout companies. If I recall correctly it was this first handout that was done poorly with undisclosed amounts of money going to companies who padded their personal bank accounts. I don't agree with a majority of the current bailout plans, but I do appreciate that I know how much money is going where and under what circumstances.

That said, my anger lies with the people who recklessly spent outside their means and/or who don't qualify for the bailout plans in which they are participating. (poor sentence structure, sue me--I am pissed) If Republicans tout "individual responsibility," a tenant which I embrace, then stop pointing fingers at the people attempting to pick up the pieces. I was, and continue to be, responsible and all I have to show for it is an incredible amount of tax debt.

My shit list:
  • People who flipped houses. Thanks, I can't sell my house.
  • Wall Street
  • People who foreclosed to get a better deal.
  • Mortgage companies that played the game
  • Wall Street
  • Those (probably Republicans) who blame Clinton for this mess. Really? I mean, how many conservative administrations have we had in thirty years and he is the only one to blame? Knock it off.
  • Those (Democrats and Republicans) for enabling companies to play games (ARMs, high credit limits, etc.)
  • Those who don't seem to understand that better business means weeding out the morons (General Motors).
  • Mesans who don't get the concept of how beneficial a property tax would be in the face of this mess.
  • Anyone who thinks they have an answer how to get us out of this mess. Knock it off Nostradamus.
  • Anyone in Arizona who voted for the current State Legislature, especially Russell Pearce. In the face this disaster they are acting like sanctimonious assholes...kind of like Wall Street.
  • People who solely blame Obama for this mess.
  • People who solely blame W for this mess.
  • The media.

I missing a lot of people. Help me out.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Litchfield is cutting 78, Peoria over 300, Gilbert 267, Scottsdale 250, Tucson (2nd largest district) approved 600, and Mesa--my district and the largest--is only starting to make cuts. The list goes on.

The East Valley Tribune wrote a distasteful article today titled "Teacher layoffs painful but not a tragedy". If there is any proof that the media is out to hurt education, this is my exhibit A. This article essentially lays blame with the school districts for creating the panic, attempting to turn the public anger on the Legislature. The poor, poor Legislature. Yeah, the guys who can't make a decision regarding the budget and are twiddling their fingers while the school districts are following the LAW and notifying employees of RIFs (reduction in force) by the LEGAL deadline. This is the Legislature that has made Arizona go from 24th to 50th in per pupil spending in the span of 30 years. This is the Legislature that contains lawmakers who are openly disgusted with educators, like Mesa's rep, Russell Pearce who this time last year considered proposing Legislatures to mandate classroom curriculum because he was concerned the classrooms were becoming breeding grounds for liberal trash.

Before you ask me why teachers don't strike. Answer: Arizona is a right to work state.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


All of the sudden the metaphoric meaning behind the lyrics "I shot the sheriff, but I did not shoot the deputy..." makes more sense to me. I live in Maricopa county, which means me Sheriff is Joe Arpaio. (Insert groan here because you either know where I am going with this or you can't stand the guy either.) The rest of the country looks at this guy as a quirky, entertaining, hard-ass sheriff who dreamed up the pink underwear, tent city, and green bologna. I've heard people say Arizona is lucky to have Joe. That's like saying Germany was really lucky to have Adolf Hitler because he loosened up the real estate market and created jobs. This guy is a piece of work--and mark my words, by saying this I except to be arrested soon on trumped up charges for some littering violation.

Known as "America's Toughest Sheriff", this guy also has the most innovative public relations department. He is on the evening news, literally, at least twice a week. Currently he is under investigation by the US Department of Justice and Congress for violating laws related to his immigration crackdown. Basically, Arpaio likes to round illegals in raids, arrest them, etc. and in some of those raids are actual US citizens. He doesn't see anything wrong with this. By this, I mean taking away the rights of native or naturalized citizens.

Something else Arpaio is in the news for: demanding $1 million dollars from the State for salary raises for his deputies. I'm all for paying for safety--honestly I think those men need a bonus for putting up with him--but we are in something called a recession. You'd think it takes balls to go to the legislature and make those sorts of demands, but it really doesn't. Our lawmakers l-o-v-e Arpaio. Seriously, I think they send each other Valentines and give each other massages.

This morning I tried not to throw-up my Cheerios when I read that the reality TV show Arpaio just filmed "didn't cost much money" to the Arizona taxpayer. Right near this headline: Arizona $3 Billion Deficit Looms Large for Lawmakers". WTF?

