Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Allegations of illegal practices in Arizona charter schools must be investigated

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today Senate Democratic leadership delivered letters to the state Attorney General and the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools requesting they review the American Civil Liberties Union report "Schools Choosing Students" to determine if violations of state law occurred. The report includes allegations of widespread practices that violate statutory requirements compelling charter schools to enroll "all eligible pupils who submit a timely application." (ARS §15-184 (A))

Among the findings in the report are:
  • Illegal caps on special education student enrollment
  • Disqualification of students based on their level of academic achievement
  • Requiring "probationary periods" before finalizing enrollment, and later "counseling out" or withdrawing students that do not successfully complete the probation period
  • Disqualification of students based on behavioral issues that fell short of expulsion at their previous school
  • Charging fees for essential course materials, without giving parents a waiver option
  • Failure to provide enrollment and admission information in the language spoken by the parents and students – violating the federal Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974.

In the letters, Senate Democratic leadership stated, "It is essential that access to all public schools, including charter schools, be maintained in accordance with relevant Arizona statutes. As stewards of taxpayer dollars, we feel a thorough investigation and, if necessary, prosecution will reassure Arizonans and restore trust that the charter schools funded with their tax dollars maintain compliance with the law and welcome any child who wants to learn."

Thursday, December 14, 2017

New Senate sexual harassment policy fails to protect gender identity

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – The Senate just completed a bipartisan process of updating its sexual harassment policy and is in the process of training staff and members on the new policy.

"We appreciate that action was taken quickly and collaboratively to update the Senate's sexual harassment policy. Throughout the process everyone's ideas and concerns were taken into consideration and we feel we have produced a policy that makes a good effort to protect members and staff," said Senate Democratic Leader Katie Hobbs.

"However, we also feel it does not go far enough. Despite our insistence, majority leadership refused to allow the inclusion of gender identity in the list of protected classes. Many Arizonans identify as a gender different than their sex assigned at birth and they should have the same right as their peers to enjoy a work environment that is free from harassment. There should not be a reason for anyone to feel unwelcome at the Senate."

The new Senate Workplace and Sexual Harassment Policy can be downloaded here.