Defunding the Police Would Be a Disaster for the City of Phoenix

Defunding the Police Would Be a Disaster for the City of Phoenix

Be careful what you wish for. Maybe it’s time for someone to tell that to Mayor Gallego and several other members of the Phoenix City Council.

In case you missed it, last week the council approved a civilian “oversight” office of the police in a 5-4 vote. The Office of Accountability and Transparency, which Mayor Gallego referred to as a “national best practice,” will cost taxpayers nearly $4 million.

In reality, this new office has nothing to do with “accountability” or “transparency.” If it did, then Mayor Gallego and other members of the far left would be honest that this office is nothing more than a politicized endeavor designed to undermine the police. And ultimately, they want to use it to help build momentum toward what the far left really wants: imposing progressive policies in the police department and defunding the police.

But maybe Mayor Gallego ought to check her definition of “national best practice.” Because around the country, efforts to defund the police haven’t exactly gone so well.

Cities at the forefront of the “defund the police” movement, have seen dramatic increases in crime rates and mass departures of police officers. Even CNN can’t help but acknowledge it!

Take Seattle for example. You may remember this major American city being referred to as CHAZ or CHOP during the Black Lives Matter riots last summer. Under pressure to cut police spending, the Seattle City Council redistributed nearly 20% of its police budget this past November. And what was the result? A dramatic increase in homicides and shootings so far in 2021. And this comes after a similar increase in 2020!

Maybe things are looking better in New York City, which cut $1 billion from the NYPD’s budget last June. Nope. Crime in the Big Apple is up more than 30% with shootings up 166% over last year.

But surely the outlook must be brighter in Minneapolis, which was at the center of the “defund the police” movement after George Floyd’s death. Wrong again. After cutting $8 million from the Minneapolis Police Department, the city is now bringing in outside help to address the rise in violence.

Yes. You read that right. The City of Minneapolis has asked for help from state and federal agencies, and cited its “shortage of officers.” (You can’t make this stuff up.)

Thankfully, some of these cities are starting to see the light with elected leaders in Minneapolis, New York City, and even Los Angeles seeking to increase funding to their police departments.

And yet, the push to defund the police in Phoenix remains, with just a slim majority in the city council against it.

But the Phoenix City Council better make sure to do its research before it tries to launch any more destructive anti-police programs. “Defunding the police” may have been the trend in 2020, but so far in 2021, it’s been nothing but a disaster. If Mayor Gallego and the other council members really care about their citizens, they should make reducing crime their new “best practice.” And that starts with properly funding Phoenix’s police department.

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“The best social program is a job” — It’s Time to Stop Incentivizing Unemployment

“The best social program is a job” — It’s Time to Stop Incentivizing Unemployment

If given the option between working full time or doing nothing but receiving the same or greater pay, which would you choose? Most people would choose the latter. And can you blame them? Why wake up early and work all day if the government will pay you to stay home and do nothing instead?

This is the current workforce environment in America, and it is having a detrimental impact on our economic recovery. The result? While the Biden administration was hoping to tout a million new jobs for the month of April, they ended with a paltry 266,000.

And we have seen this lag in job recovery all across the country. Restaurants have posted signs apologizing to customers for delays in service, noting that their employees refuse to come back to work. And some businesses have started offering cash simply for coming in for an interview.

Never let a crisis go to waste, right? Under the guise of a global pandemic, politicians shut down the economy, and then created a citizenry dependent on unemployment checks exceeding the wish list $15 minimum wage pushed by the likes of Bernie Sanders. How is a business, coming out of potentially months with no profit, supposed to compete with that?

It is completely unsustainable. States can’t afford it. The feds can’t afford it. And most importantly, small businesses can’t shoulder it any longer.

Fortunately, some states have moved in the right direction. South Carolina announced they will be ending the $300 federal unemployment supplemental payments. This comes after Montana announced the same, along with $1,200 stipends to Montanans who return to work.

