The Lawmakers’ Hands Were Shaking

Sandy Merz Uncategorized

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A couple of weeks ago I joined members of our local union in Phoenix to meet and talk with state lawmakers. During this event I had a chance to learn about current education related bills from the union’s lobbyist, hear from several legislators who spoke to entire group, meet in a small group with my own district’s senator, had an informal lunch during which I met my district’s representatives, and watched the House Appropriations Committee for a bit.

Here are some thoughts on the day:

  • I would do it again in a minute and hope I get invited next year.
  • I expected the lobbyist’s partisanship; heck, what would be the point of a nonpartisan lobbyist? But I would have preferred hearing more about the bills than the union’s position and the motives of the opposition – as interpreted by the lobbyist. Based on what she presented I could neither call my legislators telling them how to vote or argue for or against any of the bills she discussed that I didn’t already no about and have an opinion.
  • Lawmakers’ hands shake and all their nonverbal messages suggest insecurity. That blew me away. I never expected it. But every senator or representative who talked to the entire group of teachers was visibly nervous. And these were pro-public education lawmakers. It encouraged me to know that we have them on the backs of their heels, not the other way around. Well, I part of that take it back. One legislator was calm and collected. She also happened to be a former career teacher.
  • At lunch I asked one of my district’s representatives if he knew teachers to talk to about education legislation. The indirect answer was: No. He did say something about paying attention to a former teacher who is now a legislator (the one mentioned in the last bullet, I assume) but didn’t seem too interested in hearing from teachers themselves.
  • After lunch I sat in a session of the House Appropriations Committee. They debated a tax equity issue that had led to a company being overcharged do to an oversight in the law. The correction passed with only three no votes. Each no voter openly admitted the company was being taxed unfairly, and claimed they were all for equity, but since the county the company is located in a needs the money, they voted against correcting the oversight. I nearly made that noise a cat does when it coughs up a hairball.
  • And finally, there’s that old saying about how if you love hotdogs and you love the law, don’t ever watch either of them being made. Well, I think I’ll avoid a hot dog factory for the time being, but after visiting the capital, I’d watch law being made any day of the week.

 

 

I grew up in Silver City, New Mexico and went the University of New Mexico, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology. After working for the U.S. Geological Survey in remote regions of western New Mexico, I moved to Tucson to attend graduate school at the University of Arizona, earning a Master of Science degree in Hydrogeology. While working as an intern hydrologist for a local county agency, I started doing volunteer work that involved making presentations in schools. At that moment I knew teaching was the path to follow. It must have been a good decision because I’m still on the path after twenty-nine years. My teaching certificates are in math and science and I am a National Board Certified Teacher in Career and Technical Education. I’ve been teaching engineering and math and elective classes at the same school in downtown Tucson my whole career. I also sponsored my school’s MESA program, which prepares members to enter college and major in a STEM career, for twenty-one years. In addition to full time teaching, I am actively involved in the teacher leadership movement by facilitating National Board candidates, blogging for Stories from School Arizona and the Center for Teaching Quality, serving on the Arizona K12 Center’s TeacherSolutions team, and serving on my school’s literacy council and as my school’s association representative. In January 2017, Raytheon Missile System named me a Leader in Education.

  • http://storiesfromschoolaz.org Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    I enjoyed this snapshot! I suppose there are many reasons to be nervous around a group of teachers. I wonder if part of the nervousness of pro-education lawmakers is the knowledge that they have not been able to find the support for education that they would like to. It’s hard to meet with a group who serves the public simply to confirm how bad things are. I also appreciated your commentary on meeting with the lobbyist. I found that to be true when I went a few years ago as well. Even though I belong to AEA, I know many who feel that there have been times when the compromises in the positions they take have been too great. And I agree… it would be nice to think that for our dues we could get mostly a lot of information, with of course a good dose of political agenda used to interpret it. But void of information, simply laying out positions doesn’t equip educators to truly enter the conversation.