#Redfored Leadership Qualifications In Question

On Saturday, a writer for the Phoenix New Times took exception with Governor Doug Ducey’s characterization of #Redfored leaders as “political operatives.” Conservative talker Mike Broomhead and others who dared question #Redfored leaders Noah Karvelis and Derek Harris were accused of running a smear campaign by New Times writer Joseph Flaherty.

Ducey rejected a demand by Karvelis to meet. He said he would not participate in “political theater.”

In his piece, The Smear Campaign Is Underway Against Arizona Teachers Before Strike, Flaherty complained that the “Broomhead Show (550-KFYI), followed by the conservative blog Washington Free Beacon, seized on the fact that Harris had written or shared Facebook posts skewering President Trump, the NRA, and Ducey.”

Flaherty and his editors may have had a problem with the characterization, but Harris did not. In fact, Flaherty reports Harris “wasn’t fazed.”

“I feel they certainly represented my views very well,” Harris told Flaherty referring to the KFYI and Beacon stories. “Harris argued that none of his Facebook posts had anything to do with the current fight over education in Arizona,” reported Flaherty.

Flaherty quoted Harris as saying, “All they did was find things that would’ve been distractions. They didn’t address any issues. I wouldn’t say it was an intelligent counterpoint to anything the movement’s been doing.”

Harris’ lack of self-awareness; the understanding that his political perspective does drive his, and many activists’ actions is a discussion for another day.

In 2017, progressive activist and Tucson Unified School District Governing Board candidate, Betts Putnam Hidalgo described Harris as part of Congressman Raul Grijalva’s machine. In a discussion about a school board meeting, Putnam Hidalgo wrote:

Of course, “Who showed up”, the whole thing is a dog and pony show that forefronts politics while putting kids, achievement and learning on the back burner! …. The majority of the speakers… Becerra is also an aide to Congressman Grijalva, the illustrious father of the previous Board president. Also not noted is the number of people who throw accusations at Stegeman and Sedgwick and heckle throughout the meetings that have deep connections to the local Democratic power structure: think Adam Ragan and Derek Harris, an OMA (Opening Minds through the Arts) teacher.

Arizona Teachers United Twitter page gained followers quickly. | Derek Harris Facebook page clearly shows political leanings.

It should be noted that OMA, has for years, served as a vehicle for Tucson Unified School District leadership to grant Grijalva’s political operatives low impact jobs that allow time for electioneering and other political activity.

Karvelis, according to his curriculum vitae, focuses on “Critical Pedagogy, Critical Social Theory, and Hip-Hop Studies.” Karvelis is currently a music teacher at Tres Rio Elementary in the Littleton Elementary School District. According to Wikiversity, “Critical pedagogy is a teaching approach inspired by critical theory and other radical philosophies, which attempts to help students question and challenge posited “domination,” and to undermine the beliefs and practices that are alleged to dominate.”

Because proponents of Critical Pedagogy believe the classroom is little more than a activist incubator, it is hard to imagine that Karvelis would shy away from being described as a political operative.

It is not what they do as much as what they aren’t doing

Despite conservatives’ belief that every public school classroom is an incubator for radicals, a good number of teachers value our current system of government and keep their politics to themselves while in school. It would be naive to think that one’s political point of view does not influence a teacher’s classroom behavior. However, most experienced and highly effective teachers allow students to freely express their opinions while keeping their own where it belongs; outside the classroom.

Whether Harris and Karvelis are highly effective teachers is for their students to demonstrate, but as another KFYI talk show host, and former classroom teacher, James T. Harris tweeted, it is very clear that both lack experience in Arizona classrooms, and are therefore less-than-ideal-representatives of Arizona’s teachers. Lacking institutional knowledge, the two could have hardly taken a seat at Ducey’s negotiating table in any credible way had they been invited.

Karvelis has, according to his curriculum vitae, taught for approximately 4 years. He took the position at Tres Rios in 2016, after leaving a job Urbana, Illinois. Arizona Department of Education records show that Karvleis only holds a provisional teaching license:

NOAH J KARVELISProvisional Arts Education, PreK-12 MusicStart Date: 2016 – July Expire Date: 2019 – JulyValid – 4915302
Deficiencies – A Certification requirement which must be completed within a specified timeframe.
Selected CertificateDeficiency CodeDeficiency DescriptionCertification Notes*
Provisional Arts Education, PreK-12 MusicAZCONArizona ConstitutionCompletion of a course or passing the appropriate examination on the provisions and principles of the Arizona Constitution is required.
Provisional Arts Education, PreK-12 MusicUSCONUnited States ConstitutionCompletion of a course or passing the appropriate examination on the provisions and principles of the United States Constitution is required.

