Education is a pillar of democracy and I believe that access to academic excellence should be the right of every child in America. This platform not only serves the individual child and their family, but also helps build a stronger nation. An educated populace is an engaged and productive populace. My own three children have benefited from an excellent education in the Kyrene School District.
The current COVID-19 crisis has forced a shift in our focus as the virus spreads through the community affecting populations differently and revealing cracks in a central tenet of our democracy: equality. Some Kyrene families have ready access to efficient internet service and
computer hardware, parents whose jobs may adjust more easily to home/work environment, living spaces more adaptable to social distancing, and adequate food resources and health care.
However, other families in the district may experience few of these advantages. The inevitable result of this inequality is revealed in the impact of the virus on families within the district. Infection and death rates due to COVID -19 are much higher in communities of color and among people living in poverty. Access to needed resources, such as computers, internet and even childcare, vary widely in our community.
I can promise you my first priority is to the children of the district and how to keep them safe, while simultaneously delivering the best education to reach their potential in this challenging environment. I am also a strong advocate for our teachers because I understand how hard (and rewarding) the job can be, and in today’s COVID-19 reality, how dangerous it can be. The professionals who have chosen to stay in a career that has not been highly valued by some, deserve our support, our gratitude and our concern. Finally, my priority is to the parents who largely want the same thing for their child: a safe and nurturing learning environment.
With a professional background in education (former public high school teacher, current ASU professor), business (co-owner of an international entertainment company for 28 years), and social justice (PhD in Justice Studies), I am uniquely positioned to help guide the district through this crisis with scholastic, fiscal and justice experience.
As our society continues to change and new challenges face us, schools have the opportunity to model for the rest of the community how to champion each other’s strengths, how to support one another in challenging times, and how to thrive in a democracy that serves us all. In addition to the goal of providing an incomparable learning environment, teaching our children a sense of community may be public education’s highest calling.
I am running for Kyrene School Board because I believe that excellent schools, available to all children in all zip codes, is the key to a healthy democracy.
I am also a parent of three children and I always tried to advocate for whatever their needs might be. I understand parents’ desire to find the best learning environment for their child.
However, whenever I made decisions, I tried to take a giant step back and look beyond just my small circle in the world to see how the decisions that I making for my family might affect the broader community, region, country and world. I think this is very important because what affects the broader community, eventually affects us all.
It is through this lens that I view school choice. Every student that attends a school comes with money attached to them from the state. If a child attends Colina Elementary, for example, Colina receives funding directly from the state to educate that child. If that same child goes to a charter school down the block, the money follows her. Every student who leaves the school in their neighborhood to one down the block takes the money with her.
Some people are advocating for school vouchers. This would effectively cause a double hit to schools. A child leaves Colina, takes her state money with her to another school. Then, a parent may write this expense off their taxes, which is another subtraction for public school financial support. The current law is that if you have a child with special needs you can use a school voucher (which I support). I do not support the expansion of school vouchers to all students because it would undermine public school financing (which is already woefully inadequate).
Arizona is the 49th worst state in public school funding, and teachers must reach into their own pockets for supplies, and school buildings are in disrepair (Kyrene escapes some of this due to parents’ donations).
Taking this all into account, I guard public schools closely whenever issues arise that might result in funding being taken from their coffers. I understand that some families might have particular and specific needs for a child that may not be attended to at the local public school down the street. However, it becomes a bit of a chicken and egg doesn’t it? What I mean to say is, if we keep bleeding money from public schools because the school cannot provide services, how can the schools provide services when the money walks away? And if our public schools keep suffering from people leaving their local schools, suddenly a right to a great education goes away for countless families who find school choice not really a choice at all. Diane Ravitch is an educator who worked as George H.W. Bush’s Assistant Secretary of Education. She has an excellent blog that follows all of these issues in greater detail than I can cover here: https://dianeravitch.net/category/school-choice/
So, am I anti-school choice? It depends; but in most circumstances, I would argue that when you take a giant step back from your family circle, supporting your public school is better for the community. And since we are all part of a community, isn’t it better if we work together to make that school the best it can be?