The Time Is Now to Liberate Telehealth Medicine in Arizona

The Time Is Now to Liberate Telehealth Medicine in Arizona

The COVID-19 pandemic has been with us for a year now, and in that time, there’s been little to get excited about. Many restaurants and small businesses have been decimated. Emergency orders have been abused across the state and country. And we all know the impact it’s had on kids in school.

But amid this great adversity, not all has been lost. Some things have emerged as great values to our society. One of those is telehealth.

Right now is the perfect time to leverage what we’ve learned and remove any barriers to this great service. And so far, it seems that our state is headed that way.

Momentum is building at the legislature for Arizona to once again lead on health care reform, this time by seeking legislation to make permanent Governor Ducey’s emergency executive order that allows Arizona residents to obtain telehealth services from practitioners licensed in any of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Preventing telehealth to consumers has been outdated for years, especially given the fact that licensing requirements for medical professionals are nearly identical across all 50 states. Furthermore, as pointed out by Cato Senior Fellow Dr. Jeff Singer, out-of-state providers would still be required to follow all state laws and regulations, meaning the standard for care will be the same for patients whether or not the medical professional resides in the state or not.

And Governor Ducey backs this up in his 2021 Policy Priorities stating, “If it’s safe and it works during a pandemic, we should embrace it when we’re not in an emergency as well.”

Unfortunately, some Democrats are already trying to put up a barrier to telehealth. They want to prevent the people of Arizona from accessing providers out of state.

But there is no good reason to deny someone the ability to use this service. The benefits are far too great.

By simply allowing telehealth services from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., the people of Arizona would gain access to the best available medical professionals across the country. Think about what that could mean for your health care.

Plus, you would save both time and money by not traveling to and from a doctor’s office or waiting for an appointment. That’s right. No more awkwardly paging through a magazine that’s 3 months old while you wait for your lab results. If you don’t need an in-person consultation for your health issue, just sign on your computer, attend your appointment, and get back to doing the things you really love.

In addition to these benefits, providers would be much more motivated to improve the quality of their services. And they would be more likely to look at ways to reduce their costs to make sure they remain competitive.

But perhaps the best part is, it’s your choice. If you don’t want to use telehealth services, you don’t have to. But why deny someone the opportunity to do so if he or she thinks it would be best?

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we need more consumer choice in health care. Thankfully, telehealth isn’t anything new. Just ask anyone who’s been using 1-800 Contacts for the last couple decades. But expanding its reach would provide a great benefit to the people of Arizona because telehealth puts patients first, not profits.

Now, Arizona could become the first state in the country to permanently allow licensed medical professionals from other states to provide telehealth services to its residents. We just need to help Governor Ducey convince our legislators.

Do We Really Want Google, Facebook, and Twitter to Play Speech Police?

Do We Really Want Google, Facebook, and Twitter to Play Speech Police?

It seems that not a day goes by before you hear about another person or group being banned from social media. And it likely won’t shock you to find that the majority of them…are conservative.

Take LifeSiteNews for example. Earlier this month, Google-owned YouTube, which happens to be the largest video-sharing site on the internet, deplatformed the pro-life group without explanation.

And just a couple weeks before that, YouTube demonetized The Epoch Times, an independent news media that doesn’t claim any party affiliation.

But YouTube isn’t alone in its desire to play speech police. Just last week, Facebook deleted actor Kevin Sorbo’s page and didn’t even bother to tell him why. And if you don’t think banning Hercules is bad enough, Twitter went ahead and shut down MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell permanently. Surely it must’ve been because some disgruntled Twitter moderator wasn’t happy with his night’s sleep. But no. It’s because Mr. Lindell is a Trump supporter, who Twitter also banned while he was still the President of the United States.

And then there’s Parler, an actual social media company that, according to its website, “is built upon a foundation of respect for privacy and personal data, free speech, free markets, and ethical, transparent corporate policy.” In January, Google and Apple teamed up to remove the Parler app from their app stores, and Amazon ceased providing Parler with its cloud computing services, completely removing it from the internet.

The big tech giants claimed it was because Parler didn’t do enough to address threats to people’s safety in the wake of the Capitol riots on January 6. But then why didn’t these same companies suspend or ban leftists who endorsed the violent riots that took place across the country last summer?

