BY LINDA BENTLEY | OCTOBER 6, 2010
Politicking at Taste of Cave Creek left some with bad taste
LearnYes is concentrating on fundraising and community outreach in preparation for a bond election in November 2011
Student volunteers at A Taste of Cave Creek took advantage of the large crowds to campaign for the Political Action Committee LearnYes.org, to the offense of some attendees who said they believed a town-sponsored event was no place for politics.
Photo by Linda Bentley
CAVE CREEK – A Taste of Cave Creek drew an estimated 5,000 people over two days this year, up from the 3,700 or so that attended last year’s single-day event and brought in a total of $70,000, which basically covers the cost of the event and provides local nonprofit organizations with nominal funding.
While the general feedback regarding the event has been exceedingly positive, Sonoran News has received more than a few calls and e-mails from disgruntled attendees regarding Political Action Committee (PAC) LearnYes.org, which favors higher property taxes for Cave Creek Unified School District, being allowed to campaign at the event in exchange for student volunteers.
The student volunteers were wearing bright yellow LearnYes.org T-shirts along with “Town of Cave Creek Volunteer” badges.
Town Manager Usama Abujbarah said he thought LearnYes was a nonprofit organization, not a political action committee, and agreed the town-sponsored event should not allow PAC participation.
LearnYes states on its website that “it will be concentrating on fundraising and community outreach in preparation for an election to support district needs in November 2011.”
“District needs” translates to more money through higher property taxes.
It goes on to state, “Please contribute to the campaign to preserve property values and quality schools in our community.”
In other words, LearnYes apparently equates higher property taxes to preserving property values and quality schools.
While reality proves that isn’t so, it remains the mantra of LearnYes as well as school districts, the NEA, AEA and local teachers unions.
LearnYes is gearing up to amass what they hope will be enough money to pass a bond measure next November, based on the assumption voters can be bought and they’ve just not hit the right price yet.
Meanwhile, property values are one half to one third what they they were a few years ago and the school district has proven, under its current leadership and direction, declining results.
And, rather than reverting back to parents paying (approximately $120 per month) for the second half of all-day kindergarten, or eliminating the costly International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which promotes anti-American global citizenry, the board has elected to sacrifice standard fare and simply ask the taxpayers for more money.
Speaking of which, Sonoran News just learned Cactus Shadows High School (CSHS) IB students will be hosting an “education policy forum” at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 11 at the Fine Arts Center.
The panel will consist of Carefree Mayor David Schwan, Cave Creek Mayor Vincent Francia, former CSHS Principal Sid Bailey and LearnYes.org PAC Chairman Steve Hart, along with union-endorsed candidates: Rep. Nancy Barto, R-Dist. 7, running for the Senate in LD-7; candidate Heather Carter, running for LD-7 representative; and Penny Kotterman, the Democratic candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction; with Community member Arch McGill and IB student Johann Beishline rounding out the rest of the panel.
IB student Alyssa Lee and Superintendent Debbi Burdick will moderate the event.
Sonoran News asked Maricopa County Campaign Finance Director Kristi Passarelli if this wasn’t a violation since this forum includes only union-endorsed candidates to provide their views.
At first Passarelli responded, “As long as all candidates were invited.”
When informed all candidates were not invited, Passarelli simply responded, “I don’t see that there is any violation.”
She forwarded a copy of the Arizona Attorney General’s opinion regarding the use of district resources to influence the outcome of elections.
According to the plain language, it appears this event would be in violation.
Passarelli said she disagreed, adding, “An event that is held at a school doesn’t make it a school sponsored event.
“I do not find reasonable cause for investigation in this matter.”
When it was brought to her attention the event is being hosted by CSHS IB 2011 Diploma Candidates, which is part of a school-sponsored curriculum, Passarelli said she would forward these concerns to her legal department for review.
Promoting European English and spelling over American English, the IB Program, according to information posted on CSHS’s website under “Ethical Practice in the Diploma Programme,” states: “The Diploma Programme requires academic rigour and active student involvement in all aspects of the curriculum. It places strong emphasis on the ideals of international understanding and responsible citizenship. The aim of all IB programmes is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.”
One of the examples of ethical practices provided to promote such goals included: “All presentations will respect the personal, political and spiritual values of others ...”
It also states teachers must “[g]ive students clear guidance about the nature of ethical practice in the Diploma Programme and [p]revent students from undertaking any unethical practice for any work that is going to be assessed …”
CSHS IB 2011 Diploma Candidates’ “education policy forum” seems to disrespect candidates running for public office that may hold political views about public schools and funding that differ from those held by the teachers’ unions by not inviting them to participate in the same taxpayer funded forum.