Current Events Education Local Government

School board De-Cline

Although this is a post that is specific to my personal state, I suspect that characters like the one I’m going to talk about today are present in every school board in every state. If you don’t already know, school boards are elected officials, with quite a bit of power to dictate what students learn – and don’t learn – in school.

And, in the wake of the pandemic, school boards have a lot of eyeballs on them. Over the past five weeks my state school board alone has heard arguments over masks, voted on anti-CRT legislation, and recently the most contentious school board members posted anti-LGBTQ propaganda.

That’s right, I’m talking about Natalie Cline. I’ll tell you this, I had to really be thoughtful in making this post, as well as consider whether it’s worth it. Natalie Cline has a track record of personally targeting educators. When she chooses to target someone, she has a mass of far-right followers who threaten, harass, and scare the individual she’s targeted.

Well, she’s been censured by the state, but I’m not sure it solves the problem. She was elected in the 2020 election, which means she’s been in her post for less than a year. During that time she’s caused controversy after controversy, and seemed to lob insults at every community who is not her own, insular, far-right, religious community.

OK…So What?

Although Biden won the presidential election, locally elected posts have been filled with Natalie Clines: far right conservative politicians that scrambled their way into local politics. While the Democrats were focused on the Presidency, the conservatives were winning locally. This is a problem because local politics matter and local politicians are much more likely to make an impact on your day to day life.

Cline, for example, is part of a board who decides what your child does and doesn’t learn in school. If Cline had her way (and she didn’t) I wouldn’t be able to say the word “systemic” in my classroom. In fact, because of Cline, a fellow teacher straight up asked me if I taught CRT. Why? Because I was the history teacher. No other reason.

Politicians like Cline do nothing more than put stress on an already burdened system. Their cult of personality requires that they use incendiary language to inflame their cult of followers, causing local politics to spend time on ridiculous amendments and demands.

It’s like that one kid in class who always shouts out because they think they know the answer, but they never do. Except this time, it’s an adult who’s in an elected position with absolute power to bring the class to a screeching halt over nothing.

Our own local politician, Natalie Cline, is currently under censure. However, she’s elected and with us for the next three years. So far, Cline hasn’t succeeded in pushing through much of her agenda – but when the arguments over CRT wane that’s when she’ll strike, affecting the education system in Utah for years to come.

This is why I’m constantly screaming about local politics on my blog. It impacts you, your children, and the citizens your children grow up to be. Education matters. The Conservatives know it, and they’re targeting education laws because of it. We can’t let censorship into our schools. History, real history, deserves to be taught. If not, we will continue to perpetuate the very things we’re fighting against.

Don’t let the Clines of the world make you fear speaking out. Stand up for what you believe is right. Stand up for educators, stand up for children. Do it in your home, your office, your schools, your gym. Be vocal. This is no longer “feel good” politics. Disagreement is natural and correct. In fact, it’s only wrong when viewed from a lens of partisan politicians who believe any criticism is an attack on their character.

Local boards could vote to bring these suckers back, because kids should “learn what it’s like to get burned.”
Climate Education Local Government

Another day, another oil spill

From the Pandora Papers to Facebook and Instagram being down for a number of hours, you may have missed the fact that there’s an oil spill off the California coast. Honestly, news like this mostly gets washed over now days. Oil spills, like the coronavirus, seem to be a necessary evil that we are willing to live with because we either can’t or won’t make the changes we need to stop the problems they bring.

But, there was an oil spill, and it is a big problem.

So let’s talk about it.

On Saturday, a pipe owned by Amplify Energy (based in Houston) somehow failed. What resulted was 126,000 gallons of “post production crude” to be spilled into the ocean. The company has had noncompliance violations in the past, and overall, is operating with equipment decades old. I mean, I’m not sure if you know this, but saltwater corrodes metal quickly. So, failure is not a matter of “if” it’s a matter of “when”.

Damage to wildlife

You may remember that the Pacific Coast already went through a massive heatwave that killed billions of sea creatures. This time, the oil has coated and destroyed ecosystems in a matter of days. One specific reserve impacted is the Talbert Wetlands. Aside from that, wildlife is washing up on the shores of California beaches, and there is an impact to human health as well. This is important, because people often don’t actually understand what “the ecosystem has been destroyed” means, but they do understand “can harm you or make you, personally, sick”. Which, is irritating, but the months since 2020 have really thrown human self-centeredness into sharp relief.

Ok…So What?

