Meet Our Candidates: Ian Danley for Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 2016. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in the election, you must have been registered to vote by October 10. Make your voice heard in 2016!

ian-danleyPhoenix Union High School District is one of the most recent districts in Arizona to implement a comprehensive sex education policy, one that includes medically accurate, age-appropriate information on anatomy, reproduction, and biology; teaches students how to reduce risk of unintended pregnancy and STDs; and “empower[s] students to make informed decisions and create healthy relationships.” While these topics should form the basis of any sex education program, they are sadly lacking in most of Arizona’s classrooms, despite the demand for them.


“Helping our students learn and understand how to protect themselves, their relationships, their health, and their bodies is something we want for ALL of our students.”


Electing school board members who understand how important sex education is to students’ well-being is a crucial task for the savvy voter, and the parents and students of Phoenix Union are lucky that their district has forward-thinking folks at the helm — folks like Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s endorsed candidates Ian Danley and Lela Alston. Unfortunately, school boards are constrained by state laws, which in Arizona represent the weakest link in even the most progressive sex education policies.

The state of Arizona has forbidden schools from portraying same-sex sexual behavior in a positive light since 1991. In October 2015, the Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board issued a resolution expressing regret that their sex education policy, “while it is a significant step forward, is not truly inclusive.” And, despite their wish to be inclusive of all students, such as their LGBTQ kids, archaic state law has the district in a straitjacket. The school board has called this law “offensive” and “shaming,” and states that it “has no place in Arizona educational policy.”

Earlier this year, Democratic lawmakers attempted to repeal this law at the state level, but they were blocked by the Republican majority. The tension between the wishes of a local school board and state-mandated homophobia illustrates perfectly why it’s so important to vote the entire length of the ballot. Your state government makes educational policies that impact each district and each student. And, in Arizona, school boards have their hands tied by state-level legislation that prohibits them from offering their students the best curricula. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Lela Alston for Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 2016. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in the election, you must have been registered to vote by October 10. Make your voice heard in 2016!

photo of Lela - headshot 4-2014 copyPhoenix Union High School District governing board candidate Lela Alston is back and at it again. A longtime school teacher and current member of the House of Representatives, Ms. Alston is running for reelection to the governing board of the Phoenix Union High School District. Ms. Alston’s impressive track record of public service reflects her commitment to Arizona’s children and families, for whom she is striving to build a better future. As a school board member, Ms. Alston will continue to advocate for comprehensive sexuality education programs, fight for adequate funding, and celebrate inclusivity and diversity.


“Our students will be healthier in their current lives and in their future lives if they have full knowledge of important subjects such as contraception and HIV/AIDS.”


Ms. Alston participated in our “Meet Our Candidates” series in 2012 and 2014 as a candidate for the House of Representatives, and on October 10, 2016, she graciously agreed to a telephone interview in which she discussed her candidacy for PUHSD school board.

Tell us a little about your background and why it’s important to you to be involved with education in your community.

I am a retired teacher from PUHSD, and I was asked to run by my colleagues when they felt the board was not supportive of students, faculty, and other employees. I have long been involved in the political world, and I have always had education, children, and families at the top of my agenda. I served in the state Senate from 1977 to 1995, and in 1994 I ran for State School Superintendent and lost to Lisa Graham Keegan. After that, I went back to teaching school full time. I retired 10 years ago, and eight years ago there was an opening on the school board for which I was asked to run. I am now running for my third term on the school board and I have in the meantime gone back to serving my legislative district in the state House. This year I will be starting my seventh year in the House, so I will be term-limited from the House after this next two years.

