By CHRISTINE CHANDLER
Council Vice Chair
House Dist. 43 Candidate
Campaigning across House District 43, discussing the educational needs of our children, has prompted me to reflect back on my public school experience.
My father emigrated from Poland after the war, and met my mother when he settled in Western Massachusetts. My mother was born to Polish immigrants and at the time there was a vibrant Polish community in the area. Neither went to college and both worked in blue collar jobs their whole lives, carefully saving money for a down payment to buy a house and raising me and my two brothers.
Like many immigrants, my parents knew the importance of taking advantage of every education opportunity available to us.
My father, who was very intelligent and talented (a fabulous gardener, which I am not,) was held back by his lack of education. I can’t think of a week that went by when he did not encourage us to work hard at school.
I was lucky: the schools and teachers where I grew up were excellent. I grew in a place that valued public education. My high school history teacher was a particularly influential person in my life who pushed me to excel.
After I had taken every class that he taught he created independent study projects for me, and got me a student internship at our local District Attorney’s office because he was sure that I was going to be a lawyer. This excellent foundation prepared me for Smith College and then law school. I never in a million years would have thought when I was a teenager that I would have had a full career as a lawyer for one of the premier scientific laboratories in the world.
The Lab enabled me to study international law at Georgetown and to intern at the Safeguards Office at DOE and in the Office of the Legal Advisor at the State Department. I attribute virtually every interesting and challenging opportunity that I’ve been able to enjoy to the fact that I had a great public school education and wonderful committed teachers.
Of course I know that New Mexico has miles to go to catch up. We must commit to direct our resources and attention to public education. The commitment must be true and sustained at all levels: Pre-K (of course), fully funding public education and applying those resources to cohesive, proven strategies. Two year colleges and vocational are important programs for many students and are often overlooked.
My concluding message is: We must support this initiative even though there may be financial pain such as diverting new money from the Land Grant Permanent Fund, and finding additional tax revenues for the General Fund. It is no longer acceptable to take advantage of the personal commitments made by teachers to their students – their willingness to work two or more jobs, handle over-loaded obsolete classrooms and provide supplies – we must honor our teachers and match their fierce commitments to our children. They are, after all, our children.
Christine Chandler has been endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and EMILY’s List. Her campaign website is: www.christine4statehouse.com.