There are special people in this world that serve to lift others.  Their strength provides a reference point in times of trouble, something unswaying and stable.  Some of these special people are further distinguished by the ways in which they lift others. They do so in a way that motivates those they’ve helped to pass it forward, to do the same for others.  Jo Ayon is one of these people.

And now Jo could use some help.  More on that in a minute. But first, let me tell you about Jo Ayon.

Jo is the office manager at Rio Rico High School, which serves about 1,200 students.  The mother of three children, Jo began working at Rio Rico HS to be closer to her children as they went through school.  Jo stayed after her kids graduated because she served a great purpose at the school. With her organizational and people skills, joyful nature (always laughing), and compassionate touch, she soon became a foundational piece of what Rio Rico High School was to become … an amazing place to be, for students and teachers.

Over the past handful of years I’ve gotten to know Jo a little bit.  We’ve had a lot of laughter-filled exchanges as I’d stop by her office to get a piece of candy (she has a bowl of candy on her desk that serves as bait, to get people to stop by and say hello).  But we’ve also had some deep conversations where it became evident that her pragmatic approach combined with strong faith provide her with guidance and stability in times of trouble.

On one of these trips to her office before school Jo and I talked about how we hated to throw away paper clips, especially the large ones.  We laughed as we both discussed the lengths we’d go to in order to rescue would-be discarded large paper clips as it just felt wasteful and wrong to let them be thrown out.  It was a meaningless, silly exchange in regards to the content, but an uplifting way to start the day.

The following day I stopped by Jo’s office with a large paperclip and handed it to her.  I told her it was a good one, one she should save, just for in case a large stack of papers needs to be grouped together. “This is a good one,” I told her.  “Hold onto it, for a rainy day.”

A few months later I suffered a closed-head injury and had a pretty severe traumatic brain injury, among a slew of other complications and injuries.  The severity of the accident was such that a broken collarbone went undiagnosed for about a month. By this time I was back at work, though I was suffering from frequent confusion, slowed cognitive response and depression (due to the TBI).  The discovery of the broken collarbone was more devastating to me than it should’ve been. Jo noticed my demeanor and reached out. We had a brief talk and she tried to cheer me.

Later that day I found something truly surprising in my mailbox at work.  After our conversation, Jo decided to return the paper clip to me. She taped it to the top of a piece of paper.  On the piece of paper was a silly poem of sorts, written to encourage me and lift my spirits. I took the poem, paper clip and all, and hung it on my wall, next to my desk in my classroom.  It serves to lift my spirits to this day.

My relationship with Jo is special, but not unique.  Everybody that knows Jo has this kind of relationship with her.  She is a light and a rock, lifting and providing stability for all around her.  And now she is the one in need of help.

Jo, mother of four, grandmother of four, has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Peritoneal cancer.  The cancer is stage 3 and she requires surgery and chemotherapy. In typical Jo fashion, she is taking this head-on, comforting those saddened by the news, saying that she’s ready to face whatever lies ahead.

Jo and her family will be facing some steep financial obligations as she fights cancer.  I’d like to offer two ways in which you can help.

The first way you can help is to help spread Jo’s story by sharing this.  The second way involves opening your wallet and sending a few dollars Jo’s way.  You can do this one of two ways. First, either send some money to Jo’s GoFundMe, set up by her daughter.  The second way is a fundraiser that Arizona’s Working Poor is running.  If you purchase an Arizona’s Working Poor shirt, 100% of that money will go directly to Jo.  To purchase a shirt, follow this link.  Since Arizona’s Working Poor is a 501 (c) 3, all of your donations are tax-deductible.  

Our goal, here at Arizona’s Working Poor, is to raise $1,000 for Jo.  If you’d like to help us reach our goal, please consider purchasing a shirt, or you can donate directly here.

I would like to take a few moments of your time and respond to Diego Rivera’s special in the Arizona Daily Star this past weekend.  In no way to I wish to attack or belittle Mr. Rivera.  It appears he misunderstands the nature of the problem with education funding in Arizona and I’d like to offer some context.  These misunderstandings are worth addressing because this variety of misunderstanding is what has gotten us, as a state, into the situation we’re in right now with education. 

To summarize the special, in case you didn’t read it:  The claim of the article is that additional funding does not increase academic success, as demonstrated by graduation rates, so the Invest for Education Act should not be passed.

First, let’s establish what started the #REDforED movement.  

The #REDforED movement started in response to a growing teacher shortage. Across the state, on average, Arizona has a teacher vacancy rate worse than the worst districts in the entire country.  Approximately 7% of teaching positions were unfilled, or filled by uncertified people, in Arizona in 2017/2018. Nearly 900 teachers left the profession permanently during the school year. That’s 1.8% of teachers walked out of the classroom for good.

Why are teachers leaving?  Money. This gets complicated quickly, but here’s a snapshot of the situation.  Arizona’s population has grown by 14% since 2007, yet funding for education was $1.1 billion less in 2017 than in 2007.  On top of that, an additional $5 million was taken from public education to subsidize private education.

Let’s put that $1.1 billion into perspective.  It is such a large number that we simply cannot comprehend it.  Let’s consider a billion of something we have experience with, time.  For perspective, a million seconds is approximately 11 days, while one billion seconds is about 32 years!  And that “point one” behind the one billion, that’s another 100 million. $1.1 billion is a massive amount of money, and that’s the amount of the shortfall Arizona’s schools experienced this past school year compared to 2007.  For the record, in 2007, public education in Arizona was not stellar!

The premise of Mr. Rivera’s article is that greater funding for Arizona’s public education is not needed because there is “no definitive correlation between greater funding and student achievement.”  What Mr. Rivera uses as an indicator of student achievement is graduation rate. One would be hard-pressed to find a statistic in education that is less reflective of student achievement than graduation rates.  States like Arizona have removed high stakes testing from the list of graduation requirements, and to secure precious funding, schools across the nation have allowed social promotion to seep into the high school ranks over the past decade.  

In short, schools across the nation have lowered the graduation requirements so they could report higher graduation numbers.  Graduating high school means less than it did in the past. In fact, nearly 60% of community college students (high school graduates) need remedial courses, earning community colleges the nickname “13th grade.”

You can read more about the misleading data found in graduation rates here: NPR fudging graduation.

Now I certainly agree with the idea that just providing additional funding does not secure a better outcome, not in education, not in business or sports, not anywhere except in measuring how much was spent.  Accompanying the additional funding needs to be meaningful education reform.  But that reform, no matter how great, will be ineffective without quality teachers to implement it.  The act of education is performed by teachers.  A well-meaning, but unskilled “teacher” will render the best curriculum and resources ineffective.  In order for Arizona to have long term, sustainable growth and a healthy society, we must have a quality public education system!  That requires appropriate funding for education.  If we, as a state, do not attract and then retain, the quality educators needed, we will continue to experience the problems we are witnesses currently.

The last thing I’d like to address is that Mr. Rivera mentioned teachers were pushing forward with the Invest In Education Act despite getting a 20% raise from Governor Ducey.  The first thing people need to understand is that there is no 20% raise for teachers. This 20×2020 plan is nothing but a promise, the money is not secured. If Governor Ducey is not re-elected, the plan dies.  If he is re-elected, that plan being fulfilled is as good as his word. He has consistently cut public education, never without court order or a strike of 75,000 people done anything to increase funding to education.

The governor has said the money is a 20% increase for teacher salary. That is a total and complete lie.  The legislation has the ability to insure money gets directly to teachers. You can read about the details of this plan herebut to summarize, the new money received is a 5.7% increase in education funding.  That is a significant amount of money, but is still $800,000 a year short of funding levels a decade ago.

The reality of the situation is that Arizona has grown a lot in the past decade. Yet, despite the growth, education funding has been cut.  Viewed in the best possible light, the 20×2020 plan is far short of what is needed just to “stop the bleeding.”

Funding for education must be secured for us to enjoy continued growth and to continue the wonderful way of life most Arizonan’s enjoy.  

This is part two of a series of the story of a teacher in Arizona, her journey, and why she had to leave.  If you’re not read part one, you can do so here.

How we are raised sets our lot in life, especially when we are children.  While Christina had aspirations, she didn’t have guidance or role models. Undoubtedly, her family was loving and supportive, but school was just where you sent your kids during the day. Education wasn’t part of their family story, it wasn’t part of who they were. No one in her family had more than a high school diploma and none of her sisters would even make it that far.

Christina’s lot in life, unless she chose something different was to get a job, get married and get pregnant, the order is optional.  

In 6th grade, Mrs. Mantz, having had Christina’s older sister as a student, was convinced that Christina was no good…just another one of those Snyder kids, all good-for-nothing cheats, not to be trusted.  The harder Christina tried to do well, to break the mold, the more convinced her teacher became that Christina was just a typical Snyder. It all came to a head one day when Mrs. Mantz told her, “Just quit already, you’ll never even graduate from high school.”

To an eleven year-old girl, with a background like she had, aspiring to become a teacher, this was a crushing blow.  The insult stung even greater coming from a teacher! Christina wanted to teach, wanted to help others and give back to her community, that’s what teachers were supposed to do. Devastated, Christina shut down, thinking along the lines, Mrs. Mantz is probably right. Going to college wasn’t something the Snyders do anyway.

By the time Christina started high school, her dreams of teaching had all but died. Christina saw what happened when you dared dream of another path.  She’d let her eyes stray from the well worn, established and safe trail taken by all Snyders before her.

After all, Christina felt, Mrs. Mantz was right to notice I was straying from the expectation and come snipping at her heels like an over-caffeinated border collie, chasing me back to the place the Snyders belonged.  

If not for an incredible teacher that provided Christina with inspiration and the emotional safety to open up, she’d likely never have changed from that course.

Mr. Loop taught high school English.  He challenged Christina intellectually and treated her with the respect someone would show a peer.  Christina felt empowered, smart and capable. Perhaps most importantly, Mr. Loop’s belief in Christina’s ability to do more than her family had done, to become a teacher, gave her the resolve to make her own way in life.  

For a child from such a background to dream of something different as an adult, something even more than “get out of this place,” is a risk in ways difficult to appreciate.  Change is always fraught with turmoil and angst, but not just suffered by the person making the change. From the family’s perspective, there’s much at risk and they often feel threatened. What if she fails?  If she failed would it mean that their stock just wasn’t cut out for anything different, anything more? There’s always the belief, “Well, I could go to college if I wanted, it’s just not who I am.”  If Christina tried and failed, what would that mean for the prospects of other Snyders?

But, if she went to college and graduated, would that mean that she was saying the rest of the family wasn’t doing well enough by her standard? Those left behind are left to wonder, “What’s wrong with how I am, how I live?”  

First generation college students have a heavy burden to bear.  First, there is the weight of trying to do something in conflict with family expectations, and all of the baggage that comes with being the first.  The financial difficulties, and the fear of the unknown can tax one’s spirit!  And for a first generation college students there is no blueprint for how to be successful in college.  There’s no one to give sageous advice about how to navigate the hidden obstacles in college.  None of them have done this before.  And in Christina’s case, there wasn’t even an example of how to do well in high school, much less college.

First generation college students have to learn their course materials as well as develop new habits, totally unlike anything they’ve experienced, in order to do so.  This is why 90% of first generation college students do not graduate college within six years!

Christina did graduate from college, finishing in the top 10% of her graduating class at Washington State University for her Bachelor’s in English.  She continued in school to earn a Master’s in Education, fulfilling the teaching requirements for Washington State.

But, there were no teaching jobs in Washington, or across the Columbia River, in Oregon.  Not only would Christina have to withstand the demeaning treatment by Mrs. Mantz, and strain family relations by doing something different than the family expectation, then figure out how to be a successful college student, Christina would also have to do something else Snyders just didn’t do.  She was going to have to leave.

If you’ve seen the movie, A Christmas Story, you undoubtedly remember the scene where the boy is goaded into sticking his tongue to a frozen flagpole, and of course, his tongue sticks to it.

The scene is great because it captures how posturing and speech are involved in our interactions, and how we can paint one another, or sometimes ourselves, into a corner.

Flick: Are you kidding? Stick my tongue to that stupid pole? That’s dumb!

Schwartz: That’s ’cause you know it’ll stick!

Flick: You’re full of it!

Schwartz: Oh yeah?

Flick: Yeah!

Schwartz: Well I double DOG dare you!

Narrator (Ralphie as an adult): NOW it was serious. A double-dog-dare. What else was there but a “triple dare you”? And then, the coup de grace of all dares, the sinister triple-dog-dare.

Schwartz: I TRIPLE-dog-dare you!

Narrator (Ralphie as an adult): Schwartz created a slight breach of etiquette by skipping the triple dare and going right for the throat!


If you’re in education, in any capacity, you’ll undoubtedly have heard the phrase, “ … what’s best for kids.”

If you’re not in education, you’ll likely be surprised to hear how vexing that phrase is to teachers!

The phrase is often used in the context of, “I want you to do this, after all, we have to do what’s best for kids, right?”  It’s coercive, manipulative, and rarely used to promote something that has any impact on what’s best for kids. It almost always has to do with what’s best for the person using the phrase.

And, it’s powerful.  I’ve used it myself, a few times.  Like the triple dog dare, it’s a trump card.  The first person to play it tactfully wins.