The hypocrisy is nauseating, but the future is terrifying.

Facebook claims it wants to “reduce the amount of politics” on its site. And the company flaunts a temporary stop to all ads about social issues, elections, or politics in the United States since November 4 (which so far has also prohibited The Club from running any paid ads on the platform over the past few months). But can Facebook really be trusted? After all, whose politics does it plan to reduce? Or is there something more going on?

Since 2019, the Democrats have been trying to pass HR1, which touts itself as the “For the People Act.” But make no mistake, this bill is only for one specific group of people. Among the many items within the resolution, HR1 would require political groups to disclose high-dollar donors and create reporting requirements for online political ads. That’s right. It’s about doxing people. And given the trends we’ve seen on social media since the beginning of the year, who do you think they’re going to dox, punish, and ultimately cancel?

Conservatives can no longer stand for this. Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Apple have all drawn a line in the sand. And now, it’s time to stop this big tech oligopoly from completely destroying the public square.

School Choice Is Now the Civil Rights Issue of Our Generation

School Choice Is Now the Civil Rights Issue of Our Generation

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on parents’ lives for almost a year now, especially when it comes to the education of their children. And while solutions to move learning online seem simple, the reality has been much different.

Just ask students of color and low-income parents and children.

A recent study by McKinsey and Company shows that students of color are up to five months behind in learning. And by the end of the school year, the study estimates that these same students could be one year behind.

That should be cause for concern for anyone who takes their job as an educator seriously. But instead, teachers’ unions threatened to strike if schools reopened this past fall. And many continue to consider  stunts like “sick outs,” even with multiple schools in our state returning safely to in-person learning.

But these threats only prove to be deaf to the challenges faced by low-income students, many of whom lack access to the proper technological resources or quiet study environments that can help make virtual learning successful. To top that off, most low-income parents are unable to work from home to help their children with this distance “learning.”

That’s why it’s no surprise that there’s been a mass exodus of students from district schools. One report estimates up to 3 million students across the country who haven’t experienced any formal education since last March. And Arizona certainly isn’t immune to this educational pandemic. Chandler Unified School District has approximately 1,600 fewer students than it anticipated. And this comes after the district positioned itself to be one of the few in Arizona that expected an increase in enrollment for this year. That projection was enough to convince Chandler residents to vote for a $290 million bond measure in 2019. Now, the district faces a possible funding loss of $21 million.

It’s clear that COVID has changed the game for the education debate in Arizona. And that’s why it’s understandable that so many students and parents have deserted their public schools. Parents need help. But many school boards continue to waver between virtual and in-person learning.

In the meantime, parents are seeking out better options for their kids. Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA), which allow parents to use their tax dollars to homeschool or choose an alternative learning solution for their children, have exploded around the state since the pandemic hit. And now, Senate Bill 1452, introduced by Senator Paul Boyer, seeks to expand the ESA program to include low-income students. The bill would give parents up to $7,000 in ESA funds to spend on their children’s education and cut the approval waiting time for parents to 30 days instead of 100.

Thankfully, last week the Arizona Senate Education Committee passed SB1452 amid support from prominent black leaders, like Pastor Drew Anderson. They hope to offset what is known as the prison pipeline due to a lack of education and would much rather see our tax dollars invested in education, most especially school choice.

Predictably, teachers’ unions disapprove and are doing everything they can to stop SB1452 from becoming law.

But something needs to be done. Low-income students deserve an opportunity to attend schools that will work for them. As Pastor Drew says, “School choice is today’s modern Civil Rights movement, and we must get this bill passed.”

The Game Has Changed For The Education Debate in Arizona

The Game Has Changed For The Education Debate in Arizona

The narrative around education funding in Arizona has been dominated by the K-12 establishment, teachers’ unions, and their cheerleaders in the mainstream media.  For years they have told the public, despite billions in new education funding pouring in the past several years, that schools remain woefully underfunded. Sadly, this has resulted in a bidding war with the K-12 lobby on how much more to spend, regardless of educational results or accountability.

That prevailing narrative has now hit a brick wall.  The Arizona education lobby and their out-of-state special interest friends cashed in all their chips for Proposition 208 – the largest tax increase in Arizona history.  They were able to convince a bare majority of voters to pass it.  And now they have a real problem. 

