By Alexander Lomax
Education has been a significant hot-button issue here in Arizona for a few election cycles, and for good reason. Our schools have long been underfunded, the student-to-teacher ratio is abysmal, and because this has all happened under a Republican-led legislature, it has long been a talking point that has resonated to the benefit of Democratic candidates for office.
And just like that, Democrats seem to be ready to throw that away and give the advantage over to the Republicans.
It starts with Covid, the impact that it had on schools, and the resulting responses from leaders across the country. The responses have run the gamut from non-existent to overly cautious, the latter of which was somewhat reasonable pre-vaccine. However, in the face of Omicron and its significantly-lesser impact on public health, some school unions (from strongly Democratic areas) are pushing for more distance learning instead of in-person learning. Most notably, Chicago’s union is playing hardball, and the parents are the ones who suffer.
While this movement to harm students and teachers in the face of a relatively benign variant (especially after vaccination) has largely been relegated to blue areas, it has also come to Arizona. The head of the teacher’s union in Arizona Joe Thomas is dangling remote learning over the heads of parents. Additionally, prominent member of Arizona Educators United and employee of the Arizona Department of Education Rebecca Garelli, in a now-deleted tweet, was gathering online petition signatures to return to distance learning for at least two weeks. The suggestion flew as far as a lead balloon.
It’s as if no one learned a thing from the Virginia Gubernatorial election. Those on the left seemed to think that Glenn Youngkin was a Trump acolyte. Quite the opposite, he advocated for more education funding (a crazy idea in GOP politics). But his win was largely attributable to the same coalition that helped out Dems in the 2018 and 2020 elections: women, more specifically, parents. Youngkin spoke of the importance of parental involvement in education, and his Democratic challenger was dismissive.
AZ Democrats seem to be perfectly willing to walk into that same trap of following lock-step with the worst impulses of teacher’s unions, ignoring the needs of parents, and frittering away the good will that they had built over years. We may be seeing education switching from a strength to a weakness for local Dems, which will make 2022 an even more difficult year for them.