Let’s talk about what really is best for kids, in the context of education.

  1.  Stable Home Life

I never appreciated how important a stable home life was until I became a teacher.  I believed it was imperative, without consideration, and my wife and I worked very hard to provide a quality upbringing for our daughters.  But I never knew how bad things can turn for kids in the absence of a stable homelife. I’ll not chase this too far, though it deserves an incredible amount of attention, but is just far beyond the scope of what AZWP does.

The vast majority of incarcerated felons are high school dropouts.  The number one reason kids drop out, and this could be argued and dissected many ways, goes back to quality home life.

  1.  Teachers

Education is performed by teachers.  

In a way, I think that says it all.  The end, thanks for coming.

As a society we can provide the best books, facilities, the safest possible schools, the best support staff, counselors, administrators, school board members, the best buses and athletic programs, but the vast majority of kids will not receive a quality education without a quality teacher.

Yet, a quality education can be received by a student in a dangerous school, without textbooks, in a run down facility, without counselors or support staff, with bad administration, and corrupt politicians…if they have the right teachers.  That teacher that’s a source of light in a dark, dark world.

I’ve heard many, and want to tell, stories of those diamonds in the rough.  The story of a bad school in a bad neighborhood, and a kid with the cards stacked against him (or her).  Yet, in the most unlikely of places a teacher reached them, put them on a different path, one that led to prosperity and fulfillment.

If we, as a society, do not attract the right people into education, and then help develop those people into quality teachers (nobody is born a good teacher), and then encourage those people to stay IN THE CLASSROOM, it’s all for not.

Let me clear up a few points.  For a school to function well as a whole, all of the pieces need to be in place.  The top priority though, is the quality of the teacher in the classroom. We need the right people in the classroom doing the dirty work.  All of the other components are important and need to be high quality as well, but the act of educating kids is done by teachers.

The value teachers provide and the baseline perceived quality of teachers have both been under attack for decades.  Teachers are vilified and distrusted, they’re pointed at as the problem in education by textbook and test publication companies, politicians, and sadly enough, many citizens.  I could easily write volumes about each of these sources, their motivations and their proposed solutions. But there’s no need because they all have a common tactic, attacking the value of the teacher.

Teachers will still be leaving, at a record pace, if they do not make a livable wage.  As many have noted, and I’ve explored at some length here on my blog, the state average teacher salary is around $48,000 annually, as reported by the state.  That amount is far from reality when you consider the phrase I used earlier, IN THE CLASSROOM.  For those that don’t understand the reference, there are a lot of people that do not teach students that are reported as teachers.  (I’m not suggesting the services they provide aren’t valuable, but they skew the averages drastically.)

I have been teaching longer than most in Arizona and I’d be dancing in the streets if I made $48,000.  I work my second job to get to $48,000.  I would need another 26% increase over the 10% I just received to get to $48,000. I’m a quality math teacher headed into my 12th year of teaching.

Our current situation is this: #REDforED is trying to get more money into schools, and in my opinion the bar is too low.  We are trying to return to our per-pupil funding levels of 2008, when we were considered “The Mississippi of the West,” for education.

Regardless, once that money goes into schools the first and most important thing that must happen is that teachers need to earn a livable wage.  That’s not to say that other employees should be forgotten and passed over. That’s not to say facilities shouldn’t be updated. It’s not to say better safety precautions are not essential.  The act of education is performed by teachers. All other components support education.

We need enough money for all of those things.  The reality of the situation is that we are not receiving enough money for those things, not even close.

Analogies are risky because they’re always riddled with connections that are close, but not quite right.  The understanding gleaned from analogies is based on different situation with its own set of nuances and relationships and pitfalls are plentiful.  But analogies are powerful and useful in exposing key ideas.  These are all similar in the respect that the primary function of an organization is performed by one role.  Please consider a hospital without doctors, a transportation system without drivers, a computer with a processor, an airline without pilots, a team without players, a band without musicians, a canvas without a painter, a school without teachers.

#REDforED was spurred into existence because of a massive teacher shortage and all signs pointing towards the rapid expansion of that shortage.  Teachers, even after (if it comes to fruition) the 20×2020 deal, will not be staying in education, at least not in Arizona.

If you want what is best for kids, attract the right people into education, support and develop them into quality teachers, then reward and encourage them for staying.

Having quality teachers in classrooms is what’s best for kids. 

I’d like to share with you what I learned about #PurpleforParents over the past few weeks.  I will be careful to accurately represent the truth as I know it and to not mischaracterize the purple for parents group, individuals, or their objectives.

For those that don’t know, a few weeks ago I posted a video on Arizona’s Working Poor’s YouTube channel where I discussed the accusation from P4P (purple for parents group) that teachers were greedy and hurting children.  Many P4P members watched it and it resonated with them. The video was passed along to their founder (Forest), and he reached out to me. Forest wished to have a public discussion (on FaceBook live) in hopes that the nasty behavior and fighting on FaceBook groups and forums would diminish. (He was wise to try this because as Mike Broomhead discussed at the P4P town hall meeting, he was not allowed to promote the P4P cause on his talk-show because the conservative news station didn’t want to be affiliated with P4P.)  Forest hoped that if we could find some common ground that this would perhaps help de-escalate hostilities between the groups.

I was unsure if Forest’s stated goals were his true intention or not, but figured the risk was worth the reward.  The risk was that I’d be publicly admonished and ridiculed, that my #REDforED community would consider my actions to be collusion, giving voice to the devil, and subversive to the causes of promoting public education.  In addition, the P4P community could use my words out of context to promote their own causes.


The potential reward was along these lines.  There are layers of truth and understanding (without getting too philosophical).  There are things we know to be true (for example, we’re born and we die). Then there are things we believe because of interpretations of those truths (because I’ll die I need to make this experience count and be meaningful, or, none of this matters at all because I’m going to die anyway).  

I believed that the P4P were wrong about the basic facts, the first layer of truth and understanding. I hoped that by having a conversation with Forest I could bring to light some truths that were misunderstood.

After much discussion and some planning, Forest and I had the talk on FaceBook live.  To make that happen Forest added me the his group, P4P.  This infuriated a few P4P members as they saw him as colluding with the enemy, essentially letting a fox in the hen house.  

I stayed a member for a week, didn’t post at all, but did respond to some questions asked of me, and only saw what came across my FaceBook feed.  I didn’t search their page, I had a lot of things to do, like graduation, finals, and projects for Arizona’s Working Poor. A few members reached out to me personally in a positive manner and we talked about a few things.

All of that said, I am basing my “expertise,” about the P4P group on my conversations with Forest, my interview on FaceBook live, the interactions I’ve had with P4P members, and the conversations that transpired about me in the P4P group.

Here’s what I believe to be true about P4P and their platform.

  1. They were created in response to the walk-out (like nuclear fall-out).
  2. They believe the #REDforED movement is a nationally organized political ploy designed for the advancement of socialism.
  3. They want to punish teachers for participating in the walk-out.
  4. They believe educators that are not behind #REDforED are being persecuted and some even have been fired.
  5. They wish to take steps to “protect children,” and prevent such a walk-out in the future with legislation.
  6. They believe the voucher system is a must, even if it is unfair (so long as it benefits their child).
  7. They want to have a majority vote reserved on school boards for parents of children attending those schools.
  8. They believe teachers are indoctrinating their children for political gain.
  9. They vilify and belittle teachers, believing we are the ultimate problem with public education.
  10. They make associations and correlations between anything bad in education and #REDforED.
    1. For example, a sex education policy in California is proof of why “we” must stop #REDforED (see point two).

A few comments and observations:

  1. There is common ground, but perhaps only in common vocabulary, not outcome.  I will not discuss those things here, but perhaps in a future post.
  2. When writing this post I googled, “#purpleforparents.”  The first thing that came up was The Patriot Movement. You can read about that group here.  Governor Ducey took pictures with them, perhaps without understanding what they stood for, then denounced their actions and politics.
  3. However, the PurpleforParents group have political backing from Kelly Townsend and Diane Douglas.  These two have quickly aligned themselves with the P4P group and their platform.  (Interesting that the conservative newsradio station felt this group was too radical for them, but Townsend and Douglas jumped right on board.)  
  4. Forest was respectful and treated me as I’d like to be treated.  However, we do not appear to be on speaking terms any longer. I posted on social media that P4P wished to punish and teachers, that they took joy in vilifying teachers, and that they couldn’t move past the walk-out.  This was considered to be inflammatory and insulting. I was no longer “the reasonable” member of REDforED according to the P4P members.
  5. During the FaceBook live video I mentioned the amount of my salary.  The P4P group hears (and believes) a salary average of $48,000 or $52,000 for teachers in AZ. I’m going into my 12th year and the contract I signed this past March is a few dollars over $36,000.
    I was accused of lying and warned that I’d be exposed publicly as a fraud when they posted my contract amount (they were going to look it up since it was public).  I posted it myself and … they started attacking other things.
  6. They are absolutely furious about the walk-out because some parents, families and employees were financially damaged.  They initially discuss this anger being over kids being used as pawns (their phrase), but the conversation revolves around the financial consequences experienced by those who had no voice in the matter of whether to walk-out or not.
  7. Some are reasonable and willing to listen and discuss interpretation of facts.
  8. I left the group when it became apparent that they needed fuel for their rage to burn longer and my presence there was the fuel they needed.  I left with an invitation to any P4P members to reach out to me if they wanted to discuss any of the issues at hand. A few reached out after this, but were … less than civil.  
    1. I understand this post may be used as more fuel for their fire, but I wish to inform those outside of P4P what’s going on there.
  9. The group does not appear to be focused on anything regarding reforming public education. Their formation is an unintended consequence of the walk-out.   

To summarize, the P4P group was born out of anger sparked by the walk-out.  They seek to punish teachers and they believe #REDforED is a nationally organized political campaign against conservative politics.  They believe that teachers are indoctrinating children politically, and are generally very hateful towards teachers. They also believe that public policy should be whatever is best for “their” child, not what is best for all children.  

The following is an advertisement made by the P4P group.  I think this is good evidence of much of what I’ve claimed above.

Here’s another that the P4P group made that shows how they view the #REDforED movement and campaign.


In response to all of this, we must ensure that we educate the public.  If someone of opposing views has questions, please, respectfully explore those differences.  If someone is uninformed entirely, present them with the facts, let them decide on their own.  And perhaps most importantly, if you’re attacked, no need to respond, just move on. The attacks come when all else has failed.

Some dead-end towns heft such a weight on their youth that all the dreamers can do is hope to, “Get out of this place.”  We all know these places; once bright and full of promise, and booming with opportunity. But, as times change and factories close, some families remain.

Blue collar is tough when times are good.  When The Mill cuts hours and then jobs, blue collar gets real tough, the kind that hardens people.  The hope, the draw to stay is that things will return back to the good old days. Spring follows winter, right?  

Let’s not uproot the kids, we just bought this place, things will get better …

But they rarely do.  Prosperity, and eventually hope itself, wash away.  

A few generations of this changes people, shapes their outlook and mindset.  The standard of what’s good, better than just getting by, drops a few pegs with each business that closes, each company that leaves town.  Eventually the culture and expectation of the the youth from such places becomes: You grow up, get a job, get married and have kids, the order is optional, but start young.

In many ways, Camas, Washington was  just such a place. Kids graduate from high school, get blue collar jobs, have kids, and stay in the area. The nearest college is over an hour’s drive away, and most of the jobs in the area don’t require a degree.

Christina Snyder grew up in Camas.  Nobody in her family had more than a high school diploma, and they had all lived in the area for over 30 years.  The Snyders are a hard working family, but one that embodies this dead-end town culture. Nobody leaves, nobody advances, nobody breaks the expectation.

That culture we grow up with, the expectations established by history, are powerful and nearly completely unseen in our youth.  They put us on a path and being kids, we move forward, rarely seeing what’s ahead or wondering why we are headed such a way. Once we arrive, we almost never look at how we got in such a place.  

At an early age some seed of a vision, a draw to something more, stirred within Christina. She realized her family was poor, as were her friends and community.  Not all of Camas was this way, of course, but the side of the tracks where Christina grew up, despair and lack of hope was obvious, even to a small child. The stand-in tutor for all of her neighborhood friends, Christina wanted to help her community, want to prove something about herself and her family, make them all proud.  This seed germinated in her heart in elementary school. This child, from an entirely uneducated family and a dead-end town, wanted to become a teacher.

Now that things have cooled down, let’s take a look at public education in Arizona.

Public Education and the Law

Arizona’s Constitution, article 11, states:

 The legislature shall enact such laws as shall provide for the establishment and maintenance of a general and uniform public school system…

Funding Sources Overview

The first thing to know is that our current system of improperly funding (general and uniform) public education is costing “Joe Tax-Payer” a ton of money.  Schools, and other social services like roads and fire departments, have been cut at the state level to the point where local municipalities must raise taxes.  A few key points here:

  • Schools receive over $1 million more in funding annually from local funding than from the state.
  • AZ’s local taxes average 6th highest in the nation.
  • Of our local taxes collected in Arizona, almost 8% pays for interest (we’re in debt).

When comparing the balance of local money to state money between states in the southwest, Arizona is the only state with this disproportionate relationship.

