After the moderator introduced the candidates, each candidate did the standard boilerplate opening statement. What else can one do in 1 minute?  The candidates were Diane Douglas, incumbent, Frank Riggs, Dr. Robert Branch, Tracy Livingston and Jonathan Gelbart.

Dougless claims Common Core is gone. Others disagreed including the teachers on the panel: Tracy Livingston and Robert Branch. The AZMERIT test is still in place. We have been told that the wretched math is gone.  It's a start.  Branch questioned Douglas why, if common core is gone, is the dreadful AZMERIT test still being used when 50% of the students cannot pass it. Gelbart claims there is a lot of turnover among teachers due to the existing system. Douglas said she and her team stopped the “hidden knowledge” and put in checks and balances to be more transparent. Gelbart wants to make it easier for schools to be successful. Well, who is not for that?

Riggs attacked the problem of the large number of kids from low income families who are already behind developmentally before they start to school. That is certainly a huge problem requiring remedial teaching time in an already squeezed school day.  We didn't hear a clear solution from him.

Branch teaches teachers, is the educator of the educators. He focused on keeping good quality teachers but there are currently over 2000 openings that need to be filled. Unfunded mandates are keeping teachers from being able to teach. He's sure right about that.

Livingston believes the funds need to be re-managed. She said about 53% of the funding is going into the classroom. Where is the rest going? Good question and one we all have, since they are tax dollars.

Douglas said they spend too much on testing but training our teachers to be good teachers is needed. Branch said too many teachers have to teach to the test instead of just teaching curriculum.

Is education in Arizona funded the way it needs to be funded? Gelbart believes huge school campuses are inefficient and too expensive. He favors single cell buildings. His forte is school management. It's true that huge campuses require a large amount of education funding to maintain. That does nothing to teach kids.

Branch brought up the absence in this panel to discuss student outcomes. How are we going to get our students from 47thto 30th to 20th in the rankings, he asked. Teaching to the test 25% of the time, 30-1 ratio in the classroom because of lack of teachers makes it difficult to actually teach. Gelbart agreed that the focus of this race should be on student outcomes.

Douglas thinks we need to create an education funding program. She cited Prop 300 and Prop 123, both of which were supposed to go to the classroom, but didn't. She also pointed out that charter schools run by different rules than standard public schools. She likes charter schools because she supports school choice.

Livingston picked up on that saying each school type wants the benefits that other schools get. In fact, schools are different for many reasons and equity is difficult to obtain.

About Red4Ed, Riggs and Branch were against it because they both understand that it was about anything but education or salary increases. Branch actually went to the Capital during this march and saw it up close. Douglas rightly said that many teachers were against the march, as she was. The teachers abandoned their students for a political march. Gelbart said the walk out was a bad idea. That is an understatement. He doesn't think there is any way to punish those who participated in the walk out. Livingston was sympathic with the teachers in the walk out. She, as a teacher, feels their pain. However, she did not support this method, leaving their students, to make their point.

The moderator mentioned that one problem voters have with Douglas is that she doesn't use her pulpit. Douglas disagreed saying she uses her bully pulpit all the time. All other candidates vehemently disagreed. We agree with them. We see her only when she is imbroiled in controversy. She excused her refusal to meet with teachers and others on “hostile” topics. This is where people skills come in and she does seem to lack those skills in some measure.

Riggs brought up that he is endorsed by the Mommy Lobby. He is. We question that is the best decision of the Mommy Lobby considering that these same folks supported Douglas last election. A more thoughtful decission after they were able to study the other candidates would be more suitable for such a group to follow before endorsing anyone.  They might still settle on Riggs, but with more information.

Every single candidate is the only one who.... fill in the blank. This must be the most important point since each of them pointed out where they were the only one who....

Riggs said the dollars should follow the student. Yes, that seems obvious. But it doesn't happen. Every candidate would do well to take up that cause. It could be a solution to underperforming schools and students. These two, student and funding, seem always to go together but it stands to reason that low income kids can excel in education given the right environment. This is where school choice can make a huge difference in the life of the student and perhaps, the schools.

Douglas mentioned that evolution should be taught at all its various levels surrounding "evolution," but also include intelligent design so that students have an education in most theories. Branch was OK with intelligent design being taught along with evolution. Livingston disagreed about these concepts being taught at this level. Riggs thinks it should be that students must learn that our country's founders absolutely believed in a higher power. That makes the case for teaching intelligent design.

All of this was followed by the usual closing statements. Some call is a replication of liars poker.  We will continue to watch this race as we believe it is one of the most important races this year - the year of the democrat grab.

