Failing Charter Schools: Victims of Unfair Regulation or Blights on Public Education?

Twenty years ago, Arizona became the second state in the nation to allow charter schools to operate in the public education system. In honor of the anniversary, New Times is taking a hard look at charters in Arizona. Earlier stories in this series examined how charter schools often fail kids with special needs and serve a disproportionate number of kids from wealthy white families. Today: how to handle failing charter schools.

Pablo Iglesias
Jeffrey Blay Jr. isn't a typical child. He is socially awkward, obsessive-compulsive, and academically brilliant.

Jeffrey attended elementary school in a California suburb. He couldn't stay in his seat. He would walk around, straighten out books, and sharpen pencils as his teachers explained the day's lesson. Not all teachers understood how Jeffrey's mind worked, and sometimes he was punished for not following classroom rules.

At just under 5 feet tall, the 12-year-old has blond hair and blue eyes -- and a diagnosis of autism.

At the end of fifth grade, his parents, Jeffrey Sr. and Jana Blay, opted out of sending their son to a junior high school in California. Instead, they moved to Arizona, where they home-schooled Jeffrey for a year.

And then they stumbled upon a school that seemed as if it might finally meet their son's needs: Jefferson Academy of Advanced Learning in Show Low, a small community about a three-hour drive northeast of Phoenix.

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Diane Douglas Recall Campaign Gains Momentum

Gage Skidmore
Diane Douglas
A week after David Garcia conceded to Diane Douglas, a campaign to recall the state's new schools chief already is well under way.

The effort is led by Anthony Espinoza, a public school teacher, and Max Goshert, an aquatic safety instructor with the Red Cross. The two had discussed their concerns about Douglas before the election, and they were shocked when she won. So Espinoza started a Facebook page demanding a recall shortly after election night. It had a simple description: "Diane Douglas is not fit to lead as the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Arizona."

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David Garcia Finally Concedes to Diane Douglas in Schools Chief Race

Democrat David Garcia has conceded to Republican Diane Douglas.
Nearly a week after polls closed, Democrat David Garcia has finally conceded to Republican Diane Douglas in the race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Garcia spent the week holding tight for a final ballot count, but conceded late yesterday night.

The Associated Press declared Douglas the winner on Sunday. Though thousands of votes have yet to be counted, Douglas has been consistently ahead of Garcia since the polls closed last Tuesday. She currently holds a 1.15 point lead, representing nearly 17,000 votes.

"With the way the numbers have trended, we do not see a path to victory," Garcia said in a press release. "I'm conceding the race and congratulating Diane Douglas on her win."

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With All Precincts Reporting, David Garcia Still Waiting For Early Ballots To Be Counted in Schools Race

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia
Republican Diane Douglas has more votes, but Democrat David Garcia hopes he might still pull ahead.

With the full count from Tuesday's polls finally in, it looks clear: Republican Diane Douglas has more votes than Democrat David Garcia in the race for state Superintendent of Public Instruction. But Garcia's camp isn't ready to give up, holding onto hope that the early ballots dropped at polling places on Tuesday may allow him to make up the difference.

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Garcia Not Ready to Concede in State Superintendent Race

Ashley Cusick
David Garcia and his family at the Democrats' election night headquarters.

With almost 97 percent of precincts reporting, the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction remains tight, and neither camp is ready to give up.

Republican Diane Douglas currently has 51.08 percent of the votes, while Democrat David Garcia holds 48.79 percent.

That 2.29 point margin represents a difference of 25,632 votes, with Douglas outnumbering Garcia in early ballots and at the polls. Of the 1,566 precincts in the state, 49 have yet to report their results.

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Fountain Hills Teacher Claims She Was Fired for Defending Student Against Racist Bullying

Categories: Education, News

Ashley Cusick
Student Malacai Washington, Reverend Jarrett Maupin, fired teacher Pamela Aister, her attorney Benjamin Taylor, and their supporters at yesterday's press conference.

A Fountain Hills teacher is fighting back after she claims she was wrongfully terminated for defending a student against racist bullying.

Pamela Aister, a 70-year-old fourth-grade teacher, was fired this fall because of an incident that allegedly occurred at Four Peaks Elementary School in Fountain Hills in May. Aister had been with the Fountain Hills Unified School District for 25 years.

Aister claims she saw a verbal altercation in the yard that May morning between five boys and Malacai Washington, an African-American student in her homeroom class and one of only three black students in the school.

At a press conference held yesterday outside the state capitol, Aister said Washington began school in another fourth-grade homeroom but was moved to her class in part because of conflict with other students.

Aister said she approached the boys that May morning and said, "He's in my room now. He's not alone anymore. If you're picking on him, you're picking on me."

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David Garcia Endorsed by Three Former AZ Schools Chiefs in Bid for State Superintendent

Three former schools chiefs--including a Republican--have endorsed Democrat David Garcia in his bid for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

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Race for Schools Chief: Huppenthal and Thomas Out, Garcia and Douglas In

Ashley Cusick
Huppenthal and family at last night's Republican primaries gathering.
After a spring marred by his controversial blog posts and accusations of racism, State Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal lost his bid for reelection in last night's Republican primary.

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Douglas Defeats Huppenthal in Republican Primary; Garcia Is Democrats' Nominee

Ashley Cusick
John Huppenthal and family at tonight's Republican primary results event.
Incumbent State Superintendent of Public Education John Huppenthal lost his bid for reelection in tonight's Republican primary.

With almost 70 percent of precincts reporting, results show Huppenthal with about 41 percent of the vote and opponent Diane Douglas with about 57 percent.

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Huppenthal Asks Feds to Pay for Education of Unaccompanied Minors Bused to Arizona

Ashley Cusick
John Huppenthal at yesterday's press conference.
Arizona schools chief John Huppenthal is asking the federal government to pay the costs associated with educating unaccompanied immigrant minors here in what Latino activists say is brazen political posturing.

At a press conference, Huppenthal released a letter he penned to Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, asking for the funding.

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