Wednesday, May 2, 2018

School is Closed

It's not a strike.  The educators are not at odds with their employers, the various Boards of Education who hired them.  Their issues are with the Legislature, and their walk out is designed to garner attention.

It seems to be working. 
Image result for az teacher strike

That's 50,000 educators walking 2 miles in triple digit temperatures last Thursday, the first day of the walk out.  They rallied in front of the state capitol.  They held signs.  They spoke to reporters.  They came back on Friday and again on Monday and again on Tuesday.  

They sat in on the Democratic Senate Caucus, absorbing the acronyms and the legalese and the Legislative shorthand. They took notes so they could share the information with their colleagues.  They posted on Facebook groups that have arisen like wildflowers after the rain.  

No one is happy about this.  No one wants to extend the school year, or lose a teaching certificate, or leave students unattended.  

But Arizona has cut corporate taxes for years, and that money has not been replaced by an accelerated economy.  Over a billion dollars has been slashed from educational appropriations over the past 10 years.  The protests are not asking for more.  They are asking for what's gone.

This morning, the paper reported on a new budget hammered out between the Republican majority and the Republican Governor, Doug Ducey.  Ducey, the former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, and the only one who made any money out of that fiasco (just ask the franchisees who were bankrupted and left to manage on their own when Ducey took his money and ran), has rejiggered and reconfigured and obfuscated and claims to have come up with funding for a 20% raise over the next two years.

20 by 20 is his slogan, and it's a dandy one.  Unfortunately, there is no dedicated funding stream in the budget.  There are cuts to the arts and to services for the disabled and the Community Colleges are left out of the picture entirely, as are non-classroom specialists (reading teachers, for example).  Block grants are proposed, allowing individual districts to decide how to share not-enough-money with spending on textbooks, building repairs, and salary increases for clerks and librarians and custodians.

Think about that.  Miss Mercy, who sits at the front desk of Prince Elementary School, knows everyone's name.  She is the face of the school, the first person you see and the one you bid farewell when you leave.  She's looking to the future, when the minimum wage goes up and new hires will earn as much as she does, not withstanding the many years she's spent in the District.  

Think about the librarian, with a Masters degree, who is considered less worthy of a living wage.  NPR interviewed an Oklahoma teacher who earns less than a carpet installer or a brick mason, necessary jobs, for sure, but with somewhat less of an impact on the world than being in a classroom for 180 days a year.   

I-10 was filled with #RedForEd signs on cars heading back south from Phoenix after another day of protests.  I flashed a thumbs up at each one.  I bought my own Educators for Arizona red t-shirt (Miss Mercy said of course you are an educator.... you're here, aren't you!?!?).  I'm following the debate in the Legislature, trying to wend my way through the arcane language.  My State Senator, Steve Farley, posts readable updates, and I follow them, too.

The budget is moving this week.  Niches have been carved out for the constituents of powerful legislators (Tucson Unified School District property owners will be taxed while Maricopa County homeowners won't).  Governor Ducey wants this all to go away before he stands for reelection, and he's pandering to those who will vote his way.  

Sen. Farley said it best - The budget is our central moral document as a state.

I hope the legislators remember that.


  1. We, as votes, also need to remember who tried to do the right thing and who was dragged kicking and screaming to the table. August and November aren't that far away.
    I'm not convinced that this "deal" (assuming it passes) isn't just kicking the can down the road a bit. Our leaders are very good at that.

    1. Totally agree. It’s the level of enthusiasm from previously silent quarters that keeps me hopeful.


Talk back to me! Word Verification is gone!