Even better, South Dakota was one of the only states that entirely opted out of many federal unemployment benefits from the get-go and has now announced that they too will be ending the $300 supplemental checks.

In Arizona, Governor Ducey has joined in with these other states, announcing that he will end the federal $300 supplemental payments in July. Additionally, the Governor announced he will be using $300 million in federal covid cash for $2,000 return-to-work bonuses.

The move by Governor Ducey and other states around the country showcase that these expanded unemployment benefits have disincentivized work and put small business on the hook to foot the bill.

Yet contrary to this overwhelming evidence, some Republican lawmakers are still looking to permanently expand benefits. Why they would be wanting to double down on Biden’s failed economic policies make zero sense.

Arizona should be encouraging a return to work, not having taxpayers’ foot the bill to incentivize unemployment. Just as Governor Ducey quoted Ronald Reagan in his announcement “the best social program is a job.” We are no longer in the pandemic. We are back open, and any move on unemployment must be consistent with that.

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Instead of Following Science, the CDC Listens to…a Teachers’ Union

Instead of Following Science, the CDC Listens to…a Teachers’ Union

This was all supposed to be based on “science.” Or so claimed groups like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for over a year now. It was the rationale for the draconian lockdowns. It was the reasoning behind the overreaching mask mandates. And whenever the topic of schools reopening arose, we were told that students couldn’t return to in-person learning yet because “science.”

Then, on February 12, President Biden issued a statement declaring that opening most K-8 schools by the end of his first 100 days was a national imperative. That sounds good enough, but this announcement came with a catch. President Biden said that this could “only be achieved if Congress provides states and communities with the resources they need to get it done safely through the American Rescue Plan.”

But the president didn’t stop at shamelessly pushing his disastrous $1.9 trillion “COVID relief bill” that’s jam-packed with far-left policies unrelated to the pandemic. He went on to praise the CDC as providing “the best available scientific evidence on how to reopen schools safely.”

Certainly, you would hope that the national public health agency of the United States would follow science when forming such a plan. But instead, the CDC allowed itself to be manipulated by one of the most powerful teachers’ unions in the country: the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

So much for following the science…

Emails acquired after a Freedom of Information Act request by Americans for Public Trust show that:

    • The CDC implemented at least two suggested changes from the AFT nearly word for word in its final Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools.
    • AFT Senior Director for Health Issues Kelly Trautner shared her gratitude at the union acting as the CDC’s “true thought partner.”
    • The Biden administration’s knowledge of all of this in the days before the president’s announcement in February.

Clearly the AFT is using its political clout to write CDC guidelines on schools reopening. But it gets worse.

AFT President Randi Weingarten and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky made concerted efforts to hide their cooperation from the public. And in 2020, the AFT began lobbying for specific bills that would dramatically increase the budget, reach, and power of the CDC.

Yesterday, top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to Dr. Walensky demanding answers. But she has yet to respond. Meanwhile, AFT President Weingarten posted a desperate and ridiculous series of tweets attempting to rationalize the union’s behavior as “routine.”

But since when is it routine for the CDC to copy and paste nearly verbatim guidance from a teachers’ union? If this is a common practice, then everyone at the CDC should be fired immediately.

The fact is that many students haven’t been missing out on just in-person learning. They’ve been missing out on learning altogether—with one report estimating up to 3 million students across the country who haven’t experienced any formal education since March 2020.

You would think that an “American Federation of Teachers” would care about these students and their parents. But the AFT doesn’t. It only cares about protecting its own interests. And the only science the CDC is interested in…is political.

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Is Critical Race Theory Coming to a Public School Near You?

Is Critical Race Theory Coming to a Public School Near You?

They’re at it again. You would think that public school districts would learn their lesson at some point. After all, many of them turned their backs on students and parents in the wake of COVID-19. And now, those school districts are paying the price.

But apparently, they’re too committed to their agenda.

