Centered: The Arizona K12 Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Kathy Wiebke, offers her education insights in this monthly column. As I watched people turn out en masse to support Arizona’s public schools, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the sheer number of people filling the streets. The color rMay 18, 2018
Centered: The Arizona K12 Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Kathy Wiebke, offers her education insights in this monthly column.
As I watched people turn out en masse to support Arizona’s public schools, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the sheer number of people filling the streets. The color red could be seen everywhere, from the street corners in local neighborhoods to the downtown thoroughfares surrounding the Capitol. Young and old gathered together with one common message: Support our schools.
Whether it was the Women’s March, the March for our Lives, or #RedForEd, people are finding their collective voices to advocate for deeply held beliefs.
The situation we face in Arizona is the result of decades of funding cuts. The problem did not happen overnight, and it will take more than one week of marches to solve it. In fact, I would submit that when it comes to Arizona’s current landscape, most all of us are culpable. We are culpable when we don’t vote, take the time to get to know the candidates who are running, or read a newspaper. We rarely contact our elected officials to share our own opinions, nor do we take time to truly understand the issues before us. When, and if, they hold a town hall, how many of us actually show up? When we refuse to engage, we are letting the voices of others take over the narrative. Like many, I like to think that elected officials, my representatives, are working on my behalf. Unfortunately, I have come to realize that this is not always the case. Many are working on behalf of a select group of funders or ideologies that are not consistent with mine.
Over the years, I have had many teacher friends say, “I don’t like to get political,” but almost every decision impacting their schools, classrooms, and students happens in a political sphere. Frankly, I never understood that notion. I was always active in the local politics of my school district, which in reality was the governing board. At the same time, the decisions that impacted them were made in our legislature. Conversely, I did not take the time to get to know the people running for my local school district or city council. While I vote in every election, I am not sure all of my votes were informed ones. For me, this is not a point of pride.
It is hard to complain about something when you do not engage in the process. We can dole out all the excuses we want, but when you use “I am too busy,” in today’s 24-hour news cycle the sentiment is nullified. With social media, information about candidates and issues is readily available.
I’m committed to looking beyond the labels and sides of the aisle. Instead, I hope you’ll join me to take the time to really understand and know all the candidates. Let’s analyze their platforms because although people will say they support public education, it’s not always the case. Let’s ask ourselves: Are their values similar to mine? Do their actions move beyond the rhetoric? Do they care about my family?
This year, I am not only going to become an informed voter, but also, I am getting behind the issues and candidates that share my values. I am going to donate my money and time to these campaigns because it is no longer enough to just vote. Rather, we need to become fully participatory in the process. I believe Arizona’s future demands this of us all.