Private and Charter Schools

In Arizona, money earmarked for public education is taken out to subsidize private companies.  

  • The funneling of this money is done through companies called STOs.  
  • STOs keep 10% of the money funneled, right off of the top, in addition to whatever other profit they can take.
  • Many politicians personally profit (enormously), to  the tune of millions annual, on these programs.
  • Over $1 billion has been funneled away from public schools since the program began
  • No financial or education-related obligation is attached to this public money

There is a need for public and charter schools, without doubt.  However, when the politicians are profiting as they are, their motives and efficacy of their proposals is suspect, at best.

Corporate Tax Situation

Arizona has aggressively handed out corporate tax exemptions, even built a warehouse for Amazon to entice them to choose Arizona as its new shipping hub.  

  • Large corporations consider a quality public education system as a key component when deciding upon a state for expansion.
    • Amazon passed on Tucson and Phoenix as locations for their second headquarters because of the public education system in Arizona.
  • Corporate tax exemptions in 2017 surpassed the gross revenue collected in Arizona.
  • Corporate tax collections in 2018/19 are expected to be the lowest since 1993/94, despite being a top 10 state in terms of economic growth.
  • In 2018/19, approximately 1.5% of total government revenue will come from corporate tax collection. Utah, a conservative state that also aggressively recruits corporations, will collect nearly 6% of their revenue from corporate tax.  


Growth in Arizona

Arizona is growing, faster than the national average.

  • Since 2008, our population has grown by 14%.
  • Number of jobs have grown in Arizona.
  • Arizona’s economy is growing considerably faster than the national average.

Teacher Shortage

In Arizona there is a severe teacher shortage.  The governor’s response has been to ease the qualifications of a teacher.  

  • 49,000 teachers in Arizona
  • Almost 900 teachers left in 2017/18, mid-contract (leaving the profession)
  • 2,000 unfilled teaching positions in 2017/18
  • 3,400 teaching positions filled with unqualified people, despite the ease in qualifications
  • These rates are far beyond any single school district that struggles to find staffing in the United States … and Arizona does that on a state wide level!
  • Teachers leave the profession because they cannot afford to serve as teachers.
  • The teacher salary was a livable wage a decade ago.

Governor Ducey

Governor Doug Ducey has a history of taking money, sometimes illegally, from education.

  • Acting as State Treasurer, under then governor Jan Brewer, Doug Ducey illegally cut funding to Prop 301.
  • A lawsuit was filed against Arizona, naming Doug Ducey as a defendant.  Arizona lost.
  • Governor Ducey proposes Prop 123 and bills it as funding for education.  The proposition passes which means $0.70 for every $1.00 illegally take would be restored.
    • A federal judge ruled that Prop 123 violated the Arizona Constitution
    • The governor repeatedly points to Prop 123 as how generous he has been towards education.
  • Governor Ducey said that teachers would receive no more than a 1% raise in 2018/19.

Education Funding

Since 2008 no other state has received more cuts to public education than Arizona.

  • The budget for public education in Arizona in 2017/18 was $1.1 billion less than a 2007/08.
  • Funding is established on a per-pupil basis.  Funding per-pupil is down 37% since 2008.
  • Over that time the amount of money vouchers have claimed from public education has expanded.  $1 billion has been taken total.

Governor Ducey’s 20×2020 Proposal

Governor Doug Ducey has proposed a 20×2020 plan to increase teacher pay in Arizona.  Let’s take a look.

  • The program is a budget, not legislation.  It is good for one year only, not the three promised.
  • The 10% increase is really a 5.7% increase to education funding (not a bad thing, but not honest).
  • Many schools will receive less than the amount required to increase salaries by 10%.
  • No money considered for support staff, building maintenance, or programs.
  • Is almost $800 million short of restoring recession era cuts as it is advertised.


Arizona has frequently voted in favor of supporting public education. It looks like people will once again need to return to the polls and show their support for education in Arizona.  Maybe this time the politicians will listen.

For more information on what the propositions and ballots are, and who is running for what office, please stay tuned!  Consider signing up for our email list.

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Governor Ducey claims he is giving a 20% raise to teachers in Arizona by 2020.  Let’s dig in and see what it’s all about. As is often the case with politicians, what isn’t being told is very important, it completes the picture.  What is Governor Ducey hiding here?

But first, a little history to contextualize the source.  Under Governor Jan Brewer, Doug Ducey served as State Treasurer.  Money was illegally taken from Proposition 301 (education money), and a suit was filed.  The state of Arizona lost the suit and the money that was taken from public education was to be restored.  In response, Governor Ducey came up with Prop 123, which essentially settled the debt for around 7 cents for every dollar owed.  

The dark money sponsoring the governor and his programs billed the proposition as a boon for public education.  Arizona voters have consistently voted pro-education funding and so the proposition passed. Ever since then Governor Ducey has cited Prop 123 as how generous he’s been towards public education.

Despite the funding for public education in 2017/18 being $1.1 billion below the funding a decade before (not adjusted for inflation), the governor refused to provide more than a 1% raise for teachers.  Teachers mobilized and he came up with his 20×2020 plan.  Again, he has claimed that he has always invested in public education and worked hard to fund those programs that protect the most vulnerable of our citizens.

It is as if there were 20 cookies in the cookie jar and without permission he took 18 of them.  When caught he put two back, then pointed and claimed, “Look at how many cookies I’m putting in the cookie jar!  I’ve increased it by 100%!”

Now, also keep in mind this is an election year.  

Politicians are clever with how things are worded.  The 20×2020 plan has been said to be a raise for teachers, 20% by the year 2020, and 10% this year.  But, as you’ll see, this is really a 5.7% bump in education funding. Of course that is a desperately needed influx of new money, but the problem is it leaves us about $700 million short of what funding for education was a decade ago.  It falls far short of the claim that this plan, “Fully restores recession-era cuts.”

Here are the details about how the 10% was calculated and how it is being distributed, which are why it is a 5.7% increase in education funding and not a 10% teacher raise. Governor Ducey took the average salary for people that fit his narrow definition of teachers (many elective, art, and special ed teachers are not counted) and increased that amount by 10%.  He then took total and added it to the ADM (you can read about ADM here if you like).  For all intents and purposes, ADM is used to calculate the money that schools receive, like what might be thought of as a general fund.

The increase in ADM is about 5.7% over last year.  There is no legally binding language or even hand-shake agreements that earmark the money to go to teachers and or staff.  The governor can say the money is for raises to the press, but what’s written and legal is what is real. Districts have discretion to use the money however they see best, without any guidelines even suggesting it goes to staff.

Here’s the rub: People read the headlines and hear a 20% increase in funding (Often websites misrepresent this by saying the increase is in education funding, not teacher pay. CNN reports, Arizona teacher walkout ends with new education funding,).  Teacher pay is, of course, just a part of education funding.  And not all teachers were even considered when coming up with the total amount to be added to the “general fund.”  The actual amount of increase is far less than it appears and far less than needed.


And some districts will really suffer.  Districts will not receive a 10% increase based on their “teacher” salaries, but instead will receive the 5.7% increase of the ADM.  Some districts will be far short of the 10% of teacher salaries, other will be far ahead.

This is also very important because one the of the major victories that the #REDforED movement had was to get people to focus their attention on the state, not the local districts.  The expectation of a 10% raise can easily become a major problem for districts that do not have that amount of money! The governor can sit back, point his finger and say, “Go ask your district, I gave them the money and the freedom to make sure it goes where it’s needed!”

This can easily take the focus off of the governor and put it on local districts, and inappropriately so.

It gets worse.  There are two other major problems with this proposal.  The first is that the proposal is not a piece of education reform legislation but a budget.  Budgets are only valid for one year. They carry no legally binding value beyond that. If the governor is not re-elected, this “deal” is dead and gone.  If he is re-elected, the 20×2020 plan is a promise from a person who has repeatedly taken money from public education (even illegally), and who is likely to run for a national level position once his next term is complete (reads little concern for righting any wrong).

The second major problem is that a portion of the money injected into education will require certain districts to raise their property taxes. In order for this to be legal, according to the Arizona constitution, a ⅔’s majority vote would be required.  The governor has tried this before and it was struck down by the state supreme court.  It is entirely likely that a lawsuit will be filed over this unconstitutional raising of property taxes.

In the past Doug Ducey has defunded public education and has only stopped when he had little or not choice (lawsuit, 75,000 marching on the capitol).  He is up for re-election in a few short months and has whipped up what he claims is a 20% raise for teachers in a few years. This is a misrepresentation of reality, one that leaves education over $700 million short of its claim!

It is my humble opinion that this is a ploy to buy some time … time enough to get the election behind him.  And his ploy is working. Over 75% of Arizonans are in favor of the program.  What would that percentage be if they understood it was a 5.7% increase, leaving us $700 million short of where we were a decade ago?


Governor Ducey has learned a thing or two from recent history.  President George Bush promised no new taxes, saying, “READ MY LIPS …” New taxes were needed.  This certainly played a role in losing his re-election bid to Bill Clinton.

No new taxes, balanced budget … those are Ducey’s things.  They sound wonderful, I’d highly consider voting for someone who did both of those, especially a president!  But let’s look just under the surface.

The short-story:  Arizona is growing.  If the state does not provide additional funding for public services like health care, transportation, police and fire, and education, then local communities and municipalities must do so to care for their residents.  

Here’s how it works for education. Other things like fire stations and police departments work in a similar fashion.  Education is 18% of the state budget, which is around $10 billion a year.  It is well documented how that leaves public education in Arizona, ranking 51st in working conditions for teachers in the US (including Washington DC).  

To keep buildings maintained and busses running, schools must ask their local communities to help bridge the gap in the form of bonds and overrides.  These create extra costs themselves and are additional layers of government which are inefficient.  

Bonds are essentially loans that the community pays for with property taxes.  It costs money to run the election for the bond, to manage the bond money, pay back the bond, and then of course the interest the bond earns.  Bonds cannot be used to pay teachers or staff.

The amount of money a school can spend is set by the state.  An override is a locally voter approved measure that will allow a school to spend up to 15% more than the limit set by the state (this is a simplification of how overrides work, but this is the basic idea).  Schools rely heavily on these measures to keep programs running.

All of this is just for education, not fire departments, police departments, or other public services.

Nobody wants to pay more taxes, especially if the money is wasted, right?  It is nice to live in a state with corporate and personal tax rates that are friendly (low).  But, our local and state sales taxes are high, 6th highest in the nation!  In addition, almost 8% of the tax (sales and property) we collect goes to pay interest (see bonds above).

A dollar only goes so far.  The governor has had many things in place that essentially rob Peter to pay Paul, but it appears that gig is up.  A new tax on vehicle registration, technically called a fee, had to be introduced to help pay for transportation, roads, and highway patrol because neither Peter or Paul had any money left to spare.

Here is the kicker … Arizona forgave over $13 billion in corporate taxes in 2017 through tax exemptions and other programs!  But does that entice corporations to move to Arizona? One of the key features sought by companies like Amazon, who is looking to open a second headquarters, is a good public education system.  Both Tucson and Phoenix were removed from the list of potential cities because of the state of public education in Arizona.


To summarize, $10 billion isn’t enough money to pay for public services.  Local municipalities go into debt with bonds and have to raise local taxes to pay for those bonds.  A significant portion of the additional money raised by these taxes pays for the interest on those bonds.  

Local communities are scrambling to keep up with growth and service the public while the governor is handing out corporate tax exemptions that far exceed the state’s budget.  The claim is that businesses will be attracted to Arizona. Yet, without a quality public education system, Arizona’s appeal is knocked down several pegs.

Arizona’s corporate tax rate of 4.9% is the 9th lowest in the United States.  

Our state budget might be balanced, but our state is in debt.  

The governor isn’t raising taxes, or even collecting them from corporations.

I’m just a math teacher, I don’t know much about economies.  But this solution seems almost too obvious to state. Why not collect $10 billion of those tax exemptions and double the state budget.  We could build a quality public education system, better infrastructure for growth, and a state of the art health-care program (to attract our main commodity, snow-birds).

As the #REDforED movement moves forward, whether you support its call and actions or not, there’s a much larger problem at play here that needs the attention of everybody.  

In government and politics things are rarely what they seem.  This is no different. In exploring the funding of public education in Arizona I have stumbled upon some eye-opening problems with how our state government is set up and how what should be considered corruption is fully legal.  

Arizona has little to no oversight or legislation preventing conflicts of interests between our elected officials and their duties to serve the public.  While this is being exposed with education right now, once this comes to a close, regardless of outcome, these conflicts of interest will then turn to erode some other service Arizonans rely upon.

Let’s look at the defunding and derision of public education.  One key player (of many) is Steve Yarbrough. I do not wish to question or attack Mr. Yarbrough’s politics, but simply point out how our legislative system in Arizona is drastically flawed.  

Steve Yarbrough is the president of the Arizona State Senate and comes from District 17, basically the Chandler area.  Senator Yarbrough is also the president of The Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization (ACSTO) where he earns a base salary of $125,000 for his service to their organization.

That salary is chump change compared to the billing ACSTO received by a company called HY Processing.  For whatever services HY Processing does for ACSTO, they received over $600,000 in compensation in 2014.

This company, HY Processing, is owned by Steve Yarbrough and his wife.

