Category: Cronkite News

Would Douglas’ stand against Common Core doom the standards?

By ALICIA CANALES Cronkite News PHOENIX – If her current lead holds, Arizona will elect as superintendent of public instruction a tea party Republican who has made eliminating the state’s version of the Common Core State Standards central to her campaign. Diane Douglas’ stance on the Common Core has aroused concerns among education advocates and contributed to the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s decision to endorse Democrat David Garcia. Should Douglas win, does that mean she could eliminate Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards? The short answer: No, at least not on her own. The superintendent of public instruction’s role is implementing policies, including the decision to adopt the Common Core standards, that have been approved by the State Board of Education. The superintendent is among the board’s 11 members but has just one vote. “Regardless of who is the superintendent, the fact remains that it is the State Board of Education’s role in what the state standards are going to be,” said Jonathan Butcher, education director at Goldwater Institute, an independent group that advocates for limited government. “It is not as though any superintendent could simply flip a switch when they walk in and Common Core would disappear.” However, Douglas could use the position to influence the Legislature, according to Chris Thomas, the Arizona School Boards Association’s director of legal and policy services and general counsel. While...

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Aspen decline in northern Arizona leaves forestry officials searching for answers

By STEPHEN HAMWAY Cronkite News FLAGSTAFF – By some measures, aspens are the largest organisms in the world, as entire groves spanning thousands of trees can be interconnected through elaborate root systems. The trees, which can live up to 100 years, draw people from across the Southwest to Coconino National Forest each autumn with their yellow and reddish leaves. But in recent decades, the number of aspens in Arizona’s higher elevations has declined sharply. A 2001 study by the U.S. Forest Service said that Arizona has seen a 96 percent decline in aspen acreage since 1900, the largest by far among states with significant aspen populations. Mary Lou Fairweather, a Flagstaff-based forest pathologist for the Forest Service, said the decline has intensified in recent years. “The last couple decades there was more of a concern because we had this huge mortality event that was totally tied to the drought in 2002-2003,” she said. Fairweather said the drought and the high temperatures that accompanied it killed more than 90 percent of aspens in some parts of the state from 2002 through 2007. She also pointed to a shortage of fires, both wildfires and controlled burns, as another factor impeding regrowth. While it might seem counterintuitive, Fairweather said that aspens can survive most low-temperature fires, but the absence of fires has led to an influx of ponderosa pines and other conifers....

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GOP hopes to mimic national gains in Arizona races for House seats

By Justin McDuffie WASHINGTON – Most polls and political experts predict Republicans will gain seats in the House in Tuesday’s elections, and the same scenario could play out in Arizona where the three tightest races are all seats held by Democrats. One political scientist noted that the state regularly has competitive congressional races, but that Democrats this year are burdened by a president with unusually low popularity. One key to the outcome, he said, could be participation by minority and younger...

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Shuffle elsewhere: Arizona does well on zombie attack survivability

By CAMARON STEVENSON Cronkite News WASHINGTON – Arizona has been known to lure new residents with its favorable climate and low taxes, but three new studies may give the state a fresh appeal: zombie apocalypse survivability. Travel site Hopper and real estate search firm Estately recently ranked Arizona as a good place to be in the event of a zombie outbreak, while online real estate firm Trulia took the other tack, ranking the state as less zombie-friendly than others. In both scenarios, Arizona came out as good for those with a heartbeat. The rankings – based on such things as good-for-zombies obesity ratings and traffic tie-ups and good-for-humans gun ownership and hardware stores – are the latest in the offbeat “best of” lists that pop up regularly from companies seeking a little buzz. And Halloween seemed to get several thinking of zombies. “It’s a fun way to entertain people and get some brand recognition,” said Estately’s Ryan Nickum, who said the zombie listing got a “pretty substantial” reaction on Facebook. It’s not the first time such lists have been used to attract attention. Estately, for example, has published lists of the states with the most-immature men and each state’s most-popular cocktail. Trulia got in to the spirit of the season with a survey on prospective homebuyers’ feelings on haunted houses, but it has also put out lists of cities...

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