Proponents promised that Prop 208 would restore our state to “pre-recession” funding levels, the watermark they use to define the ever-nebulous “fully funded” concept.  The architects of Prop 208 claimed that its passage would pump a $1Billion into the K-12 system.  Based upon what they promised Arizona voters, our schools are now fully funded. 

Despite opponents of the measure sounding the alarm on the devastating effects Prop 208 would have on our economy, advocates assured voters it did not impact small businesses and would not drive high-income earners and job creators out of the state.

But that is exactly what it is doing.  Inevitably, Proposition 208 will not generate the revenues they promised voters, leaving proponents in an awkward position.  They asked voters to pass this to “fully fund” education, knowing full well it would not generate the revenues they “projected” and they would be back asking for more money.  Some people call that a bait and switch.

This crisis in credibility is sure to be at odds with lawmakers this legislative session when the education community predictably demands more money, being unsatisfied with gobbling up 52 percent of the entirety of the state’s budget.  However, they have a second glaring problem divorced from the soon to be public revelation that they lied throughout the entirety of the Prop 208 campaign.

There is an exodus of students from the district schools and no one knows if these students are ever returning.  Since the pandemic, public schools have seen a 5 percent decline, while enrollment in Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, which allows parents to use their tax dollars to homeschool or choose an alternative learning solution for their children, has exploded. 

Understandably, the school districts have always enjoyed natural sympathies from parents who support their children’s schools and teachers.  But that implicit trust has been cracking under COVID as teachers’ unions threatened to strike if schools reopened in the Fall, school boards vacillated between distance and in-person learning, and schools opened daycares but not classrooms.  Parents were left with no other alternative but to seek out better options for their kids.

Since funding levels are tied to student enrollment, the education lobby will have to explain why they should receive more money when fewer families are choosing their product, especially when they have already secured their big bucket of money from Prop 208.

The passage of Prop 208 and the fracturing of the trust between the public schools and families have changed the framework of the debate around education in our state.  For the 2021 legislative session, that means the conversation will not center around how many unaccountable dollars can be poured into the K-12 system.  Rather – it is likely the session will be dominated by two prevailing policies – backpack funding and expanding school choice.  And this is very good news for the kids of Arizona and for taxpayers. 

COVID-19 Provides Opportunity to Revolutionize Education

COVID-19 Provides Opportunity to Revolutionize Education

All across the country, K-12 educators and staff are holding families hostage and threatening to strike (again) if schools open up in the Fall for kids to learn in person.  They are claiming that it is not safe enough to teach, despite the fact that many districts are opening up to offer in person daycare services and are charging for the service. Parents and students that need an in-person learning option have become political pawns in the teacher union chess game to further their agenda.

If the unions and school shutdown lobby think they are winning the debate, they are sorely mistaken. With families getting their first glimpse of substandard online classroom instruction, parents are already sprinting out of their district school and opting for better alternatives.  In states such as Arizona, where school choice is popular and plentiful, parents easily have other options. 

As consumers, we are well accustomed to the luxuries of customization and flexibility.  In fact, we have come to expect it in almost every realm of goods and services.  Yet when it comes to education parents don’t realize they have a right to demand these features for their children. 

Families should have a market of options in which they consider the unique aptitude, learning style and interests of their child. Organizations and school choice advocates have been working for years to advance innovation and diversity in education and to question the top-down system of the status quo.   Additional demand from Covid-19 and opportunistic teacher unions is likely to expedite the revolution of educational options in Arizona.

Microschools

Just as it sounds, microschools are small learning environments between 8 – 10 students that blend homeschooling with an in-class community environment.  In Arizona, this concept has been popularized by the company Prenda whose goal was to create a learning environment that was self-guided and fueled by a child’s own enthusiasm for learning. Prenda created an online platform that has made its model for learning accessible to students across the state.  Even in the most isolated and economically challenged areas of the state, such as the Apache Reservation, a microschool has popped up and is serving a small number of tribal students who would have had no other option but failing district schools.

Homeschooling

Though certainly not a new concept, homeschooling is quickly gaining popularity.  Many parents who were thrust into “being the teacher” at the end of the 2020 school year have discovered they are rather good at it and are opting this year to take on the role full time.  In fact, in Maricopa County the number of families opting to homeschool their children this Fall has tripled over last year.