The cash cow gets fatter, though.  Yarbrough owns the building where ACSTO rents office space, for over $52,000 a year.  

All of this is just one of the STOs related to Yarbrough.

Whether public education or private education is the key to securing a stable society in Arizona, it is clear that our elected officials have a massive conflict of interest on this account.  

Stepping even further back we can see that this is perfectly legal.  Where else is it happening? Unless we can get some saints, uninterested in power of money, from the Pope, simply replacing these legislators will only exchange who is being hurt by these conflicts of interest.

Do you ever wonder why a mouse falls prey to a mouse trap?   You know the classic spring trap, with a trigger that holds bait and a spring loaded kill bar that comes slamming down on the mouse once the bait is taken.

The bait must look awful enticing, so much so that the mouse will never step back and see what is connected to the bait … the kill bar!

Governor Ducey has a beautifully constructed spring-loaded trap properly placed, right now.  Let’s take a step back and see how this is attached to a kill bar.

The Bait

The 20×2020 proposal is the bait.  Joe-Public doesn’t care to dig in and see the composition of the proposal.  Joe-Public is busy. Joe-Public sees there’s an offer that seems to match the demands of educators and is left to assume that teachers are being greedy.  This of course assumes that the offer is legitimate, but bait doesn’t have to be quality, just enticing enough to lure the prey in, right?

The Trigger

The vehicle that will carry out the 20×2020 proposal is a budget.  That is of ultimate significance!  A budget is only good for one year.  Don’t take my word for it, read about it here from the government’s website.

The doctrine that prevents a budget from reaching beyond a year is called ultra vires.  That’s latin, so it’s legit, right?  It basically states that one legislature cannot tie the hands of another legislature.  This year’s budget has no bearing on what is voted on next year!

To be clear, there is zero guarantee that the governor follows through with his budget even during the coming fiscal year!  There is even less chance of the full proposal being carried out.

Those who don’t know history are forced to repeat it.

The Kill Bar

The kill bar is that people will accept this proposal, or be pacified by it, buying the governor enough time to continue on his path towards gutting public education.  There will be no emergency session this summer as many of the key legislators live out of state in the summer, and the fall session will be a skeleton crew as the legislators will be campaigning for re-election.

The next legislative session will be a year from.  Game Over!

Fight Back

Our job is to expose the trap.  This bait is rotten and it stinks.  Here’s why:

  1. A budget is only good for a year. This “budget deal,” is a three year plan.
  2. The past few years the government has struggled to fund their budgets.  Every year schools receive less than promised in the budget.  Last year’s budget, for example, was predicted to have a $104 million shortfall!  Let’s learn from history!
  3. Governor Ducey has claimed to work side-by-side with educators and supports public education.  This is of course a massive lie. We ended up in this position because the opposite of his statement is true.  Corporate tax cuts, designed and approved by Ducey, have landed us in this position.  He has faced little opposition along the way!
  4. The continued erosion of public education in Arizona is costing us jobs. Companies like Amazon are looking for a highly educated workforce and reportedly passed on Tucson and Phoenix as a base for their second headquarters because of our public education.
  5. Arizona’s voucher program has been a disaster to this point, yet, people like Steve Yarbrough keep pushing forward with it.  Why? Because they profit personally.

Monday and Tuesday – The Final Rounds

The last piece of work the legislative session will see is the budget.  Once the budget is passed many of these legislators will leave the state for their summer homes.  A special session will not be called. There will be no session in the fall because of elections. Whatever happens these next two days, is likely going to be the end of getting our legislation to act!

And while you may think that voting them out and replacing them will provide a new promise, it will be just that…a promise.  This problem was not created by our current elected officials, it’s a cultural issue unique to Arizona.

We have the momentum and we must seize this opportunity!  

Moral support and honking horns, wearing red to work will no longer be enough. We need everybody willing and able, outside of education, to call in sick on Monday, show up at the capitol.  

If we shut down the state on Monday, education wins!

End Game

I speak only for myself on this account, but I would be satisfied, temporarily, if:

  1. We had a budget and a piece of legislation to give it legs that laid forth a sustainable plan to restore public education, or:
  2. A committee to work over the summer on how to realize the five demands of the AEU.
    1. That committee would have to include leadership members of the AEU.

It is my responsibility as a citizen of Arizona to stand up to a government that does not serve the needs of its people.  

Join me on Monday at the capitol, 7 AM, to greet our elected officials as they arrive at work for the day.  Share this, invited friends, neighbors, relatives.

Dear Diane Douglas,

You do not likely remember, but a few weeks ago we met.  You spoke at an awards assembly where Rio Rico High School was awarded the College Board (AP exams) and Cambridge International Examinations (IGCSE) school of the year for the nation among small schools.

In your speech you spoke a few times about how funding for education needs to improve and in particular about teacher pay.  It was a deft political move.  #REDforED was just beginning to make waves and you felt them.  A teacher friend expressed a weight lifted off her shoulders by your words, saying, “It was sure nice to hear the state superintendent talk about the need for increased funding.”

We shook hands, you congratulated me and went about your way.  It was the last I’d seen of you until very recently.

Since then the Arizona Educators United group has exploded to it’s nearly 50,000 current members, and much has happened with the #REDforED movement giving you many opportunities to step in and provide the guidance that only someone in a high level position like your own can do, you’ve done little.  Let’s review:

  • There was a march on the capitol where the demands of the AEU were made.  
    • You were silent.
  • In response to the demands Doug Ducey pushed through more legislation that cuts funding for public education.
    • You were silent.
  • Doug Ducey says that teachers will only get the 1% “raise,” nothing more.
    • You were silent.
  • Doug Ducey calls #REDforED, “Political theater.”
    • You were silent.
  • Over 110,000 people participated in Walk-Ins around the state, showing incredible solidarity.
    • You were silent.
  • Governor Ducey comes up with his 20×2020 proposal to pay teachers but not fund education as a whole.
    • You were silent.
  • A plan to vote on a walk-out among educators was developed.
    • You were silent.

Now the line is drawn in the sand.  Both sides are backed into corners.  Now you speak.  The quality and character of your message will be discussed soon.  But first, an observation.

The time where people will hear you has passed.  Your inaction has shown that you serve your own political and financial concerns, not the need of students.  Your silence has been heard loud and clear.  Your statements now, both in timing and quality, only serve to confirm the public has long since known to be true.

Let us address two things that you have said.

  1.  Give the governor time to fix this.

The governor has had years.  You have failed to step in and help motivate change.  This is a stall tactic.  Your opportunity to step in and slow down the #REDforED movement to provide time so that meaningful and sustainable changes could be made has passed.  

2.  Teachers will be investigated fully, teaching certificates can be revoked and teachers can be fired.

Newsflash Diane Douglas:  You don’t need a teaching certificate to teach in Arizona.   (What did you say about those moves by the governor when they went through … oh yeah, nothing.)

You have chosen sides.  Your bread is buttered by the cream taken off  of the top of public education funding, and the knife dives deep when in your hands, doesn’t it?

Political maneuvering and deals behind closed doors, dark money, and misinformation campaigns make our political scene across our country quite ugly, in my opinion.  It is my belief that the politicians love when we choose sides ahead of time.  All they have to do, in turn, is craft the right message and police their image, and they’re done.  (If I had an agenda here it would be to convince people to distance themselves from their affiliated party, just a little.)

Throw education in the mix, a public concern with tax-payer money, and it gets double tricky.  As a teacher for over a decade, I know a lot about teaching, but have learned that I knew next to nothing about education!  So what does Joe-Public know about it?  There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation, some spread intentionally by various sides of the issue, but most of it unintentional.

However, I believe that whether a person believes that quality private education is the solution or that quality public education is the solution, all can agree that an educated population will create a healthier and more stable society.

Starting with that as our foundation, let’s build this next:  If you’re reading this you undoubtedly already have opinions about whether #REDforED is a political movement.  You already have some beliefs about whether or not the teachers’ union (Arizona Education Association) has created the Arizona Educators United (the group that started the #REDforED movement).

I ask that you set your opinions aside because clarity in this situation is difficult.  Consider all of the issues and conditions before coming to a conclusion.  If you believe education is fundamentally important to the health and stability of our state, YOU, WE, need to remove those who wish to piggy-back on the issues at hand for self-promotion from the issue of education reform.   


It is my belief that if we build something on a faulty foundation (misdirection, coercion and lies), it will not last.  Education reform is a must and it has to be done right. 

With the agreement that education is important to all interested parties and that seeking what is best instead of being right will best serve our common interest, let me share what I know.  Whether you determine #REDforED and the Arizona Educators United to be a political ploy will be your decision. 

Here’s how #REDforED, and the AEU started.  In early March educators from around the state began mobilizing individually.  Some, like myself, were trying to exact change at the district level, others knew more about education and were looking bigger.  Through social media and personal connections a small network grew. Cat Barrett coined the hashtag #REDforED, trimming it down from her original #WearREDforED.  

A FaceBook group was formed and it grew, fast!  The focus of the AEU became to change state level funding of education (more on this later), and to do so in a nonpartisan way (whether that stayed or changed, you can decide). 

Soon there were demonstrations and a list of demands.  It happened so fast, and was done by working teachers that were NOT missing work, did not have any budget or facilities.  There wasn’t even a website for a landing page for people not on social media.  Without doubt, the AEU is a true grassroots movement.   

Now it is true that some of the members of the AEU have been active with issues that are aligned with the Democratic’s platform.  However, there are also many members that registered and voting Republicans.  And you’ll just have to take my word for it here, but any push to “turn the state blue,” has been quashed on the discussion boards.  

You may be wondering if #REDforED and the AEU have been co-opted by those who wish to use the movement for political gain since then.  Here’s what I know, make use of the information and decide for yourself.

First the fly-by, then we’ll get into some details.

  • When dealing with the public sector and tax money, politics are involved.
  • The #REDforED movement is calling into question the actions of our governor, especially with respect to executing the will of voters as they have expressed support for the funding of public education with prop 301
  • Many politicians and political agencies originally sided with the AEU, then when the governor made his 20×2020 proposal they flipped and sided with the governor.  After a few days, they rescinded their backing of the proposal.  
  • #REDforED is not playing political games and remained steadfast.  The AEU is demanding of our current legislators and governor to reform education funding.

Now the nitty-gritty behind the scenes:

  • The AEU is made of educators.  Educators tend to be more liberal than conservative, politically speaking.
  • The AEU is made of educators, that are working full time to educate children.  They don’t have much time and have even less money.
  • The timing and message were right and the #REDforED movement exploded creating the need for facilities and structure that the ground-swell movement did not possess.  
  • A contentious (between AEU members) decision was made to allow support from the AEA (the “union” … it is not a union but an association, and the difference is not just semantic).  Sorry for the alphabet soup there. 
    • The AEA has endorsed democratic politicians in the past and this was a conflict for the AEU’s nonpartisan foundation.
  • The union, however, has joined the AEU and #REDforED movement, changing their approach to education reform.  
  • This deserves a second bullet because it is unprecedented:  The “union” was changed by the #REDforED movement!


Here are my answers to the questions at heart regarding if the AEU and #REDforED is a political ploy.  


Is #REDforED political?  Yes.  It involves elected officials, tax money and public interests.


Does #REDforED have a political party affiliation?  No.  


Is #REDforED supported by Democrats?  Yes.


Is #REDforED supported by Republicans?  Yes.


Does #REDforED publicly support a Democratic candidate for Governor?   No.


Does #REDforED privately support a Democratic candidate for Governor?  There is no private, it is a grassroots movement.  There is no leader, but instead the connection between individuals is what makes it strong.

The strike is upon us.  We will have a lot of work to do.  One of our many jobs will be to address concerns of the public that doesn’t see things our way.  How we do this is probably more important that what we actually do and say.  Keep that in mind.    

Public education is a mess, especially here in Arizona.  While we have the #REDforED movement and the newly created AEU (, if the movement wasn’t named this and wasn’t started by the AEU, it would have had some other name and been made by some other upstart organization.  

This is truly an emergent phenomenon where the relationship between the parts creates its unity instead of a leader.  Even though there is no leader there is behavior that is specific and easily identified.

The condition of public education brought about this movement, not the teachers or those that wish to piggy-back on the momentum and power this movement has gathered to service their own agendas.

There are people pretty far removed from the reality of the nature of education, there are also trolls.  Regardless of who it is you encounter, be respectful, seek to understand their position, and work to establish a good connection.  If the person is a troll and you respond in kind you’ll only provide the trolls with fuel for their fire. Remember, trolls don’t care what burns, they just love a good funeral pyre.  

I’d like to spend the rest of the time you’ll lend me reading this to discuss common objections by level headed people that aren’t on board with #REDforED.  Some of these objections may seem outlandish, inflammatory even, but a good response with engaging in an argument is still appropriate. However, if you feel you cannot respond to comments without anger, it’s best to move along and keep your mouth shut.  

If you have an additional response, or would like to add an objection and response, please do so in the comments below.

Why fund education when there is no return on investment?  (Why throw money at a broken system … that type of question)

Response 1:  If your car ran out of gas it would not run.  Why spend money on it?

Response 2:  Perhaps less snarky:  The government has crippled public education both financially but also with the advent of a bloated and largely pointless testing system and failures of curriculum overhaul and implementation.  The little money we get we have to spend to administer these tests and to integrate these new curricula.

