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Ducey

Dear Governor Ducey,

I’m writing to thank you for vetoing the legislature’s bill to store the amount of money the state saved from the federal tax cut in the rainy day fund. It sounds like you might even spend those tax savings on education. Is that possible? Governor Ducey, today, you make me feel like this world is capable of change.

I’m not totally naïve. I know that something will stick in the craw—you won’t be able to return the millions removed from the higher ed and public ed budget without choking. And you don’t want to choke. Or appear not to be the no-spend governor of all time. But maybe you really can change. Maybe you realize, as I do, that I don’t want to live in a state of under-educated humans.

We’ve spoken of this before—when I get super conspiracy minded and think that perhaps the reason the government hollows out education is to create a population of non-thinking automatons who just go to work, do what they’re told, don’t back talk for fear they lose the one good job they’ve ever had. They don’t ask questions. They don’t ask for raises or better working conditions or benefits that will support them in their old age.

Recessions generate fear. People cling to their jobs. Right-to-work states, such as ours, that don’t require everyone who can join their union to do so, generate weak bargaining positions. An education system that caters to those for whom education was always guaranteed splits society into two castes—they who keep their position and those who slip and slide on muddy trails, never getting traction to get ahead.

That tractionlessness, that feeling of powerlessness—that is the real win for those in power. The rest of us give up and go home. I sense the exhaustion. After Invest in Ed was kicked off the ballot, after David Garcia lost, hell, after Felicia French lost (How could she lose? She is one of the coolest people on the planet.), the dream of you sprinkling a little money here or there is a relief, a change and a demonstration of how very powerful you are. Is it scarier than no money? Possibly.

But maybe you, dear Governor, have changed. Maybe like the climate in Flagstaff, you who were once snow and freezing cold are now rain and still pretty freaking cold. Twice now this winter when forecasters predicted snow, rain has fallen instead. My mother-in-law, visiting from southern Utah but who lived here for a few years, said if it had snowed as much as it had rained, we would have had an old timey foot of snow.

My mother-in-law has only been living away from Flagstaff for a couple of years but even she notices the change. You’re right. It’s just weather that I’m referring to, not climate. And yet, ask anyone who lived here even 10 years ago and say, hey, it rained in January. They would not believe you.

So as we move forward with climate change, perhaps we can entertain other kinds of radical change. Let’s take this climate business as a role model. What if you were a Republican governor who looked at the people who didn’t have jobs, or who used EBT to buy groceries or who needed the Children’s Health Program to get their kids shots and saw that maybe giving these people’s kids equal access to incredible schools would give these kids a chance to get a little traction on that muddy ground. Sure, the ground was supposed to have snow but it doesn’t—it’s just wet. We can’t stop the rain (I mean, we’re working on it, but we started with stopping snow. We’ll get to rain next.), but we can give those kids some new shoes with awesome tread.

Radical thoughts: Can you imagine a school system where no for-profit company was able to run a nonprofit arm of the country and take money from public education and give it to its owner? Can you imagine a school system where teachers were paid like professionals instead of like parking attendants? Governor Ducey, can you show the legislature how the clouds promise something different than the snow of before? And as the snow goes, so will the rain, so perhaps we should get some water in these people ex post facto! Pour the money into the schools! Let’s use the rain while we have it. The ground is so very dry and people are so very thirsty.

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Nicole Walker is a professor at Northern Arizona University, and is the author of Quench Your Thirst with Salt and a collection of poems, This Noisy Egg. She edited, with Margot Singer, Bending Genre: Essays on Creative Nonfiction, and is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment from the Arts. The thoughts expressed here are hers alone and not necessarily those of her employer. For more letters, visit www.nikwalk.blogspot.com

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