In support of our hard-working, under paid and under appreciated teachers

The Arizona Daily Star does not do regular editorial opinions like many newspapers, but today the Star editorialized in support of our hard-working, under paid and under appreciated teachers. Star Opinion: We stand with Arizona educators:

The Arizona Legislature has been short-changing and devaluing public school educators and students for at least two decades.

The bill has finally come due. What seems like a whirlwind of public protests has been simmering for years, as educators waited — and waited — for the Legislature’s action to match lawmakers’ campaign rhetoric on supporting education.

They’ve reached a breaking point. And they’re right. Educators are taking a risk by walking out. We respect their fortitude and support their cause.

Thousands of Arizona educators are walking off the job Thursday morning to protest their low pay, untenable working conditions and the state’s long-standing refusal to do what is necessary to adequately fund public schools while offering tax cuts to corporations.

In the Tucson area, all major school districts and some charter schools are closed Thursday, and likely Friday, because they won’t have enough staff at schools to safely supervise the students without teachers in the classroom.

Flowing Wells, Tucson Unified and Sunnyside Unified districts will serve meals at some schools. This is a public service, but of limited use to parents who can’t afford to take time away from their own jobs to accompany their children for breakfast or lunch.

Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican up for re-election, claims that the teachers are rejecting a “20 percent raise” he’s promised in response to rising protests over the past few weeks. His promise is only that — a promise, and one that was preceded by his repeated claims that Arizona could only afford to give teachers a 1 percent raise.

Ducey’s plan has about as much credibility as the old the-dog-ate-my-homework excuse.

Educators are absolutely right to be skeptical of Ducey. His promise is based on predictions that Arizona will bring in vastly more revenue in the next few years — in other words, IF the state ends up with more money, it will go to teachers.

ALSO: Laurie Roberts of The Republic further explains why Gov. Ducey’s pay proposal is merely an illusory promise:

They are walking out for one reason.

They don’t trust Ducey’s promise – the one that suddenly materialized when talk turned to a strike – to deliver 20 percent raises or to provide adequate funding for the schools.

Why would they trust pretty promises when they have seen our leaders ignore legal mandates?

School districts had to sue to force Ducey and the Legislature to provide mandated inflation funding for the operation of schools – and even then, they got only 70 percent of what they were owed (money taken from a trust fund set up for schools  – and deemed unconstituional by a judge).

Schools districts are now suing to force our leaders to provide funding to build and maintain schools – something the law requires them to do.

And yet … they don’t.

One of the #RedForEd movement’s demands is to include all school-related staff under the umbrella of educators, and rightly so, as every person who is associated with school is part of the educational fabric for students.

The walkout will cause at least temporary hardship for families, especially those with lower incomes who can’t afford to stay home for at least two days, or send their kids to a recreational program. Community organizations and employers can help by offering safe places for school kids while schools are closed.

As the teachers have gained momentum, and public sympathy, in the run-up to the walkout, the inevitable backlash has begun. Many of the comments indicate a complete lack of understanding of education today, with claims that teachers watch kids for about six hours a day and vacation all summer.

A survey from Tucson Values Teachers and Expect More Arizona found that Arizona teachers work an average of 64.2 hours per week because in addition to classroom instruction, they usually have extra duties, like being a lunchroom monitor, plus grading, lesson-planning, counseling and individual instruction and meeting with parents and administrators.

Many educators also work second jobs in the summer, at night or on the weekends. A beginning teacher’s salary is in the low $30,000s in most districts, even with a master’s degree and certification; raises are usually small and sporadic.

It is shameful, yet predictable, that some Republican lawmakers are trying to tarnish the teachers and movement organizers, instead of helping to find a solution and end the standoff. For example, state Rep. Maria Syms, who represents Legislative District 28 in the Phoenix area, describes a #RedForEd organizer as leading teachers in an “anti-American socialist revolution.”

See, AZ GOP response to #RedForEd ranges from ‘class warfare,’ to suing teachers, to McCarthyism

That’s ridiculous, and we must not allow distractions to trump the very real and very righteous cause of saving public education — and public educators — in Arizona.

Well said. Support our school teachers in their righteous cause of saving public education in Arizona.

UPDATE: In the New York Times today is a video op-ed, We Are Republican Teachers Striking in Arizona. It’s Time to Raise Taxes.

Tens of thousands of teachers are walking out of their schools in Arizona on Thursday. Arizona is the latest conservative state with protesters demanding an increase in teacher salaries and more resources for students. In this video op-ed, four conservative teachers lament the conditions in their classrooms and, in turn, wrestle with their political beliefs.

“I’m a die-hard Republican, and I’m dying inside,” says Allison Ryal-Bagley, an elementary school substitute teacher. “Republicans aren’t taking care of our kids.”

Over the last decade, Arizona has had the greatest decrease in per-student spending in the country — a 36.6 percent drop since 2008 — making it 48th in the nation. Arizona also ranks 43rd in teacher pay, at nearly $11,000 less than the national average, according to the National Education Association.

William Kimsey, who teaches English, is fed up and is moving for a teaching job in Indonesia. Laura Fox, a music teacher, works the late shift at McDonald’s to make ends meet. Jenny Bentley Ryan used to work as a Lyft driver to supplement her income teaching science. They are challenging Arizona’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, to increase taxes and give public education the funding it deserves. — The Editors

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