Andrea Kirby: Speech: WCP Convention 2021

Over the past 18 months we have been subjected to all types of emotions, mental highs and lows and a ton of uncertainty. This has been hard enough as an adult, but imagine life over the past 18 months as a child or young adult. COVID19 and all of its variant cousins have highlighted the social, economic, and racial disparities not only in this country but all over the world. It has driven a deeper divide between the rich and poor. And the children, nieces, nephews, cousins… our future are the ones most affected by devastation and mismanagement of this pandemic.

We all remember how 2020-21 school year was for our youth. They were abruptly tossed out of school, no warning, no plan. Every day they were subjected to media reports showing death and fear surrounding COVID. Many were stuck home learning in an environment they were not ready, able or wanting to be in. Parents were forced to become teachers. The school year fizzled out like a bad 4th of July sparkler. Everyone wanted the school year to end, hoping that 2021-22 was going to be better.

Well sorry young ones, it is not starting off any better. What have politicians in Lansing and Washington and all over this country learned over the past 18 months you ask? Not much. The only thing they seem to be consistent on is not another shut down. Not another halt to the capitalist machine that keeps the rich, rich. They no longer have any regard to the cases or the number deaths now that the vaccine is here….

I am a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan union worker and have been required to report to work since the beginning of the pandemic. I am also a wife and mother of 2, ages 21 and 17, a senior in high school. I have to tell you, this has been a hell of a year. Like most working class people, I think if myself as hardworking, resourceful and resilient but when it comes to my child’s education, I have never felt so helpless. So many of the parents and caregivers I’ve spoken to have relayed all different levels of despair as children are starting the school year. So many do not feel that sending their child back to school is the safest thing to do but don’t feel like they have any other choice.

We all know that children have suffered cognitive, social and academic setbacks over the past 18 months. You don’t have to be a parent to see it…. Last year fewer children took the required standardized test. So many children didn’t participate in school at all for a multitude of reason such as the lack of internet or parental supervision. And we all know that poorer communities were hit the hardest.

Now I know that the COVID 19 pandemic was an unprepared shock that schools and government had not planned for. But what is not an unprepared shock is the blatant gutting and neglect  they have been doing to our schools for years. A recent Detroit News article stated that even before the pandemic started, “In a normal year, less than half of Michighan kids test proficient in any subject.“  So our children have been falling behind before COVID put it in the spotlight. Some school districts have been knowingly underfunded by having unequal per pupil compensation to schools. I am not sure how they came up with their formula in Lansing but it always ended up that richer communities got more money per pupil and poorer communities ended up with less money.  

But wait Michigan lawmakers say they are trying to make it right. They have just OK’ed a 17 billion spending plan that is supposed to close the school funding gaps…. This is just another failed attempt to throw money at a situation in hopes to make it disappear, if only for a moment. The current year’s school budget is 15.5 billion and it was just passed to increase it to 17.1 billion. Ok great more money. But what this bill does is something that according to this article I read on, has been a goal Legislature has been working on since 1994. A goal to have equal base funding across the state per pupil – which doesn’t mean that districts will have the same total amount of money to spend.…

So for 18 months, this was all they were able to accomplish. They didn’t come up with a plan to help make up for the educational loss our children have suffered. They didn’t think of ways to help all of our children return to school safely. Now that school is back, pedal to the metal. We are seeing infection rates among our youth increase. Now we have to understand the difference between new outbreaks and ongoing outbreaks. We are seeing the numbers go up from kindergarten to the universities. Football team can’t play due to large #s of players out with COVID, the same goes for the band. 205 children from my daughter’s band were either out with COVID or in quarantine last week.

Have we learned nothing in almost 2 years? Schools districts are receiving the following recommendations that go against everything we have been doing for 18 months. So let me break it down for you real quick.

  • If you are vaxed, and come in contact with a COVID positive person and have no symptoms. You are good to go just wear a mask.
  • If you are not vaxed and come in contact with a COVID postitive person and you both were wearing a mask and at least 3 feet apart. Then you too are good to go, just wear a mask.
  • This is the kicker… If you are not vaxed and exposed to a COVID positive person and you both were wearing mask but LESS that 3 feet apart. Then you can still stay in school but subjected to daily testing. If you don’t want to be stick up your nose for 7 days then you have to quarantine.

Now on top of all of that, imagine if you lived in a district that doesn’t require mask wearing. Not to mention that there is not a vaccine available for ages 11 and under.  And was only recently OK’ed for ages 12-15.

It is crystal clear that those that are making the decisions for The People do not care about the lives of The People. Their thought process starts and ends with a dollar sign. We are not lives, we are per pupil amounts. We are expendable to them. This behavior is not limited to the schools and decisions about our youth. This is the way decisions are being made for US everyday in every way. Money over lives.

This I why I was a Working Class Party candidate.

I am tired of our lives being played with for the sake of a dollar.  Being flipped back and forth between two evils without a voice at the table. I am tired of fighting the same fights that our ancestors fought and died over. I am tired of agreeing that WE are being wronged and not standing up to change it. We cannot ignore the big picture we have finally been able to see through all of the lies and deceit. I choose to stand for something and stop lying down for anything.

But who am I? I am you. I am a working person trying to put two ends together and survive. I have some formal education but my life education is what prepared me for this fight. Being sick and tired of being sick and tired is what prepared me to stand as a Working Class Party candidate.

The Working Class Party will only succeed and spread when we have more of US standing up and saying we want something different.

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