All in all, all candidates appear to be fairly qualified. It's hard to decide until after the election and we are stuck with the winner.  The differences are in vision and nuance of application.  Gelbart looks like a kid and he was very clinical. Livingston seems a bit too steeped in education as always, a bit too fundamental. Branch is the warmest and most personable of the candidates. He also has experience in designing curriculum that we have not heard any others speak about. It's all about curriculum! Riggs was very confident but we question whether he has the people skills needed to do this job. He focused on his credentials rather than what his vision is. Douglas was too defensive but then, as the incumbent, she's the one on the hot seat.  We want someone who is a creative thinker.  Doing the same thing as we have always done will get what we have always gotten.

The choice is up to you, the voters.

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Replies to This Discussion

I watched the "debate" last night and can't find any inaccuracies in this report.  I had pretty much the same feeling about the candidates.  I don't like it when a candidate spends my time attacking others instead of just giving us their perspective.   I do want them to correct the record.  I think Livingston erred badly when she made it about attacking Douglas more than what she stands for and wants to do.  We are smart enough to cut through the clutter and find the facts.  If I were king, and I am working on that, I would elect Branch. He was the only one who didn't seem self-serving but Gelbart will probably be  a player when he grows up.  "Clinical" was a very good word to describe him.  He might develop some passion later.

Claire:  anyone who gets into politics better be able to withstand attacks and criticism.  It's part of the game.  We do appreciate when a candidate or group defends on the facts to set the record straight.  Unfortunately, most candidates are just defensive when facts are presented.  We are being attacked now by the head of the Mommy Lobby, saying our report was "slanted" and they didn't like the fact that we suggested it would be better to vet all candidates before endorsing, even if it resulted in the same position they started with.  We gave Mr. Riggs a forum a few days ago to rebut our view of his candidacy in our article, Statewide and Federal Election Field as We See it.  We do not intend to be the mouthpiece for every candidate or group who disagrees with our position.  Good luck with your campaign.

You report inaccurate information and it is slanted if you say we did not "thoughtfully investigate " other candidates before supporting Frank Riggs. I stand true to the comments I sent you.

Uh oh, I smell guilty conscience.  I reread the comment on ML and it never said "thoughtfully investigate" other candidates.  More fake news.  Very testy reply.  I agree, anyone who goes out on a limb to endorse should vet all candidates to be credible.  This was a very fair report because I can't tell from it who AFA prefers.  get a grip, Jennifer.  Riggs might be a great person but he ran an abysmal campaign for governor. Now he's running for SPI. Beginning to look like a professional candidate.

Jennifer:  We wanted to be accurate in our reporting so we tried to contact the other candidates except Diane, who we know you would not need to vet.  We heard from only one, Dr. Branch.  Others told us that Tracy Livingston rarely responds.  Here is what we were told which comports with emails you send us regularly:  No one from Mommy Lobby ever contacted him to do a vetting review. He spoke to you briefly at an event where you told him you were supporting Riggs.  That was in November, 2017.  The field was not set at that time.  Neither Livingston nor Gelbart had entered the race and even Douglas had not yet filed.  That is not unusual as the deadline was months away.  Most candidates are filed by the end of February.  We routinely get notices from the AZSOS office of campaign filings as they happen.  Emails from you/Mommy Lobby/AZ School Choice revealed that you were supporting Riggs from well before Gelbart, the last to file we think, got into the race.  I hope this clarifies this report and shows we were not slanted nor inaccurate in our report.

Once again, AFA comes through with a very fair write up about the debate.  I caught some of it and I see no bias whatsoever here.  I don't know what Jennifer Reynolds has her shorts in a knot about.  AFA complemented Riggs where deserved. She is not fair for misquoting AFA's article.  Shows no good deed goes unpunished!  Begs the question: why would I believe an endorsement made without reviewing all of the candidates.  Endorsements are supposed to mean something but no one can honestly endorse without that review.  "Support" yes, endorse, no.

Direct quote for you: "We question that is the best decision of the Mommy Lobby considering that these same folks supported Douglas last election. A more thoughtful decission after they were able to study the other candidates would be more suitable for such a group to follow before endorsing anyone. They might still settle on Riggs, but with more information."

AFA hasn't had any conversations with Mommy Lobby on why we chose Frank Riggs or our process in doing so. I tried to educate them, and their readers, on that today but they refused to post it. I'm just trying to provide their readers with the facts not assumptions or opinions. We have reviewed the candidates individually and all have come up with the same conclusion on why we support Frank Riggs.

OMG, looks like we have a classic food fight here.  I emailed to AFA about why they wouldn't post your message. They told me it's 1000 words long and that it is under review.  They said they respect you and frequently post your original articles.  That sure doesn't sound like they refused to publish it.  Your comments are unfortunate and petty. There was next to nothing critical to write 1000 words about in their article.  I can't imagine how long 1000 words could be.  Looooonnnnngggg, I bet.  You did a pretty good job dissing AFA in your short 2 paragraphs.  Be mature, call it a draw.

Sorry Jennifer. That is NOT my quote.  You appear rabid about something.  Learn to take a little constructive suggestions.  There is nothing here to have such an uproar about.  Breathe.  You will feel better.

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