SB 1070: What It Cost Arizona’s Students?

When the Arizona K-12 Center began this website, I was encouraged to write about how policies impacted my classroom. There has been no other policy that has had a bigger impact on my classroom than SB 1070. In case you are not familiar, this is Arizona’s immigration bill. To say that this is a volatile topic in Arizona is an understatement. I have stayed away from this topic because I was hoping someone else would be brave enough to cover it. Since I have yet to read that blog, I have decided to live up to the goal that I was encouraged to do: write about policies that impact my practice. How has this law impacted my classroom? It has cost the students at my school quality teachers, resources and educational services.

            In 2005, there were 42 educators at my school. Since SB 1070 was introduced, we have lost 2 Kindergarten teachers, 1 first grade teacher, 2 second grade teachers,1 teacher each in grades 3-5, 1 and a half  counselors, 2 SEI teachers, and our P.E., art, and music teachers have been reduced to 90% contracts. We also lost our reading coach who worked with teachers developing appropriate reading instruction to benefit all of our students and our math interventionist who worked with small groups of students to build math skills in struggling students. At our peak, we employed 42 full time professionals to service the needs of our population. We now employ 26 full time educators. As you can see, we have lost 16 positions over the last 6 years. One of the deepest losses our students felt was the loss of our counselors. We used to have two full time counselors but now we only have one that splits her time with another school. The work that they did was beyond measure. They meet with students and their families to take care of their emotional needs, organized community events and fundraisers, and they assessed students to show what services they needed to be successful at school.  Since they’ve been reduced, no one has had the time or ambition to pick up their areas of expertise. Who do my students talk to now when they need to process their feelings about a death in the family or help to control their emotions? They helped to get the students in a place that they could participate fully in their learning in the classroom without their emotions or behaviors distracting them.

            The teachers that are left have been reshuffled around to areas or grades that they have no experience or possibly any interest in. One of the 5 teachers that taught second grade with me had a passion for science. She worked with our grade level to help us do a better job at teaching science. She was forced to move to third grade. Most teachers have an area that they are passionate about or that they excel at. Wouldn’t it benefit the students to have a teacher who is teaching their strength and not a subject/grade level they were forced to do just to keep their job?

            Some of this loss of jobs and students has been due to the economy and shrinking budgets. However, the year after SB 1070 was drafted, my school lost about 70 kids. Over the next couple years, we lost approxiamtely another 70. Because we lost students, we lost teachers. I know some people will view this as a success because the government is saving money but that is 14 teachers from one school who do not have jobs. And 140 kids who are unaccounted for, and not filling the classrooms of my school. How many teachers and students is that across the state of Arizona? It’s an unintended consequence of this bill but there are many unemployed educators in this state and many students who are not getting the services that they need. The state is saving money from teacher salaries but at the cost of student services.

            Is the fight against undocumented citizens worth the sacrifice of a quality education for all of Arizona’s students?


Donnie Dicus

Donnie Dicus

Tucson, Arizona

My name is Donnie Dicus and I have been teaching in Arizona for 12 years. I came to Arizona from Southern Illinois to attend the University of Arizona in Tucson. I graduated in 2003 and began teaching second grade. I taught second grade in Tucson for 8 years before moving to Phoenix. I now teach third grade. I achieved National Board Certification in 2012 and I received my Master’s Degree from Grand Canyon University in 2015. I achieved a National Board Certificate in Middle Childhood Generalist in 2012. I’ve been teaching mainstream and SEI 3rd grade classrooms in the Cartwright School District in Phoenix since 2013. I taught 2nd grade and was a math interventionist in Tucson in the Amphitheater School District. I’ve been a technology coach and have helped teachers apply technology to improve instruction. I facilitate coaching cohorts for teachers going through the National Board process and organize peer groups at my site to pair new teachers with experienced teachers. In 2010 I was nominated as a Rodel Semi-Finalist for Exemplary teaching in 2010 and featured as a Teacher Leader in February 2016 by the Arizona K12 Center.
I have class pictures of every single student I have taught behind my desk on my wall. After 12 years, that is approximately 350 students. My students know that this is my Wall of Accomplishments. I am so proud of the difference I made in their lives. I became a teacher to make a difference and I strive to do so every day.

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