Kari Lake's classroom camera idea isn't about accountability. It's about electability

·5 min read
Gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake says she supports putting cameras in classrooms to keep an eye on teachers.
Gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake says she supports putting cameras in classrooms to keep an eye on teachers.

Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Kari Lake has solved Arizona’s education woes.

Just put a camera in every classroom.

The former TV news anchor is proposing that we set up video surveillance in all public school classrooms in an effort to root out all those teachers who apparently are turning our children into a bunch of leftie socialists who, in the case of the white kids, hate themselves.

It doesn’t matter whether that’s an accurate reflection of what actually goes on in Arizona’s schools. It’s campaign gold and Lake is embracing her inner Rumpelstiltskin, and spinning, spinning, spinning.

Are teachers the same as police officers?

“We as parents and taxpayers fund these schools,” she told the far-right blog Gateway Pundit on Monday. “We pay for the salaries of the teachers and administrators – they are OUR schools and we have the right to know what’s being taught in them.”

We do have that right. In fact, the same could be said about Arizona’s governor and legislators, but I don’t see Lake proposing that we outfit them with body cameras as they meet with lobbyists and plot strategy behind closed doors.

But, oh the schools.

“I like the idea of putting accountability back in the classroom,” Lake recently said, during a Nov. 17 radio interview with KNST’s Garret Lewis. “The schools, the teacher’s union, and you’re probably aware of this, they fought tooth and nail to get body cameras on police. The teacher’s union got involved in that fight. I want to see these same type of accountability measures in schools. Put cameras in the classrooms.”

In a largely unintended way, it makes sense.

Police increasingly are wearing body cameras, and while studies are mixed on how that has affected use of force, citizen complaints about officers are actually down. Maybe that’s because the police are changing their behavior, or maybe it’s because those complaining citizens know their own actions were caught on camera.

Mostly, the police bodycam footage is used to prosecute suspects.

Who knew the GOP would be OK with Big Brother?

As for publicly funded schools, not just parents but all Arizonans should know what is being taught in our classrooms. Teachers should be held accountable for what they do and say. But they also should be allowed to do their jobs rather than spending far too much time dealing with disruptive kids.

They, like police, could find some measure of protection in cameras.

Imagine some of these complaining parents’ surprise to find out that their little darlings are not so darling after all, when they’re caught on classroom cameras raising hell or bullying other kids.

Imagine, holding parents accountable for the way their kids behave.

As for the kids themselves, maybe Lake really believes it’s time for little Jayden and José to learn that there is no place that is sacred or private anymore. Remember how you felt when you were called on by the teacher and didn’t have the right answer or when you had to stand before the whole class and give a presentation?

Once Kari-cams cams are installed, our kids and grandkids will be standing not just before their classmates but in front of ... whomever is out there watching.

And remember, kids, Big Brother is always, always, always watching.

Who’d have thought the Republicans would be OK with that?

Does Lake think schools won't be hacked?

As for Lake, she assures us the video footage would not be available for general viewing. Would not be available at all, in fact, unless there's an active shooter on campus (in which case police could view the livestream) or a parent has a complaint.

“It’s not like you’d be able to watch what’s happening in the classroom live stream,” she told Lewis. “We don’t want a bunch of creepers watching what’s happening in the classroom.”

No, we certainly don’t.

But isn’t it odd that a candidate who clearly doesn’t trust the schools to teach our kids would trust them to protect our kids from the prying eyes of any peeping Tom, Dick or Harry?

Lake seems to believe that schools could safeguard hundreds or even thousands of hours of video footage – a digital paradise for predators looking to put a name to a child’s face and collect a trove of personal information.

What, you don’t think there are hackers who could easily gain access to those surveillance tapes? Seriously?

Parental involvement would do more than cameras

It seems to me there’s another way to approach the problem of parents not knowing what is going on inside their kids’ classrooms – a plan that wouldn’t force school districts to spend millions upon millions of dollars to surveil the state’s 50,000 or so teachers and maintain and store all those video files.

It’s pretty simple, really.

Parental involvement.

Talk with your kids every day about what they are learning. Meet with their teachers. Become involved in their school.

Volunteer or sit in on a class. If a school district forbids such an eminently reasonable request, then work to get the policy changed or get your child into another school. Arizona offers plenty of choices.

Every parent and every member of the public should know what is going on in Arizona’s classrooms.

Maybe then, we could figure out why just 38% of Arizona students can read at grade level and just 31% can pass a math test, according to the state’s latest test scores. (Granted, the pandemic did a number on our kids’ educational attainment, but just 42% could read and write at grade level in 2019.)

Maybe then we could figure out why so few people want to be teachers any more, or why Arizona's class sizes are among the highest in the nation.

Figure it out and at long last, do something to fix a few widespread problems that actually exist.

But the way to do it isn’t by following teachers around with a camera.

That’s a cheap bid for votes, not accountability.

Reach Roberts at laurie.roberts@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LaurieRoberts.

Support local journalism: Subscribe to azcentral.com today.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Kari Lake's classroom camera idea is about votes, not accountability