As a teacher I taught home-economics, and my master’s is in child development and human relations, so the issues of education, family, and children just kind of naturally fit with the issues I have championed all my adult life. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Kelli Butler for State Representative, LD 28

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 2016. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in the election, you must have been registered to vote by October 10. Make your voice heard in 2016!

kelli-butler-2016-scaledThe 28th legislative district has, until recently, been represented in the House by Democrat Eric Meyer and Republican Kate Brophy McGee, making it one of the state’s few swing districts. Dr. Eric Meyer, although termed out of the House, was not done fighting for his values and District 28. Evaluating his competition, incumbent Adam Driggs announced that he would not seek reelection. Kate Brophy McGee jumped at the opportunity to get in the Senate race, leaving two seats in the House up for grabs.

Kelli Butler, a Democrat, hopes to occupy one of those seats, keeping LD 28’s House representation split between one Democrat and one Republican.

Ms. Butler will be squaring off against Mary Hamway and Maria Syms, both of whom support heavy restrictions on abortion.  Ms. Syms also opposes including sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression in nondiscrimination laws. While all three House candidates have made education a central part of their platforms, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona trusts Ms. Butler to advocate for a very important aspect of children’s schooling: comprehensive sex education. For that reason, and because of her strong support for reproductive rights, we recommend a single-shot vote for Kelli Butler.

Education, the economy, and child safety represent the three pillars of Ms. Butler’s platform, and comprehensive sex education links all three of these issues together. Including comprehensive sex education in schools empowers students with the information they need to avoid sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies — the latter of which will help reduce dropout rates among teenage girls. When teens are able to delay childbearing until after they complete their educations, they are able to obtain better jobs and be less dependent on public assistance, helping to strengthen the economy. Knowledge about preventing pregnancy can help them start their families when they are ready, helping children to be born into more stable homes that are ready to raise them.

We need lawmakers at the Capitol to introduce legislation that improves sex education in all of Arizona, rather than making piecemeal advances one district at a time. Even school districts with relatively progressive sex-ed programs are constrained by state laws that, for example, forbid teachers from presenting LGBTQ folks in a positive light. We need representatives like Ms. Butler to give local school districts better laws to work with.

Kelli Butler is running to represent Legislative District 28, which includes Paradise Valley and parts of Phoenix. She took the time for an interview with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona on October 12, 2016.


“Medically accurate and age-appropriate sex education is vital to every person’s health and well-being.”


Tell us a little about your background and why it’s important to you to be involved in your community.

I am a native Arizonan and I grew up largely within the boundaries of my district. I attended local public schools at a time when Arizona was near the national average in per-student funding. We had access to quality programs and educational options that are no longer available to our public school students today. When my two boys attended our neighborhood public school, I witnessed the dire results of budget cuts — programs like art, music, and electives were cut, class sizes increased, and teachers began leaving the profession. I got involved in politics because I am a passionate advocate for education and I want to be part of a different vision for our state. Continue reading

Spotlight on Eric Meyer: The 28th Legislative District’s Champion for Health Care and Education

Eric_Meyer_Pic_004[1] (1)Dr. Eric Meyer is a champion. As an emergency department doctor, he’s seen how lack of access to health care impacts Arizonans every day. As a state representative from Legislative District 28, he’s also seen the impact of legislators putting the health and safety of everyone at risk when they attempt to practice medicine without a license. As a physician, it’s clear to Dr. Meyer that all medical decisions must be made by a patient and her doctor, not by the legislature. Therefore, as a candidate for the Arizona Senate, Dr. Meyer is poised to bring his wide-ranging experience to the highest legislative body in the state — if, on November 8, voters elect to send him back to the Capitol as a senator.


“Opposing [comprehensive sex education] is irresponsible and unfair to our state’s youth and the society as a whole.”


In 2014, the Arizona Mayors’ Education Roundtable released a report stating that high school dropouts cost the state $7.6 billion over the course of their lifetime. There is a direct correlation between medically accurate comprehensive sexual education and a reduction in teen pregnancy rates. Similarly, there is a direct correlation between teen pregnancy and school dropout rates, which leads to poverty and translates to high costs to the state. Why, then, do so many state lawmakers stridently oppose comprehensive sex education on the one hand, while on the other hand they decry teen pregnancy and high-school dropouts?

