Surprise, Surprise! The Higley School District Scandal Has Been Largely Ignored by the Media

Surprise, Surprise! The Higley School District Scandal Has Been Largely Ignored by the Media

Sometimes, it’s not just what the media says. It’s what they don’t say.

Last week, the Arizona Auditor General concluded its financial investigation into Higley Unified School District (HUSD). And the findings of the report are mind blowing.

The Auditor General found that HUSD’s former superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell, may have conspired with employees of Education Facilities Development Services (EFDS), along with Hunt & Caraway’s former president, to circumvent school district procurement rules to improperly award Higley’s $2,557,125 Project development services contract to EFDS.

But if you thought that was bad, there’s more. The report also alleges that Dr. Birdwell misused public monies when she authorized or caused the unlawful use of $6 million in restricted public funds toward construction of two new schools. And to top it all off, Dr. Birdwell, along with Gary Aller and Steven Nielsen from EFDS, appear to have concealed their wrongdoing by certifying false information on Higley records.

A State Grand Jury indicted Dr. Birdwell on 18 felony counts. In addition, Gary Aller, Steven Nielsen, and Kay Hartwell Hunnicutt (who shared a home and checking account with Dr. Birdwell) were indicted on three felony counts each.

This is a huge story! And there’s certainly more to it. (You can read a good write up with more details on AZ Free News.)

And yet, for the most part, corporate media has largely ignored the scandal!

Sure, there’s been some write ups here and there, but just look at how this story has been treated by the media when compared to Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program. Gallons of ink have been spilled by The Arizona Republic covering supposed ESA abuse. And that’s just a small fraction of what has occurred in Higley.

Now, run a quick search on Google or Twitter. You’ll find that AZ Central has been equally, if not more, vocal online. But when you run a search about the scandal involving Dr. Birdwell, there’s only a handful of stories from the local media, and just one on AZ Central.

The same can be said of the media’s coverage of any alleged charter school fraud. The Arizona Republic and its digital version AZ Central can’t wait to sink its teeth into stories like that.

But they conveniently ignore the Dr. Birdwell scandal in Higley even though it dwarfs pretty much every other K-12 fraud case in the last five years.

This is outrageous! The rampant fraud in Higley has cost taxpayers like you millions of dollars. But the media refuses to cover it because it would undermine their assault on school choice. They want to protect their narrative that district schools are bastions of accountability while charter and private schools are cesspits of fraud.

But school choice is the civil rights issue of our generation. And ESAs allow parents to use their tax dollars for alternative learning solutions. This gives families access to the funds they need to tailor an education that best fits their children.

That’s a win-win for everyone, unless of course you’re a teachers’ union—or a corporate media outlet that wants to protect said unions.

It’s no wonder why fewer people trust the mainstream media. Their only reason to exist appears to be to protect their own interests. And their journalists have become slanted not just in what they say, but in what they don’t say. Just look at how they’ve handled the Dr. Birdwell scandal—if you can find it.

Help Protect Freedom in Arizona by Joining Our Grassroots Network

Arizona needs to have a unified voice promoting economic freedom and prosperity, and the Free Enterprise Club is committed to making that happen. But we can’t do it alone. We need YOU!

Join our FREE Grassroots Action List to stay up to date on the latest battles against big government and how YOU can help influence crucial bills at the Arizona State Legislature.

Biden Administration Wants to Silence People They Don’t Agree With

Biden Administration Wants to Silence People They Don’t Agree With

“We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.”

Those were the words of White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki last week, and they should send chills up and down your spine. It’s bad enough that we already have Big Tech playing speech police on a daily basis. Now, the federal government is flagging “problematic posts” FOR Facebook?!?

But this level of government censorship and collusion doesn’t stop with Facebook. Psaki turned around the next day to say that if you’re banned from one social media platform, you should be banned from them all. And she admits that the White House hasn’t taken any options off the table when it comes to exercising more control over social media platforms. For the record, that also appears to include censorship of your text messages. (That’s right. They’re even trying to get your phone carrier involved).

So, just to recap. The federal government, which is supposed to uphold the U.S. Constitution, is actively aiding social media companies in censoring and banning Americans. Has anyone in the Biden administration read the First Amendment?

