Posted In: Activist Profiles, ALEC, Arizona, Canonical Categories, Uncategorized
by Brian Washington
Before Marisol Garcia became an 8th grade social studies teacher in Arizona, she was an organizer working on grassroots campaigns. This might explain why she believes if she can rally the online community, Google will end its affiliation with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
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Garcia is encouraging public education activists and those who support our public schools to sign her petition, which asks Google to do what so many other organizations have recently done—break ties with ALEC. ALEC represents wealthy, right-wing political players and corporate CEOs who promote legislation in state legislatures across the country that favors the 1-percent—so the rich and powerful can become even more rich and powerful.
Education Votes recently spoke with Garcia about her petition and why it’s important for educators to be involved in political action.
EV: What made you put the petition up on MoveOn.org?
MG: Our school district this year purchased a lot of Google Chromebooks. We were concerned that our students in 8th grade were not prepared for the high school rigor of using technology because very few of them have internet or technology at home. And so the [Arizona Education] Association (AEA) worked really hard with our superintendent to make sure all of our middle school students would be able to have a Chromebook in the classroom. When I was doing some research on Google recently, just some background information for our students, I realized that they (Google) were affiliated with ALEC and it was a bit upsetting to me.
EV: What do you think of the response that the petition is getting?
MG: I was surprised. I put it [the petition] on my Facebook page, and, little by little, other groups and organizations that were affiliated with AEA and people that I am friends with were very surprised by the affiliation [Google has with ALEC] as well. I grew up in the Bay area, and I know what impact Google has had on the area in San Francisco. A lot of my friends up there were surprised because Google has such a good reputation for supporting the community and treating their workers so well.
EV: Do you see Google’s link with ALEC being anti-public schools?
MG: I do. ALEC in Arizona has gone out of its way to pursue a public education backlash. ALEC’s work in Arizona has taken away a lot of the public funding that had gone to support things like the implementation of technology in schools. I work in a public school, and my son is a second grader in a public school. The fact that the legislature here in Arizona has been so linked-up with ALEC over the past few years has really been concerning to me.
EV: What is it that you want the public to know about ALEC and its involvement with state legislatures across the country, including the one in Arizona?
MG: The thing that is most concerning is that a lot of these bills that ALEC works so hard to push are not created in the states or communities that they are designed to impact. Instead, these bills are created in huge corporate boardrooms. ALEC represents the very worst in politics, the worst that people assume is going on. ALEC is reportedly taking care of our legislators—flying them to exotic and lovely places—and having them push policies that impact my classroom and my son’s classrooms. I think in smaller states like Arizona, our legislators are not very well versed or educated on how these policies affect students. And the scariest part is that legislators take these bills verbatim, they get passed, and the impact isn’t felt until a few years later. I don’t even think our legislators know how horrible some of these policies are.
EV: So if this works out according to your plan, what does success look like to you?
MG: Success would be that Google goes back to what I think Google stands for—trying to make our communities strong and a commitment to public education. I want Google to understand the real impact those Chromebooks are going to have on my students. Google is opening doors and making communities stronger by educating my students in the classroom. I want people to once again trust what I think Google stands for. Any affiliation with groups like ALEC, as a parent, I am against.
EV: As an educator, why is it important for you to be involved in political action?
MG: I was involved in political action before I was a teacher but I had no idea how important it is for classroom teachers to have a voice and to represent our students. I think of my students as my kids because I am with them 8 hours a day. I want to make sure they are treated fairly. I want to make sure that they have a shot at getting the best public education possible.