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If You’re Reading This, Thank a Teacher – The Red for Ed Protests

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As educators all across Arizona set aside their red pens and schoolwork, they raised their signs and voices in unity. Inspired by teachers in West Virginia, Arizona teachers this past month walked out of school in strike for higher pay and greater school funds. Currently, Arizona teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation as reported by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Federal

figures show elementary teachers actually rank 49th in earnings and high school teachers 48th (Jeffrey). According to Arizona Central, “the historic six-day walkout closed 1,000-plus schools, attracted more than 50,000 protesters and impacted 850,000 students,” (Cano). All of the nine major school districts in the Tucson Area closed in support of the state-wide protest, including Amphitheatre, Flowing Wells, Marana, Sunnyside, Tucson Unified School District (Arizona Daily Star). Although there is no law outlawing a teacher strike, teachers risked a great part of their livelihood to participate in these protests because individuals may lose their certifications (Boughton).

Traveling to Phoenix, a sea of red ended up outside the State Capitol to pressure lawmakers and Governor Doug Ducey to address their financial demands. But even after Ducey’s proposed bill was passed, it still fell short to the funding required by public schools. It stated that teachers would have a 20% raise as well as increased funds for classrooms by 2020. However, Joe Thomas – president of the Arizona Education Association – said that the bill does not guarantee funding for all teachers (Goldstein).

But this walk-out certainly didn’t end in vain. Students back in school have a heightened understanding of what teachers went through to receive the financial gains they were able to secure. Not only is the Red for Ed movement a continuing development, but with student participation and teacher action, the following interview highlights some of the thoughts from Catalina Foothill’s very own teachers.

 

Interview by Nyah Williams

The Red for Ed walk out was participated in all across Arizona. It hit close to home at Catalina Foothills High School, located in Tucson, Arizona. Our school closed down for about a week in support of our teachers. Down below is an interview that was conducted to get insight on how some of our CFHS teachers feel about this situation:

What does this walk out mean to you?

Ms. Frieden: It means we are finally taking a stand for our students that will actually have an impact.

Mrs. Veres: This walkout is especially meaningful to me. My husband and I are expecting a new baby in the fall and I am overjoyed to think that our child will get to experience a fully funded, supportive school system.

If you get the outcome you want from this walk-out what are you hoping for, for the future of education?

Ms. Frieden: We are hoping to increase the amount our public education is supported by the government to insure that our students have all of the resources, staff, faculty, and facilities to make their education competitive with other states. We also will make sure highly qualified teachers stay here.

Mrs. Veres: I’m sure you’ve noticed that Arizona schools have a high teacher turnover rate. Many young teachers often leave their districts after a few years to either pursue a different ca

reer or teach outside of Arizona because the pay and benefits are just better. My hope is that Arizona becomes a place where teachers from other states want to come to teach, where the most experienced and highly qualified teachers come because it is THE place to be a teacher!

What is one thing you want everyone to know about #RedforEd?

Ms. Frieden: It’s not about our salaries, it’s about our students. We wouldn’t walk out over salary alone.

Mrs. Veres: This is about more than teacher pay. The five demands of the movement are

  1. A 20% raise for all teaching and certified staff
  2. Competitive wages for all Classified Staff
  3. Return school funding to 2008 levels
  4. No new tax curs until AZ per-pupil spending reaches national average
  5. Yearly raises until AZ teacher salary reaches the national average.

What potential concerns do teachers have regarding leaving the school for long periods of time?

Ms. Frieden: Students losing motivation and knowledge as the days go by faster and faster. We are also concerned about the potential to add more school days to the end of the year.

Mrs. Veres: We’re concerned about our classified staff. Classified staff includes house secretaries, security, classroom aids, front office staff, etc. Since our district has decided to close its doors, classified staff will not be getting paid during the walkout. Certified Staff (teachers) will be getting paid through the walkout. This issue was brought to the governing board’s attention on 4/24/18, but we have not heard a response yet. Our teachers want it to be known that this walk out wasn’t only for an increase in their pay. It was also to make a change within our classrooms.

The movement successfully resulted in a budget agreement related to changes for both teacher salaries and state education funding, which Governor Doug Ducey announced on April 27th. The Finance Advisory Committee determined that the projected national economic growth will al

lot for a gradual 20% increase in Arizona teacher salaries over the next two years. Along with this, the new public education provisions will contribute 152.8 million dollars to construction projects, technical education and special education programs. Ducey also stated that a five year plan will grant up to 371 million dollars in order to fund general K-12 investments, including curriculum updates and the improvement of public education facilities. However, the president of the Arizona Education Association, Joe Thomas, stated that these raises may not be guaranteed, and that the majority of teachers will most likely receive less than 10% raises. Thomas also pointed out the fact that the public education plan only reinstituted roughly 25% of funds that were previously revoked by budget cuts in recent years. Teachers and students can only hope for the best in terms of the bill’s validity and the fate of Arizona’s public education system within the next several years.

 

Citations:

“All of Tucson’s Major School Districts Will Be Closed for the Teacher Strike.” Arizona Daily Star, Arizona Daily Star, 24 Apr. 2018.

Boughton, Kevin. “Arizona Teachers Planning.” KGUN, 2 May 2018.

Cano, Ricardo. “In Aftermath of #RedForEd Walkout, Arizona Teachers Vow to Continue Political Activism.” Azcentral, The Republic | Azcentral.com, 6 May 2018.

Ducey, Doug. “Governor Ducey Letter To Arizona Parents, Teachers And School Leaders.”Office of the Arizona Governor, 1 May 2018, azgovernor.gov/governor/news/2018/05/governor-ducey-letter-arizona-parents-teachers-and-school-leaders.

Goldstein, Dana. “Arizona Teachers End Walkout as Governor Signs Bill Approving Raises.”The New York Times, 3 May 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/05/03/us/arizona-teacher-walkout.html.

Jeffrey, Courtland. “Teacher Salaries in Arizona: See How Much Each District Pays Its Teachers.” KNXV, 20 Apr. 2018.

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The student news site of Catalina Foothills High School
If You’re Reading This, Thank a Teacher – The Red for Ed Protests