Surely President Biden must have at some point. After all, he’s been in public office since the 1970s. But Biden took it a to a whole other level, accusing Facebook of “killing people” for allowing “COVID misinformation.” That’s certainly an interesting attack considering Facebook has been a willing partner in censoring people. But apparently, the social media giant hasn’t gone far enough for President Biden’s tastes.

So, what exactly do the Democrats mean by “misinformation”? And what posts have the Biden administration flagged as such? Predictably, Psaki would not commit an answer, maneuvering around the question like a skilled tap dancer.

But Jen Psaki doesn’t have to say it for us. The reality is that this has nothing to do with COVID. Democrats and Big Tech have one goal in mind. They want to silence conservatives like you. Just look at what’s taken place this past year:

    • Google-owned YouTube de-platformed the pro-life group LifeSiteNews without explanation.
    • YouTube demonetized The Epoch Times, an independent news media that doesn’t claim a party affiliation.
    • Facebook deleted conservative actor Kevin Sorbo’s page without telling him why.
    • Twitter shut down MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell
    • Google, Apple, and Amazon teamed up to remove the Parler app from the internet for a period of time.
    • And Twitter banned President Trump while he was still the President of the United States with Facebook extending its ban of Trump to at least two more years this past June.

The list could go even further. But one thing is clear. The Biden administration isn’t even pretending anymore. They want an internet crack down on people they don’t agree with, and they’re using COVID as their excuse.

This is outrageous, and it’s incredibly dangerous.

If the government is allowed to decide who is banned from the public square today, what does that look like tomorrow? Or four years from now? Or a decade from now?

And what does it look like if your preferred party isn’t in power?

This should not only concern Republicans, but Democrats, Independents, and anyone who values free speech. Because if the Biden administration get its way, criminalizing speech could be next.

Help Protect Freedom in Arizona by Joining Our Grassroots Network

Arizona needs to have a unified voice promoting economic freedom and prosperity, and the Free Enterprise Club is committed to making that happen. But we can’t do it alone. We need YOU!

Join our FREE Grassroots Action List to stay up to date on the latest battles against big government and how YOU can help influence crucial bills at the Arizona State Legislature.

Free Enterprise Club 2021 Legislative Scorecard Highlights Key Activist Priorities

Free Enterprise Club 2021 Legislative Scorecard Highlights Key Activist Priorities

The Club’s 2021 legislative scorecard (View House of Representatives and Senate Scorecards) included a thorough review of over 25 key bills, legislative actions and votes taken by lawmakers this session with an emphasis on the Club’s supported or opposed bills. The methodology included other issues important to our grassroots activists such as addressing regulatory relief and ongoing government overreach from the covid-19 pandemic, banning critical race theory in our taxpayer-funded institutions and school choice.

Issues weighed heavily in the scorecard included bills relating to income tax policy and election integrity, both of which were the two main planks of the Club’s agenda for 2021.

In January, the Club began advocating for a major tax cut proposal. Our guidelines were simple, the tax cut must amass to at least $1Billion, it must deal with and offset completely the disastrous impacts of Prop 208, and it must not include any special interest tax carveouts.

Not all legislation was weighted equally but ranked by Club priority. Highly prioritized issues included votes on special interest tax carveout programs, as these are often “truth-test” issues that separate the stalwart conservatives and the lawmakers highly influenced by special interest lobbyists. Club President Scot Mussi expounded, “Our organization was founded to fight for the taxpayer of Arizona. The ability for ‘woke’ corporations to secure major tax carveouts, in some instances zeroing out all tax liability, is a serious threat to a broad-based, low-tax environment for every Arizona family and small business. Our lawmakers shouldn’t be picking winners and losers but representing all Arizona taxpayers.”

Ultimately, several bills became the focus of these efforts and were included in the methodology of the 2021 legislative scorecard. The tax policy bills weighed most significantly in the scorecard included:

    • SB1783: (alternative small business tax) establishes an optional alternative small business tax in Arizona that allows business owners to separate wage income from business income when filing and paying their taxes. This bill helped clarify those successful small businesses in the state would not be subject to the Prop 208 surcharge and fulfilled the Club’s goal of offsetting the otherwise irreversible damage of Prop 208.”
    • SB1828/HB2900 (tax omnibus) & SB1827/HB2899 (Revenue; Budget Reconciliation) included a $1.7B tax cut for all taxpayers by ultimately streamlining Arizona’s income tax rates to 2.5% and an effective marginal rate of 4.5% at the top. These bills fulfilled the Club’s goal of cutting taxes by at least $1B and helped to offset the damage of Prop 208 by setting a cap on how much any Arizonan could pay in income taxes in the state at 4.5%.
    • SB1124 (Contributions in aid of construction) This bill was amended to include two programs the Club has opposed for years – the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, and Angel Investors Tax Credit. The combined $185 Million in tax carveouts for wealthy investors, developers and banks included in the two programs are obstacles to good tax reforms that benefit all and only get traction at the legislature because of special interest lobbyists.