They have had a negative effect on education.  Yet, that is not the fault of the educator but the politician, the same politicians who say, through action and sometime verbally, that education does not need greater fundinng.

I cannot afford more taxes to pay for education.  The governor says he is not going to raise taxes, I support that.

Response 1:  By not funding education taxes on the middle class home-owner will be raised, and government will be expanded…just not directly by Ducey, but in response to his in-action. Schools absolutely need money for building maintenance, textbooks, transportation and equipment.  The state has not provided that funding. In return districts must pass bonds and overrides. A bond is a local tax.

To have a bond a committee is formed, campaign is run and election is held.  This takes a significant portion of the money raised by the bond to pay for the bond.  This is more government and less efficiency.


Schools should just be privatized.

Response 1:  A company that is subsidized with public (taxed) money is not private at all. The way our charter and private schools are set up is they receive money from the public but do not have the accountability of a public agency.  That might not sound so bad until you realize that many of these “private” schools are directly tied to the personal finances of politicians.

The school system is outdated and doesn’t serve the needs of students.

Response 1:  There might be a lot of merit to that statement.  But, how does not funding the system to allow students to get the greatest experience from the current system fix that problem?  Education reform will be expensive!

However, the idea held by most of the antiquated system is one where people believe students are run through a mechanized brain-washing, industrialized program is just so far removed from reality that there’s little way to respond.

Tuition money should follow the student, not the school.

Response 1:  If the majority of taxpayers in the wealthiest part of the state were allowed to claim their money should not be used to maintain state infrastructure in Cochise County, would that be good for the state?  

Response 2:  A quality public education system should provide equal access and footing for all young people so they can be equipped and prepared to better themselves as adults.  This is what is best for our state.

You knew it didn’t pay when you got in it…why complain now.  Find a new job.

Response 1:  Just a handful of years ago teacher salaries were enough to live on and structures were in place to keep up with inflation.  Between pay freezes and inflation teachers are now living below the poverty line and often qualify for food stamps and public assistance.  

Response 2:  Teaching is a career, not a job.  A lot of training and education has been performed, years of investment and focus have been devoted to become a teacher.

Teachers are just greedy.  

Response 1:  Obviously, that’s why they got into education.  See the previous objection.

Response 2:  Teachers are not accepting the 20×2020 deal from Ducey because it does not prioritize education, is not sustainable and does not fund education.  It is a pay-off, to shut teachers up so he can focus on his upcoming election.

$48,000 is a decent wage, balance your budget, live within your means.

Response 1:  Okay, pay me $48,000.  

Response 2:  Districts and the state report total compensation (including what it costs them to have teachers as employees) and Proposition 301 money as salary.  Prop 301 money varies annually and both the state and districts don’t always use it to supplement teacher income. It is not a contracted source of income.  There are also a lot of people working as administrators or in administrative capacities on teacher contracts, earning administrative levels of pay.

Teachers only work 180 days a year, 7 hours a day.

Response 1:  Students only have school 180 days a year, 7 hours a day.  Teachers are working when students aren’t in class.

Response 2:  Does a band only work when they’re at a concert?  Do football teams only work 16 Sundays a year? Do our elected officials only work when they’re in session?  

Do we have money for these demands?

Response 1:  Basically, yes.  Arizona’s economy is growing faster than the national average.  Our population is growing as are the number of jobs.

Why pay for public education when private education is better?

Response 1:  Without addressing the logical fallacy, begging the question, here, not all students have access to private education.  

Response 2:  Private education is not private in Arizona, largely speaking. They are state subsidized with no financial accountability.

Response 3:  There are great public schools.  There are great private schools. There are terrible examples of both.  However, the great private schools do not have the level of special education students, non-english speaking students, homeless students, students from broken homes and other factors that a public school will have.  For a public school to be great it has to be far more efficient than a private school because of these issues.

This is a political move to elect a democrat as governor.

Response 1:  When dealing with public issues politics can be involved.  We don’t care which party funds education, it just needs to be funded.

I’d like to share with what one student said about his experiences and successes in a rural, poor, public school in Southern Arizona.  But first, the context…

Rio Rico High School (RRHS) in Southern Arizona was awarded two nationally prestigious academic awards in 2018.  The College Board, (AP) named RRHS the school of the year for the nation among small school districts (14,000 of these schools across the country).  Also, Cambridge International selected RRHS as the top school in the nation!  (Read about the awards here.)

Amidst all of the turmoil and angst, the possible teacher strike, Doug Ducey’s 20×2020 proposal, people choosing sides and ugliness coming at teachers from the public about the failures of education, we have this jewel.  Some use this as a way to say, “Hey, look, RRHS does all of THIS without funding, they’re a poor school in a state that supposedly under-funds education.  Why should we fund them.”  Others say, “Look what we can do … but if we don’t fund it, the people that make this possible CANNOT stay.”

All of that aside, I’d like to share with you two things.  First, a short bit about Rio Rico, and second the first of three speeches that were given by students and teachers at the ceremony announcing these awards. (The other speeches will be posted in future entries.)  The speech below was powerful in its sincerity and weight, and so eloquently delivered that there were many tears of powerful emotion in the room.

Rio Rico is a bedroom community just north of Nogales, Arizona.  It hosts about 20,000 people and is unincorporated.  The High School has just over 1,000 students, the vast majority on free/reduced lunch, over 90% Hispanic and a large portion speak Spanish at home and/or as their first language.  

I attended school in this district before there was a High School.  I went to Calabasas Junior High School and we had 68 students for both grades.  We had a multi-purpose gym with classrooms attached, but the English classes were held in trailers behind the school.  We are rural, poor and very spread out, covering over 62 square miles!  We have one grocery store, a few restaurants and since this is open range, a lot of cows.

Kids here often spend their weekends with relatives in Mexico and the most common place to get your hair cut is “across the line.”  

That is a quick snap-shot of what Rio Rico is like, typical of many towns around Arizona.  

The student giving the speech is 18, and gave me permission to post his speech.  But since he is still a student, his name will be withheld.  Here is his speech:

I am privileged to be able to stand at this podium to represent our school’s valiant efforts and scholarly intellect. Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District #35 has been recognized as the 2018 AP District of the Year. Little in size, but big at heart. The selfless efforts and dedication of this school district’s staff have directed our strong-willed community into achieving remarkable things. I represent the Hispanic community that has so proudly propelled their children without losing the roots of their culture.

Both my parents are Mexican-American and did not receive more than a high school diploma. Despite this, they instilled in me the understanding of the importance of a collegiate education and I will be a first generation college student. From a very young age, my mindset has been to take advantage of the opportunity of learning. I have been fortunate enough to have attended a school district that has made its students their priority.

Taking the step forward and engaging in AP classes seems daunting at first. There are certainly nights where you stay up trying to understand the logic behind the Laws of Thermodynamics, or recalling both parts of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, or even interpreting the symbolism in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But on the flip side, there’s also those very early mornings spent with passionate teachers explaining those puzzling lessons. Helping us believe we are capable of all intimidating tasks while restoring our self confidence. Our teachers and administration always go the extra mile to provide us with the resources vital to our success as students. I applaud all those teachers that have laid the foundation for all those students seeking a sense of fulfillment with their place in the world. One of the many benefits of completing an AP course is the satisfaction of knowing we can compete at a university level with students nationwide.  

Our future depends on today’s youth. Rio Rico High School students have become trailblazers for future generations so that a new norm in academic standards can be set for Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District. The world is rapidly advancing and needs to prepare coming scholars for this evolution. Even though many question their abilities to be able to withstand the load of AP courses, It also increases expectation of self when they succeed. Education makes us humble and creates awareness by expanding our vision. We become more aware about ourselves, about society, and everything that surrounds and affect our lives.

Through the Advanced Placement program, I have not only benefited through the depth of cognitive understanding, but grown as a person by strengthening my confidence,  developing work ethics, and sparking an educational passion that will live to serve me for the rest of my life. Thank you.

If you find this message positive and powerful, please share it with others.  There is a lot of negativity around education today, even from those trying to improve it.  Let’s focus on the good, build it and make it grow.


The AEU is currently collect a paper vote to determine if a strike is feasible.  Here are my thoughts.

The vote and potential action are stressful. My jaws are sore from clenching my teeth from carrying this stress.

I woke up early thinking about what I do as a public educator in my community. I serve my community because this is my home. I teach and empower the children of my peers, instill in them a work ethic, confidence based on accomplishment, and thoughtful reflection that will serve them well in life.

In no way do I wish to harm my community, to the contrary, I have devoted myself to their service.

Yet, I feel, the actions of our state government, in direct defiance of the will of voters, have exacted a heavy toll that unintentionally serves to undermine my the integrity of my community.

With or without intent, I believe the move to “privatize” education is the end game of the state government. It will come at the expense of further financial burden to rural and poor to middle class communities as money is taken from public education. While Ducey is not raising taxes himself, districts must have bonds, which are local taxes, in order to pay for what the state should be paying to do.

This privatization is done through public subsidy and without financial or end-product responsibility by those running these private schools. It is the government using tax money to build private companies, from which they personally profit.

Ducey’s proposal, seen through the most positive lense, does not make public education a priority, but a luxury, if the state has the money. This proposal is not a change of heart, but am empty promise from a source of past empty promises.

It is because I serve my community and because I believe our governor has no interest in prioritizing much less stabilizing public education that I will stand #REDforED, even if that means we strike today.

We have the initiative and are strong together. My vote of yes today will say that I am #REDforED, and we serve our communities, not ourselves.

I am a teacher that has advocated against striking now, quite loudly. I have not had a change of heart, but do have the resolve to stand with those like minded and do what is needed to exact change.

The 5 demands of the AEU prioritize and stabilize public education. They are worth this fight.

Dear ASBA,

Instead of #REDforED, you’re #BLUEforCHANGE.  Your actions suggest that you don’t want to see improvements made to education in our state.  By supporting Doug Ducey’s ploy you are getting on board with what appears to be a long-term plan to gut public education.

In a video posted yesterday, that has since been wiped from the internet, the ASBA president begged teachers to trust Ducey as he was, “giving his word,” and, “putting his reputation on the line.”  I don’t have access to the video where questions were being fielded anymore, but the essence of the speech was that Doug Ducey’s given us his word, we should take this and thank him for how far “we’ve” come.  All we can find today about this is in this article here.

What’s at stake here is huge.  First, only teachers are getting extra money, and from sources that seem unacceptable for cuts, like services for the disabled.  Another source of funding for the raise is “budgetary efficiencies,” and schools would have the ability to use “flexible funding.”  All of this is alarming as it’s not sustainable and is language that couches hidden measures.  (Read the article hereand here.)  Second, by cutting capital, which seems to be the game plan (AKA flexible funding), the state won’t be raising state taxes but will be forcing local schools to tax their local communities for building maintenance and the like.  The communities that can afford this because they’re wealthy will be okay, while rural and poor communities will struggle.

This is a blatant tax on the poor.

As for rural communities, I wonder:  What political deals have been swung here?  The Arizona Rural School Association are also on board behind this Ducey proposal.  (Read about that here.)  

This sure appears to be a plan to restructure public education in the same way that our prison system has been restructured…which sure is a golden goose of revenue!

But suppose there was a magic pot of money from “budgetary efficiencies,” and it was sustainable.  The 20% raise by 2020 only addresses teacher pay.  Teacher pay is a symptom, nothing but a sore developed by the cancer eating away at public education.  

This does nothing to address the budgetary short-falls over the past decade which have been well documented.  

It fails to address how the over 1-billion dollar short fall in funding since 2008, our horrible counselor-to-student ratio, funding for new books and building maintenance.  

This proposal by Ducey is designed to pay off teachers, to shut the up.

Those that are supposed to be advocating for education and our students are at best failing to learn from their past mistakes (Proposition 123). 

Here is a list of those currently supporting Doug Ducey.  Are they #REDforED or #BLUEforCHANGE, or the question must be asked, #GREENforPOLITICALGAIN ?

Never (almost) take the first offer

by John Harris


The Duce offered his proposal to help fund education, and I have to say, I’m slightly impressed. Not that the offer is so outstanding, but that he gave it so quickly. That tells me one of two things. Either, he is a horrible negotiator and he just gave us the absolute best offer he could, or, more likely, this is his opening offer and he has WAY more on the table that he could use.

A week ago, Ducey told us we were whiny and he was not giving one cent more than the 1%. Less than a week later, he has given us our first demand as requested and didn’t bat an eye. No pushback from legislature. No negativity with maneuvering around that much cash. No long, drawn out board meetings with corporations demanding some incentive to allocate less to private schools. They did not take the money from the voucher program already in place. It just seems so….easy.

Proper negotiations follow a certain protocol. If you’ll recall, it is a breach of etiquette to call triple dog dare before calling a triple dare. There is definitely a way to negotiate.

First, know your worth. How much is it worth to be a teacher? If I were to put a price tag on being a teacher, it would be like putting a price on your home. You compare it with similar homes in the area. In our field, the Southwest region of the United States would be our neighborhood. The average salary in our neighborhood is $59,800 (thanks California). The 20% increase would only put us at $51,600. That’s well short of our friends next door.