I'm pretty sure that if asked Arpaio would say that we should not scrimp at all when it comes to funding any program he dreams up because it is in the good of public safety. But what about health care, education, transportation, etc, etc?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Pope Benedict XVI went to Africa and reiteratred the church's stance against on condom use. In Africa. No condoms. Seriously. From CNN, "More than 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV, according to a 2008 UNAIDS/WHO report. Nine out of 10 children with HIV in the world live in the region, which has 11.4 million orphans because of AIDS, the report said, and 1.5 million people there died of the disease in 2007."

This guy is an idiot.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


I read this in the paper this morning. The article alleges that Arizona's new Governor is using bullying tactics against other lawmakers in her own party. Well, I ask the Arizona legislatures: How do you like it? For years, this mainly Republican group has bullied and ignored constituents and lawmakers from different parties. What are these lawmakers upset about? Brewer taking federal monies for childcare subsidies. Yeah, taking money made available for daycare costs for (how do I say this delicately?) the poor. If you want to know how "un-liberal" I can be, here you go. I do not like the direction we are going to be a welfare state, HOWEVER this money is provided to people who are WORKING--as in contributing to the system. How can we possibly rebuild the infrastructure of this country if people cannot work due to daycare? Also, what kind of care will be provided if children are not placed in proper care? The daycares that participate in the state programs are ones that are monitored by the state, which means proper ratios, clean environments, decent nutrition, etc.

On a side not, as part of my current graduate program I am taking a class called "Publicity and Politics of Administration". I've only been to one class and I am already pissed. I know I sound really naive, but... Do you know how often your representatives votes against the wishes of their constituents? Do you know how often legislatures vote as a "favor" for a deal they made with another lawmaker? Do you know how often these people votes contrary to what they promised while they campaigned? Um, a lot. The main focus of this class is to discuss the ins and outs of Arizona lawmaking so we are more informed administrators and citizens. It is also providing a different perspective when I read articles like the one above.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Jeff got an email tonight from the Democratic Party explaining how to get tickets to attend Obama's visit to Arizona (in Mesa at Dobson High School). I am thinking about trying to get a ticket despite the fact I have class that night and I missed class last week's class to a rockin' migraine. Here is what I would say (you know...if I got a ticket and I got to say something):

Mr. President,

I am one of those people who makes just enough money to be above the cut in the middle class, yet I still live paycheck to paycheck. I took a 30-year fixed loan, therefore I can pay my mortgage, yet my neighbors have foreclosed leaving me unable to sell my home or have any equity. I proudly voted for you, yet I watch as you create a stimulus package that provides little if anything for me. (Excuse the 'Legends of the Fall' allusion here) I followed all the rules, but have nothing to show--I actually have LESS, because as a teacher I am getting ready to take a serious pay cut and I am concerned about my husband's job. While I think it is silly for the GOP to talk about yet another tax cut--since how do the lower and middle class (AKA the unemployed) benefit from that?--I think it is equally silly for you to ignore a significant portion of tax-paying, struggling Americans who followed the rules. I believe there has to be accountability and companies/homeowners/etc must suffer their stupidity.

Stop ignoring me. It pissed me off during the elections (you and McCain both) and it aggravates me now!

Oh...and please start forgiving teachers, nurses, and other public officials of school debt. I mean c'mon, there is a great provision for the stimulus package.

Friday, February 13, 2009


I don't think I would call myself a hardcore liberal (despite what some of you think) because I have issues with abortion past the first trimester, I don't believe in completely curbing gun rights, and I tend to be "fiscally conservative". One of the things that I have been pretty "on the fence" about is immigration, which is odd since I am in a border state and it is ALWAYS the hot topic and everyone has picked a side. My thoughts on the issues have changed recently, let me explain...

As a teacher it is illegal and unethical for me to ask students if they are legal citizens. My job is to educate. Period. I actually don't really think about my students' status. When talking about illegal immigration people often point out that I should be the most upset because II take up space, resources, etc. The reality is education gets more money based on numbers, legal or not.