Also included in the Club’s legislative priorities were several bills dealing with election integrity. Despite dozens of bills being introduced, five election integrity bills were included in the scorecard. Three of these bills were top Club issues the entire session:

    • SB1485 (early voting list; eligibility) Ensures Arizona’s early voters list remains clean and current by implementing a process for removing names of individuals who perpetually do not vote by early mail-in ballot.
    • SB1713 (mailing; early ballots; identification) Requires a voter who chooses to vote early by mail to provide their birthday as well as another form of identification such as driver’s license number or social security number.
    • HB2569 (elections; private funding; prohibition) Prohibits outside interests from financing the administration of elections by providing grants to government agencies for the implementation of an election including voter registration.

Aside from weighing over 25 key legislative votes, the Club also included discretionary points for certain members which either added or subtracted to their overall score. This inclusion is important as it is often difficult to assess a member’s performance solely based upon their votes. Other criteria used for qualitative points were whether they sponsored particularly bad legislation even if it did not receive a full vote of the body, if they were an obstacle to key caucus or Club issues even if they ultimately voted the “right” way, or if they were responsible for killing key reforms and stalled their advancement to a floor vote.

Given the rigorous criteria in the Club’s 2021 scorecard, the top performing legislators distinguish themselves as faithful conservatives in the caucus. These members consistently fight for limited government, free market principles, low, smart and fair taxes, and individual liberties. The Club Top performers in the Legislature who have earned an A+ in 2021 included:

    • Senator Warren Petersen (LD 12)
    • Senator J.D. Mesnard (LD 17)
    • Rep. Jacqueline Parker (LD 16)
    • Rep. Jake Hoffman (LD 12)
    • Rep. John Fillmore (LD 16)
    • Rep. Joseph Chaplik (LD 23)
    • Rep. Shawnna Bolick (LD 20)
    • Rep. Travis Grantham (LD 12)
    • Rep. Beverly Pingerelli (LD 21)
    • Rep. Bret Roberts (LD 11)
    • Rep. Gail Griffin (LD 14)
    • Rep. Judy Burges (LD 1)

Methodology for Senate Scorecard

Methodology for House Scorecard

Help Protect Freedom in Arizona by Joining Our Grassroots Network

Arizona needs to have a unified voice promoting economic freedom and prosperity, and the Free Enterprise Club is committed to making that happen. But we can’t do it alone. We need YOU!

Join our FREE Grassroots Action List to stay up to date on the latest battles against big government and how YOU can help influence crucial bills at the Arizona State Legislature.

The Supreme Court’s Decision to Protect Donor Privacy Is the Right One

The Supreme Court’s Decision to Protect Donor Privacy Is the Right One

Every American should be free to support nonprofit organizations they believe in without being harassed or intimidated. You would think this is obvious. But leave it to California’s former Attorney General, Kamala Harris, to trample on that freedom.

Back in 2010, Harris began ordering nonprofits that fundraise in the State of California to disclose the information of their major donors. Of course, the California government had no real need for this information. And, despite the fact that the state was required to keep donor names private, they were regularly leaked to the public.

You may even remember the name of Brendan Eich. In 2014, Eich, who created JavaScript, became CEO of Mozilla. But soon after, he was forced to step down from his position amid a flurry of backlash when it was made public that he donated money in support of California’s Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that would define marriage as between one man and one woman.

The harassment didn’t stop with Eich. Organizations like Thomas More Law Center and Americans for Prosperity Foundation faced similar intimidation. In fact, Thomas More Law Center donors, employees, and clients even faced death threats, hate mail, and an assassination plot from those who oppose them.

That’s why both organizations filed lawsuits in 2014, challenging California’s rule. And after the cases were granted by the U.S. Supreme Court, they managed to do something nearly impossible. Groups from across the ideological spectrum, some of which never agree on anything, filed amicus briefs in support of Thomas More Law Center and American for Prosperity Foundation. These groups included the ACLU, NAACP, Human Rights Campaign, Southern Poverty Law Center, Alliance Defending Freedom, Becket Fund, PETA, and the Institute for Justice.