Derek Harris only became a certified teacher in January 2018 in Arizona.

DEREK R HARRISStandard Professional Arts Education, PreK-12 MusicStart Date: 2018 – January
Expire Date: 2030 – July
Valid – 4766636

Previously, Harris was a band director at Caprock High School in Amarillo, Texas. It appears that he may have voluntarily taken a job in a state that pays considerably less on average. From Teachingdegree.org:

OccupationAnnual mean wage in ArizonaAnnual mean wage in U.S.
Arizona – Elementary School Teachers Except Special Education$42,560$56,320
Texas – Elementary School Teachers Except Special Education$50,290$56,320

Karvelis and Harris have a lack of experience in common with too many Arizona teachers. As Valerie Strauss reported in 2015:

Over the last five years, thousands of teachers have left the state, according to a 2015 report by the Arizona Department of Education, with this past school year being possibly the worst. The report warns if teachers keep leaving, “students will not meet their full potential” and “Arizona will not be able to ensure economic prosperity for its citizens and create the workforce of tomorrow.” It calls for increased pay for teachers and more overall education funding in the state.

Why are so many teachers leaving? Educators say reasons include low pay, insufficient classroom resources, and so many testing requirements and teaching guidelines that they feel they have no flexibility and too little authentic instructional time.

Unfortunately, Arizona taxpayers and politicians struggle with at least three issues. Do inexperienced teachers really deserve raises that will bust the State’s budget? How much of an increase in taxes can residents bear? How can you attract experienced teachers without increasing salaries?

From the AZ Capitol Times:

The Arizona Education Association, the state’s largest union representing about 20,000 public school employees, has taken a backseat, a supportive role, offering infrastructure and advice while Arizona Educators United leads the way forward.

“There are no political parties pulling the strings. There are no candidates pulling the strings or unions behind the scenes pushing agendas,” Karvelis said. “It’s just educators advocating on behalf of other educators and families and their students.”

And that’s where they found the “magic.”

“Something has changed here,” Karvelis said. “Some sort of dynamic has brought people back in to reengage.”

AEA President Joe Thomas called it a reawakening of public education employees and advocates, who have realized that “if we’re going to fix this, we have to fix it ourselves.”

The movement is bigger than AEA, he said, and the union has stepped aside in recent weeks to give Arizona Educators United the space to lead the way.

In a flash

Karvelis and Harris lead-up Arizona Teachers United. The group bought their website’s URL on March 14, 2018.

Arizona Teachers United has been responsible for pushing the well-established Arizona Education Association (AEA) to call for a strike. Last week, they were successful, and a walkout is planned for this coming Thursday.

Apolitical, non-union, and conservative teachers have expressed concern about the decision, but according to sources, they had little say in the matter. But because not all teachers are on board with the walkout, some districts will keep their doors open.

In an appearance on the James T. Harris show, Jennifer Hill, a veteran teacher and expert in education finance and law, discussed what she described as a propaganda campaign being waged in classrooms. Hill, who served as a substitute teacher last week said the teachers are “shoving it” in kids’ faces, so she asked them what they thought of the #Redfored movement. “This girl said, ‘oh you know, Arizona only pays $2000 in the classroom per child,” and that’s ridiculous. I told her that her numbers were wrong, and she replied ‘oh no, my mother told me so.’ The students were shocked when I told them all these truths.”

The truth is that Arizona spends approximately $9000 per pupil. In small districts and those under civil rights orders pay considerably more per pupil.

Hill said she agreed with the governor that the #Redfored movement was “political theater. “I really feel strongly that they want our governor out of office, and they want to make him look bad no matter what he does, and what he says. I do believe this is a political stunt.”

[Listen to James T. Harris interview with teacher Jill Hill and Superintendent Douglas here]

Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, who has consistently called for an increase in teacher pay, asked teachers to think hard before deciding to walkout. Douglas has implored teachers not to walk out of their classrooms if their salary demands are not met by that time.

“I have long been a vocal proponent of providing teachers with significant pay raises,” Douglas said in a press release. “No one has more respect for the jobs that teachers do, which is why I proposed a viable, meaningful increase in their salaries last year, as well as sustainable funding specifically for them and school facilities.