Some school districts are ignoring the science and keeping their beloved mask mandates. Some would rather keep parents in the dark about classroom curriculum. While others are trying to adopt Marxist Critical Race Theory programs in their schools. 

The latest culprit is Litchfield Elementary School District, where the school board recently published an “equity statement” along with a set of “equity goals.” The goals were presented at the school board meeting in March and crafted by, you guessed it, a “district diversity committee.”

If you’re unfamiliar with Critical Race Theory, it’s a movement that combines Marxist theories of class conflict within the lens of race. And it teaches that racism is present in every interaction. Races that have been “minoritized” are considered oppressed while those who are “racially privileged” are called “exploiters.” Proponents of the movement are good at disguising it. As Christopher Rufo from the Manhattan Institute points out, you’ll often find Critical Race Theory is present when you hear terms like “social justice,” “diversity,” “inclusion,” and “equity.”

Sound familiar?

Litchfield’s Superintendent Jodi Gunning claims that her school district is not adopting Critical Race Theory, but just read the first sentence of her letter to all district families:

I’m writing to update you about Litchfield Elementary School District’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work…

All the evidence is there. Thankfully, parents and other taxpayers are starting to raise their voices, causing one Litchfield board member to respond to criticism of the district’s “equity statement” inappropriately.

Sadly, this is nothing new. Activists have been trying to force Critical Race Theory or similar programs into our schools for quite some time. In fact, back in 2019, Chandler Unified School District adopted a program called “Deep Equity” (there’s that word again) at nearly half a million dollars! (It’s amazing the moments when capitalism becomes acceptable.) Parents spoke out back then, and the program was soon phased out.

But that doesn’t mean liberal educators and other members of the left won’t try again. That’s why we must remain vigilant. One way to do so is by appealing to state lawmakers. Arizona should look to follow the lead of states like Texas, where a ban on Critical Race Theory recently passed out of committee in the House, and Idaho, where a bill to ban it was just sent to the governor.

But legislative work alone can’t be enough. It is critical in the world we live in today for parents to stay informed, talk to their children, and speak up when this sort of curriculum tries to sneak its way into classrooms. There is strength in numbers. And that’s where taxpayers come in. Even if you don’t have children in public schools, you must let your voice be heard. You should have a say regarding where your hard-earned money goes. And a half-million-dollar “equity program” is probably not what you had in mind.

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Getting Back to Normal Shouldn’t Require Vaccine Passports

Getting Back to Normal Shouldn’t Require Vaccine Passports

Vaccines should always be voluntary and never be forced. But COVID-19 came in like a wrecking ball last year, and perhaps its most significant contribution to the world has been an overwhelming growth in government overreach.

From the abuse of emergency orders to the senseless “mask mandates,” some government officials have leapt at the chance to dangle the carrot of “normalcy” in the faces of their citizens in order to take away more of their freedoms. Unfortunately, many have taken the bait. And now, we find ourselves at a crossroads.

The latest promise to return to normal comes in the form of “vaccine passports.” This ridiculous concept would serve as “proof” that a person has been vaccinated so he or she can have access to all the freedoms they should already be able to enjoy as an American citizen. As you would expect, Big Tech is first in line to team up with the government on such an initiative. And New York has already implemented the “Excelsior Pass” so that its citizens can “be a part of [the state’s] safe reopening.” (Given Governor Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic, what could go wrong?)

But nothing about this is normal.

It’s not normal for companies to collect the private health data of individuals. And it’s certainly not normal to force American citizens to submit to certain medical procedures as the price of doing business.

Thankfully, some of our lawmakers here in Arizona have not fallen asleep on this issue. Earlier this month, Congressman Andy Biggs introduced his No Vaccines Passports Act. This piece of legislation would prevent federal agencies from issuing any standardized documentation that could be used to certify a U.S. citizen’s COVID-19 status to a third party, such as a restaurant or an airline.

