Sen. Sylvia Allen, head of the senate education committee, said she decided to run again to prevent children from being indoctrinated by liberals who want to push sex education, advocacy for a gay lifestyle and “social justice” classes in schools.
“They want to turn kids into social justice warriors” who demonstrate against racism and in favor of gay rights, Sen. Allen told the Payson Tea Party recently. “They look at everything through a racist lens.”
She said schools should focus on academics and leave topics like sex education, gender differences, homosexuality, politics and social justice to parents. Arizona should focus on getting its reading scores up while continuing to support and expand options for parents, like charter schools, home school and support for tuition at private and religious schools.
“We’re in this philosophical battle about education in this state,” she said. “Instead of everyone responsible for one another, we’re dividing into groups. It’s very alarming. Parents just want a good, strong, traditional education. They don’t want to see their children socially engineered – and that is my mission.”
She said she’d changed her mind about running again after parents appealed to her to continue to battle for school choice and the empowerment of parents. The former owner of a charter school, Sen. Allen has consistently advocated for charter schools, which are funded by tax money but exempt from most of the regulations of traditional public schools.
“I’m here to fight the leftist philosophy coming out of the Superintendent of Education’s office.” Democrat Kathy Hoffman won election last year.
She said philosophy poses a much bigger problem for Arizona’s schools than funding. Although the state remains near the bottom on per-student funding, teacher salaries and class sizes, she said funding has improved in recent years.
She also vowed to try again this year to get onto the ballot a measure that would extend the current sales tax earmarked for education, after shifting some of the money to get more funding into the classroom. She said one big reason she supports that measure is to head off other proposals to pump a lot more new money into education through increases in the sales or income tax.
Sen. Allen’s decision caused controversy in the Republican primary, since it now pits her against Rep. Bob Thorpe (R-Flagstaff). He was termed out of his District 6 House seat and decided to run for Senate, after Allen decided not to seek another term. But her change of heart has now created a vigorous Republican primary. Businesswoman Wendy Rogers — who has also run for Congress — is also seeking the Republican nomination.
On the Democratic side, retired Army Col. and medivac helicopter pilot Felicia French is running for the seat. Two years ago, she narrowly lost to Thorpe in a battle for the house seat in the district that stretches from the Grand Canyon to Alpine.
Two dust-ups this year apparently played a role Sen. Allen’s decision to seek another term and hold onto the chairmanship of the Senate Education Committee.
In one case, a lawsuit prompted the legislature to abruptly repeal a 1970s law that barred teachers from advocating “a homosexual lifestyle.” The law was vague about what constituted advocacy, which prompted most teachers to avoid the topic like the plague. Gay rights advocates, gay students, many Democrats and teachers argued the fear of even mentioning the subject left many students vulnerable to bullying, with nowhere to turn.
In another case, the Arizona Board of Education briefly considered making changes in the state’s regulations concerning sex education. The current law makes sex education optional, so most schools don’t teach it. Any school that does teach sex education has to stress abstinence as the only sure way to avoid pregnancy. The state policy doesn’t require information to be medically accurate, but does require written permission from parents for students to attend the classes, which are strictly limited. Any district offering the classes has to hold hearings on what to include and establish an advisory committee. Any instruction must stress not only abstinence but sexually transmitted disease, the financial burden of parenting, self-discipline, self-control and a sense of ethics.
The board of education backed off any change in the rules after a stormy hearing.
Arizona’s 2017 teen birthrate was 30 per 1,000 girls, about 20 percent higher than the national average. Gila County’s teen birthrate was a whopping 55 per 1,000 — more than twice the national average. The Apache County teen birth rate was 42 and the Navajo County teen birthrate was 49.
Fortunately, the teen birthrate has been falling steadily. The U.S. rate was about 38 per 1,000 in 2006 and the Arizona rate was about 63 per 1,000.
Research suggests sex education classes — especially abstinence-only classes — don’t have much impact on sexual activity among teens — although they may delay the onset of sex.
Sen. Allen said she decided to run again because children need “education, not indoctrination.”
She said schools should teach respect for all students and remain vigilant against bullying based on any student’s personal beliefs or characteristics. However, she said left wing teachers and Democrats are trying to peddle their philosophy, which means they often prevent conservative students from expressing their own beliefs.
Allen noted that her great nephew was disciplined in school for pasting a “Trump flag” on his backpack during flag day observances at the school.
Allen said she’s alarmed by trends in recent elections, so she didn’t want to risk Democrats capturing an open senate seat. She said demographic changes — especially in Maricopa County — could endanger the solid Republican hold on the state legislature. She cited a presentation by a University of North Carolina researcher about the increasing number of minorities in the U.S.
She said one reason Democrats are now pushing to revive the Equal Rights Amendment is that women are increasingly dominating education and the workforce, with a growing number of men not in the workforce and not graduating college. Moreover, she said Arizona’s continuing to become less dominated by whites, with the average age of Hispanics now 27 and the average age of whites 40.
Hispanics now account for 44 percent of the students in traditional public school in Arizona. White students account for 40 percent of the school-age students, but 48 percent of the students in charter schools, according to a study by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting.
“We’re not replacing ourselves,” she said of demographic changes in the state. “There are a lot of changes coming. People came to me and said they could not afford to lose me…You’re going to see so many changes coming it will make your head spin.”
She said Democrat Felicia French nearly beat Bob Thorpe in the House race last time. “He’s the weaker candidate,” she said, which is why she opted to run again.
“We’re facing this huge philosophical divide. As the grandmother of 19, I felt I needed to stay there. I know who would take the (senate education) committee. They’re too moderate. We need good, consistent, principles against this onslaught of leftist ideas that are very dangerous. We need to take responsibility for ourselves. When we want someone else to solve the problem — government to solve the problem — then liberty is dying. We have some great kids coming up — I just want to make sure they succeed.”