For Rep. Townsend and teacher critics, facts went bye-bye - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

For Rep. Townsend and teacher critics, facts went bye-bye

May 21st, 2018 development
For Rep. Townsend and teacher critics, facts went bye-bye

By David Leibowitz, Columnist


One of my favorite journalistic staples nowadays is the “fact check.”

Typically, fact checks involve a media outlet assigning a 19-year-old college intern to gauge the truth of a public figure’s statement – usually by Googling stuff or making some phone calls. Then, said intern ranks the veracity of the statement using stars.

Four stars means George “I Cannot Tell a Lie” Washington, would’ve been proud. One star? That means President Trump probably said it. In between, three stars means, “Yeah, that sounds about right,” and two stars means, “I found a bunch of confusing stuff on the internet, so this seems mostly false.”

I mention fact checks because now seems like the right time to examine some of the rhetoric surrounding Arizona’s #RedForEd moment.

The state’s education budget had just passed in the wee hours of Thursday – including a 20 percent pay raise for teachers – and the Legislature sleepily debated the balance of the budget. With Gov. Ducey signing House Bill 2663 Thursday at dawn, Arizona’s 60,000 striking schoolteachers presumably will return to work  now, creating the next generation of intern fact checkers.

Until then? You’re stuck with me.

Let’s begin the fact-checking with Mesa state Rep. Kelly Townsend, who has branded #RedForEd as a socialist plot because of the far-left affinities of one of the group’s leaders, Noah Karvelis.

Says Townsend: “Mr. Karvelis has openly supported socialist ideas and recommends his fellow teachers do the same. This is absolutely unacceptable and as a veteran of the U.S. Navy, I cannot and will not negotiate with such a group.”

I’m giving Townsend’s accusation one star.

Is Karvelis a Commie? I don’t know where he fits between Karl Marx and Bernie Sanders. But here’s what I do know: Tens of thousands of teachers demanding better pay and additional education funding cannot be pigeonholed by the beliefs of one 23-year-old with a bullhorn.

Townsend’s logic is no different than the tired liberal syllogism that says, “David Duke is a racist. David Duke is a Republican. Thus, all Republicans are racist.”

Next up, let’s examine a nugget of conventional wisdom best expressed by the phrase, “We will remember in November.”

You’ve heard that one a few thousand times lately, uttered by political partisans who claim #RedForEd will create a massive #wave colored either blue – resulting in the defeat of incumbent Republican Ducey – or red – keeping the GOP firmly entrenched statewide.

I give the wave concept two stars – mostly false. Why? Mostly because it’s May and Election Day isn’t for six months. I suspect much of the passion around #RedForEd will have subsided by then for the 6.9 million Arizonans not wearing a red t-shirt or posting #PurpleForParents opposition statements.

Additionally, Ducey has acquitted himself well on the public relations front, standing by the narrative that teachers wanted raises and he found the money – more than $1 billion for education. Expect to see that soundbite on millions of dollars of TV ads all summer and fall.

Finally, let’s defy fact-checking tradition and rank a statement as deserving negative stars – so false, it defies comprehension.

It’s the accusation made by counter-protesters that Arizona’s teachers are “greedy” for striking.

Really? Greedy?

For demanding a raise to about the national average teacher’s salary – $58,00 a year – in a profession that demands a college degree, licensing, ongoing professional development and the ability to educate dozens of kids all day long for nine months a year?

If that’s how you define greed, well, allow me to politely suggest that you need to go ahead and check your damn facts.