Today was a great day for business at the Thursday State Capital Farmers Market as new customers in the form of education stakeholders involved with the functioning of our public schools came to the Capitol grounds, rallying for a better education and school climate for children.
With news helicopters hovering over the capital and public safety and state troopers making sure traffic safely proceeded, the education stakeholders (students, parents, support staff, educators, community members, aspiring and current office holders including Senate Pages) started arriving before 10:00 a.m.
They came from schools all over the valley. They were from elementary, middle, and high schools. Universities were there to show support. They traveled in cars. They filled and came in light rail trains. They mostly wore red shirts that featured slogans like “Save our Schools,” “Strong Schools, Strong State,” “Red for Ed,” and “Educators Strike Back.”
Many carried signs calling for action on properly funding all parts of education (teachers, support staff, capital improvements). Some met at Chase Field and marched to the Capitol in the humid 90-degree heat. Others found what parking they could find and just marched toward the capital. Everyone I spoke to was amazed at the turnout, which state troopers said looked like 35,000 to 40,000. It would not be surprising if more than that attended.
Amid the shouts of “Red for Ed” and lyrics like “We’re not going to take it anymore,” there was unanimity among all that were interviewed that this walkout was a “long time coming” and “it was about time,” to act and it was necessary to fight for a better future for the state’s children, many of whom need more help than what they are receiving. Everyone said it was all about the kids.
Among other concerns, stakeholders asserted it was time to pay all educators (instructors and staff) what they were worth and to put money in the classroom where some described environments where worn out pre-school mats for napping were being used. Others described situations in classrooms where carpets were ripped, students utilized broken desks and outdated textbooks that still featured George W. Bush as the current President were assigned.
The students that were interviewed relayed that they were glad that something was “actually happening,” and that this rally was “monumental” and “historic.” They hoped positive results would come from their showing up today.
What happens now is anyone’s guess. Apparently, the Senate has adjourned until Monday. There has been no word from Governor Ducey or Superintendent Douglas. They were not at the rally.
The Senate Pages were braver. They actually walked among the people. The Governor and Superintendent can learn something from them. In all likelihood, unless there are secret talks that carry over to the weekend, this walkout will continue until next week. It is probably prudent to expect more news then. For now, all stakeholders need to remember to stick together and remember that this is for the education of Arizona’s children. If everyone remembers that, only good things can come.