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Arizona education-related bills have school administrators worried

There are several education-related bills moving through the Arizona Legislature. Some of these measures have school administrators worried about the consequences. 

Mark Jorannstad is the executive director of the Arizona School Administrators. He says the Legislature has set an adversarial tone.

"To be honest, a little more openly hostile toward public education than in the past," he said. "And there's been more expressions of really, overt, hostility. And we did not hear that as much in the past. So that's been a little discouraging, considering that there's been valiant efforts by public educators this year to keep our schools open, despite the challenges of the pandemic and the polarizing environment that surrounds every decision that's being made by governing boards and administrators."

One so-called "expression" could be House Bill 2808. This measure, which worries Jorannstad, would close schools with D and F ratings.

"Some people call it a school turnaround bill, we really call it a school takeover bill," he says.

It would primarily impact schools in communities of color, according to Joranndstad, who adds this isn’t a new idea.

"Tennessee spent over a billion dollars over a 10-year period using a similar model," he says. "And they saw really unchanged outcomes for students in schools. And they're now returning those schools to districts, and they're ending this what we call a failed experiment."

Another bill concerning Jorannstad would require teachers to post their entire curriculum online.  

"We're not opposed necessarily to this idea of transparency," he explains. "But to post all the curriculum materials online, in advance, in a searchable way,  including lesson plans, supplemental materials, any materials that a teacher might use, any website a student might visit — and to have all this online in advance is a very heavy burden on teachers."

Overall, he says, the "plethora of bills that cause concern far outweigh the ones that we've been happy with."

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Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.