Meet Our Candidates: Lela Alston for Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 2016. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in the election, you must have been registered to vote by October 10. Make your voice heard in 2016!

photo of Lela - headshot 4-2014 copyPhoenix Union High School District governing board candidate Lela Alston is back and at it again. A longtime school teacher and current member of the House of Representatives, Ms. Alston is running for reelection to the governing board of the Phoenix Union High School District. Ms. Alston’s impressive track record of public service reflects her commitment to Arizona’s children and families, for whom she is striving to build a better future. As a school board member, Ms. Alston will continue to advocate for comprehensive sexuality education programs, fight for adequate funding, and celebrate inclusivity and diversity.


“Our students will be healthier in their current lives and in their future lives if they have full knowledge of important subjects such as contraception and HIV/AIDS.”


Ms. Alston participated in our “Meet Our Candidates” series in 2012 and 2014 as a candidate for the House of Representatives, and on October 10, 2016, she graciously agreed to a telephone interview in which she discussed her candidacy for PUHSD school board.

Tell us a little about your background and why it’s important to you to be involved with education in your community.

I am a retired teacher from PUHSD, and I was asked to run by my colleagues when they felt the board was not supportive of students, faculty, and other employees. I have long been involved in the political world, and I have always had education, children, and families at the top of my agenda. I served in the state Senate from 1977 to 1995, and in 1994 I ran for State School Superintendent and lost to Lisa Graham Keegan. After that, I went back to teaching school full time. I retired 10 years ago, and eight years ago there was an opening on the school board for which I was asked to run. I am now running for my third term on the school board and I have in the meantime gone back to serving my legislative district in the state House. This year I will be starting my seventh year in the House, so I will be term-limited from the House after this next two years.

As a teacher I taught home-economics, and my master’s is in child development and human relations, so the issues of education, family, and children just kind of naturally fit with the issues I have championed all my adult life. Continue reading

National Girls and Women in Sports Day: Creating an Even Playing Field for All Athletes

soccerFrom tennis to mixed martial arts, women excelled across a broad spectrum of athletic events in 2015. They graced Sports Illustrated covers and ESPN highlight reels, achieving excellence in a world still dominated by testosterone. Yet even though 44 years have passed since President Nixon signed Title IX in 1972, sexism continues to rear its ugly head in competitive athletics. Even women who reach the pinnacles of success in their fields face constant battles against subtle but pervasive gender inequality.


Female athletes still have a long way to travel on the road toward total parity with men.


As 2016 ushers in another year of nail-biting finishes, heart-wrenching losses, and championship victories, it’s time to celebrate the women who made 2015 a remarkable year in sports and reflect on the work that still remains on the road to gender equality. On February 3, the Women’s Sports Foundation will do just that by hosting the 30th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day in Washington, D.C. The event will both celebrate the progress that female athletes have made over the last four decades and promote ways to advance women’s status in the world of sports.

It would be impossible to discuss athletic accomplishments from 2015 without recognizing the ladies of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, who, in a single game, gave the United States more fútbol glory than the men’s team has offered in more than 100 years of existence. What follows is a commentary on how the team has maintained its tradition of excellence in the face of the misogyny that remains heavily embedded in competitive sports. Continue reading

Political Posturing: The Federal 20-Week Abortion Ban

U.S. Representative Trent Franks (R-Arizona) of the 8th congressional district speaking at the Arizona Republican Party 2014 election victory party at the Hyatt Regency in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo: Gage Skidmore

U.S. Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona’s 8th congressional district speaking at the Arizona Republican Party 2014 election victory party in Phoenix. Photo: Gage Skidmore

The idea of a 20-week abortion ban is nothing new for the Grand Canyon State. In 2012, the Arizona Legislature enacted a law prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks, except in cases of narrowly defined medical emergencies. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously struck down the law under clear Supreme Court precedent, and the high court itself later declined to hear Arizona’s appeal.

Even though the Supreme Court refused to uphold Arizona’s initial 20-week ban, the issue remained a central policy concern for Arizona politicians. In June 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. The bill, sponsored by Arizona’s own Rep. Trent Franks, never reached the floor of the Democrat-controlled Senate.


Almost all late-term abortions are due to a life-threatening condition or severe fetal abnormalities.


Yet, despite the outright failure of Arizona politicians to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, either here in Arizona or at the federal level, they’re back at it again. This year, Rep. Franks successfully spearheaded a bill nearly identical to the one he introduced two years ago. Approved by the House earlier this month, H.R. 36 would severely restrict access to abortion services in the fifth month of pregnancy.

Notably, even Franks’ most recent attack on women’s reproductive rights did not pass the House without controversy; the current edition of H.R. 36 is actually the revised version of a bill introduced in January. A handful of Republicans objected to the original draft because it mandated that women who suffered rape or incest must report all crimes to law enforcement before being eligible to receive a late-term abortion. Continue reading

Toward Improved Care for LGBTQ Patients: New Guidelines Shine Spotlight on Addressing Health Disparities

doctorsOn January 5, Florida became the 36th state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage, joining a movement that is sweeping across the United States. With federal judges striking down same-sex marriage bans left and right, it seems inevitable that we will soon live in a country that recognizes the freedom to marry. Yet, although more Americans than ever support marriage equality, the fight for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in our society is not over, as they continue to face significant barriers to quality medical services.