“But if the teachers do not give the leadership at the Capitol the time to implement their salary increase, I’m afraid that striking will only hurt students and parents, while simultaneously setting back their own cause,” continued Douglas. “I know that if we put the students first, we will be able to resolve all of our issues, and that is the role the Arizona Department of Education and I plan on playing until this issue is resolved.”

“Since my first priority is the children, in the unfortunate event that the teachers proceed to strike on Thursday, I’m calling on the communities, businesses and faith-based organizations near the schools that decide to close to please make contingencies on behalf the students that do not have anywhere else to go, especially the children of single parents” Douglas concluded, “It’s an absolute shame that it has come to this, but now that we are all in this situation, I hope that the teachers and Capitol leadership can rebuild trust and come together to resolve this matter as quickly as possible for the sake of our students.”

Everyone is to blame

Hill told Harris that she left the AEA after her first year of teaching. She is not alone.

Because AEA has failed miserably to represent teachers in the state for years, fewer and fewer teachers belong to the organization. This is not strictly an Arizona phenomena. In fact, across the country, as teachers’ associations took on political fights that had nothing to do with teaching and everything to do with progressive issues like climate change, membership has fallen off.

Many things have contributed to that fact that Arizona teachers’ pay is one of the lowest in the country. Three factors have most impacted teacher pay: 1) Arizona’s cost of living is low; 2) AEA and various local unions have been occupied with partisan political battles rather than the needs of teachers; and 3) the state has little taxable property with which schools are funded.  It is because of those three factors, that educational leaders must force a genuine conversation about teacher pay and not a knee jerk reaction like the governor’s budget-busting proposal.

Ducey vetoed ten bills last week and demanded that the Legislature give his budget-busting proposal a nod. In response, Rep. Kelly Townsend issued her own demands. “On Thursday, I called for transparency and accountability in local school district’s budget process,” said Townsend in a press release. “I have a two-part caveat to my support for any changes to education funding.”

“First, I am calling for transparency in how they disseminate information regarding how they appropriate their budget,” stated Townsend referring to school districts. “I have asked for a conspicuous link to the Auditor General’s website with detailed information on the district appropriation of funds. It is important for parents and teachers to easily find and see the breakup of the budget and where it is going, as well as who is responsible for appropriating the money (the School Board).”

“Secondly, I am calling for accountability for the funds that are appropriated,” continued Townsend. “I would like some type of control stop being placed on the funds so that when school districts are in violation of using the education system to send emails to parents in order to effect the outcome of an election or to lobby their interests, or if teachers are using their position to impose personal ideological ideas onto children when they should be focused on learning about Math, Science, History, English, Etc, when students come home with a paper colored red with #RedForEd written on it in order to influence children politically, when schools are engaging in social engineering rather than educating basic academic principles, there will be a financial consequence.”

“I want schools held accountable and money appropriated for them to actually teach rather than to indoctrinate or engage in politic.” Townsend concluded, “Additionally, I would like to see schools rewarded for putting money into the classroom rather than into the pockets of the administrators. These are my requirements and this is the only way I will support any further money going to education.”

Townsend’s demands are clear and reasonable to say the least. Should educators and the governor reject them, their motives are too clear and their positions are unreasonable.


  1. They arent just after AZ and our govenor. They are after the entire system. Socialism communistic society

  2. Yes, Loretta, I did state those things about Derek Harris during a particularly nasty political campaign, and while the District was getting rid of its last Superintendent, who I firmly believe is and was a petty criminal in many ways. However, I do want to stress that I do not feel that one would have to be in the Grijalva camp to believe that teachers get treated like caca in this state! It is unassailable, as it is unassailable that there are plenty of Republican teachers in Phoenix striking alongside their political opponents. In my experience, teachers, in general, are not very political/partisan in the sense that you and your readers are referring to here. They focus their energies on trying to educate your children and mine, and dealing with you and me as parents. As a parent and a public education advocate, I am incredibly grateful to them for putting themselves on the line to change the pathetic state of education funding in our state. Why should Arizona be number 50? Why should we be a state that only retirees want to live in, as educating your kids here is almost untenable? Why in the world would any state put a cement block on its ankle, even as it expects high paying jobs to come here? What is the first thing that employers and employees ask? “How are the schools” (Its a little hard to believe that that is not a factor in our slow increase in well paying jobs) I am outraged by those who might as well be saying that I and the rest of us who have kids and believe in public schools should move to New Jersey where the funding is good. Arizona simply has to better than this–and the teachers are out there fighting for all of us. If I can put aside political differences to converse about public education with pro-public ed Republicans who are very far from my position on many other things, I expect them to do the same…and some of them have! I have found that it works and your readers might give it a try as well. Our kids deserve it, frankly. While we are all hissing and spitting at each other, their future is looming, and our disfunction on these issues helps no one. One only has to look at the TUSD Board to see this behavior; for GODS sake lets not reproduce it in the rest of the public sphere.