Work aside, I used to be only mildly annoyed by IIs, but not enough to believe they should be rounded up and shown the door. I understood the argument that they were breaking the law, but was sympathetic to the lengths these people would go to support their families. I would get angry at our stupid Sheriff for rounding up anyone with a Mexican surname and asking for their papers and I was annoyed that I would have to go through three different employees to find someone who spoke English. I realize how essential IIs are to our economy, and that is OUR fault because we ALLOWED it to be that way. Realistically the only reason there has been little done regarding immigration is that there is little or no middle ground.

Well, it only takes a bit of a recession for my perspective to shift a bit. We can barely help ourselves, but we are still doing enough to help out IIs. Our health care system is falling apart and I am paying ridiculous fees for my kid when the waiting rooms are packed with colds, allergies, and minor ailments. I can't even think about selling my home because our II neighbors could not afford their mortgage and bailed to go back to Mexico.

I feel like a hypocrite. I feel like a racist. I feel apologetic.

MMMM, thoughts?

Saturday, February 7, 2009


I am very entertained by the back and forth between parties regarding the stimulus plan Obama is trying to get passed. The GOP is raving about the money that is being spent stating that spending the money that adds to our outrageous deficit is unconscionable. But did we not rack up quite a bill in the last presidency? The GOP blaming Obama for spending is like criticizing someone for how they clean up a mess you made. Hmm, I need to find a better explanation, because I in no way believe the GOP was solely at fault for the mess we are in, though it was their president who oversaw the disaster.

I think the GOP has lost all credibility as we have watched the original bailout money go out and we all know how that ended up. Well, at least with some of it, since there wasn't a lot of accountability and there are millions (if not billions) of dollars that has gone missing.

The next time we just hand money out to greedy crooks, it should go more like this: "You give me your bills and I will write the checks for them. And because I am such a nice person, I will even pay for postage."

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wall Streed defends bonuses.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Um, you know things suck when the post office decides to cut back.

Thursday, January 22, 2009



The events of the past few weeks in Arizona have been of staggering proportion. The Cardinals, who had less respect than Rodney Dangerfield, are earning it everywhere and the average citizens of Arizona couldn’t be prouder. The Legislature, or at least the senior officials in control, in less than a week have shown they have absolutely no respect for Arizona’s average citizen, parent, or child.

Or, maybe it’s just me that thinks like that?

I’m 60, conservative, a Viet Nam vet, just a regular guy who votes in every election and believes in our system of government. This week I find that four elected legislators, who I’m sure are nice guys and good parents and/or grandparents, are able to sit together privately and propose a budget plan without consideration of the opinions of their peers and one that shows no respect for the situation facing the average Arizonan.

I mean aren’t elected folks supposed to consider what is best for all of the people of Arizona when developing proposals such as this?

Or, maybe it’s just me and I’m mistaken about that?

Virtually every Arizonan knows about the deficit and knows we’re all going to have to pull together to get through these tough times. Then on Friday we find that the “solution” will mean ½ day Kindergarten, a reduction from 180 school days to 175, school only 4 days per week, a huge increase in class sizes, reductions in salary for all, and the loss of jobs for 1,000s. It hasn’t said that in the newspapers, but I’ve been told the discussions have included these issues from people who are supposed to know. I guess that’s what happens when you reduce a budget by more than 21%.

The proposal asks for budget cuts this year of $103 million and $892 million next from K-12. Specifically, the plan reduces this year’s soft capital allocation (textbooks, curriculum and assessment tools, etc) by 43% but next year there will be $0 allocated for soft capital. There will be a 10% reduction in basic state aid, elimination of all-day kindergarten, an eight year phase out of career ladder (12% per year reduction), elimination of the math and science initiatives, and an eight year phase out of the teacher experience index. Further, to quote a friend of mine, “Heck, they even reduced the gifted program, just in case there was any child left untouched.”

In my opinion, there is little doubt we have a crisis in leadership. Many years ago I taught the Principalship for NAU from a business book called LEADERS by Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus. It is a classic, virtually a leadership bible, reprinted many times. They note that effective leaders focus their actions on “doing the right thing” while managers “do things right”. Also, topical to our situation is the premise that “the accumulation of trust is the measure of the legitimacy of leadership”.

So what?

Well, Mr. Kavanaugh, Mr. Pearce, Mr. Adams, and Mr. Burns in one short week have shown they are exceptional managers, able to do things right, especially subtract. There is nothing wrong with the management function; it is a necessary component of organization. But you need leaders who understand the function of “doing the right thing” at the helm. Simply put, managers placed in leadership positions are divisive, while truly effective leaders in similar positions bring people together. If you have any doubts about the value of leadership vs. management, I have one word for you, Whistenhunt!

