Our schools deserve better than the crisis that remains a year after #RedForEd

Supporters of #RedforEd at a protest hosted by the Arizona Education Association at the Arizona State Capitol on April 30, 2018. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Over the past few weeks, as the one-year anniversary of the #RedForEd march on the Capitol came and went, a frenzy of powerful flashbacks to last year’s actions world appeared on social media. One thing that keeps being mentioned is Gov. Doug Ducey’s 20×2020 plan to increase pay for teachers by 20 percent by the year 2020.

While the governor likes to take credit for it, that credit is not truly his to take.

The credit actually belongs to the tens of thousands of educators and community members who demonstrated their support of public education by wearing red, participating in walk-ins and joining demonstrations across the state.

Without our collective voice, Ducey would have given the same 1 percent raise he offered the previous year. In the face of this historic courage, Ducey was forced to concede.

However, this “raise” was not guaranteed, lacked a dedicated, sustainable funding source, and was only promised to those who meet the narrow definition of a teacher. It also left districts facing a dilemma: how to equally distribute the funds.

So, here we are, one year later. Some of us saw an increase in pay, but not all of us. For that, we are thankful. But, even after the realization of part of the 20×2020 plan, we are still ranked at 45th in the nation for teacher pay, earning $11,980 less than the national average.

We’re still waiting for the other 10 percent of the raise, but know that Ducey’s promises are only worth the paper they are written on, as he has failed to deliver on previous commitments. For example, at a campaign event in 2018, he touted increases to K-12 funding, but that funding was the minimum that was legally required to address inflation costs – and was coupled with $117 million in cuts from non-classroom education funding.

Ducey’s promised 20-percent pay raise has failed to actually deliver for educators in three ways. First, it doesn’t include all education employees. Second, he didn’t fully fund it, which forced some districts to either not give a full 10-percent raise or take money from other areas of their budgets to pay for the full raise. Finally, he failed to place language in his plan that required districts to use this money as educator raises, therefore allowing monies to be funneled away from salaries. The governor addressed this in his 2019 State of the State address with nothing more than finger wagging, yet again failing educators.

Also worth noting, is that we watched many legislators in the 2018 elections, both Democrat and Republican, run on pro-education platforms. Some legislators, including Republican Sens. JD Mesnard and Kate Brophy McGee, were so desperate to win that they used pictures of our massive march on the Capitol in their campaign flyers, in addition to emailing, tweeting, speaking about their unwavering support for teachers and public education. Yet we have still seen no solution to the public education crisis.

This disingenuous support needs to stop. We need real solutions, not campaign promises, and we need it now.

Our Students First

Our schools are in desperate need of resources and repairs. Our classified staff – those professionals in the school who do the non-teaching jobs that make the place run – need a raise. There are almost 1,700 classrooms without teachers, and districts with up to 90 open bus driver positions.

As budget talks begin, we ask that legislators consider the 1.1 million children whose parents have exercised their right to school choice by choosing a district school. A generation of students who entered school in 2008 has been deprived a fully funded education. They will never have the same experiences their peers have had elsewhere in the country.

This puts Arizona students at a direct disadvantage when applying for colleges or competing for jobs.

Now is the time for the legislature to advocate on behalf of Arizona’s most precious resource, its children.

Stop signing bills allowing corporate tax cuts that siphon money away from the already too small general fund. Stop signing legislation that punishes and silences teachers. Stop the desperate attempts to discredit us.

Start creating dedicated revenue streams that fully fund education.

Our message to our legislators is this: Restore $1 billion to K-12 public education, now. Our students can’t wait. Then, find a permanent solution to this problem for the future. Until then, #RedForEd will continue to advocate on behalf of our communities, our profession and, most importantly, our students.

Rebecca Garelli has been teaching for 15 years, and is currently a 6th grade science teacher in Phoenix. She is a lead organizer for Arizona Educators United.
Kelley Fisher is a kindergarten teacher in the Deer Valley Unified School District. She has been teaching for 20 years. She is a lead organizer for Arizona Educators United.
Vanessa Arredondo has been teaching for five years and currently teaches 3rd grade in La Paz county. She is a lead organizer for Arizona Educators United.
Katie Nash has been teaching for 13 years, and is currently a high school biology teacher in the East Valley. She is a lead organizer for Arizona Educators United.


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