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Candidate commentary

Ducey's lack of leadership dumps blame on teachers - TUSD candidate Natalie Luna Rose

For Arizonans, this pandemic has imposed extraordinary challenges on an already-challenged education system. As a parent and candidate for the TUSD Governing Board, I want to help my community face those challenges. I believe all children should have the opportunity to receive the best education possible. For me, COVID-19 has only underscored the urgency.

It is time to step up and pick up where others stepped back.

In his last press conference, Gov. Doug Ducey suggested Arizona's school districts are essentially on their own. After threatening to withhold funding if schools do not open physically, five days a week, the governor put the onus on school boards and districts to decide what to do next. We have been told to expect guidelines by August 7. Other than that, it's "good luck" from the top.

This is leadership?

The governor wasted six weeks testing the waters, only to end up back at the beginning. He passed the buck, so whatever happened, his hands would be clean and there would be someone else to blame when it all went wrong. Thanks a lot, Doug.

This lack of leadership allows blame to be once again dumped on the shoulders of our teachers. It is not their job to accommodate and fill in for an extremely weak government response to this crisis.

Their job is to educate our children to the best of their ability with support from their district and the state. They certainly are not paid enough to take those kinds of risks. COVID-19 is exposing the inequality, lack of funding and overall disregard for this female dominated field. We expect them to be paid little, to risk their health, and possibly even their lives to COVID-19.

Our current political climate is downright hostile to public education. Teachers are viewed as underperforming, administrators as overpaid and school boards as ineffective. On the contrary, I see teachers and school workers as essential to the promise of a more fair and democratic society for our children and theirs. The Invest in Ed ballot initiative is a good place to start. Every Arizonan who cares about education should be contacting our governor and Legislature, showing up to support this much needed initiative, and standing against the fiscal neglect that continues to keep Arizona ranked 49th in education and drive good teachers out of the profession.

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We are 49th in the nation in public education funding. 49th! What kind of person would accept that? After all, isn't a great education is what most people want for their kids? A great school district that will educate our students into productive members of society, from professionals who should be respected and paid their worth for the hard work they do? These should be easy answers.

However, in a pandemic, especially for schools, it's not.

I do appreciate that Dr. Trujillo and the TUSD administration have started to move forward in providing clarity and direction for our families. It may not be a perfect plan, and under these circumstances, no plan would be. But to coin the phrase "it's pandemic school." TUSD is putting together a structure for something we have not seen in our lifetime. I know this will stress many families, including my own, but we must continue providing a quality education for all children of every need.

There is no reason to wait for another vague press conference in which the governor takes two more weeks to check the polls on what to do next. Lives are at stake. Schools must remain closed physically until we see those numbers go down and stay down for good.

Even in a pandemic, public schools are probably our best example of democracy in action. School boards help set policies that will shape our kids' education including curriculum, technology, programs and decisions about how to spend public money. More than ever, we need to support the great programs TUSD offers such as OMA, GATE and Ethnic Studies. We need to listen to staff and students about their concerns, support our students with disabilities, lobby our Legislature for more funding for our school facilities and of course, work to increase staff and teachers' salaries to help keep good people in education.

This pandemic has only stressed the importance of what public schools mean to our society.

While public schools are continually a work in progress as our society is constantly moving, they are the only schools under a true mandate to provide the sense of equality needed in a democratic society. They need strong advocates now more than ever.

Natalie Luna Rose, a candidate for the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board, is graduate of Rincon High School, a parent of 7th grader at Alice Vail Middle School and a founding member of the Tucson Unified Parent Advocacy Council.

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TUSD Governing Board candidate Natalie Luna Rose