Pandemic Pods

Similar to microschools, parents are also forming “pandemic pods” for children in their families and neighborhoods; small groups of kids taught under either a parent or paid teacher or tutor.  This allows families to pool their resources and share the costs of a more personalized education.  Companies from Manhattan to San Francisco have popped up to facilitate the matching of families with tutors and teachers; a similar model that already exists with nanny agencies. This model has raised concerns over equity – how do children in families with limited resources and means ensure they still receive a quality education?

Right now, parents are figuring all this out on their own.  Policymakers could help. 

Expanded Empowerment Scholarship Accounts

Arizona already has a vehicle set up for “backpack funding,” a finance system for education that follows the student no matter what educational option they choose.  Currently Empowerment Scholarship Accounts are only open to certain qualifying students – such as for children with disabilities, in the bounds of schools rated a ‘D’ or ‘F’, children of military persons or tribal children. 

The legislature should expand this program for the COVID-19 pandemic.  Doing so would allow all families struggling with the difficult educational choices right now to access needed funds to tailor an education best for their child in this chaotic environment.  This could be done at a fraction of the cost of traditional district school funding.   

These models are the tip of the iceberg.  As families, educators and policymakers navigate what education looks like during the current pandemic; this is an even greater opportunity to explore how to revamp archaic school finance systems, outdated education models, and make parents expert consumers of educational options.

Parents Should #WalkAway From Public Schools Unwilling to Educate AZ Kids

The would-be school year is fast approaching and thousands of parents across Arizona are panicking. 

How will their children learn this year?  When will they have a physical place to go?  Will parents be able to return to work?  Will they have to pay for tutors out of pocket? 

With most of the critical reopening decisions now in the hands of Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, school districts and ultimately the teachers’ union, it’s obvious now that crafting a system that works for parents and kids won’t be the top priority for the educational establishment.  Every decision from here on out will be to cater to the desires of administrators and teachers. Period.

Come August 17th, district school families will be forced to accept whatever dysfunctional Covid-schooling platform that is thrusted into their laps.  Parents of low-income families will be hit the hardest, especially those who can’t work from home. Special needs children will be hung out to dry. Kids in abusive households will continue to have no escape from a hostile environment.

And if any parent or taxpayer questions why their needs appear to be secondary to those of the educational establishment, they are immediately shouted down and told that they just want people to die.  So what if your child needs in person learning—you should just accept paying unlimited amounts in taxes to feed a substandard educational system that only adds to the chaos in your life.

Even more infuriating is the “solution” now being offered to parents that require in person schooling to address their work/life situations. Rather than open up for learning, several school districts are now offering paid childcare services

That’s right – residents already paying over half of their state taxes to education are now expected to pay to have their kids in school to not learn.   Representatives of the teachers’ union claim it is too risky to teach kids in a classroom, but apparently it is plenty safe to not teach them in a classroom. 

Parents and kids deserve better than this. 

Families were willing to extend grace at the end of the school year when districts scrambled to reformat the educational experience for online and distant learning.  The legislature passed emergency measures to ensure funding would be uninterrupted. And instead of developing a real plan that catered to families that MUST HAVE in person learning, the school districts and education lobby instead put all their time and energy into a public relations campaign to push back the start date of school to October 1st

It should be noted that there are many schoolteachers and administrators ready and willing to resume in person learning.  Afterall, through the peaks and valleys of the pandemic, essential workers have stepped up and done their jobs.  Truck workers continued to deliver critical goods, grocery store workers continued to stock shelves, and doctors and nurses continued to man hospitals and treat the unwell.  Those teachers that recognize that education is an essential service and wish to provide in person learning to our children should not be stopped by administrators and union thug bosses.

If district schools believe that there is no limit to the mistreatment of hardworking families, they are in for a rude awakening.  Most parents are very supportive of their local district school, but they will have no problem walking away from a broken K-12 system if it benefits their child.   

They may not be vocal or have active twitter accounts, but these parents are paying attention and are wide awake to this rolling disaster. They are thinking creatively about education and observing more closely than ever the best ways in which their children learn.  This will lead to rapid innovation and adoption of flexible models. 

Post-pandemic, there may very well be an explosive demand for testing new educational models, from micro-schools, “forest schools,” digital classrooms, to expanded ESAs.  An educational Renaissance is a possible and welcome outcome.