I received a phone call from a parent of a school aged child this week. She expressed concerns held by so many in our community.
She frets about the long-term ramifications the pandemic is having on the economy. And, while she understands the important role our K-12 schools have in freeing up parents to work, she worries about the health and welfare of the teachers and staff she adores.
Then she posed this question: “If I vote for you, what confidence can I have that you will be the kind of leader that can help address any of these concerns?”
Let’s face it; our current elected officials in AZ are not up to the task.
From the governor sticking his finger in the wind rather than leading, to the GOP majority in the state legislature avoiding responsibility rather than calling a special session, it is clear they have no interest in leadership or finding solutions to these tough problems.
We do need to get our economy going again so people can support themselves and stop fearing the loss of income. For that to happen we can’t just open our schools, we have to keep them open.
Our current elected representatives should have used the past few months to fit our schools with sanitation stations and proper PPE. They should have ramped up testing. They should have been far more cautious in re-opening businesses in the state. They should have provided more support to small business owners impacted by the closures.
They should have done so much and yet they have done so little.
I have reached out to the mayor of Fountain Hills asking what her current state representatives are doing to help. Her answer was shocking and maddening. Not only have they offered nothing, they haven’t even contacted her.
Everyone wants schools to open. Teachers would like nothing more than to be in their classrooms. But because of the lack of leadership, they aren’t ready for that.
We know what we need to do, the safety measures are well known. Let’s fund them. Let’s make our schools safe for our children so they can re-open.
Let’s support all of our school personnel by covering all out of pocket costs that may occur due to COVID. Many, if not most staff members at our public schools have upwards of $5,000 deductibles that must be met before their health insurance starts to pay out.
In addition to asking teachers, many of whom are older and medically vulnerable to take the risk and become “frontline” workers in helping our families get back to their jobs and our children back to school, we are also asking them to put their financial health at risk.
To the average teacher or paraprofessional, a $5,000+ medical bill is enough to incur a bankruptcy.
We, as a society, cannot ask our teachers to put both their lives and their financial security at risk. We have decimated school funding for the last 25 years and we are now left with an overburdened system.
In November we can make some wholesale changes in Arizona. But, for now, state leaders, call a special session and get to work!
Editor’s Note: Eric Kurland is seeking election to Arizona’s House of Representatives for Legislative District 23.