The time to fight back — and fight forward — for reproductive justice is fast approaching. The stakes are high in this year’s state election, with candidates for governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and other races on the ballot. The Arizona primary election will be held August 28, 2018, and early voting began on August 2. Voters need to have been registered by July 30 to cast their ballots. Reproductive health has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who put our health and our rights first. Get to know them now in our series of “Meet Our Candidates” interviews, and make your voice heard in 2018!
[P]lanned Parenthood supporters are in every legislative district in Arizona, including one of the reddest: Legislative District 12, which ranks behind only two other districts — 13 and 22 — as the most conservative in the state, and encompasses the San Tan Valley, cities like Gilbert, and eastern spans of Maricopa County. That didn’t stop Joe Bisaccia from getting into the race for the House of Representatives from LD 12. His is the voice we’re looking for!
“I will work for laws that ensure women retain the right to make their own health care decisions.”
Mr. Bisaccia, a middle-school robotics and technology teacher, has been on the front lines of what the Republican-run Legislature has done to shred public school funding. The impact of stripping billions — that’s “billions” with a “b” — from K-12 funding for public schools, the zeroing out of community college funding, and diverting taxpayer money to multiple “voucher” programs is felt deeply by public school teachers and their students. And, when high tech jobs opt to build and invest in other states because Arizona’s education system doesn’t elicit a lot of confidence, Arizonans are deprived of the good jobs they deserve.
As a middle school teacher, Mr. Bisaccia is also in a unique position to understand the value of medically accurate comprehensive sex education, including concepts like dating violence, consent, and anti-bullying techniques. He understands the value of having students respect personal boundaries, engage in understanding consent, and be able to make informed decisions about one’s future. He wants his kids to be successful, and medically accurate comprehensive sex education can offer ways to remain healthy and safe.
Mr. Bisaccia was gracious to enough to take a break from campaigning on July 30, 2018, to share his responses to our questions.
Please tell us a little about your background and why you’re running for office right now in this political climate.
Our public schools are in crisis. As a STEM teacher at Cooley Middle School in the Higley Unified School District, I have seen firsthand how our schools and our children have been shortchanged by the big out-of-state corporations that dominate Arizona’s economy. To ensure our children have the best possible education so they can get the best possible jobs in the digital age, we need to fully fund our public schools. That means competitive pay for teachers and support staff, and adequate resources to make sure we have safe school buildings and the latest textbooks and teaching materials. Their futures depend upon us making sure they have the best public schools possible. That’s why I am running. Because our kids are our future.
What will be your first action as an elected official in 2019?
The first piece of legislation I’ll enact in office will be comprehensive education reform. This will restore education funding levels and teacher salaries to the national average and hold bad actors in the charter school sector accountable.
The uncertain future of the Supreme Court highlights the importance of protecting our rights at the state level. How can state legislators stem the tide of attacks on reproductive rights, for example by addressing so-called conscience clauses, targeted regulations, and access to family planning?
As a member of the Legislature, I will sponsor and work for laws that ensure women retain the right to make their own health care decisions. That includes repealing current laws that prohibit abortion in our state.
What can state legislators do not just to safeguard existing LGBTQ rights in Arizona, but to move them forward?
Enact anti-discrimination laws that ensure that all people are treated equal.
What other issues are you fighting for?
Among the biggest challenges we face in Arizona is the loss of local control over our communities. Just as the federal government has placed unfunded mandates on our state, the current Legislature has worked to take away from our town and city councils the right to make their own communities distinct and different and attractive places to live by offering different opportunities than neighboring communities. Another key issue is reform of our tax code, which has evolved over the years as a “spaghetti code” of rules that create confusion and have led to the public school funding crisis. I will work to restore balance to sales, personal income, and corporate taxes so that everyone pays their fair share and no one gets hit with an unfair tax burden.
What gives you hope for the future of Arizona?
We are among the fastest growing states in the nation. With an emphasis on schools and education and the infrastructure to support that growth, we will become a Pacific Rim powerhouse and a bellwether for the nation.
What is the most significant thing you will do as an elected official to Stand With Planned Parenthood?
I will work to ensure every person in Arizona has the right to make their own health care decisions.