Wednesday, April 11, 2018


This morning, I dropped my five year old granddaughter off for Kindergarten, just as I've done (four days a week, mostly) since she began her Kindergarten career last July.

Most mornings are pretty routine, although we get a bit of variety when, say... it's spirit week.  I'm particularly fond of pajama day, when one of the teachers is at the door in her footed puppy pajamas, greeting the children.

Since our ritual began last July, I've been tickled to have these few minutes with my granddaughter each day.  Taking her to the gate of the "Kinder playground" is pure pleasure - teachers and aides greet us with smiles and high fives; 99% of the "kinders" run to the school with anticipation and pleasure.  My granddaughter is always alert, asking if we are arriving in time for her to have plenty of playground time before her day starts.

This morning, she was worried... the Kinder playground was empty.  "Are we early?"  No... we're right on time.  "There's no one on the playground!  Are we late?"  No... we're right on time.  I parked, helped her adjust her backpack, and held her hand as we crossed the lot.  We stepped into crossing guard territory and I asked what was going on.  "Oh... there's a stray puppy who has been greeting all the children, and we've confined him to the Kinder lot until we find the owner."

Sure enough, there was a large pit-bull type, panting happily, and surrounded by staff in red shirts.  Did I miss a memo, was today a spirit day?  As I returned to my car, I saw a mom in a red t-shirt with a Red for Ed logo.  It dawned on me what I'd missed, and I wished I hadn't dressed in lavender.  I spoke up, saying "I just realized what the red shirts are for today!"  She looked a little concerned, but acknowledged me.  I told her the movement had my full support, and we chatted a bit.

She was eager to tell me that she worked in the district office, and it really wasn't about raises, it was about science equipment and other things to benefit the kids.  Raises would be nice, but that wasn't all there was to it.  I mentioned that I was originally from Minnesota, but before I could finish my thought, she said "OH!  Then you get it!  Their budget is double ours!"  We talked a bit more, mostly about the fact that despite what others think, we senior citizens do indeed vote in favor of education bills and bonds, despite our concerns that it might not really be getting to the place it's needed.

It seems like a simple enough conversation, and you are probably wondering why I detail it here, but it triggered so many thoughts.  Since moving to AZ, I've been shocked at how poorly the state's elected officials treat education.  I've been shocked at cuts to education funding, I've recognized poor teacher pay, and more.  And I thought about what I've seen in the few months my granddaughter has been in school - teachers with special outfits for spirit day, or working to protect the children from a stray "puppy" that happens to be a largish, eager, pitbull-type who stands at least waist high on the children; asking if parents could pleases help stock the classroom with much needed items like facial tissue or glue or maybe a snack once in a while; the fact that we are always greeted with a pleasant face; the number of teachers who line the sidewalk for the arriving buses.  They aren't just punching a time clock, and putting in their straight eight - they are involved, committed, and doing extra odd jobs without complaint.

Arizona, you could do so much better.  Educated, well-rounded students make good citizens.  Like all employees, well-recognized teachers would only give more of themselves - and not just use their time here as a notch on the training belt to take their experience elsewhere.  What could possibly be more important than giving a good foundation to our future?