By Co-chair Tina Olson, Green Party of Pennsylvania
Across Pennsylvania, this time of year begins a season for parents and teachers preparing for opening schools; dusting off iPads, lacing up new sneakers, and fulfilling the wishes of those toothless first-grader grins and whims. This year is the second year parents are faced with the uncertainty of COVID variants and supply lists for class requirements that can be economically overwhelming in this unprecedented time of scrimping and scraping. The online parent-portals are open, the animal crackers are packed, but the uncertainty of COVID variants looms over each of us as we prepare for the worst. We may be masked, but our common stressors are not hiding, our familiar struggles can not be sanitized.
"I'm gonna raise a fuss, I'm gonna raise a holler…"
What begs to be questioned is how do we go into this school year while the inequality of our different school districts continues to fail struggling families, but more importantly fails to recognize that in higher populated schools, the grim reality is overall unequal. Families with the means to adorn their kids with designer toddler-wear set a precedence of privilege that perpetuates the distinction of class struggle. Kids from rich school districts don't worry like the kids attending schools that barely keep the lights on and their lunch trays full.
It should come as no surprise that the bigger the school district the more likely parents feel they have no control. Enormous school districts like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh can't compete with school districts like Radnor, which are 70% white and naturally have smaller schools with more individual attention. We know that many variables contribute to whether or not a student thrives, yet society fails to reflect the solutions in its misguided votes.
"...About working all Summer, just a-trying to earn a dollar…"
Better representation means the likelihood of better communication and making tough decisions to close in-person learning if a particular area spikes in COVID cases, or the opposite in areas with fewer cases. This is what we should have learned nearly two years ago: blanket closings hurt the relationship between the government and its citizens, while remaining open where we ought not will increase the mortality rate.
There is no Blue or Red Team, and there are no Covidiots, just people trying to carve out a living with misinformation flowing in two directions into two Blue and Red color-coded coffers. We are only people looking for our representatives to be vigilant, to protect our livelihoods and the lives of those most vulnerable from morbid outcomes of COVID-19. Additionally, we are all just trying to navigate our way through a for-profit Democracy that puts a paycheck above the people who have hired them to just do the bare minimum of curating a fair system for survival.
The recent arguments in Harrisburg from abortion rights to auditing past elections, these dispassionate and self-absorbed distractions that our representatives have to offer, leave a blank chalkboard where solutions should be sketched out. The growing inequalities as a result of the pandemic economy are resonating within a majority of our residents; from tenant disputes and displaced workers trying to find new jobs that offer a livable wage, to kids growing up in a climate of dystopian reality of burning forests and flaming faucets as a result of fracking profiteers.
"Sometimes I wonder what Imma gonna do…"
We need our representatives to stay focused on a sustainable directive. Take this crisis in this new century and crumpling infrastructure as a sign that hierarchical and centralized wealth-down capitalism will not save us or our planet.
As an alternative, the Green Party of Pennsylvania (GPPA) calls for fully-funded schools at a hyper-local level. We believe that schools should remain democratic without the influence of private enterprise. What this means for the Age of COVID, is the increase of power over those who would rather choose to be reckless with our children's lives versus staying vigilant in the fight for better days during a continuing global pandemic.
In general, we know that class size and school size are crucial in a child's development, that better teacher-to-student ratios can strengthen the resolve, and that privatized alternatives have failed to fulfill the prime directive of educating kids moving towards a more complicated future. We simply need more time to teach students. This is why there should be no argument in expanding education to include an associate and baccalaureate education.
GPPA also demands that the minimum wage be no less than $15/hour while realistic wages should be $20/hour and more. We demand that healthcare be provided by public funds for all residents. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it's that we need Healthcare for All and more incentives for students of all ages to enter the professional healthcare and teaching fields.
"There ain't no cure for the summertime blues."
This is why building the Green Party needs to focus on local elections. This year we have 10 candidates running for positions from mayor to school board members to city council who need your immediate support. Moving towards the 2022 elections, all of the PA Representatives and half of our State Senators are up for re-election. The Gubernatorial race is crucial in all of this. Collectively, the Green Party needs more members to build power in order to push the initiatives for a more equitable system. Please consider the advantage of running for office or becoming involved in local Green Party electoral campaigns. A win for Greens would be a win for so many lives of people you could affect.
While there ain't no cure for the summertime blues, there is a cure for the COVID-19 blues. Once again, the answer starts from within ourselves. The duty of each person is to recognize the need for fully-funded mutual aid and a fully-functioning representative democracy in every neighborhood, in every school district, and in every elected office in our country.
The Green Party of Pennsylvania (GPPA) is an independent political party that stands in opposition to the two corporate parties. GPPA candidates promote public policy based on the Green Party's Four Pillars: grassroots democracy, nonviolence, ecological wisdom, and social justice/equal opportunity. For further information about GPPA, please visit www.gpofpa.org. Please follow GPPA on social media: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.