For those of you who attended my wedding on September 5, 1999, in Scottsdale, Arizona, I owe you an apology. It was over 100 degrees, and, per my insistence, it was held outdoors. The only memory that any of you seem to have is of that day is the sweat that was dripping off of the Rabbi’s face during the vows, the groomsmen’s black leather shoes melting in the sun, and my bridesmaids whipping off their dresses and standing half-naked under the bathroom hand-dryers when the ceremony ended.
No one should have to be outdoors in Arizona in the summer. So, being that Arizona is the most ass-backwards state in the nation, it makes total sense that we end school before Memorial Day and start back up at the beginning of August. Yes, we end school before most of the Country, so that we can twiddle our thumbs waiting for camps to begin throughout the country at the end of June, and then start back up in August when the temperatures are so high there are “heat advisories” telling us to stay indoors. No need for the fun, traditional back-to-school clothing shopping, as it is still the same season as when you left school last year.
Here are some Arizona school facts for you for those of you not currently melting here with us: Arizona is ranked in the bottom five nationally in per pupil funding and has been consistently for years. Arizona had the highest rate of decline in educational spending in the nation at negative 21.8 percent during 2008-2012.
I have 3 children, and two of them start tomorrow. Two of them attend our local school district, because they are your “typical” kids. Not too high, not too low. So, they are just fine to attend. Child #3, for anyone who knows him or who reads this blog, is different. I could sugar-coat it or try to say it differently, but he is “gifted.” I don’t say this to boast as I find him to be the most challenging child I have ever met. I was told last year that our school could not accommodate him, and unless I wanted him to skip a grade, we needed to go elsewhere to find a gifted program. “Where do I go?” I asked. “To any other district in the state,” they said, “because they all have gifted programs. Just not us.”
So now, we are in two different school districts that have two completely different schedules. They start and end on the school year on different dates; one has fall break in October and one does not. Spring breaks are different weeks, as are half-days for teacher training and for conferences. I am one of the lucky ones because I can work from home, and can adjust to the fact that I basically have one child home for at least one day a week. What about the parents that can’t do this?
This week, our school district has spent lots of time slapping themselves on the back because they got an “A” rating from the State. This is based on the fact that the kids in the district took the same standardized tests last spring and got the same standardized answers that makes them all meet the standards of the state. The administration is using this as a fact to remind all of us how fantastically standard they are.
They may have forgotten about the fact that they had to make serious cuts this year due to the voters in our district, who did not vote to pass an override that would cost them about $100 a year in taxes. The kids in our area who want to have band in 5th grade now have to go to the middle school on a bus because it was cut out of elementary school. “Specials” at the elementary level were reduced by half this year (Art, Music, PE and Band /Strings at middle schools). To make up for this loss of planning for our teachers, elementary school will end early on Wednesdays.
The people of our school district have decided that this is a hopeless cause, and they are leaving in throngs. This is fantastic news for the charter and private schools around town. They have waiting lists in the hundreds and people are desperate to get their kids in. The incredible, amazing, wonderful teachers of our district are losing their jobs because there are fewer and fewer students to teach.
I am angry and I have a blog. I have a voice and I have a vote. A lifelong friend of mine recently told me that she realized in first grade that she would never win an argument with me because I never give up when I’m convinced I have a point. This is as true now as it was when I was arguing with her in the 1980s about who was cuter: Ricky Schroeder or Kirk Cameron.
I am going to make sure that the people who are elected to my school board this fall will represent my interests, and not their own. I will make sure that the people in my district realize that a “no” vote on this year’s override will guarantee that your home will decrease in value when you try to sell it. You don’t want your kids to go to your public school-that’s fine. You have the funds to pay for them to go to private school or to a charter school? Good. But don’t punish the rest of us with your “no” vote. Trust me, it will come back to you when you try to sell your house. I will make sure that the administration knows now and continues to know that there is a family out there that has no choice but to exist on two school schedules for the next 8 years, and that we are hanging on by a thread. We are by no means the only family like this out there.
I am sorry that all my kids can’t share the joy of the first day back to school tomorrow. I am sorry for my youngest child that he will watch them go off to school, and he knows that he can’t because he’s “different” than they are. He thinks that this is all his fault. He is 6 years old. It’s not his fault.
I am owning up to the fact that I shouldn’t have had my wedding outside 15 years ago. Now it’s your time to tell Aidan whose fault it is that he can’t start school tomorrow.