Next, where is the money coming from? Steve Yarbrough, a huge proponent of vouchers, wants every single education dollar to go to private schools. He does not want to fund public education at all. Do you mean to tell me, there were resources available that have not already gone into our bloated voucher program and Yarbrough did not fight him? That’s very difficult to swallow. If Ducey can so easily move money from ANYWHERE and place it with teacher salary (not as a stipend), then imagine how much more he could give if he squeezed harder.

Next, most experts will tell you not to take the first offer unless it is better than you anticipated, and even then, you should hesitate. The offer he made was at least decent. He didn’t spit in our faces and give us 2% or 5%. Out of all the other demonstrations across the country that have been happening, including some individual districts bumping pay by a few percentages, this is by far the best offer any group of teachers has ever been given. It’s just not enough, and he left out a bunch of other stuff.


This does not address the need for more resources for ESPs. It would be a HUGE slap in the face to every paraprofessional, aide, secretary, custodian, cafeteria worker, bus driver, and every other person who has stood with those of us who happen to stand in front of a classroom. It also does not address healthcare. Our premiums continue to increase. If we were on the state employee health plan, our premiums would go down, our districts would save so much in insurance costs they could afford to give that money back to us, and we could attract future teachers. The pay sucks, but the healthcare is good.

Overall, I sincerely believe that Ducey thinks he is making a good offer. He is trying to be diplomatic in an election year. He is playing politics because he is young and has political aspirations that do not end at Governor. Koch (who could single-handedly fund public education) has too much invested in him. They can’t have him lose this election. If he can pull this off, and win public approval, he’s on his way to the White House.

This deal is just not nearly enough. And we know that because it came too soon. Let’s now ask for 30% for teachers, 30% to all support staff, and open-enrollment in the state employee insurance. Now that we know he can and will bend, let’s see how far we can go before he breaks.


I would like to propose the following:

1. We don’t need to strike.

2. May 8th (Teacher Appreciation Day), statewide, all supporters (not just educators), sick-out, march on the capitol. If we had 100,000 attend walk-ins, we can do more with this because we have a huge voice and know it now. 

Let’s shut down the state for a day.

3. Message:  Ducey’s plan, even if 100% legitimate, only addresses teacher pay.  It has never been about teacher pay, but funding all of education.

4.  Demand: A seat at the table WE made to come up with a meaningful, substantial and sustainable reform that addresses the demands, and opens the door for fixing our bloated testing system and ridiculous curriculum revolving door. 

Our demands will not be met in haste, a strike will create hasty decisions like this new Ducey proposal.

5.  If the demands aren’t met by the fall we are striking on 10/15/18, right before elections.

6.  Inform districts and school boards that they can support the 5/2 sick-out fully to help prevent a strike.  They need to adopt the AEU demands to help prevent a strike because #7:

7.  A strike will hurt paraprofessionals, aides, secretaries, all other staff, as well as single parents … all those we ultimately wish to help, more than it would hurt our target. (A strike will DESTROY our target just before elections if we go this route and don’t come to an agreement with Ducey.)

8.  The AEU is NOT negotiating. By going on strike, which we cannot sustain long, we will negotiate.

If you agree, share on your homepage.  Disagree, let’s chase down resolutions and holes in this plan. 

The good governor, Doug Ducey himself, has come to his senses.  He’s apparently sat with teachers, as he says he always does, and discovered the depths of the poverty we suffer despite the value we bring to our communities.  He’s listened, and being the kind of person he is, acting in the best interests of the future of Arizona, he’s decided to fix it. 

Doug Ducey is going to provide teachers with their demands of a 20% pay raise, and worry not, he’s got a plan.  He will properly fund education without raising taxes!  AMAZING!

The problem is, Ducey math never adds up! 

The problem is, Ducey has make-believe teachers receiving $10,000 bumps in pay because of his dutiful efforts on our behalf.

The problem is, Ducey doesn’t understand that it’s not about teacher pay.

The governor is trying to buy teachers off.  I would not believe for a minute that any more than a handful of dollars of his proposed 20% raise would be realized in my bank account … no way! 


But let’s assume he’s telling the truth.  In his offer, you can find the links below, he refers to things like “flexible funding.”  That’s political-speak for, “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

The money will come from desperately needed building maintenance and repair, textbooks, technology and transportation funding.

Newsflash:  Buildings do not complain!

For those keeping score at home:  Teachers have found their voice!

He’s trying to buy us off!


For someone who has spent so much time collaborating with teachers, the good governor doesn’t seem to have his thumb on the nature of the situation at all.  While teacher pay grabs headlines, teacher pay is just a symptom of a deep rooted, systemic problem.

It is punchy to discover a teacher competing with her own students for a part time job to supplement her income, to buy shoes for her own children.  To hear that a fulltime, certified and highly qualified teacher is on public assistance sells papers. Corporate tax law, the history of the pilfering from Proposition 301, and laws regulating how districts are allowed to spend money are not nearly as sexy!

So while Ducey may be misguided, let’s not get sidetracked.  This is a ploy, a cheap offer.  Teacher pay is just one symptom of a deep rooted problem.  To fix teacher pay alone would be to bandage this open sore, allowing the infection beneath to fester and grow.  When it opens again, what happens? 

My only question is how many “hells” can I fit in the word NO?

Governor Ducey’s Teacher Pay Increase:

More detail, click here.

 Please consider supporting Arizona’s Working Poor (a nonprofit working to change the minds of voters by telling the stories of educators, while also helping ease the financial burdens of educators), by buying our #REDforED t-shirt. 


You can also shop on Amazon at no additional cost and a small commission is sent our way:  



The teacher shortage in Arizona has been well publicized.  What’s lesser understood is the impressions held by our youth about teaching as a career.  Truly, the teachers that have stuck it out this long love to teach and do so at great sacrifice.  It is likely that we have some of the most amazing teachers ever in Arizona, right now.  Yet, students that research the connection between education and earning potential (salary) do not consider education to be a viable option.  

The following was posted on the Arizona Educators United Discussion Hub.  I found it to be profound and moving.  I contacted Kate Peters Guymon and asked if I could use what she wrote in a blog post.  She graciously, and eagerly, agreed.  

By:  Kate Peters Guymon

I had a conversation this week with some students about teachers….

We are an AVID school. That means we spend a lot of time talking about the importance of education and how education can pull you out of poverty. Kids research careers and college and earnings A LOT. They know all the levels of college degrees and how long it takes to earn them. They research careers they are interested in and discover what it takes to get there. But no child wants to grow up to be be a teacher anymore and I guess we don’t talk about our profession enough because many of my honor students thought that teachers only need to have an associate degree! 😳

Why would they think this? Because we’ve taught them that education equals earnings and they know that we struggle. They notice our off brand shoes and our limited number of work outfits. They know what activities our own kids can and cannot participate in. When I informed them of the levels of education of the teachers and staff in our school, they were astounded. They could not reconcile it. They asked me why I even do it. And wondering again if I am just foolish for following this path, I spoke around the lump in my throat and told them that do it because I love it, because it’s important, I do it because of them.

And then they asked if they could wear red on Wednesday too.

Arizona is in a strange place politically right now.  Parents, teachers and community members, from all political affiliations, are up in arms, furious at how the state legislators have crippled public education over the past 18 years.  Regardless of how much teachers deserve to be paid, the state has not acted on the will of the voters which has led to our current problems with education.

But a good politician always has a response.  There’s a counter campaign, one of misinformation, with ties to those in power in the state government.  Many of you have seen the commercials by The Arizona Education Project (  The spin is amazing.

We here at Arizona’s Working Poor don’t have a budget, much less the ability to buy air-time.  But we do have a growing audience and our message and tone has resonated.  We’d like to take a moment of your time today to address one of the claims by The Arizona Education Project.  Here’s the page:

The page in concern is titled:

Arizona teacher pay is not the lowest. Stop saying it is

And the statement made is:

Arizona Republic readers who followed the teacher strike in West Virginia must be confused given the consistent drumbeat peddled here that Arizona has the worst teacher pay in the country.

While Arizona should attempt to drive additional dollars to classrooms to pay teachers competitive wages, there’s no reason for advocates to twist data to suggest we’re last in teacher pay.

Average teacher pay increased 4.4 percent last year to $48,372


This is of course tricky, comparing wages between states with varying costs of living and such.  Doug Ducey mentioned that Arizona wasn’t last, but 43rd lowest in an interview.  When the reporter asked if that was something to be proud of he responded, “Well, at least we aren’t last.”  That inspired the following.





The real issue is the combination of cost of living and teacher salary.  Arizona is not a particularly cheap place to live and it is getting more expensive.  Medical insurance premiums are growing rapidly with the end result evident in the picture below.

These are paychecks of full time, experienced and highly qualified teachers here in Arizona.  As frustrating as this is, what’s worse is people think teachers are doctoring these!  

And it’s not just non-educators that are upset.  I’ve heard from people around the state that their district administration is upset, board members furious, and have run into teachers that think this entire #REDforED thing is just a bunch of whining!

Those issues aside, let’s talk about the claim of being 43rd lowest in pay.

Now, when you hear these lies put forth by The Arizona Education Project, remember this is a politics game. The lies contain a smidge of the truth.

  1. The statement, Average teacher pay increased 4.4 percent last year to $48,372, leaves the impression that teachers have received a 4.4% pay raise.  I know I did not get such a raise, nor do I know of any teacher that did.  
  2. According to the BLS report referred to in the op-ed article that was used as a reference by The Arizona Education Project, Arizona was 49th in median (not the same as average, but way lower than Arizona claims our median pay to be), at $39,300, which is $30 behind Oklahoma.  
  3. Let’s compare Arizona to Oklahoma.  For the sake of the argument, let’s call the teacher pay equal.  Oklahoma is the 3rd cheapest state to live in, while Arizona is 20th!  (This is not to argue that Oklahoma is in less need of education reform by any stretch!)

(Thank you Jacquelyne Foster for helping with some of these points and phrasing!)

It doesn’t matter where our rank is, ultimately.  Teacher pay is a simple economics problem.  We have a teacher shortage, that is likely to increase massively in the next few years, and the biggest issue is low pay.  Consider the graphic below.

And in case you think this is nonsense, consider the story of the teacher in Yuma, Arizona, who works in California at a teacher, doubling his pay!

Ultimately, this claim made by The Arizona Education Projection is a simple Strawman argument.  

Lowest, or 43rd, or even 25th, is irrelevant.  The cost of living in Arizona far exceeds the average teacher pay.  Teachers can easily bridge the gap between salary and cost of living by moving to a neighboring state.  

To that point, we at Arizona’s Working Poor wish to help teachers stay in Arizona, working as teachers, while the issues with funding are sorted.  There are two programs we are running.  Take a moment to look read about them here.

Teaching is different than many jobs because you’re always on.  I’ve worked in construction, sales, as a mechanic, food service, painting houses and many other odds and ends.

Teaching is different because there’s no down time.  To prepare for each day’s activities, to judge whether students “got it” or not, and to handle all of the other duties of a teacher, time outside of the classroom must be spent.  It’s a true juggling act.

But let’s be clear.  Unlike the other jobs I’ve worked, there’s no downtime.  You’re always on, always performing, managing, putting your game face on and teaching.  This is unlike other jobs because other jobs have a consistent ebb and flow. Sure, sometimes you’re so busy you cannot see straight, but there are slow times.  

Teaching never has a slow day.

After teaching, grading papers, lesson planning, calling parents, attending various meetings and fulfilling endless other obligations, teachers find themselves strapped for cash, needing to work extra job(s) just to keep the wolves from the door.  

Before we get to it, here’s a short clip from Bill Mahr, on teacher pay:


Here are a few examples from real teachers about the extra things they do to make ends meet.

