My mom has been an educator for nearly 30 years. She is smart, compassionate and meets the requisite constitutional requirements of a presidential candidate — she is both over 35 years old and a natural-born U.S. citizen. But that’s not why I’ll be writing her in on my ballot come November.
As a kindergarten teacher in Arizona, my mom noticed about seven year ago that the public school system wasn’t working. Her salary was laughable, her class size prohibitively large, and her state Legislature continually refused to make education a priority. Because both she and her students deserved better, my mom left the public schools and started her own program, housed in a local daycare center. She didn’t acquire any debt in the process, and every one of her students has seamlessly matriculated to local public or private schools. Rarely do her students graduate reading at a kindergarten level, most leave reading at a third- or fourth-grade level. They are confident mathematicians, curious scientists and have a genuine affection for the founding fathers and Martin Luther King, Jr., who in their words was the “kindest man who ever lived.”
She gives them all of this at a cost of $6,000 per year. After giving herself only a modest pay increase, she has reinvested the majority of that money back into her students. She hosts a patriotic program, throws a wedding for the letters Q and U, and has expanded her program to include Spanish and art teachers.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, our public schools cost us $10,297 per student per year, in 2007-2008. At a time when schools all over the country are lamenting drastic budget cuts, she is literally doing more with less.
The answer is simple — smart, focused spending and innovation. She doesn’t have a school nurse or provide lunches. But with a student-to-teacher ratio of 9:1, she has the time and energy to put a Band-Aid on a scraped knee, or call a parent when a child is running a fever. Students bring their own lunches, and she eats with them to ensure that they finish their sandwiches and don’t throw away their carrots. Her students are happier and healthier as a result.
The current presidential candidates could learn a lot from what my mom is doing. On a small scale, she has cut out parts of public education that no one misses (e.g. a school bus system) and has preserved the quality of education that every parent should demand for their children. She doesn’t have a plan to end the war in Afghanistan, and her foreign policy experience is limited at best. But our education system is broken, and until another candidate shows a real commitment to changing it, and purports to do so through the uniquely American innovation that my mom demonstrates — she’s got my vote.