Look, this blog is not going to change the oil industry overnight. However, as our climate disaster worsens, and as people look towards new energy, oil is being phased out. However, I predict that spills like this will not only continue to happen, but happen more frequently. Why? Because companies are still trying to make the big money, and they are doing it with less funding and less compliance. I can’t point my finger at any specific thing, but it’s clear that companies may be willing to bend the rules to make money. Shit like “an oil spill has now killed wetlands we’ve been preserving for decades” will keep happening.

And this matters, because we need healthy ecosystems for our world to heal from everything we’ve put it through. If you’re sick, you need time to recover. With that recovery comes a host of other things, diet, sleep, vitamins, medicine. You’re not (or shouldn’t) go out and binge drink the day after you’ve left the hospital.

Except, that’s what this oil spill is. It’s just making our planet sicker than it already is, and it’s happening because of aging and outdated equipment that’s not kept up amidst a declining planet.

So what do you do? I mean, vote right? Do your best to cut back on oil products (that means plastics too my friends). To the best of your ability (I know we are all so tired) stay informed about climate issues. Why climate? Because even the coronavirus came out of human interference on animal life. All this trauma that we’ve experienced since 2020 we can tie to climate change. Honestly, it’s a privilege that some of us have been impacted by it for such a short period of time.

I’ll do another blog post on oil impacts to indigenous lands, but you can also begin educating yourself on this topic.

How do we fix this leak again?

Education History Local Government

Systematically tackling the word “systemic.”

If you’ve been a part of the interwebz at all then you know that the way history is taught in k-12 schools is under attack. I’ve already created a few blog posts that discuss the attack on history and here I am again, singing another song. This time it’s a ballad.

School boards and/or state legislatures are attempting to ban certain language in a history classroom. This is an insidious move, because language matters, and the way we speak about the past matters. By attempting to ban specific language, Conservatives imply to their base that “systemic racism” and “equity” either doesn’t exist or are an attempt to make white people feel bad.

Do you teach CRT?

Before school started, a colleague straight up asked if I teach CRT. I asked them to define what they meant by CRT. This person said “well, like, do you teach about systemic racism?” and I said “yes, because racist systems have and do exist in history.” Then, I said “why don’t you define what you mean by the terms “systemic and racism'” They couldn’t define the terms.

This is a problem, because Conservatives are spreading fear about language to a base that doesn’t even understand the language being used.

So let’s break it down.

One word that makes every “banned” list is the word “systemic.” Of course, systemic simply means affecting all parts of a system, whatever that system may be. In a historical sense, it usually means the system of laws that define our nation.

And see, here’s the thing. We do have systemic racism built into the very fabric of our laws. This is true now, as well as historically. Banning the word only bans the history, which perpetuates bias and…wait for it…more systemic racism.

If you’re saying, yes, but what laws?! Well, that’s a long answer, but I’ll give you a run down. I wont even talk about the slave codes or the 3/5 compromise. Let’s talk about citizenship and the rights of citizens.

Dred Scott v Sanford stated that Black people in the United States (free or enslaved) were not citizens. It wasn’t until the Fourteenth Amendment that the Black community received citizenship (Indigenous peoples wouldn’t receive citizenship until 1924).

Ok ok ok, that was so long ago right? Well yes…but…we know that the Reconstruction Amendments didn’t fix racism, instead it was woven into laws in different ways. For example, Black men were segregated during war time until Vietnam. Often, this meant that Black families couldn’t benefit from the service acts that came after WWII.

Don’t get me started on the internment of Japanese Americans, or the “repatriation drives” of Mexican Americans during the depression.

These are just a smattering of real, impactful, lasting laws that were made by this country that directly impacted citizens. These laws weren’t based on birth, rather they were based on heritage and skin color.

So…they are examples of systemic racism!

OK…So What?

One thing that Conservatives don’t want to feel is guilt for the past. Another thing they don’t want is the education of demonstrable truths. You see, if teachers educate students in straight facts about the laws in our nation, then the students might grow up to tear those laws apart, resulting in a loss of privilege for Conservative politicians and their base (white liberals I’m eyeing a lot of you too).

The strategy to teach a Conservative history of the United States is not new. However, this is its current iteration. Just like book banning, the banning of language is an attempt to hamstring teachers from teaching about the darker parts of our American past. Here’s the problem with that attitude…we can’t continue to “progress” if we don’t change.

And there’s the crux of the matter. Change means the loss of power and priviledge. It also means discomfort and reckoning with actions of the past. Redlining was legal until 1968, and it still exists outside of the law through “standard practices.” This is not a long ago past, this is our present. Until we fix the laws that treat citizens unequally, we will never be a United country.

School board elections are as important as national elections

Education Local Government

“School Choice” Does Not Mean What You Think It Means.