  • My Side Hustle is selling Jamberry:
  • After school program teacher, 3 cycles in a row + curriculum development work. Plus, my husband keeps the rest afloat. I help him with deliveries in his business every once in a while.
  • I sell lesson plans and worksheets on Teachers Pay Teachers.
  • I pick up a few college classes…work until 9 PM a couple of nights a week…for the past decade.
  • I do contract work for Learning A-Z from home.
  • Real estate
  • Tutoring and teaching fitness classes
  • Origami Owl, Willing Beauty, Babysit
  • Drug dealing.
    • I’m kidding. I’m KIDDING!!
  • Work at Guess Retail 15 hours a week and for KOI Education hours vary.
  • Looking into selling plasma.  😉
  • LuLaRoe and currently applying for VIPKid
  • I’m married and my hubby’s job has amazing insurance so I don’t have to use the district’s. That’s how I can pay bills.
  • I tutor and sell Perfectly posh. I also beg my parents for money.
  • I create custom vinyl creations to make ends meet…
  • Work as a server 1 day/week during the year. Then 3 or 4 days/week on all breaks and save up that money. I make way better money serving then I do teaching. Masters/11 years.
  • I’ve bartended, waitressed, tutored online, coached, lots of extracurricular activities,but now I just don’t seem to have any time. Money is tight every month. Too tight. Downsized to one vehicle between m hubby and I.
  • I work for VIPKIDs in the evenings and weekends. Very EARLY crazy hours if you want to meet the needs of the kids in China. 😊
  • Air duct cleaning, selling Origami Owl, selling LipSense.
  • Weekend work at senior home, part time nanny job & bake cupcakes all on the side. In the past, have promoted Visalus & worked nights/ weekends at Sylvan Learning Center. Now my husband has huge medical bills from being hospitalized 5 days & can’t afford $800/mo t to put him on district insurance. No more hours in my day/ week to get yet another job.
  • My wife and I are both teachers. She sells LuLaRoe and I am her “roadie”. She is signing up to teach Chinese kids English online and I am Processing to grade sixth grade PARCC tests online.
  • I am working a kindergarten ready program for the city of Mesa, I make custom cupcakes (if I have time) and teach/ run summer school.
  • tutoring…site coordinator for 21st century grant
  • I teach summer school each summer, otherwise we would not make it. My wife is disabled and not drawing disability at this time. I worked for Home Depot after school each day for a couple of years but can no longer do that. Leaving for school at 5:00 am and working until 10 pm is no life at all.
  • Uber/Lyft driver
  • Photography 5 shoots or so a month. 10 during holiday season.
  • VIPKID… it’s the only thing that works as a side hustle with teaching and three kids and all of their activities. I hate waking up so early but that feeling goes away when the camera turns on… it really is a pretty rewarding side gig!
  • I work at a furniture store over the summer. My parents are the owners, so sometimes I can work during the year too if things get tough with money (they are super flexible, I’m really lucky).
  • I am a Mary Kay consultant, and always look around the house for things to sell on Offer Up
  • Selling Thirty One!
  • I’m lucky to do freelance graphic design and illustration through my pre-teaching job as a wedding invitation designer- my boss is amazing and she sends me work pretty frequently. It’s all online and it’s also my summer job.
  • Lyft and ESY.
  • I am a Pampered Chef Consultant, I used to tutor also. I have learned stopped paying retail for most things, buying from others selling what I need and second hand shops.
  • airbnb-I rent out two of the rooms in my house
  • The last two summers I’ve done summer camp through Mesa Public Schools. This summer I got summer school. ‘Summers off’ argument has never really applied to me…
  • I work after school and on the weekends as a realtor. If it weren’t for that it would be very difficult!
  • Husband and I are both teachers. I teach through my district’s After School Academy, tutor, and teach music lessons. My husband does recording and adjudicating for ABODA as well as Winter Guard AZ.
  • Live in a tiny studio apartment. Teach after school choir, pray I get summer school.
  • Tutoring with 21st Century two nights a week and I teach a college course at our local community college one night a week.
  • Rodan + Fields skincare, proctoring SAT, my mom gave me her car (with 160k miles on it) so I could sell mine (with 170k miles on it). We took out a little extra on my husbands student loans as he finishes his degree and starts his teacher cert program- he also works in the district in a support role and will be teaching next year. We’re excited about the extra 8k he’ll be making!
  • My side hustle is tutoring. I specialize in Dyslexic students. I’m a single Mom so I am also a budgeting ninja!! We are always weighing wants vs. needs. For example….I’ve really wanted to get my carpet cleaned for several years but it never makes the cut over food and Dr. visits.
  • I tutor privately 8 hrs/week. M-Th and Sat for 2 hrs.
  • I cricut stuff and I tutor after school
  • I work all the intersession and summer school days I can. Also tutoring 8-12 hours per week
  • I moved home (I’m single) and my parents help me with car insurance and phone. I’m working at least one job this summer teaching a few hours at a summer program and maybe looking into a tutoring job.
  • I work in IT for the US Gov’t. My wife is a resource teacher. no children, no extra bills. When she worked at a charter school, we paid off what we could, before she had it with the school. now she’s at a public school, almost 3000/mo cut in pay, but we’re getting by (barely).
  • Teach fitness classes and next year online graduate classes. My husband is a teacher as well and has taught community college classes and this year teaches home bound students as well.
  • Do Something Exceptional LLC
  • After school choir on Mondays, young living independent distributor, extra duties such as curriculum mapping, hoping for summer school.
  • I work every Achieve before and after school shift there is at my school. (Every morning and 3 afternoons a week.) I’m also the Tech Coach. My family will be missing the extra income when Achieve ends in 2 weeks so I am looking for a new 2nd job
  • Bartender
  • I teach online. I am also lucky that my husband supports my hobby of teaching. Honestly, it’s sort of a hobby. Like I just need to get out of the house because I could make more money teaching full time online.
  • Scoring online for ETS, Pearson scoring and summer school
  • Tutoring- 6 hours a week
  • I do tutoring after school during the week, and I took on a lead position in the district for a little extra pay, and then we just have to struggle because I want to see my toddler.
  • LuLaRoe, retail on the weekends, and graphic design for other LuLaRoe consultants!
  • Voice lessonsLyft, SAT testing, Etsy (not a lot), Tpt (not a lot), sidework training for my old contract agency, cleaning my grandparents house.
  • I do morning and after school tutoring. I was also working weekends at smashburger but I had to quit so that my teaching wouldn’t suffer. I was losing my sanity. Now that tutoring will be wrapping up soon I may be going back
  • Voice and piano lessons, teachers pay teachers, after school, and summer school
  • I run an all natural Cosmetics andf Skincare biz…in my “spare” time
  • Private music lessons is my side hustle . . . but the real reason this has worked is because of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University that we took in 2009 . . . we haven’t taken on new debt in our marriage . . . which keeps our bills low. Oh yeah, and infertility . . . not having kids (and no infertility coverage) makes our budget smaller. Don’t even get me started on that issue.
  • I teach dance 20 hour’s a week!
  • Tutor and teach an after school softball club. Outside of school work in sales at home shows!
  • Tutoring and Rodan and Fields
  • Photographer. 6 sessions this morning so I can send my oldest to Catalina with his school because I can’t adopts it to come out of our paychecks
  • I sell Origami Owl jewelry now and have worked at a local restaurant for many years before the jewelry!
  • I coach gymnastics mostly as a sub at a local gym
  • Decal business. Baby sitting service for weddings & events.
  • I coach volleyball, basketball, track, plus I’m a co-athletic director. Then I run my school’s NJHS, video announcements, yearbook, and share advisor responsibilities for a super active student council. In addition I sell firewood in the winter and build custom wood crafts and signs during the year.
  • I have a 4yo and a 2yo that I never get to see because I’m always at school or working.
  • Head Pool Manager of a year-round Aquatic Center. I go from teaching teens academics to teaching them how to be distinguished employees/leaders. Side note: the take home pay there is $200 less than my teaching salary, despite my Aquatic Center position being part-time.
  • Teaching tutoring and college classes for a local university.
  • Customer service rep at David’s bridal so my fiance and I can have a wedding.
  • I coach Spiritline, teach Summer School, and sell Pampered Chef!!
  • I work as an event attendant at ASU.
  • Kohls… I’ve been working there for 3 years. Before that, I worked our “Flex Fridays,” after-school tutoring program, and summer school. I’ve also worked at NAU-distance learning for a few semesters.
  • I work as a cashier at Home Depot after school and weekends a few days a week. Then as many hours as I can over the summer. I also sell resources I create on TPT. In addition, I take on as many extra roles at the school as possible (both because they are rewarding and some pay) such as yearbook team, training other teachers through our professional development classes, and mentoring student teachers. Things got very tough when my husband lost his job for a period of time. In that time we had incurred more credit card debt and don’t even get me started on avoiding the student loans I cannot afford. His minimum wage job checks were incredibly close to my take home teacher pay. Did I mention we have roommates? Thank goodness for that and them because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to afford to live.
  • I have an etsy shop and sell hair bows and personalized t-shirts.
  • Bath and Body Works and tutoring
  • Ak chin concerts, cardinal stadium, spring training, lyft, uber, Cracker barrell
  • I work a before school program every morning, tutor privately 4 days a week, and work at a gym on the weekends
  • I work a before school program every morning, tutor privately 4 days a week, and work at a gym on the weekends
  • tutor 2-3 kids a week, substitute at sylvan and I also sell Thirty-One and Norwex. During summers I also provide respite (nanny type) services to a family in my old neighborhood.
  • When I was teaching in AZ I worked 1-3 nights at a restaurant… never had a day off. Sunday’s were always my lesson planning day….
  • Sylvan Learning Center, after school ELD Tutoring, and summer school
  • I have my own health and wellness business and I typically pick up a summer job, either summer school, or little odd jobs for friends and family.
  • I tutor and teach horseback riding. Basically I work 7 days a week and still barely make the bills.
  • Online surveys, garage sales every other month, selling off old clothes and I’ll be starting tutoring this week.
  • I teach for VIPKID, a company based in Beijing, China. As a single parent, this side hustle is what allows me to be able to afford to teach in Arizona.
  • I work at the boys and girls clubs after school and on breaks in order to make sure I have enough for rent and other bills. When the math works out, I make more from the Boys and Girls clubs than I do teaching.
  • Wrangled up a sugar daddy.
  • I do photography. I looove it; I will do it regardless of what I make teaching… lucky in that way.
  • I am a waitress at a restaurant Fridays Saturdays and Sundays (30hrs a week) and then teach private lessons on Mondays Tuesdays and Wednesdays. And I coach basket all at school. Oh and after 2 years of living this way I’ve resorted to getting a roommate because my health is quickly declining and I cannot keep the side hustles up for much longer.
  • I used to have a second job working with developmentally disabled adults on the weekends, but when that company was bought out and they were requiring 12 hours per week to stay employed with the new company I resigned. I couldn’t manage that much. Right now my family isn’t really making it and I only have two kids. I am considering getting a job this summer to supplement the income. I can’t even afford to put my 3 year old in preschool.
  • I am a Beachbody Coach and a doTerra wellness advocate, but I don’t make any profit on either so far. I am divorced with 3 kids so I pretty much live paycheck to paycheck right now. It’s a strain for sure.
  • Coaching/tutoring & returning to my college favorite…plasma
  • Homebound teacher
  • I am an author on TPT. Trying to pay of stupid student loans before I retire or die!😂 I love teaching, but I honestly wish I had listened to my brain and not my heart.
  • Babysitting in the summer.
  • I teach for an online college, I teach SAT/ACT prep classes, teach summer school, working on a consulting job, and I’m casually working with Young Living.
  • I teach for an online college, I teach SAT/ACT prep classes, teach summer school, working on a consulting job, and I’m casually working with Young Living.
  • Student council, volleyball, and summer curriculum.
  • Freelance writing and editing, mostly with an indie hybrid micropublisher. I do antique reselling occasionally. I have taught online in the past and written content for an ed tech startup. I will likely start blogging for a bluegrass band later this week. Always a side hustle.
  • I write romance novels! I published two books last year
  • I tutor on Saturday’s for 5 hours. I also sell things I win. For instance, I won country thunder tickets and I LOVE country thunder, but needed to pay my SRP bill. So I sold them
  • Tutoring and research studies and about to drive for lyft
  • I work the front desk at a massage spa and I give softball lessons on the weekends
  • Over the last 20 years I have worked for both Mesa and Chandler Parks and Rec, some retail stores, painted murals, sold crafts directed a STEM program and taught summer school.
  • A lot of tutoring…and I started a small tutoring business called TNT Tutoring! I hire only certified teachers and pay better than the other tutoring companies. Since the business is still new, we are still just in the northwest valley. So if anyone wants a tutoring job in the west valley, let me know.
  • I started a student travel company 12 years ago called Hands-on Spanish Travel. We focus on Spanish immersion and global citizenry development. Great fun and needed to pay the bills. Check it out, we PAY teachers to travel with us through profit sharing. Off to the Galapagos this Summer.
  • GCU online, after school tutoring, summer school.
  • I work 25-30 hours a week at Apple. Nights an weekends. And I teach summer school.
  • I nanny for 3 different families during the school year and add a 4th family during the summer.
  • I sell Usborne Books & More!!
  • I deliver for Amazon and I’m a professional photographer. @adamkohnproductionsaz
  • I sing professionally which requires a lot of individual work in addition to rehearsals and concerts that usually take up my weekend.
  • I tutor four days a week and I’m thinking of starting a club next year because childcare and having a family is just so expensive. It’s hard to even afford necessities on a teacher’s pay alone.
  • My wife and I own a business.
  • This whole post literally makes me want to cry.
  • I just started doing Instacart shopping – it’s grocery shopping for other people.
  • Professional Photography….Elizabeth Douglas Photography
  • Usborne Books and More Independent Consultant
  • Pet sitting, Airbnb, Subleasing.
  • Walgreens and sometimes tutoring
  • Uber, Lyft, Postmates, Grubhub, Doordash and Instacart.
  • Tutoring, teaching online, working weekend gigs for music when possible
  • Licensed esthetician. Wish the paychecks were switched. I love esthetics but I can’t do it full time. I’d get bored. Education is so rewarding.
  • Two paying roommates, a 14 year old car, and plenty of clothes almost as old, but my personal debt is increasing.
  • Two paying roommates, a 14 year old car, and plenty of clothes almost as old, but my personal debt is increasing.
  • Serve tables in a restaurant 20+ hrs a week
  • I also scored essays for ETS – mostly SAT and Texas STARR
  • I work a beverage cart at a golf course! Often I make more in a day on the course than I do in my classroom.
  • Two teacher fam. We deliver food for restaurants, clean a church on Saturday, coach, tutor, teach an extra class, mentor a student teacher, teach dial enrollment, and have an etsy shop.
  • Tutoring and I twist balloons at a restaurant.
  • work as an Amazon delivery driver 7 days a week. As soon as I finish tutoring after school (which used to be a paid position but no longer is, due to the end of the 21st century grant) I head out to pick up a shift. I usually deliver until 9 or 10, and then head home so I can get up early and prepare my lessons for the day
  • Tutor for VIPKID from 5:00-6:30am during the week
  • 35-40 hrs overnights at Circle K
  • my husband and I teach online community college classes – I make a 1/4 of my salary teaching one class a semester.
  • I average 30 hours/week as a manager at Harkins Theatres. This qualifies me for insurance through Harkins, which is offered at less cost than that I can get through my school district. I also get $2000 per year in tuition reimbursement from Harkins, which has allowed me to move over on my school salary schedule to MA+18 this year and MA+36 next year, for free. All of this is because of my second, hourly paid job which requires no degree, as opposed to my salaried career for which I have a bachelors and a masters degree
  • I work as a bartender and server!!!
  • Well, I do without a lot of things to be honest. Thrift shop. Older vehicle. Simple housing. Cheapest Internet and TV. For 10 years, no TV. Really cut back and budget, budget, budget. And a whole lot of prayer. Sigh.
  • Bartending and tutoring! It doubles my salary!!!
  • Tutoring, spousal support, child support, and just converted my garage to rent a room to my sister.
  • Gold Canyon Candles & Decor Executive
  • Seasonal retail and sitting over the summer. (I have three of my own.)
  • Currently my fiance and I live with my parents… Only way to save up money to have a wedding a save up money for a place to live…

Imagine what teachers could do if they could focus their energies only on teaching your children!?!