Thankfully, last week, on the same day the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Arizona’s ban on ballot harvesting, the high court issued a landmark decision that struck down California’s demand that nonprofits disclose the private information of their donors.

This is an important win for people across the country who want to support organizations of their choice. But it particularly hits home here in Arizona. After all, for years now, Arizona’s former Attorney General Terry Goddard has been leading a campaign to “Stop Dark Money.” And you’re probably not surprised to learn that his campaign also supports HR1, a piece of piece of legislation that would be a disaster for our elections and the First Amendment.

Just like in California, Goddard’s effort has one clear purpose: to force organizations to disclose their donors. And who do you think they are planning to target once they gain access to this information?

Conservatives.

They want to dox them. They want to intimidate them into silence. And they want to harass anyone who doesn’t believe what they want them to believe or say what they want them to say.

That’s why the people of Arizona must put a stop to this. If Goddard gets his way, we’ll be dealing with Kamala Harris 2.0 right here in our state. But donors deserve privacy. And last week, the Supreme Court made that clear.  

Help Protect Freedom in Arizona by Joining Our Grassroots Network

Arizona needs to have a unified voice promoting economic freedom and prosperity, and the Free Enterprise Club is committed to making that happen. But we can’t do it alone. We need YOU!

Join our FREE Grassroots Action List to stay up to date on the latest battles against big government and how YOU can help influence crucial bills at the Arizona State Legislature.

Arizona Lawmakers Take Key Steps to Protect Our State from More COVID Overreach

Arizona Lawmakers Take Key Steps to Protect Our State from More COVID Overreach

They’re still trying to scare us. Apparently, some people in our country just don’t like seeing businesses reopen, people unmasked, and a return to normalcy. So, as the threat to COVID largely dwindles, it should come as no surprise that the media is now pushing a new threat: the Delta variant.

Of course, the messaging is predictable:

    • More contagious (CNN)
    • Exploded in the UK (CNBC)
    • Worst and scariest variant yet (MSNBC)

It will be interesting to see how state and local governments across the country respond to this so-called “latest threat.” As you’ll recall, it didn’t go so well the first time around with most seizing the opportunity to abuse emergency powers, even here in Arizona. And although Arizona’s COVID response puts it ahead of most other states in the country, there’s still work to be done.

Thankfully, our state lawmakers haven’t ignored the problem. And with various provisions in a series of Budget Reconciliation Bills, they have taken important steps to protect Arizona from more COVID mandates and government overreach.

  1. SB1819

    Vaccines should always be voluntary and never be forced. SB1819 addresses this fundamental freedom by including a provision that amends the ability of the state to require vaccination during a public health emergency to allow for an individual to refuse vaccination based on their personal beliefs.

  2. SB1824

    Getting back to normal shouldn’t involve vaccine passports or requirements. But that hasn’t stopped the left from pushing this ridiculous concept to go back to our schools, to go back to our offices, or to enjoy the freedoms we should already have access to as American citizens. SB1824 takes this head on.

    Section 12 states that vaccines with an emergency use authorization are not allowed to be required for in-person attendance at K-12 schools. Only after a vaccine has been prescribed by an Arizona Department of Health Services rule can it then be required for in-person attendance at K-12 schools.

    Section 3 requires that an employer provide reasonable accommodation to an employee whose religious beliefs prevent them from getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

    And section 13 prohibits the state and any city, town, or county from establishing a COVID vaccine passport, requiring a COVID vaccine, or requiring businesses to obtain proof of vaccination status from customers.

  3. SB1825

    Just like K-12 students, university students shouldn’t be required to get COVID vaccines. But Arizona State University (ASU) certainly tried. In June, Dr. Joanne Vogel, ASU’s Vice President of Student Services, announced that students who have not received a COVID vaccine would be subjected to daily health checks, testing twice a week, and mandatory face mask use.

    Governor Ducey responded swiftly, issuing an executive order that banned Arizona’s universities and community colleges from mandating students to show proof of their COVID vaccination status or be forced to wear masks to participate in learning.

    A provision in SB1825 codifies Governor Ducey’s executive order, prohibiting universities from requiring COVID vaccines for attendance and from placing any conditions on attendance or participation based on a lack of vaccination.