And just a few days ago, Arizona became the sixth state to ban COVID-19 passports when Governor Ducey signed Executive Order 2021-09. This prevents state agencies, counties, cities, and towns from issuing measures that require an individual to provide documentation of their COVID-19 vaccination status in to order to enter a business, building, or area to receive a government service, permit, or license. It also prevents businesses that contract with the state to provide services to the public from requiring documentation.

While this is certainly a step in the right direction, Governor Ducey’s executive order still allows for businesses, schools, and health providers to ask about an individual’s vaccine status.

That’s why lawmakers should consider additional action on this issue. One option being considered is HB2190. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Bret Roberts (R-LD11) and Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-LD16), would prohibit a company that conducts business in Arizona from refusing to provide everyday services, transportation, or admission because a person does not divulge whether they have received a particular vaccine. It would also prohibit a state, county, or local government entity from offering anyone a special privilege or incentive to receive a vaccine.

Currently, HB2190 is awaiting action in the senate, and negotiations are underway on potential amendments to the bill. Regardless of what those amendments are, Arizona lawmakers need to work toward stopping vaccine passports. They are a serious threat to our civil liberties. And while we all want to return to normal, we must remember that “normal” shouldn’t come with a price tag.

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School Districts That Turned Their Backs on Parents and Students Are Now Paying the Price

School Districts That Turned Their Backs on Parents and Students Are Now Paying the Price

Somehow, they didn’t see it coming. Last week, Gilbert Public Schools, one of the largest school districts in Arizona, notified 152 certified staff members that they would be without jobs for the 2021-2022 school year. And the announcement sent shockwaves throughout Arizona’s public school districts.

But why?

Parents certainly tried to warn them. They pleaded with their school districts to find safe ways to offer in-person learning. And they threatened to leave for charter schools, private schools, or homeschool if they didn’t.

But the teachers’ unions didn’t want to listen. Instead they threatened to strike if schools reopened this past fall. And many staged “sick outs” in a sorry attempt to force students to remain online. All of this despite the fact that multiple schools throughout our state had returned to in-person learning safely.

Now, Gilbert Public Schools (with others likely to follow) is learning a lesson the hard way. Parents don’t like it when schools turn their backs on them—and their children. So, they voted with their feet. And enrollment in public schools plummeted.

Gilbert saw approximately 3,900 fewer students than projected. Peoria Unified School District reported a drop in enrollment of over 2,000 students compared to last year. And a recent report from the Arizona Department of Education indicated that enrollment in public schools across the state is down around 6% while charter schools have seen an increase of 9%.

Perhaps the teachers’ unions should take an economics class. Fewer students mean fewer dollars. And few dollars mean fewer teachers.

Of course, the Democrats can’t accept this simple principle. Instead of focusing on how to serve students and parents better to boost enrollment, you’ll never guess their proposed solution. Ok. You probably did. They want to dump more money into public schools. That’s right. State representatives like Kelli Butler (D-LD28) actually think rainy day funds will solve the problem until students magically return to public schools.

But what the Democrats fail to realize is that COVID-19 enhanced the importance of school choice while providing an opportunity to revolutionize education. And parents haven’t been content to sit around and allow themselves to be held hostage by the public schools. Some went so far as to create their own solutions, including new ideas like microschools and pandemic pods.

That’s why right now is the perfect time to have a real discussion about school funding. Instead of pumping money into schools and school districts that protect their own interests first, Arizona should look to fund students instead of systems. And the state could start by expanding Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) program. This would allow parents to use their tax dollars for alternative learning solutions, giving families access to the funds needed to tailor an education that best fits their children. And it would do so at a fraction of the cost.

It’s time for Arizona to take the power away from the teachers’ unions and put it in the hands of parents and students. They deserve the best education possible education and the funding to make it happen.

Let’s give our students a solution that’s centered on them. Because if this past year has taught us anything, it’s that they are really the ones who are paying the price.