Statement by Mary Anne Hering, one of the Working Class Party's two candidates for State Board of Education. (Hali McEachern's statement follows Mary Anne's.)
I have devoted my professional life to teaching, having been a teacher in community colleges for over 40 years. Several generations have come through my classrooms and know me. I am speaking to them and to every working class family in Michigan when I say that what is happening now in the schools, with COVID, surpasses anything I have seen up until now.
The debate about schools during the time of COVID is whether children should be in school, or should they be taught remotely to be safe. But it’s not an either/or.
Children and young adults need to be physically back in school. Being in the school classroom is learning; it’s friendships; it’s socialization. For many children it’s where they get their main meals; where they have access to books, computers, sports, musical instruments – a whole life that allows children to grow cognitively, socially and physically.
Teachers need to be in school, with their students. That is how we know our students. Their strengths, their challenges and their needs. Their families.
But schools need to be safe. What is needed for schools to open safely? Ask the people who know – teachers, support staff, bus drivers, custodians, the parents.
Open more schools so that children and young adults can be in smaller sized classrooms. Hire more teachers and pay them what their valuable work is worth. Hire skilled workers to upgrade the ventilation systems in all of the school buildings.
Buy more buses, hire more bus drivers, so that children can be socially distanced. Hire more maintenance workers, so that every bathroom and every touch surface can be disinfected every two hours. Guarantee that there are nurses in every school and other necessary medical personnel; keep the schools well stocked with both medical and cleaning supplies.
If some schooling has to be done remotely, make sure every child has a laptop; every city and county should have access to an internet connection. Internet should be a public utility and during this pandemic, even the utility fees should be waived.
What would it take to do this? Money – and lots of it. The American Federation of Teachers estimated it would take about 2.3 million dollars for each school to be properly equipped and organized to cover the basics to protect the children, teachers and staff in the middle of this epidemic. In Michigan, that would mean AN ADDITIONAL 816 million dollars. Just for protective equipment and supplies, plus reorganization.
Even before the pandemic hit, funding for public schools had already been cut back. Schools in working class and rural areas were already severely underfunded.
There’s no reason for that. There is money to fund the schools ordinarily and to fund them even more during this epidemic. There IS money in this society, on the Federal and state levels. Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve opened up the spigots for the banks and the big companies, without even waiting to see what was going to happen with the pandemic. The State of Michigan has been giving tax breaks continuously ... to billionaire real-estate developers, like Dan Gilbert; and the Ilitch family; to corporations, like Ford Motor Co.
Hali McEachern, who is also running for State School Board, and I say that working people need to fight to take back this wealth – it came from us in the first place – and use it for schools and public services working people need.
I’d rather teach, than sit on a School Board. Hali would rather be in school. But someone has to be on the school board to stand up for what is needed. We say it will take a tidal wave of money to get children back to school and safely. And it will take an organized fight to take back the wealth the working class has produced and use it for the public services the population needs, including all the money the schools need.
Statement by Hali McEachern, one of the Working Class Party's two candidates for State Board of Education.
I am a perfect candidate for the Working Class Party and for State Board of Education because I am working class and come from a working-class family. My mother, father, and brother are workers, as well as my grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. My mother lost her thumb in a machine shop, my grandfather received cancer and lost his brother from agent orange, and my great grandfather went blind from working in a saw mill. Despite the inadequate working conditions, my family members believe in a hard day's work and make an honest living. My father does construction and his mother worked in a school and hospital as a secretary for decades.
I have been working since I was 16 years old. My first job was Taco Bell, then KFC. Since 18, I have been working as a server and host in restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings and Red Olive. In addition to working, I am privileged to go to college, which is something many members of my class are denied access to. I am currently a junior in college at the University of Michigan in Dearborn, obtaining a degree in secondary education in history.
I am a witness to the struggles and needs of the working class. My family, friends, coworkers, and classmates are working class. Workers are overworked, underpaid, heavily taxed, and pay expensive bills. The wealth our labor produces and the taxes we pay, should provide us and our families with everything we need.
Workers should vote for the Working Class Party because it is the only party that represents their needs and interests.
I am running for State Board of Education. Schools are robbed of their resources the same way hospitals, grocery stores, parks, child care, elder care, and all facilities in our communities are. School workers are over worked, underpaid, understaffed, and not given adequate resources like in all of our essential services and facilities.
With all the wealth our labor produces there is no excuse our schools are in the conditions they are in. The money is there to give schools everything they need. Schools need to be equipped with all the resources needed to enhance student learning.
In order to learn, students need to be fed a healthy breakfast and lunch. Students need to feel safe, confident, and have a sense of self-worth. Students need to have access to multiple nurses and therapists in their school. Lessons need to be based on teaching best practices that are found through scientific research.
To enhance student learning, classrooms need to be 1/3 the size they are now. Students need to have access to updated textbooks, computers, technology, art supplies, musical instruments, science experiments, field trips to museums, parks, and cultural activities, gyms to exercise, stretch, and do yoga.
Schools need more staff, more resources, and these should not be coming out of parents' and teachers' pockets. Especially working class parents who pay taxes, produce excessive wealth with their labor and do everything society needs to run and function.
Rich bosses, CEOs, corporations, politicians, and for-profit schools are stealing money that belongs to us and robbing our children of an enriching education.
Mary Anne Hering, a teacher, and I, Hali McEachern, a worker and student, are dedicated to fighting together with members of our class to get our needs met with the wealth that is rightfully ours.
There are two positions open on the board. We ask you to vote for both of us – for Hali McEachern, who is a worker and a student, and for Mary Anne Hering, a community college teacher for many years.