Full equality includes access to high-quality medical care, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.


The obstacles that have historically prevented LGBTQ patients from obtaining medical care continue to plague our modern health care system. Sure, the American Psychiatric Association no longer considers homosexuality a mental illness. But a concerning number of health care providers still refuse to serve LGBTQ individuals, and until the passage of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies were not required to extend domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples. Moreover, the stigma that surrounds homosexuality prevents many patients from disclosing their sexual orientation to doctors. Because the LGBTQ community faces higher rates of certain conditions, including depression and substance abuse, failing to discuss sexual activity can lead to inadequate treatment.

One of the U.S. health care system’s most serious shortcomings is its failure to prepare doctors to work with LGBTQ patients. Young doctors are emerging from medical school ill-equipped to deal with the specific needs of the LGBTQ community. A 2006 study published in Family Medicine surveyed 248 medical students, finding that the vast majority of students held positive attitudes toward LGBTQ patients and hoped to provide them top-tier care. Unfortunately, the same group of students failed spectacularly when tested on LGBTQ-specific health concerns. Another study revealed that most medical schools throughout the United States and Canada devote minimal (if any) instructional time to LGBTQ issues, and that the quality of such instruction varies drastically across institutions. And significantly, many doctors report that they feel uncomfortable discussing sexual behavior with LGBTQ patients. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Daniel Hernandez Jr. for Sunnyside Unified School Board

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting is already underway! Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

Daniel HernandezExtending from south Tucson to Sahuarita and from I-19 to Wilmot Road, Sunnyside Unified School District includes 14 elementary schools, five middle schools, and three high schools. Its student body, which totals 17,400, comprises an overwhelming majority of Hispanic students. In this year’s election cycle, three candidates are vying for two open spots on Sunnyside Unified’s school board. One of these candidates is Daniel Hernandez Jr., up for reelection for the first time since taking office in 2011.

Currently the acting president of the governing board, Hernandez was once a student in Sunnyside Unified School District. Although he is not even 25 years old, Hernandez already boasts incredible political experience. He has worked for numerous congressional campaigns, and he passed his first bill at 19 years old. After the shooting at U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ “Congress on Your Corner” event, where he was working as an intern, Hernandez felt compelled to give back to the public by running for office. Since 2011, he has been a passionate advocate for students as a member of Sunnyside’s board. He hopes to maintain his position so that he may continue to improve public education in Arizona.

On October 23, Mr. Hernandez took time out of his busy schedule to meet me for coffee and discuss the issues surrounding the upcoming election.


“I’m hoping to work with next year’s board members to make sure that comprehensive sex ed becomes solidified in policy.”


Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a Tucson native. I grew up on the south side in Sunnyside Unified School District, which is the district where I am now the president. I was born in the 1990s so I’m a little on the young side, but I’ve already had a lot of interesting experiences working in public policy and politics.

My first foray into politics was back in 2007 working on the Hillary for President campaign. I then worked on Gabby Gifford’s campaign for Congress, which led me to spend a lot of time thinking about the influence of policy. After her campaign ended in 2008, I became part of the Arizona Students’ Association, which works to make sure that students have all the resources they need to be successful. We have three public universities in Arizona (ASU, NAU, and U of A), and I was part of a team that represented all 150,000 students in the university system. I lobbied at the Legislature and got my first bill passed when I was 19. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Adelita Grijalva for Tucson Unified School Board

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting is already underway! Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

Adelita GrijalvaSchool board elections, often overshadowed by high-profile congressional and presidential campaigns, directly impact the lives of voters and their children.  It is critically important that we elect qualified school board members in order to ensure the quality of Arizona’s public schools.

For the past 12 years as a Tucson Unified School District board member, Adelita Grijalva has worked tirelessly as an advocate for students and their families. She has fought for a number of important changes, including smaller class sizes, increased funding for music and the arts, and improvements in technology throughout the district. Ms. Grijalva, the acting president of the TUSD Board, is seeking reelection so that she may continue working toward equity and excellence in education for all K-12 students in Arizona.

On October 10, Ms. Grijalva took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to speak with me about some of the important issues surrounding the 2014 school board elections.


“TUSD was the first in the nation to adopt an anti-discrimination policy that includes gender identity.”


Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a Tucson native born and raised, and I have three children, two of whom are school age and attending a TUSD elementary. I work at a nonprofit organization named Pima Prevention Partnership, and I’m the director for Pima County Teen Court, a juvenile diversion program. I’ve been there for 19 years.

I was involved in politics very young. My father ran for office when I was 1 [year old], and every election since then we’ve been involved in somebody’s campaign, whether it be his or a friend or someone else we support. Every campaign season — every November —  I’ve been part of a campaign.

I ran for office 12 years ago, and I’ve been on Tucson Unified School District’s Governing Board since then. Continue reading