Thursday, August 19, 2010

Clean Elections Commission rejects status quo politics, unanimously clears Jason Williams

Phoenix, Ariz. - August 19, 2010 - Jason Williams, one of the leading candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction, released the following statement today following the unanimous decision by the Citizen's Clean Elections Commission to take no action against Williams and reject the politically-motivated allegations made by his primary election opponent and her supporter:

"I'd like to thank the Commission for the time they put into reviewing the complaint and ultimately for the decision that they reached. As I would often tell my students, just because someone calls you a name, it doesn't mean it's true. As we've seen, the allegations made by my primary opponent and her supporter were completely based on nothing but innuendo and speculation.

"I am proud to be the only Democrat in this race to be running as a Clean candidate. As we know, Clean Elections is the most transparent system of elections.

"It's unfortunate that my primary opponent chose to engage in this type of status quo politics at this time. This election is far too important for our children and our state. This is precisely the type of status quo politics that I and the majority of Arizona voters are anxious to abandon. Going into the final days of the primary election, I would hope this would be the last example of this type of politically-motivated tactic by my primary opponent so we can focus on doing what's right for our kids.

"I'm proud that my campaign has consistently been a positive campaign focused on ideas and real solutions to the challenges facing public education in Arizona. This is what we need to be talking about. This is what I will address when I am state Superintendent."

For more information about Jason Williams, visit

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

One week to Victory!

We are just one week from taking our next critical step towards ensuring a new direction for our children. On Tuesday, August 24th, Arizona Democrats and independents who opt to vote in the Democratic primary will have the opportunity to choose who will best serve this state as the next Superintendent of Public Instruction and who will best represent our Democratic values against the Republican Party nominee in the general election.

It has been 16 years since Arizonans elected a Democrat and an educator to lead our public schools. The status quo and special interest insiders have failed to provide excellent public schools for all of Arizona's children. It's time to elect a Superintendent of Public Instruction who will be a true advocate for our children, someone who will put our kids first and stop at nothing to ensure every child has access to an excellent public education.

I was honored to earn the Democratic Party nomination when I ran for this position in 2006. In the general election that year, with your help, I came close to beating the Republican incumbent. In fact, it was the closest of all the statewide races. We just needed about 25 more votes per precinct. With the momentum we've built since then, and the grassroots movement you've helped to create, I know we can earn the votes needed to win this election for our children this year. We must change the direction our state is headed and do what's right for our children.

When you mark your ballot, I ask you to join the many leaders who have endorsed my candidacy, as well as the more than 2000 people who pledged their support with a $5 Clean Elections Qualifying Contribution, and vote Jason Williams for Superintendent of Public Instruction. To ensure victory, I also ask you to share this message with your family, friends and colleagues so they can join you in voting Jason Williams for Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Thank you for your support and your vote.

The primary election is just one week away - Tuesday, August 24th. Please remember to share this message with family, friends and colleagues, and vote Jason Williams for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Also, we need your help to Get Out the Vote (GOTV) every day from now until Election Day. If you can join our GOTV efforts, please contact my campaign headquarters at or (602) 795-4734.

Contributors of $5 Clean Elections

Thank you to the following supporters who gave my campaign a $5 Clean Elections Qualifying Contribution:
Please Visit website here to see a complete List: 

Thanks you all!

Valley parents upset by larger class sizes due to budgetsValley parents upset by larger class sizes due to budgets

The effects of the state's budget crisis are showing up inside packed classrooms in Scottsdale and Fountain Hills. 

As school started Aug. 9, the two districts had larger class sizes in every grade, including kindergarten classes of 27 to 30 children.

Some Scottsdale parents became alarmed the week before school started, meeting with district administrators to express their concerns. In Fountain Hills, a group of parents addressed the governing board at its meeting last week.

Districts' new school start times snarl traffic

"The kindergarten class sizes are way too large and I don't feel the kids are getting the attention they need at such a young age," Elaine Sommerschield, parent of a kindergartner at McDowell Mountain Elementary School, told the Fountain Hills board.

Susan Jones, a Cochise Elementary School parent in Scottsdale, said some parents felt betrayed because they voted for a K-3 budget override last fall, believing it would keep class sizes small, and for the state sales-tax increase in May to preserve teachers' jobs.

District administrators acknowledged the parents' anger but said the state's cuts to local budgets were just too deep.

Both Scottsdale Superintendent Gary Catalani and Fountain Hills Superintendent Bill Myhr said K-3 override money was targeted at keeping class sizes low, but when the state decided in the spring to no longer fund all-day kindergarten starting with the 2010-11 school year, the districts had to use their override money to salvage that program.

The Proposition 100 sales-tax increase offset some but not all of the deep funding cuts from the state.
Catalani said class sizes would be much higher if voters had not passed Proposition 100 in May. Still, Scottsdale laid off 77 teachers and Fountain Hills 14.

Both districts increased class sizes at all grade levels. Scottsdale has a class size cap of 30 students in kindergarten, and several schools are at that limit, Catalani said.
Myhr said the Fountain Hills kindergartens have 27 students, while first through third grades have up to 29 per class. One fourth-grade class has 34 students.

Fountain Hills' situation is complicated by the fact that enrollment is declining. The number of students dropped 6.6 percent over the course of the 2009-10 school year, and 48 more students left over the summer, according to Tim Leedy, assistant superintendent of business and support service. As enrollment declines, so does funding from the state.

