AZ Rep. Grijalva holds roundtable in Tucson to work to preserve public education

Published: Feb. 20, 2017 at 7:44 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 20, 2017 at 11:29 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Arizona Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva held an education roundtable in Tucson on Monday, Feb. 20, the first of seven roundtables on several topics this week.

They include immigration and civil liberties, the environment, and trade and commerce.

Grijalva said the roundtables will lead to a much larger gathering, a town hall, where the topics will be discussed.

He said the goal is to create the actions necessary to achieve participants' goals.

One of the goals expressed during the education roundtable is to successfully fight against the privatization of the public school system.

Grijalva said that's President Trump's goal, as well as the goal of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

DeVos backs charter schools and voucher programs.

"The threat, both at the state level and at the national level is the privatization of public education. The voucher program that Secretary DeVos is going to push, the $20 billion redirected from public education to private, for-profit schools--all that is going to be on the table in the next month-and-a-half," Grijalva said.

There also are renewed efforts to expand Arizona's school voucher program.

Voucher advocates have said parents need to have more choice in where to send their children to school.

Grijalva said parents who wish to send their children to private and parochial schools have every right to do so, however, "If I'd of chosen to send my kids to parochial schools, I have every right to do that. What I don't have the right to is to expect other taxpayers that are in the public school system to pay for that."

"The big deal with charter schools, as I believe, is accountability and transparency, that they should play by the same rules that a school board does. They should be open and public. Their records should be transparent. Their finances should be known," Grijalva said.
One roundtable participant said the vast majority of a Arizona schoolchildren attend public school, and using vouchers to pay for private and parochial education steals from them.

"This is an opportunity for us to really stop this horrible attack and dismantling of public education and I think that with the town hall, with action, we can do it. This might be our last opportunity," Voices for Education Executive Director Robin Hiller told the roundtable participants.

"Right now between 80 and 85 percent of the kids in Arizona attend public schools. If we want a strong economy in Arizona, if we want an educated workforce, if we want people to be good citizens, invest the money where the kids are," Hiller told Tucson News Now.

Public Education Advocate Linda Lyon said, "I, as a taxpayer, say I want to know where my tax dollars are going and what's the return on investment. And with vouchers, you don't know any of that because the private schools are not required to report any financial data or any testing data."

Grijalva said the vast majority of Americans favor public schools, and they can put pressure on elected officials to preserve the system.

Grijalva's immigration roundtable will be held later this week but among the participants at the education discussion was a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient.

Gloria Valadez was brought to the United States as a child and currently is protected from deportation under DACA. She's also a student at Pima Community College.

She told the gathering how important education is to her and the nation so she can support herself and contribute to the economy.

We asked Valadez whether all of that has fallen into the background since the Trump administration could end DACA at any time.

Valadez said education continues to be a priority, however, "One of my concerns would be that we're going to be the priority for deportation. One of the my concerns is that we won't be able to have that employment that helps provide for our families."

"Along the lines of everything going on, it's just uneasy because we don't know what tomorrow might bring or next hour, that there might be a special announcement and things might completely change for us. So definitely a little bit worried, but we have to keep on going."

The congressman said, once all the roundtables are complete, he hopes to have the town hall in March.

Copyright 2017 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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