Luckily, during his eight years in the Arizona House of Representatives, Dr. Eric Meyer has built a consistent voting record when it comes to promoting education and preventing teen pregnancy, and he is prepared to continue this fight on the Senate floor. “We must develop a thoughtful, statewide policy to address these issues,” Meyer stated. “The most fundamental, basic first step to breaking this cycle is to provide statewide comprehensive, medically accurate sexual education for all teenagers.” Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Steve Weichert for State Senator, LD 17

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 2016. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in the election, you must register to vote by October 10 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2016!

steve-weichertThe 17th legislative district hangs just southeast of Phoenix, covering the greater part of Chandler, western Gilbert, and Sun Lakes. It is currently represented in the Arizona Senate by Steven Yarbrough, who has a history of opposing reproductive rights and LGBTQ equality. LD 17 needs better representation, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona endorses Steve Weichert, who will fight for improved education and health-care access — including comprehensive sex education and access to family planning services.


“Women can count on me to protect their health care and reproductive rights.”


In 2003, Mr. Weichert moved to Chandler, where his family has put down permanent roots. He and his wife are raising two school-age daughters, so he knows first-hand just how crucial quality education is. He points to the importance of attracting and retaining talented teachers and attaining smaller classroom sizes. As such, a key component of his platform is improving education funding in Arizona, and, as he tells us in today’s interview, he believes comprehensive sex education is an integral aspect of a student’s overall education.

Just as Arizona needs to be able to hold onto good K-12 teachers, Mr. Weichert knows how vital it is to retain a vibrant population of physicians and other health-care providers. As a health-care administrator, he has a front-row seat to Arizona’s shortage of health-care providers. While the University of Arizona College of Medicine provides affordable education, Mr. Weichert says Arizona loses its investment when its graduates are lured out of state by better salaries and benefits. And, as an employee of Gila River Health Care, serving the Gila River Indian Community, Mr. Weichert sees the importance of expanding health care access to historically under-served populations.

According to the Center for Arizona Policy’s 2016 candidate questionnaire, LD 17’s current senator, Steven Yarbrough, is in favor of strict prohibitions on Arizonans’ access to abortion; he is also opposed to recognizing individuals’ gender identity and including the LGBTQ community in nondiscrimination laws. In 2014, Sen. Yarbrough helped propel Arizona to national headlines when he sponsored SB 1062, which would have given businesses the right to refuse service to LGBTQ customers. He sponsored a similar bill the year before — but both that bill and SB 1062 were vetoed by then-governor Jan Brewer.

We need lawmakers who prioritize issues that have a direct impact on Arizonans’ quality of life — and Steve Weichert will focus on quality education and health-care access, without wasting time introducing fear-based bills like SB 1062 that solve no problems. Mr. Weichert generously took the time to answer our questions on September 18, 2016. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Betts Putnam-Hidalgo for Tucson Unified School Board

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 2016. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in the election, you must register to vote by October 10 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2016!

betts-putnam-hidalgo-scaledBetts Putnam-Hidalgo, a lifelong social activist and a fixture at Tucson Unified School District Governing Board meetings, is running for the board for the third time. The at-large position is nonpartisan.

The retired landscaper studied at the University of Arizona and at New Mexico University. Her family, which includes several enormous dogs, lives in a historic downtown Tucson neighborhood.

In its 2014 endorsement of her, the Arizona Daily Star said that the system badly needed new leadership, and that Putnam-Hidalgo “best” understood “the complex issues facing TUSD. The board must make tough decisions to focus a district that has lost about 13,000 students in the last 12 years.” The paper noted that despite her loss two years earlier, Putnam-Hidalgo

still kept up her regular attendance at board meetings. She’s also been actively involved in school site councils, served as a community representative and taught English as a second language to parents.

