You know how we love all of our candidates equally, right? But it doesn't mean that we don't go crazy for the newest endorsees when we're vetting them and thinking about what matters most to us-- how they are likely to perform in Congress. Our newest candidate, Ruth Luevanos, is the whole package-- great on all issues issues, great on empathy, good plan to beat the conservatives she's running against and loads of political courage.
The new CA-27, centered in Santa Clarita (something like the old CA-25), is a majority minority district that is bluer than the old district but is currently represented by conservative Republican Trump supporter Mike Garcia. Ruth Luevanos looks like the people in the district. She is working 2 jobs, living in a 3 generation household and is the only candidate that actually lives the struggles working families face. She was elected to the Simi Valley City Council, the first and only Democrat elected (in 2018) in a majority Republican city. She doesn't-- and has pledged not to-- take corporate, fossil fuel, law enforcement, or special interest money. "I have," she told me yesterday, "shown up and will continue to show up to fight for the community for the shut down of Aliso Canyon Gas facility, for the clean up of the Santa Susana Field Lab, to hold SCE accountable for PSPS events and wildfires, to fight for affordable housing, to march for immigration reform in Lancaster, to walk with McDonald's workers on strike in Little Rock."
Her two main conservative opponents, one Republican, Mike Garcia, and one Democrat, Christy Smith (who Garcia continues to beat even as Hillary and Biden have won the district) are against everything Luevanos has been fighting for. Garcia is worse than Smith of course, but unless you like your Democrats in the Manchin-Sinema mode, Christy Smith is not for you. Neither ever talks about local issues and both prefer to talk in generalities. I asked Ruth, a school teacher herself, to talk with us about something very specific in the guest post below. Please give it a read and please consider contributing to her campaign here or by clicking on the Blue America 2022 congressional thermometer above.
Teachers Under Attack
-by Ruth Luevanos
While some essential workers in this country have been offered extra support and appreciation during this ongoing pandemic, K-12 public school teachers such as myself have been left to fend for ourselves, our students and the families we help support. A recent survey from the National Educators Association shows that up to 55% of teachers in this nation are considering leaving the profession never to return and teacher preparation programs across the country are experiencing dramatic drops in enrollment. As if the constant stress and increased responsibilities hurled on teachers during a global pandemic and economic downturn were not enough, there are now small but very loud groups of parents with corporate and conservative backing seeking to hold us teachers personally and legally liable for content they find “offensive” in the latest attempt to dismantle public schools in this country.
In Indiana, teachers have to submit lesson plans for the entire year and are subject to personal liability for teaching or even using any material that any parent finds “offensive,” including teaching anything “that would show Nazis in a negative light.” Florida is set to pass a “Don’t Say Gay” bill which would ban teachers from even discussing anything related to the LGBTQ community such as sexual orientation or gender identity. In Oklahoma, a state that has always struggled with retaining teachers because of its historically low pay, the law bans teaching that anyone is “inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously” or making anyone feel “guilty” or uncomfortable because of discussions about race or sex. Nine states have already passed laws banning teachers from even discussing systemic racism.
As history teachers we are keenly aware that attacking and persecuting educators is not a new phenomenon during times of economic and political turmoil around the world. However, for teachers that are also union members, like myself, we seem to be under attack by these state laws as well for daring to defend our rights, our wages and our safety through labor unions. It is no shock that our public schools have been underfunded for years but what people do find shocking is that the reason that teachers fight so hard for healthcare benefits is because so many of us are teaching in public schools that are so dilapidated. It is no wonder teachers have such high rates of cancer, asthma, and heart conditions when we are in run down schools without air conditioning and heating while being exposed to toxins such as mold and asbestos. In the 22 years I have worked at K-12 Title 1 schools in the Los Angeles area, I have yet to work at a school that has potable water. Think about that. I have worked at five different schools where it was not safe for students, faculty or staff to drink from the drinking fountain because the water is so toxic from the old pipes that have never been repaired or replaced in some schools that have existed for over 50 years.
To add insult to injury we are not only expected to work overtime without extra pay like other salaried essential workers receive, we have to buy all of our own supplies to do our jobs. From crayons to paper and even toilet paper and hand soap teachers like me dish out hundreds if not thousands of dollars from our own pocket every single school year to make sure our students have the things they need to learn. Despite promises from former presidents in this country we still can only write off $250 of school supplies for our profession per year. I personally have spent over $2,000 per year on things like cleaning supplies, snacks for hungry students who often show up without having eaten over the weekend, feminine hygiene products for students who are too poor or embarrassed to ask their parents to purchase those items for them, as well as band-aids, art supplies, books, software, notebooks, pencils and more. And my colleagues and I have to wonder why someone who is a business owner can write off buying season tickets to professional sports teams for their clients, but we teachers can’t write off more than $250 worth of notebooks for the 200 students we teach every year?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics between 20 and 30% of teachers in this country have a second job because we can’t afford to live off the salary that we receive. Many of us show up exhausted to the classroom after working that second job to be able to buy the things our students need. While we do teach because we care about and have faith in our students as the future of this country, we should not be expected to sacrifice so much without receiving the dignity, support, and respect that teachers receive in other countries around the world. We teachers are professionals who deserve to be treated as the professionals we are because teachers make all other professions possible in this country.