I am an Arizona native. I went to public schools from 1st through 12th grade. I didn’t understand then how lucky I was to have come up in the schools I did. I was able to take for granted the many resources offered to me as a gifted student. I never even considered the possibility that any other child might not have access to the quality public education I received. Unfortunately, now I know better.
I moved back home in 2013, after being away for 15 years. I have a son now and California is too expensive for me. I had this idea that since my upbringing here was positive, my son would also be able to thrive. I found an awesome Montessori preschool / kindergarten for him and set him on his academic path. All was going according to plan until I spoke with fellow parents whose children were graduating to first grade, and learned how far some might need to travel for a “good school.” I learned that over 1000 teachers had left the state in 2015 alone because their salaries weren’t enough to afford to live and work here. I learned that the state owes our public schools $1.7 BILLION. I learned that Arizona class sizes are among the largest in the nation, often assigning 35 students to 1 teacher with no aide. I learned that some districts had cut their school week to 4 days. I was appalled. I wondered what had happened to the flourishing public school system of my youth.
Earlier this year, a grade school friend whose activism I admired posted on Facebook about a petition she was circulating. I asked her all the dumb questions that I could have easily Googled. Thankfully, she laid out the absurdity that is SB1431 in words a novice could understand. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Our legislature, fueled by dark money from Koch and DeVos lobbying groups, had voted to siphon more public funds from public schools in order to subsidize private education for families that could already afford it? Is this real life?
To counter my rage, she also described the badass crew of volunteers joining forces in this fight against voucher expansion. They were organized and supportive, and exceeding their own expectations. Before I’d even finished my coffee, we had made plans for me to pick up some petitions.
I took 50.
I set up shop in front of Paradise Valley Community College three hours a day, four days a week. In that 100-degree heat, over those short weeks, I spoke with more people than I ever had in my life. I made new friends. And it was glorious. Volunteering with SOS will go down as one of my proudest moments. I want every child to have the same quality public education that I received in K-12. Every child deserves this.
I stand for repealing SB1431 because education is the greatest equalizer. Quality public schools are paramount to a healthy, productive society. Who are we if we don’t recognize this connection?
I promise to fight for your kids. Will you fight for mine?