Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Arizona Politics and its Impact on My Native American Family

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 Tucson, Arizona is making me feel a little burned as a citizen, especially a Tribal citizen far away from my home reservation in South Dakota.  I feel irritated by John McCain's face on television when I see it, or the big blue poster that is on a street corner near my current job that states the message, "Drill, Baby, Drill."

I don't get it.  What is McCain drilling for?  I find this campaign about as effective as the recent underwater oil drill mishap in the Gulf of Mexico.   If McCain is running a drill, I wouldn't possibly gather what the exercise is, other than protecting the conservative, Anglo-American view of service to the constituents.

In the past two years, I have had experience as a parent in both the public school system and the early intervention (age 0-3) programs through the State of Arizona.  In all of my experience, I find the paperwork to be much more hassle than its worth right now.  It is my impression that the service providers who work on behalf of many disabled and developmentally delayed individuals have either moved on to other niches in the field, or have found employment elsewhere.  With all the budget cuts, we are a ton of citizens with children who qualify for much needed services (speech therapy, occupational therapy, respite services, etc.) but cannot get a single service provider to facilitate the services due to the confusing and bankrupt government responsible for paying for these kinds of services.

So, this results in my case, of my 2-year-old facing age-out status with the State Early Intervention Program AFTER she lost her speech therapist around Christmas 2009, and to date, has had no replacement.  This is over 6 months of her development possibly thwarted by lack of service, which is a mirror reflection of a lack of money in the state budget to hire a speech therapist in the first place.

My three-year-old, who has autism and has been attending public school, faces losing her school next year.  One of the last hold-out reasons for our family staying in Tucson has been to continue my daughter's education uninterrupted, as stability and familiarity are key to her development.  But now that the school is most likely to be merged with another school, she loses her teachers and her classroom.

My 14-year-old has been helping me with these two girls, who have high levels of needs.  She has been a God-send.  Without her, it may have been impossible - as we struggled without respite services or any kind of service coordination to help relieve our efforts with these two little girls.  Then, when time came to graduate from the eighth grade for her, she chose to return to South Dakota.  She reported, "The school is too broke to buy any textbooks, so I am sure they aren't going to have any money to create any kind of graduation or celebration for our promotion.  I want to go home, where they actually acknowledge in South Dakota that you have made a major accomplishment by making it into high school."

Personally, as I have tried to create a forecast of what is ahead for myself and my family, I have decided it may be best to leave Arizona.  As the school district that I work for has already declared a 2% decrease in salaries across the board, my federal program has been reduced to a 20 hour per week program, and benefit costs are going to skyrocket (1% raise in state retirement... bringing that total to almost 10% of gross income, and possible-2-digit increases in other benefits) - it is not a good time to be in Arizona.  But even at part time, I may fare better than other educators in the district.  400 teaching positions have been cut out of 1000, so nearly 40% of the district teachers who are finishing this school year will be packing up the boxes of leftover tissue, pencils, and bulletin board borders they paid for with their own money... for good.

What crosses over into the even greater economic impact on my Native American family, is that I am a single-income, single-mother.  To even pay for childcare has been an increasing challenge on a state-school salary.  Yet, since the state government will not take into consideration that nearly 35% of my gross salary is deducted before I even touch it, I make too much money on paper to receive any help at all.  So, I end up working for basically nothing.  And with no family to help ease the times of strife, there is really not much choice for this Indian at all.

I pray for Arizona... because some of the Native people were born here and are traditionally from here... and John McCain just keeps drilling away - but for what?  And for who?

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