She speaks with enthusiasm of participating in parent leadership training through Voices for Education as a starting point for her advocacy. Her positions include supporting an internal auditor, reducing kindergarten through third-grade class sizes to 18 and making schools a neighborhood hub for social services as well as education.

A board adversary on one issue may be an ally on the next, she says, indicating she will not vote with a bloc on the board [and] … she’d ensure the authority line clearly reflects that “the superintendent works for the board.”

These same points are in her platform today. In addition to increased honesty and transparency in the district, she is calling for an end to abusively high administrative costs and low classroom funding. She will not support enormous compensation packages for the superintendent or other administrators while TUSD teachers and staff are among the lowest paid across surrounding districts. She notes that with the current pay structure, “the further one is from the students, the more compensation one receives. This is backwards and dangerous.”


“When it comes to avoiding teen pregnancy and having healthy relationships, ignorance is dangerous.”


The native New Yorker came to Arizona in the 1970s and came to her interest in TUSD through her son, now 16. She was 45 when he was born, already stepmother to two boys.

“When we lived in New Mexico, before my own son was born, the military recruiters started to call for my stepsons. I could not get them to stop. That was when I knew there was activism to be done in the schools,” Putnam-Hidalgo told us in an August 26, 2016, phone interview, during which she answered the following questions.

TUSD recently voted to include comprehensive sexuality education in its classrooms. What would you like this new curriculum to look like?

I’m really excited about it being a whole lot more than just name-the-body-parts. From what I understood from a number of high school students, they want [information about] how emotions and sexual contact intersect … I had that at a private school in the eighth grade: how sexual activity was nothing to be ashamed of and should be fun. We made fun of the teacher at the time but I now realize she was a revolutionary! Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Scott Prior for State Senator, LD 16

The Arizona primary election takes place TODAY! Find your polling location here. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in today’s primary election, you need to have been registered to vote by August 1. Missed the deadline? You can still register online for November’s general election. Make your voice heard in 2016!

Scott Prior cropped scaledScott Prior is resilient and tenacious in his commitment to underrepresented citizens. He is running for the state Senate in Arizona’s Legislative District 16 for the third time. He previously ran in 2012 and 2014, at which time he shared his thoughts with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona (PPAA). PPAA has endorsed Mr. Prior each time because as a Democrat who is independent-minded, he places the interest of people over the interest of profit. He is committed to individual freedom and believes that human dignity should come before corporate, government, or religious interests. Mr. Prior’s wife is running in the same district for the state House of Representatives. Scott and Cara have been married 20 years and live in Apache Junction. They are both committed to reproductive justice.


“Sex education should be age-appropriate and provided in schools.”


Legislative District 16 includes Apache Junction, East Mesa, Gold Canyon, and northern San Tan Valley. Mr. Prior will be running against Republican David Farnsworth. Sen. Farnsworth believes that abortions should always be illegal and does not believe that the Arizona government should fund clinics and medical facilities that provide abortion services. Sen. Farnsworth also does not support sex education in schools, increasing funding for programs to prevent teen pregnancy, the inclusion of sexual orientation in Arizona’s anti-discrimination laws, or recognizing same-sex marriages.

On July 8, 2016, Mr. Prior generously took time to share his thoughts with PPAA again via Skype, sharing why he is more determined than ever to win this election.

Since PPAA last spoke with you, how has your commitment to serving Arizona grown? What has happened during that time to give you hope, and what has happened to strengthen your convictions?

The serious mistakes made over the last two years by the state Legislature have made me even more resolved to make a difference in the state of Arizona. Funding for schools has been slashed while corporate tax breaks and funding for private prisons have been increased. I do not want to see what has happened in Kansas happen in Arizona. In Kansas, there has not been enough money to keep the schools open the entire year.

As a secular humanist, I do not believe or follow any religion. It is unacceptable for the Phoenix City Council and the Arizona Legislature to deny all but Judeo-Christian faiths from taking part in opening invocations. It is important that we all understand the importance of the separation of church and state. Continue reading