With all due respect, I’m pretty doggoned sure I’m not wrong about that.

Crisis is often just opportunity disguised in different clothing. As some forest fires can be healthy by getting rid of undergrowth and unhealthy trees, likewise our financial mess in Arizona is an opportunity for effective leadership to chart a new course. People are ready for change, they know it has to happen, but they have to trust the leadership and know that the leaders have their best interest at heart.

In less than a week, our veteran management team of Kavanaugh, Pearce, and Burns (Mr. Adams is pretty new) have managed to lose the trust of most of the Arizonans who have been watching with interest.

Or, maybe it’s just me and I’m wrong about that?

I’ve never met Jan Brewer, but my daughter was an accountant for a mental health agency when Mrs. Brewer sat on that agency’s board. My daughter describes Mrs. Brewer as pragmatic, caring, insightful, politely direct, and an effective leader. Unless some true leaders emerge on the Republican side, the good Governor Brewer may well be average Arizonans only hope.

With a veto, there may be enough Democrats and moderate Republicans to keep our veteran managers and their followers from overriding the veto. Heck, maybe the direction taken to this point is so obviously abhorrent that some Republicans will stand up and utilize some common sense. I hope so, because while raised a Democrat, I’ve been a registered Republican my entire voting life and this is the first time I’ve ever been ashamed to admit it.

Thomas Jefferson, the father of American education, felt that democracy could only succeed with an educated populace. Over the last few days we find that Arizona, now ranked 49th in educational funding, will lose over $1,000 per child under the current proposal.

Is it possible that we could fall to 51st?

I don’t believe Arizona has ever been higher than 46th in the last 30 years. Is it any wonder that few large businesses or industries have relocated to Arizona? Our legislators have never understood that an investment and commitment to education is the necessary third leg to draw industry, relying only on our wonderful climate and our status as a right-to-work state to broaden our employment base.

A true investment in education over the past 30 years would have drawn much more business relocation, broadening our employment base, and would have left us less dependent on construction as our major industry. It seems we still don’t understand that.

Or, perhaps, it’s just me and I’m wrong about that?

So, in the last few days we’ve read in the newspaper that not only must we cut the education budget by 21+% but that business also needs a tax break.

Let’s see if I’ve got this. We have this huge deficit because the economy has faltered and tax dollars necessary to fund government programs have plummeted. So we answer by cutting educational spending and KidsCare health-care program for 63,000 of Arizona’s children, knowing that number will grow dramatically because of the financial dilemma our families are currently facing.

Further, according to ASU, the proposal is “the equivalent to withdrawing funding for more than 40,000 students.” ASU President Michael Crow called the options plan a blueprint for putting Arizona “on the path to resembling a Third World country.”

If this plan were accepted, we would be forced to reduce the salaries of virtually all in the education profession fortunate enough to keep their jobs. We would have to release 1,000s of hard-working middle and lower income blue collar workers, and we would have ½ day Kindergarten and school 4 days a week for grades 1-12 and increase the parents need for child care astronomically. Oh, well, I guess we could just let them stay home by themselves. But, I forgot, there will be plenty of folks available to watch the kids as so many have lost their jobs, just no money to pay them. And since we reduced pay and eliminated jobs, we have even less tax money to collect.

Sounds like a great plan, eh? Or maybe it’s just me and I’m wrong about this, too?

Over the past 15 years, in addition to working in schools, I’ve been a relatively successful businessman. I don’t claim to be the sharpest knife in the drawer with regard to business, but neither am I the dullest.
About seven weeks ago after doing some research, I discovered that an increase in the sales tax of .01 would have generated a little over $1 billion to the state last year. This year it would be significantly less, but would still approach $1 billion, covering about 60% of the stated deficit.

While I was not really laughed at (just snickers, maybe) my proposal was quickly dismissed in a few different meetings because I was told the Republican-dominated legislature would never go for it. Now, I see that a similar referendum is picking up steam in California.

Unlike some in the legislature, I do not believe that such a temporary increase (utilized only until the economy is righted) will be the end of the world, the prevailing sentiment at the Capital, I’m told. After all, we should all be in this together and if so, maybe it’s not such a bad thought after all.

Of course, it may be just me and I may be wrong again?