  4. HB2898

    Although they’ve been nothing but divisive and lack any data to back them up, the left LOVES mask mandates, especially in our schools. That’s what makes a provision in HB2898 particularly fun.

    Section 12 prohibits a city, town, county, school board, or charter school governing body from requiring students or teachers to wear masks. Additionally, it prohibits a school board or charter governing board from requiring COVID vaccines in order to participate in person. (Can you feel the teachers’ unions squirm?)

There’s no doubt that COVID was an issue that warranted some action. But it never should have included trampling on the rights of the people. As the corporate media ramps up its scare tactics with new COVID variants, we cannot make the same mistakes. The government cannot be allowed to overstep its bounds. Thankfully, Arizona’s lawmakers recognize that. And now they’ve taken steps in the right direction to prevent more COVID overreach.

Help Protect Freedom in Arizona by Joining Our Grassroots Network

Arizona needs to have a unified voice promoting economic freedom and prosperity, and the Free Enterprise Club is committed to making that happen. But we can’t do it alone. We need YOU!

Join our FREE Grassroots Action List to stay up to date on the latest battles against big government and how YOU can help influence crucial bills at the Arizona State Legislature.

It’s Time for Arizona to Join Other States in Banning Critical Race Theory

It’s Time for Arizona to Join Other States in Banning Critical Race Theory

The indoctrination needs to stop. And thankfully, many parents are fed up.

For quite some time, activists have been trying to force Critical Race Theory or similar programs into government and especially our schools. This movement combines Marxist theories of class conflict within the lens of race. It teaches that some races have been “minoritized” and are considered oppressed while those who are “racially privileged” are called “exploiters.”

These sorts of programs made their way into our public schools because proponents of Critical Race Theory are good at disguising it. They use terms like “social justice,” “diversity,” “inclusion,” and “equity” which seem harmless enough. So, you can see how easy it could be for a busy parent with a mountain of responsibilities to overlook such a curriculum.

But parents around the state of Arizona are starting to catch on. And they’re speaking up.

In 2019, Chandler Unified School District adopted a program called “Deep Equity” (note that keyword). Parents spoke out then, and the program was phased out.

Just a few months ago, Litchfield Elementary School District published an “equity statement” along with a set of “equity goals.” These “goals” were presented at a school board meeting by a “district diversity committee” because someone on the school board must have been using their Critical Race Theory dictionary. But parents and other community members voiced their opposition, and the district agreed to revise these “goals.”

And last month, parents in Scottsdale demanded more transparency from the Scottsdale Unified School District after some parents heard indoctrination from teachers while their kids were in school online at home.

It’s great that parents are speaking up. And they should continue to do so. But multiple states around the country have started to ban Critical Race Theory. And parents should demand that Arizona lawmakers do the same.

Idaho was the first to pass such a law, banning teachers from indoctrinating students with Critical Race Theory. Oklahoma came next when Governor Kevin Stitt signed HB1775 into law. Iowa (HF802), Tennessee (SB0623), Arkansas (SB627), and Texas (HB3979) have also followed suit by banning Critical Race Theory to some degree. (Although Arkansas’s ban is limited to state entities and not public schools.)

And more than a dozen other states have some form of legislation regarding Critical Race Theory pending. Now, it’s time for Arizona to get on board.

The Arizona Senate had passed SB1074 at the end of May. The bill would have prohibited state government entities, including cities and counties, from forcing employees to engage in orientation, training, or therapy that is based on a theory of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity, or gender.

But Governor Ducey vetoed the bill due to the budget stalemate. And while our lawmakers have been working on reforms, they haven’t passed anything that bans Critical Race Theory in our public schools.

That needs to change. Our children are being taught that, by virtue of their race, they are inherently racist whether consciously or unconsciously. They are being taught that their moral character is determined by their race. And they are being taught that by virtue of their race, they bear responsibility for past acts committed by members of the same race.

These are among the many bigoted teachings of Critical Race Theory. It is undoubtedly racist. Other states are doing something about it. And parents are speaking up. Now, Arizona’s lawmakers need to listen and act.

Say NO to Critical Race Theory

Critical Race Theory has no place anywhere in our nation, which was founded on the principle of equal dignity of every person as an individual. It has no place in Arizona, and it certainly does not belong anywhere near our students.

If you want to see Critical Race Theory banned in Arizona, sign the petition now!