This election cycle, the Chandler Unified School District has asked voters to approve the largest bond package in the District’s history. At the same time the District is mired in controversy over its highly questionable “Deep Equity” program.
The cost of Corwin’s “Deep Equity” professional development training, developed by Gary Howard, is nearly as astronomical as the public’s concerns with the program. In response to an inquiry by the Arizona Daily Independent about the costs, Chandler Unified’s spokesperson, Terry Locke, advised in an email:
We had staff review and come up with these subtotals and total:
- $23,995 for Family Engagement/District Leaders and future site visits ( 6 days) from Scholastic
- $259,608- Corwin last year
- $1615.39-Corwin additional YES books
- $38,920.89- Corwin YES books and training days last year
- $66,000- Corwin 2nd year training
- $28,017- Corwin YES year 2
- Total: $418,156.28
According to Locke, “approximately 2,600 certified teachers have participated” in the professional development “because we facilitated a “train the trainer” model. Approximately 270 received direct training. Each of the 270 had a participant notebook. We only utilized a few pages within it. These individuals then trained the rest of our staff. Each site received 6 hours of training last year and will have an additional 3 hours this year. The only student material was a participant notebook used at Youth Equity Stewards training. This involved 85 students who all had parent permission to participate in the training.”
Howard describes himself on his Equity Institutes’ website as having “over 40 years of experience working with issues of civil rights, social justice, equity, education, and diversity. He is a keynote speaker, writer, and workshop leader who has worked extensively throughout the United States and Australia.
Howard’s writings include: Speaking of Difference: Reflections on the Possibility of Culturally Competent Conversation, Spring 2003 , Whites in Multicultural Education: Rethinking Our Role, September 1993, As Diversity Grows So Must We, March 2007, Dispositions of Good Teaching , How We Are White, Fall 2004, and School Improvement for All, Spring 2002.
Howard’s keynote speeches have included such topics as: Education for Social Justice: The Heart of Real Reform, The Next 50 Years: Can King’s Dream Be Made Real?, and Growing Good White Folks: Educating America’s Newest Minority.
On its website, Corwin states that the “Deep Equity” program was “developed and implemented nationally by Gary Howard,” to address “the dynamics of power and privilege in a safe, engaging, and inspiring environment in which all educators are honored and valued as professionals. By engaging in the program, you and your colleagues will learn to dismantle educational disparities through your own sustained, collaborative efforts and courageous leadership.”
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The Deep Equity framework, based on the work of Gary Howard, helps schools and districts establish the climate, protocols, common language, and common goal of implementing culturally responsive teaching practices.
The Deep Equity and YES programs build the capacity of schools and districts seeking to reduce and eventually eliminate
The Deep Equity approach is based on the belief that such inequities are symptomatic of institutional biases and norms that must be directly challenged through systemic, ongoing, and authentic work.
Corwin’s “Deep Equity” program appears to have been first promoted by the Arizona School Board Association (ASBA) in 2017. At the time, Dr. Adama Sallu, participated in the ASBA event as an “Equity Expert.” One year later, Sallu was hired as the Director of Equity and Inclusion for Chandler Unified.
Sallu was hired as Chandler Unified’s “response to incidents that made headlines in recent years, including racist statements made off-campus on social media by Santan Junior High School students in 2018, sexual abuse allegations by Hamilton High School football players against teammates from 2015 to 2017, and the deaths of several students and graduates from suicide, which have increased in the East Valley and statewide,” according to the Arizona Education News Network.
To its credit, Chandler Unified picked through the “Deep Equity” program materials and did not share with educators some of the more sensational and more radical critical-theory-based materials.
Chandler Unified is asking for the $290 million bond because it claims that the money is to accommodate the 3,000 extra students projected to come into the District as well as renovate playground equipment, repair roofs, buy security cameras, and build another elementary school.
Chandler Unified voters approved a $196-million bond (tax increase) in 2015. The District has not spent all of that money, with approximately $17 million remaining.
According to the Arizona Auditor General’s Dollars in the Classroom report, the District population has and is expected to grow, but its financial stress as “low.” Still, according to the Auditor General, the District spends about $900 less per pupil ($9,075) than the state average.
“Before we spend $400,000 plus on a Deep Equity program, we first need to invest into the basics to address our own academic neglect. For example, more than half of our 3rd graders are unable to read proficiently and yet we prioritize social engineering,” said Arizona State Representative Kelly Townsend.
“These programs may please the politically correct, but it is academically wrong to spend time on anything else while our students are failing,” continued Townsend. “Let’s get back to basics.”
Jose Borrajero, founder of the Arizona People’s Lobbyist, a legislative watchdog group asked, “Why do we have to spend so many dollars “implementing culturally responsive teaching practices? What ever happened to the concept that schools should teach material that will enable students to learn what they need to become productive members of society, instead of engaging in social engineering?”
“It is obvious that Deep Equity, instead of promoting equal opportunities for all, is seeking equality of outcome, which goes contrary to human nature,” continued Borrajero. “As long as there have been human beings on this earth, there have been over achievers and under achievers. This is not the result of “institutional biases and norms that must be directly challenged through systemic, ongoing, and authentic work.” But who cares, as long as voters are gullible enough to continue approving bonds and overrides, there will be individuals and institutions that will be very happy to take our money.”
Given that the most reliable formula for classroom success for all students is highly effective teachers in front of a small groups of students, it is difficult to understand why Chandler would spend so much on the unproven “Deep Equity” program, and seek passage of a bond rather than an override. An override would guarantee the District could afford small classroom size now and in the future.