This past Thursday I attended a meeting of about 20 superintendents and business officials. Toward the end of the meeting, one superintendent summed up his frustration by saying, “I just don’t know what to do. Even the legislators that represent us tell us openly that their input is not solicited nor considered.” We were then told that the Republican leadership get so many emails they don’t even try to read them, that phone calls and letters are the only way to make contact, as you really can’t see them personally and even if you did their minds are made up and they don’t really listen to you.

A true gentleman, kind and stately, then spoke and said, “Unfortunately, as long as you superintendents keep stretching and providing for kids, parents don’t feel the pain. What you must do is stop providing services until the parents are fed up. Then, the legislators move because they want to get reelected.”

After a pause, I stated that my District has had full day Kindergarten for 16 or 17 years and that in the past 22 months our voters had passed a K-3 Override, and M & O override, and a capital override. We will provide full day Kindergarten for as long as humanly possible for two reasons; it not only is the right thing to do for kids, our community has stepped up time and again and they deserve it. We just have to find a way to effectively communicate to our public the depth of the problem presented by the legislature.

Communities all over Arizona are just like ours. Regular folks are committed to our children, truly committed, always. Many politicians talk about putting kids first, but that seems to be just election year rhetoric utilized for political gain.

Of course, I may be wrong about that, too, but considering this proposal, I don’t think so.

And, the reverse Boston Tea Party, what do we have to do to get the legislature to consider adding .01 to our sales tax temporarily instead of decimating the state with this soulless proposal?

I’ve never really written anything like this before and while I’m going to distribute it to our staff and parents in Florence, to my fellow superintendents in the Arizona School Administrators group, the Arizona School Board Association, the Arizona Association of School Business Officials, the Arizona Education Association, and to our college and university leaders, maybe nothing will come of it. But I’ll feel somewhat better because I got it off my chest and can feel like I tried.

As many of our legislators don’t seem to care about us regular folks, don’t read our emails, accept few phone calls, respond to few letters, won’t see us personally, or ignore us, as when 120 superintendents showed up last Monday, it seems we need to earn some respect. They must see that they have a responsibility to all Arizonans not just those with big business interests.

It has been said that the true value of a culture can be effectively evaluated by simply measuring the priority it places on its children. Honestly, after reading this plan one can easily come to the conclusion that the only thing that was considered was dollars.

The Cardinals, NFC Champs and on the way to the Super Bowl, (WOW!) have finally succeeded in earning the respect of hundreds of thousands of folks within and outside of Arizona. Amazingly, we regular folks have a much more difficult task just trying to earn the respect of a few that we had a hand in electing. When you think of it, that’s really a pretty sad state of affairs.

On Sunday, January 25th, from 1-3pm, my wife and I are going to have a picnic at the Capital plaza and afterwards will politely leave a request to the legislature to show respect for the children and the average citizens of Arizona. It probably won’t be as much fun as we had watching the Cardinals this past Sunday, but if you’d like to join us there’s no telling what might happen. I completed this on MLK Day and we all know that Martin Luther King led the way in showing the value of peaceful demonstration.

I have never protested publicly, never demonstrated or carried a sign, I always have just trusted. But when Arizona’s children are determined to be less important than some decimal points, I think I have a moral obligation to show up.

It may end up that my wife and I just enjoy a private picnic, but who knows, maybe I’ll be wrong about that, too?

Gary 9
Florence USD #1

P.S. By the way, Mr. Kavanaugh, Mr. Pearce, Mr. Adams, and Mr. Burns, just for future reference, regular folks don’t mind being well led, but they really don’t like being managed or not receiving consideration. But if you care to join us we’d love to have you. Might just be my wife and I, and I’m really pretty easy to get along with, but my wife now, better make sure you don’t get her dander up. Hope to see you Sunday.

P.P.S. I have provided the addresses, email address, and phone numbers of the gentlemen I mentioned above. While it is great if you contact them in that way, your attendance Sunday, however inconvenient it might be, will send a message to the entire legislature. Educators and school staffs are just regular folks, parents and kids are just regular folks; regular folks who deserve to be well led by those they elected. If you believe in participatory democracy rather than the select autocracy that formulated this proposal, please consider attending on Sunday.

By the way if you wear red, we can cover two bases; red shall not only represent the carnage that this proposal will produce, but, obviously, will be a deserving tribute to the Cardinals.

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