Arizona Is #50 in Adverse Childhood Experiences: #HB2013 Would Hurt Kids Further (video)

child's stove

Arizona is dead last — #50– for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Arizona is not only shortchanging school children, our stingy policies hurt little children before they ever enter the classroom. ACEs include food insecurity; domestic violence; DCS removal; addiction, incarceration, or death of a parent;  or housing insecurity at any level– homelessness, eviction, foster care, etc.

Rep. John Filmore’s bill HB2013 would force teachers to hold back children if they are not performing at grade level– thus eliminating “social promotion” for students who are technically not at grade level. Rep. Jennifer Pawlik– herself a soft-spoken and kind special ed teacher– said that teachers have tools to help children who are progressing but may not be at grade level. Filmore’s bill ignores the expertise of teachers and ignores the fact that some children may need extra help because of Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Far too many Arizona children have the chips stacked against them before they are born and due to significant ACEs during their early years, they enter kindergarten with emotional trauma. At a meeting with Amphi School District educators and parents, I learned that 40-50% of Amphi elementary school children who enroll in school in the fall, don’t end the year in the same school. Why? Housing insecurity, eviction, domestic violence, death, poverty, foster care. With low wages and bad policies, we are forcing far too many families to live with hardship.

Holding a student back a grade is second only to death of a parent in childhood trauma. HB2013 just increases the likelihood that Arizona children will be continue to be worst in the nation for Adverse Childhood Experiences.

In debate, I asked Fillmore if he knew how many kids had been held back in the state of Arizona in the past year. No, he didn’t know. I also asked him how many kids in the state of Arizona had been socially promoted. No, he didn’t know that either. I concluded that if he didn’t know the totals, than he didn’t know if there were any racial, ethnic, gender, or geographic differences in who gets held back and who gets socially promoted. HB2013 is a solution looking for a problem.  The sponsor doesn’t even know the scope of the problem he is trying to fix.

This bill is not good for children. Let’s give children a chance. Instead of eliminating social promotion to “toughen them up”, let’s protect them from adversity and strife in their young lives by ensuring — at the very least–  that they have food and housing security. I’ve said this many times: what if Arizona’s goal was to be middling? What would it take to bring our school system and our Adverse Childhood Experiences to up to #25? It would take billions of dollars in investment because billions of dollars were stolen from the general fund and given away in tax breaks in the past 10 years.

Luckily, HB2013 was killed on the house floor 31 to 29 with Reps. Noel Campbell and Joanne Osborne voting “no” with the Democrats. (Keep an eye out for this one. Dead bills can come back as Zombie Bills; the Build Your Own Border Wall bill was defeated and rose from the dead.)

We can change this. We don’t have to accept bottom of the barrel standards for our children.

How can a “pro-life” state be #50 in Adverse Childhood Experience?

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