IA teacher: Parents want good-paying jobs, quality public education for kids

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by Brian Washington

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If you give Kelly McMahon a choice between going door-to-door to speak with voters or talking to them via the phone, door knocking on behalf of pro-public education candidates is going to win out every time. She says it’s easier to have a conversation face-to-face than it is over the phone, which gives her a better sense of the issues on voters’ minds this election season.

Since the beginning of the year, McMahon, who teaches in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has knocked on close to 1,500 doors. She’s done it for the Iowa Caucuses, several state and local races, and is now working neighborhoods near her school for the presidential election.

“People are happy to see that I am out advocating for students and our families,” said McMahon, a kindergarten teacher with 15-years classroom experience. “I always talk to them about the importance of high quality early childhood education. I also stress the need for smaller class sizes.”

This weekend, McMahon will go door-to-door again. She’ll be joined by hundreds of thousands of educators and other members of the labor movement in battleground states across the nation. The goal is to drum up support for those candidates committed to standing up for kids and public schools at the federal, state, and local levels.

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Iowa educator and campaign worker Kelly McMahon

McMahon teaches in the Cedar Rapids Community School District, where over 70 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch and about a third of them are English Language Learners, documented immigrants from Mexico, Central America, and Eastern Africa. She says her students’ parents are very supportive of educators and want to see their kids get a quality public education.

“They feel like teachers need to be able to teach and provide students with the type of education that makes them excited about learning,” said McMahon. “They believe we need to be able to provide kids with the type of education they deserve.”

Parents also talk a lot about testing.

They say it’s too much testing. They want their kids to be able to love school, especially at the early childhood level. At that level, they want their kids to be able to play, explore, and build relationships as opposed taking test after test.

Another topic they talk about is jobs—good paying jobs. McMahon says parents need jobs that will allow them to take more of an active role in their child’s education. Too often, even in two-parent homes, that’s not always possible because mothers and fathers must each work two-to-three jobs just to make ends meet.

“They want to be involved in their child’s education and need jobs that will allow that type of flexibility,” said McMahon. “They want jobs that won’t force them to choose between staying home to take care of a sick child and missing a day’s pay or going to work because you need the money even though you can’t afford childcare because it’s way too expensive.”

McMahon says the immigrant families she’s talked to appear energized to go to the polls this year—thanks, in part, to the hatred and anti-immigrant rhetoric being spewed from GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“I’ve had students who are afraid that a grandmother or some other family member is going to be sent back to Mexico,” said McMahon. “It’s something that could affect a family’s ability to stay together. So yes, they are energized this election cycle because their families depend on it.”

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