Submitted by Friends of Maia Espinoza.
Maia Espinoza, running to serve as Washington’s next Superintendent of Public Instruction, pled for a sensible reopening of Washington’s schools this fall. As many move to start the year remotely, inconsistent and illogical policies could lead to another education crisis. Espinoza said it was time to take a stand for struggling families and to protect public education.
“What’s happening this fall in our state schools is an assault on working families and single mothers,” Espinoza said. “The back-to-school plans don’t make sense, parents and students deserve better. In-person learning has been shut down in many parts of our state while those same school sites are allowing private organizations to use public facilities to run schools for a fee. That is unfair to working parents, and single parents. It seems to me that the cure for COVID in our schools is money, but with the record amounts of tax dollars we are spending to educate our children, we shouldn’t be asking families to pay more.”
Espinoza continued, “I raised my oldest child initially as a single mother, it would have been absolutely impossible for me to both financially provide and oversee schooling at the same time.”
Espinoza has championed providing stipends to parents during the COVID-19 crisis. Earlier this year, she called for a $2,500 payment to families to help pay for education-related expenses when schools first closed. Current state law may prevent giving funds to parents, so Espinoza is strongly urging the Legislature to act to close the financial gap this fall.
“Students and families absolutely cannot wait until the Legislature convenes in January, they need help now,” Espinoza said. “There is more than enough money in our public-school system to help parents educate their children. If we don’t, the state is failing to live up to its paramount duty. The impacts on low-income students, students with disabilities and minority communities will only make the opportunity gap worse. I will not stand for a wholesale privatization of our school system like the incumbent is doing. I support parental choice, and ensuring our students have access to the public resources we all pay for.”
Espinoza cited the recent work of the bestselling economist Emily Oster, who surveyed nearly 1,000 private childcare centers and reported only around 1% of the staff and 0.16% of the children infected with covid-19. Outside of the U.S, major countries like Taiwan and Sweden never closed their schools at all. She mentioned that in countries that have reopened schools, simple steps like dividing students into pods to attend on alternating days and staggering lunch periods have led to success.
“If adults can go out to eat in restaurants in groups of 5, students should be allowed to learn in small groups at school. We are not going to live in a zero-infection Washington, we have to manage risk sensibly,” Espinoza said. “We have reached a point where it’s more dangerous to keep kids at home, isolated from their friends and deprived of educational resources, then it is to welcome them back to schools. We cannot let our children down and put them permanently behind our norms for development.”
In addition to her campaign for public office, Espinoza is an educator, nonprofit founder and mother. She is running on a platform of returning educational controls to local levels in Washington. She is seeking endorsements from across the political spectrum and emerged from Washington’s August primary as the top opponent to face the vulnerable incumbent Chris Reykdal this fall.
“We can take simple steps to keep both teachers and students safe in our schools,” she concluded. “In some age groups, the CDC found up to 1 in 4 Americans considered suicide in June. The isolation and boredom of students and the overburdening of parents are both part of that equation. We need to release the pressure that is stressing our society and reopen our schools.”