  3. Emphasis on motives of Noah Karvalis and Derek Harris is a red herring.
    Yes, I have been guilty of complaining to students of conditions or underlying causes of changes in this country since I was in high school in the 1970’s. We teachers are employed to teach, not to politic or campaign in the classroom. Such political views or “indoctrination” is unprofessional and at some point becomes contrary to vocation. But our critics do not give our students enough credit either. Our students are very much in tune with political and economic issues and must make attributions to our motives. Admittedly, I teach high school, the very young students are more naive. I also agree that our union has lost members with premature and unconsulted endorsements, and staking political positions far outside of the very narrow confines of professional practice. Some of these positions in the past included lowering the voting age to 18 and promoting desegregation of the schools. Our critics should also know that teachers far and away are middle-of-the-road, working people who buy property and raise children, and pay bills. I support the proposals for transparency, both in traditional public and charter schools, which have been given a very different set of rules under which to operate. Yes, indeed, there are spending issues but districts realize adequate salary is needed to attract and retain quality staff, and my district certainly acts like it. Finally, many of our critics come across as disingenuous when raising distracting red herring issues. New spending is not demanded, but restoration of spending at a level before the recession. If not, as others have stated, we professionals can certainly seek greener pastures. This will finally come down what choice the people of Arizona will make for the future of our state.

  4. The underlying issue is this this traveling promotion of chaos and Marxism/Communism designed to oust sitting Republican Governors only and replace them with Democrat Communists….another political tactic by Democrat Communists to gain control of all states on a local level to create the Jerry Brown/Cuomo/Deblasio effect. The goal is to overthrow our government by defiance of Federal Law.
    Kevalis even messaged one of his cohorts about this method of overthrow. He and they are very proud of themselves for manipulating the rift between teachers and states. They target and exacerbate ANY type of dissection within a community or state, expound on it/manipulate those involved in it and attempt to use that to overthrow Republican offices. Thus the question of their ” provisional teaching certifications” and jumping from state to state creating chaos and disruption. Essentially, they are “hired guns” to eliminate/decimate any vestige of the Constitutional Republic/Democracy.

  5. Let me tell you if anyone thinks the whole of AZ is down with this THEY ARE NOT.

    Charter schools will be over loaded and these strikers will wonder if it was worth it.
    We need a NO NOAH campaign start the memes and let’s dig deep to expose this liberal nonsense.

    Screw this .
    This is a war on parents and you liberal plants ain’t winning!!!

  6. What I would like to know is, IS this a real strike or just a couple days of noise? Seems NO ONE knows, teachers, aids etc, tusd finally joined in and closed down for friday but again no one knows what monday will bring. Has there been any ‘news’ talk on this being a real strike or is it just noise?

  7. My wife & I put 4 children though TUSD. The kids where hers, mine and ours and where all seven years apart. So, 28 years of school aged children exposed us and them to the decline of quality education in the TUSD district. One of our Grand children is in TUSD currently. Last year while in Middle school he never had a Biology teacher therefore the substitutes never actually taught biology; now in High School he is having a hard time will Biology. And that is the problem with Arizona being ranked 49 out of 50 with quality education. The teachers we get here might be the bottom of the crop that where turned away by the other 48 better paying states. Where you place in class upon graduation is important; ask your Doctor where he or she place in Medical School. Top 10% is better than the Bottom 10%. As I see it the teachers should be paid by merit for quality education. The best place to thin the herd is with the administration “fat cats” that are paid way to much for what they do.
    The kids are our future and the system has failed them.

  8. jdfast – you are 100% correct! Sad, and they wonder why people are pulling their children out of those schools, and putting them in Charter Schools and Private Schools.