Fountain Hills hired a kindergarten teacher over the summer when staff verified through phone calls to parents that the classes would have up to 34 students, Myhr said.

"Frankly, we don't have any more money for teachers," he said.

Catalani said Scottsdale's new centralized enrollment system allowed the district to accurately move teachers from underenrolled schools to overenrolled schools, but without money from the newly approved federal education jobs bill, class sizes would stay large. The Arizona Department of Education has not revealed how it will divide the $212 million it will receive.

Myhr said any money Fountain Hills gets from the federal grant would only be a short-term fix.
"This may be the new normal until education becomes an investment and not an expense," he said. "The federal money buys us time."

The Cave Creek Unified School District increased class sizes by one student per class this year, according to Superintendent Debbi Burdick.

The Paradise Valley Unified School District was able to decrease class sizes slightly this year after Proposition 100 passed, after raising class sizes the year before.

Anne Hanson, president of the Scottsdale Education Association teachers' group, said large class sizes decrease time spent on each child in the classroom and outside.

"Large classes mean teachers work more. Before, you were disciplining two little munchkins as opposed to five now. Or you were passing out 25 papers and now you're passing out 33 papers, and three people instead of one person forgot to bring a pencil.

"You can see how many precious seconds and minutes are taken away from actual class time."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tucson educator, man of the year Jeremy Harkin supports Jason Williams for state Superintendent of Public Instruction

Phoenix, Ariz. - Jason Williams, one of the leading candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction, announced today that one of the most highly-respected educators in Tucson has endorsed his candidacy.  Jeremy Harkin, the Arizona Daily Star's man of the year, teaches English at Sahuaro High School and is a member of the Arizona Education Association.  His support for Jason is rooted in his belief in Jason's commitment to moving every child forward and ensuring every child in Arizona has access to an excellent public education.

"Jason is not just the best candidate, he is the right person to be our next Superintendent of Public Instruction," said Harkin. "Jason genuinely cares about our kids. I believe he will always put students, and their future success, first when making any decisions as Superintendent. I'm excited to be supporting a solid educator and proven educational leader to be our next state Superintendent."

Harkin was chosen last year by the Star as man of the year after being nominated by one of his former students, who Harkin continues to support to this day.  Harkin has overcome several obstacles in life.  Despite being stricken with polio, suffering serious paralysis as an infant and having significant physical limitations today, Harkin is a distance swimmer and raises funds for several charities.  As reported by the Star, Harkin has swum the San Francisco Bay and other bodies of water to raise money through his charity Swim for Cures for groups like Tucson Centers for Women and Children and the Interfaith Coalition for the Homeless.  He was involved in a serious car accident in 1999 that caused serious injuries. Still, Harkin is known for his "adventurous, excited, upbeat and cool under pressure" personality, according to the Star.

"Jeremy's inspirational story is one we should all try to follow," said Williams.  "His perseverance throughout the challenges he has faced and his ability to overcome those obstacles to become a great mentor to his students and leader in his community is motivating.  Attracting and retaining quality teachers like Jeremy is critical to the future success of our children and our schools.  As Superintendent, it will be one of my top priorities to reward and duplicate the success we've seen from teachers like Jeremy so we can ensure all of our children are reaching their full potential.  I am honored to have Jeremy's support."

In 2006, Williams secured the Democratic Party nomination for Superintendent of Public Instruction with a majority of votes in 14 of 15 counties.  In the general election against the Republican incumbent, Williams received more votes than any other non-incumbent Democrat in the closest of all the statewide races.

Since then, Williams has continued his work to ensure every child in Arizona has access to a quality public education.  He currently serves as a Managing Partner for BlueDynamic and was the founder of AZ School Works.  In addition to working with the Roosevelt School District, Williams is a faculty member for Arizona State University's Beat the Odds Institute Parent Liaison Academy, meets weekly to mentor an eighth grade student through Arizona Quest for Kids, and serves on several education-related Boards of Directors and Advisory Committees, including College Depot, Communities in Schools, Genesis City, and Phoenix Collegiate Academy.

From 2000 - 2005, Williams served as Executive Director of Teach For America (TFA) in Phoenix.  During his tenure, local funding for the program doubled, teacher placements increased 150%, and the number of schools and districts partnering with TFA increased 100%.  In addition, under his leadership, student achievement levels for the Phoenix program increased significantly, turning the region from TFA's lowest to its highest performing region in the U.S. in just three years.

For more information about Jason Williams, please visit his website here.  To read more about Jeremy Harkin, please visit the Swimming for Cures website here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Press Release: N.O.W endorses Jason

Phoenix, Ariz. - August 11, 2010 - Jason Williams, one of the leading candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction, announced today that the Arizona National Organization for Women (NOW) Political Action Committee has endorsed his candidacy.

In a statement sent this week, NOW, the largest feminist advocacy group in the nation, said they decided to back Williams after determining he shared NOW's values and would support the issues of importance to the women of Arizona.

"I am grateful that the National Organization for Women has recognized my commitment to women's issues," said Williams. "I am proud to stand in support of NOW and the women of Arizona."

The Arizona NOW Political Action Committee works to elect leaders who will protect and advance women's rights. NOW established its national Political Action Committee in 1977, which was followed by the formation of the NOW Equality PAC to support candidates for state and local office. NOW chapters often create their own PACs, which endorse and support candidates through grassroots efforts.

For more information about Jason Williams, please visit his website here. To learn more about the Arizona NOW PAC, click here.