One year after the walkout

Legislation | 04/26/2019

Rebecca Gau
Arizona Executive Director

On April 26, 2018, over 50,000 teachers and education supporters marched from downtown Phoenix to the Arizona State Capitol. I remember seeing thousands of teachers parking their cars and walking toward downtown with their #RedForEd shirts like it was yesterday. The enthusiasm was palpable and evident. It was an exciting event to witness and a moment in history that I will never forget.

But now that a year has gone by — what has changed? Has it been enough?

#1 Teachers are still underpaid.
Last year, our teachers showed us that when we advocate, lawmakers will have to listen. The result was that Governor Ducey and the legislature passed a budget that said it would give teachers, on average, a 20% pay raise pay by FY 2021. Even if that raise gets fully implemented, Arizona teachers will still be some of the lowest paid in the nation. A recent report shows Arizona ranks 45th in the country for average teacher salaries — a slight improvement of only one spot from last year.

#2 Teachers are still leaving the profession.
Unfortunately, Arizona teachers are leaving the profession. For example, a survey by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association revealed that 1,547 classrooms had no teachers to start the 2018 school year. Their report also found that 663 teachers quit within the first month of school. Both these numbers are higher than last year, despite promises of a raise.

#3 Education is still the top issue for Arizonans, and they are willing to raise taxes.
According to a new poll we conducted, 88 percent of Arizonans believe there is a need for additional funding for our public schools. But even more revealing was the fact that 66 percent of Arizonas would vote to increase taxes in order to provide additional funding for Arizona’s public schools — up three points from last year.

#4 The road ahead will not be easy.
Last year, the Supreme Court threw the Invest in Education initiative off the ballot. It was
heartbreaking. Many of us were frustrated, angry, and disheartened because it seemed like every time we took a step forward in the fight to fund our public schools, politics got in the way of doing what’s best for our kids. The road to turn around education funding and raising teacher pay is not going to be easy, but it will be a battle worth fighting.

Final thoughts
A year ago, 50,000 teachers and educators walked out demanding more for public education. But that’s not the full story.

Critics thought this movement would fail.
Commentators said no one would show up.
Cynics said that teachers and educators didn’t know how to advocate.

Although we proved them wrong, what’s actually different for our students? Nothing.

Our schools are still overcrowded.
Our teachers are still underpaid.
Our technology is still outdated.

One year later, we’re just as frustrated as before, maybe even more so due to the empty promises we were fed.

It’s time for legislators to stand up for significant education funding, not just give lip service and offer crumbs.

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