On the outset, funding to send your child to a private school sounds pretty good. I think, as parents, we often want our children to get the “best” – the best schooling, the best experience, the best clothes…etc. So, it’s no surprise that when Arizona offered vouchers for private schools, many families jumped at the chance.

Except…it’s not what you think.

There’s a catch to the new voucher system. In a glaring move of passive aggression the students are only eligible for a voucher IF they are in a school with a mask mandate or quarantine procedures. This allows students to move to a private school that is not regulated the same as public schools, and in a big fuck you to the federal government, the Governor is using Covid Relief Funds to pay for the voucher system. Woof.

Ok…So What?

School choice advocates often use the voucher system as a way of pretending that they care about education. They say “everyone deserves a good education, so let’s give some people some money and send them to private schools!”

That’s a fallacy though, because private schools and vouchers are not equitable at all. It’s a way of defunding the public school system, by taking money reserved for public schools and pulling children out of them. Even now, public schools in wealthy areas receive better funding than those in lower income areas. Why? Schools are funded by property taxes. They are also funded based on the number of booties in seats.

School is not equitable (though it should be) and vouchers aren’t going to fix the problem.

On top of the fact that Arizona is making policy that directly impacts the health of the community, not to mention children, it’s likely that those students who take advantage of this particular voucher will be forced back to their normal public school when the funds run out. So, students are uprooted from their education not once but twice. They may miss important learning blocks that they need to carry with them from grade-to-grade, and for what? So that the Governor of Arizona can point his middle finger at the Federal Government.

So what can you do?

First, anytime there’s a voucher program on the ballot you should vote against it. Vouchers do not create equitable education, and they only assist a small minority of students. Also, the rules that apply to public education don’t apply to private education – so who knows where your money is going.

Second, anytime you can vote to expand funding to public schools – do it. Maybe you don’t have kids, maybe you don’t want kids. That’s fine, but look, whether you like it or not kids grow up and become your neighbors, voters, and people in the community. If you want an educated and well rounded community, invest in public schools.

Third, and here we are again, local voting is important. School boards, Mayors, City Councils, Governors, they all determine your child’s education and thus the fate of your city. Vote like the town depends on it.

Because it quite literally does.

Gaston definitely voted for vouchers. He hates education.

Education Local Government

Spite Post

This post pertains very specifically to local leadership, so unless you’re ready for ultimate pettiness move along now.

Ah, I see you’re all still here. Petty and spiteful like me. Good, good. Let’s begin.

I talk a lot about how local elections are incredibly important, and how they often impact your daily life and routine. In 2016 the city I live in decided to incorporate. Now. I want to be clear. I’m a very liberal person. I don’t mind higher taxes, especially if it means that the people in the city are being taken care of.

That is not what’s happening in my local government.

My city, Millcreek, decided to use funds to create a thriving city center. In this city center we are supposed to have an ice ribbon to live out our cutting edge fantasy, some mixed space housing, a park, and a new city hall – all bright and shiny. Whatever, of course our taxes are paying for it, but it’s supposed to up our home value. Right? RIGHT?!

So far the dream of this new city center has gone up in flames. No, literally, half of it burned down over the summer. The fire caused a million dollars in damage, and a ton of set backs. That day my family packed up because ash from the blaze was raining down on our houses and the fields around us. Whatever, more taxes I guess.

I’ve already been irritated every day as I drive past the burned out husk of what used to be the physical fruits of my tax dollars. Today, however, I learned that in this new city center, there’s a proposal to put in three HUGE digital signs, inside a place designed for pedestrians. These proposed signs will be anywhere from 26-35 feet tall. I’m like, 5 foot, so I don’t really have a good concept of what that means. But this article assures me that it’s too big for pedestrians – it’s meant for cars.

Ok…So What?

Well, other than how gauche the signs will look in the middle of our little city inside a place meant for people and not cars, there are a number of other problems. First, we really don’t have the road space to accommodate all this new development. The two streets the city center will lay on are 1-2 lane roads. I don’t even know where the parking will be…my street I guess? Underground? It’s unclear.

Second, our Mayor has a clear conflict of interest. The mayor has ties to Reagan Billboards which will supply the signs of unusual size. So, for my tax dollars I get ridiculously large signs, crowded streets, higher taxes and…what? I have to also pay to take myself and my kids to a fucking ice ribbon.

Seems like a scam to me. Here’s the thing, it’s supposed to be for the public, but it’s becoming clear that it was never for us. It’s so that businesses can make money off of us. A park would have been so much more useful. And free to enjoy.

So, anyway look. Local elections are really important. They affect your commute, your property value, and your wallet. Vote informed, vote often, and DO NOT vote for this guy.