  9. I just got a question that I want to ask. Do you suppose that the teachers are wearing their pretty red T shirts to class? And if so, why is the administration allowing them to do so? The teachers by wearing the shirts in the classroom are simply pushing the students in a political direction and not an educational direction. I call BS on the teachers the teachers that are wearing the T shirts in class. They should be dressed as a professional and not a hippie in a red T shirt being a political billboard. The other question is why are the teachers cars allowed on school property with the slogan painted on the glass. Once again, they demonstrate that their only regard is for themselves and not the students. But hey, its all about indoctrination now right? And the parents and administrators let them get away with it. What the teachers want to do on their own time is fine, but dress like a professional and leave the crap off your cars when you get to school property. Hope that they go down in flames. Once again, its all about the adults and not the kids. Hey all you redfored clowns, might want to ask you local boards and administrators what they are going to do with the extra state money? I know you dumb asses won’t get much of it.

    • Hello,
      Your last comment is certainly accurate. Historically, local administrators have misused the funds leaving teachers for last.
      However, I must disagree with a couple of issues you brought up. First, you are under the impression that we are meekly following these unqualified leaders. The truth is that the great masses of teachers supporting the movement are actually the force behind Redfored which is in fact completely apolitical. Our main concern is to improve the state of education. We teachers are the keystone of the system and we are demanding only what is ours. Yes, our top priority is better salaries and the demands placed by our teachers if fulfilled will indeed benefit our students directly.
      Second point you mentioned is that teachers should focus on teaching rather than “indoctrinating” and doing “hippie” stands during school hours. Again, you are under the false impression that we enjoy our current position. It took us 10 years to make a decision to take action because no one else would.
      We should all be ashamed for allowing such decline in our schools and forcing teachers to take action.

      As a citizen and contributing taxpayer, I am also concerned about the ineptitude and narrow mindedness of our government. For the last 10 years we have seen that their fiscal decisions have drove an exodus of teachers out of the state. While I support any viable solution that will boost our schools and therefore the well being of the state, I do not believe the answer lies on placing all the financial burden on teachers. Again, I say this without having any political affiliations or personal greed. It is just the truth. We can all agree on the fact that well educated children are shaped at home and supported at school by well prepared teachers. However, we have a very difficult time understanding that we need to make a higher investment on education if we want to see positive changes. If on the other hand, we cannot agree on the value of education, then we must at least lower the standards for teachers. Yes, make high school diploma and 1 year of technical training the requirements for certification. Then, these new breed of teachers will not have an issue living just above the poverty level. Also, do not expect them to maintain a highly qualified status and/or show great dedication and responsibility in the job. You see, they will be merely employees but not professional educators. In fact, why chose education when you can make the same money taking the blood pressure and weight of patients at the doctor’s office.
      Stop the double standard. Lets’ put our money when our mouth is. I want to go back to work and be able to focus on my professional duties. Governor Ducey needs to create a sustainable budget directed to salary increment. That is his job and should not be my concern.

      • RedForEd “completely apolitical”???? You’ve GOT to be joking. How can you say that out loud with a straight face? it is nothing BUT political! And it’s mob-ocracy at its finest…..there have been a multitude of articles showing actual data–you know–facts–about funding in various districts and what percentage makes it “into the classroom.” The buck stops at the district! The districts and their leadership need a gigantic enema–only after that, after you get a much larger percentage of already-allocated funds “into the classroom” can you have any moral high ground to talk about what is and is not “enough.” I know its easier to dawn a red shirt and parade around with signs that have fake data on them than it is to confront the leadership in your district………

  10. Ducey is just now interested in education, what a load of crap!

    The Republican lead Legislature has for his entire years as Governor focus on prisons ( makes a profit ya know ) over education.

    It more than time to eliminate Republicans I’m Legislature who forgot they serve the public.

    Yes teachers have earned more pay. Yes our kiddos DESERVE the best we can give them.

    Support teachers , let’s get new Governor understands education first. Not politics.

    Richard Hernandez

    • Richard, aren’t taxpayers part of “the public” too? I’d paint a message on my car (in an obvious color) saying “Green for Taxpayers”, but it would likely be vandalized in a day.

  11. One thing for sure, Noah Karvelis and Derek Harris have certainly made lots of money by selling pretty shirts to teachers.

  12. Loretta Hunnicutt, We DON’T have a funding problem, we HAVE a SPENDING problem in Public Education. For which you and the ADI refuse to delve into. TUSD, $250,000 per classroom per year and they still can’t get the job done.

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