Many have seen the commercials bragging about education in Arizona Sponsored by the Arizona Education Project. As an educator, I will take you into a “teachers” view of these facts, cut and pasted from their site. I will not refer to them as facts, but as claims.

10 Facts You May Not Know About Education in Arizona

Claim 1: When Arizona voters passed Prop 123 in 2016, we committed an additional $3.5 billion over ten years to education funding in Arizona – more than $350 million each year. As a result, state spending for education is up more than 10% over the last three years alone.


Fact: This is not “NEW” money which is a misrepresentation of the truth. The lion’s share of these monies is restitution for a lawsuit that the state lost, in which Doug Ducey is named as the state treasurer. So, he even knows this is a half-truth. That’s why he always says since 2015 in his public arguments and on the commercials.

Why did they lose the lawsuit? The State Legislature failed to fund prop 301 monies appropriately and basically took money from children and teachers to balance their budgets.

Fact: On November 7th, 2000 the voters of Arizona passed proposition 301 part of which secured cost of living increases and increases in inflation.,_Pr…
Here are some highlights: (j) For increases in teacher base level compensation, teacher compensation based on performance, and maintenance and operation purposes.
2. Automatic inflation adjustments in the state aid to education base level or other components of a school district’s revenue control limit.

Here’s a short 30 second video in response to this by Save Our Schools Arizona.  

Claim 2: Arizona is among the nation’s leaders when it comes to letting parents select the right school for their children. Nearly 1 in 2 students across Maricopa County attend a school other than the one to which they were assigned based on their home address, according to data from Yale University researchers and the Center for Student Achievement.

Yes, that may be true but now we enter “CHARTER TERRITORY” which we don’t mind unless there is shady business practices taking place. Some state legislators are going about it a dirty way to open these avenues. Some people are making lots of money. Don’t take our word for it. Read for yourself.…/steve-yarbrough-tax-c…/30760847/…/yarbrough-tax-credit-…/30894481/…/arizona-legislature-f…/998002001

There are also some shifty practices to help corporation kids to get priority over the public children.…/bill-gives-special-treatment-to-c…

Claim 3: Arizona leads the country in improvement in NAEP testing scores in math, English, and science since 2009. The National Assessment of Educational Progress – also known as the “national report card” — is considered the gold standard in measuring student progress, and Arizona is improving better than every other state in the country over a sustained period of time.

SWEET. Arizona teachers are leading the country!!!! Our teachers are excelling but our funding from the state legislature is failing miserably. The State Legislature is however in the top of the country for funding prisons. Shocker on this list they are number 1. Are they privately owned???? YES!!!!…/states-that-spend-the-mos…/


Claim 4: Arizona recently created “Teacher Academies” at our state universities. College students who go into a career in teaching after graduation and teach in Arizona will have their college tuition paid for by the state and will graduate debt‐free.


TINSTAAFL- There is no such thing as a free lunch. This will put these college graduates in indentured servitude where they are locked into low pay because they OWE the state. Likelihood is that they will do their time in AZ as teachers, then leave to a state which pays them more. And guess what? A fresh batch of indentured servants are on the hook. To any kid going to college, beware of this trap.



Claim 5: Five of the top seven public high schools in America are located here in Arizona, according to US News & World Report – in Scottsdale, Tucson, Oro Valley, Peoria, and Chandler.

Yes that is awesome!!!!! And they are all BASIS Schools. Which are great!!!! We have a need for BASIS schools because they provide gifted kids who can handle the rigors an amazing opportunity. BUT!!!! These schools are basically schools for the gifted, DREAM STUDENTS and they cannot be compared to the common school as a formula for success. If one state Representative has his way, a corporation who makes donations to BASIS would be able to have the children of their employees have priority over the public school kid who is there based on merit. Money talks!…/bill-gives-special-treatment-to-c…

Claim 6: Chandler and Peoria school districts were recently named among the top 10 school districts in America where students are learning more and learning faster. Students there show more than 5 years of educational growth between 3rd and 8th grades – 5.8 years of learning for Chandler students, and 5.6 years for Peoria.

Once again TOP 10 in the nation in results and almost the bottom for pay!

Claim 7: Arizona gives families more choices about where to send their children to school. Currently ESAs are available only to children with disabilities, students from foster families, military families, poorly-performing school districts, and schools on tribal land. A law expanding ESAs to all families in Arizona is on hold pending voter approval in the November 2018 election.

ESA’s are basically school vouchers. We will wait until November and see. Here appears to be the plan to get kids away from public schools.…/cathi-herrod-lobbie…/475112002/…


Claim 8: Arizona was the first state in the nation to require all students to pass an American civics test before graduating from high school. This ensures our high school students know the same information necessary to pass the test to become a U.S. citizen.

And why is this an amazing fact? They are looking to round out a list of 10. Civics is already a required class and they test in that class and give grades. It’s actually a redundancy.


Claim 9: Measured as a group, Arizona charter students score as well as students from the highest-achieving states in the country. BASIS leads of course like I mentioned, but you may wonder why they are including this.

Why are they measuring just Arizona Charter Schools as a group???


Claim 10: According to audits and public reports, 53% of money spent on K-12 education in Arizona makes it to the classroom. The remainder goes to administration, overhead, transportation, and other items. 

Why is this a fact? It is an attack on public school administration and who doesn’t enjoy that? But this is purely deflecting from the fact that the state does not fund education well in general. By the way, those “other items,” include such things as extracurricular activities such as sports and the arts, support staff, nurses and counselors.
Conclusion…. Make your own.



The Truth About 301

By John Harris


Many in the education field praised the passage of Prop 301. Legislators lauded their own ability to funnel “more money” into K12 education. Teachers, at least reluctantly, rejoiced the passage because it helped to guarantee that the funding given back to them would continue for the next 20 years.

After speaking with several members of our Arizona legislature, I wanted to find out where the money from Prop 301 actually goes. According to the AZ Treasury Office (, and numbers provided by Representative Paul Mosley, a member of the Banking and Insurance Committee, here is how the money is allocated this year and every year as an autopilot budget program:

With the passage of Proposition 301 in the November 2000 general election, the Department of Revenue started collecting an additional 0.6% sales tax beginning June 1, 2001. Pursuant to Section 42-5029E the monies ($667,458,515.00 for FY2017) are to be distributed as follows:


  1. If there are any outstanding School Facilities Revenue Bonds, 1/12 of the annual debt service amount ($64,142,501.00) is transferred to the bond debt service account. This helps districts who have passed bond initiatives pay for physical renovations to their campuses.


  1. Twelve percent of the remaining monies ($72,397,921.71) is transferred to the Technology and Research Initiative Fund to be distributed to each of the universities. None of this money goes into K-12 education. It is purely for University technology spending. 
  2. Three percent of the remaining monies (18,099,480.43) is transferred to the Workforce Development Account developed by each of the Community College Districts. This helps community colleges train people in technical fields to pursue employment in a trade.


  1. Any community college owned by a qualifying Indian tribe on its own reservation will receive a share equal to the amount each Community College District receives for workforce development. ($769,992.61)


  1.  One-twelfth of the amount ($86,280,500.00) for the increased cost of basic state aid due to added school days and associated teacher salary increases (FY 05 – $66,957,200). This is paid if there are any extra instructional days due to various circumstances (flooding, electrical outage, etc.)


  1. One-twelfth of the amount ($8,000,000.00) to the Department of Education for school safety and character education (school safety $7,800,000; character education $200,000 per fiscal year). This money goes mainly to SROs on campus to ensure that schools are “safe.” 
  2.  An amount of $7,000,000 for increased accountability in the Department of Education (ED). This amount is not to exceed $7,000,000 per fiscal year. This is to ensure the ED has our compliance with federal law and the IDEA act and FAPE. 
  3.  One-twelfth of the remaining amount ($1,500,000.00) to the Department of Education to fund the failing schools tutoring program. This was a tutoring program designed to help schools who were not meeting AYP under NCLB (now repealed).

  4.  One-twelfth of the amount ($25,000,000) goes back to the State General Fund to offset the cost of the income tax credits allowed by section 43-1072.01. This amount is used to replace money in the general fund that was taken out to give tax credits.

Combined, numbers one through nine total  $283,190,395.75. None of this money goes to the classroom for teachers or for resources used to drive instruction.


  1. The remaining monies ($384,268,119.45) will be used for instruction in the following way:
  1. 40% ($153,707,247.78) goes to classroom site fund to be used as performance pay.
  2. 40% ($153,707,247.78) goes to maintenance and operational purposes
  3. 20% ($76,853,623.89) goes to teachers’ base salary


In total, teachers have access to 34.5% of the entire amount of the 301 money. 65.5% goes other places like universities, bond payouts, community colleges, the Department of Education, and a tutoring program designed under a set of laws not in place anymore.

A good place to start with improving teacher pay is to use more of the money that the legislature says is being used for K12 public instruction and use less of it on universities, bond repayments, ED oversight, and tutoring programs that are either non-effective or have been dismantled. Prop301 needs to be redesigned, restructured, and sent back to the floor for passage; however, increasing teacher salaries is not the only way for teachers to have the ability to bring home more money.

In my meetings yesterday, I asked both representatives how many obstacles there would be to adding all teachers and Educational Support Personnel (ESPs) to the state insurance plan. Both indicated that it was an elegant solution that would give a majority of teachers an increase in monthly take-home pay without having to raise taxes.

For me, I would bring home an additional $580 a month if I were to choose the lowest-deductible state plan. That would increase my take-home pay by 26% (higher than the ask of AEU’s top demand). It would also give teachers better insurance, lower premiums, lower deductibles, and the ability to have a health savings plan that we can use for any health emergency.

At the end of the day, the goal is to increase the amount of money a teacher brings home per paycheck. How we go about doing it is going to be the sticking point. We cannot just attempt to bullrush the legislature. Many of our elected officials have been put in office by making promises to their constituents who believe they will follow through on those promises.

Like it or not, Arizona is a predominately Republican state (and I don’t mean the legislation; I mean the citizens) who do not want to increase their taxes. Property taxes in Arizona are twice what the taxes are in Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico. Those who live in rural parts of the state are not willing to increase their taxes to help fund teachers or any other social service. Our number one goal should be to funnel more money into public education using the budget that has already been approved. There really is no other way around it.


Top photo borrowed from:
In-Text photo from:


By Philip Brown

A couple of weeks ago I published a blog called, Should a Teacher’s Salary Be Able to Support a Family.  In the two weeks since it was published it has had almost 10,000 views!  This is a follow up to that conversation.

What does it really cost to live in Arizona?

There’s a cost of living index that analyzes these types of questions.  The index considers taxes, mortgage, groceries, utilities, clothing and other typical expenses.  Arizona ranks 20th in the average cost of living (cheapest).  That’s pretty much in the middle. 

That is great information for letting us know where we line up with the rest of the country, but it doesn’t answer the question about the actual cost of living. 

Keep in mind we are trying to address whether teachers can live on a teacher’s salary in Arizona.  Teaching, being a profession and a career, is a life-long endeavor.  So let’s look at buying a home in Arizona.

According to Zillow, the median home list price is $234,000, while the average mortgage payment is $1,061 a month.

The question of utilities in Arizona is tricky, something all Arizona residents know well.  The summers are famously hot, but the winters quite mild.  The average cost of utilities (water and electric) is just over $165 according to  (link above).
A family of four in Arizona typically spends almost $875 a month on groceries.

Medical insurance has been well document to have risen by over 100% since 2014, ( premiums cost a family $7,800 a year in my district. 

 There’s precious little information regarding average medical expenses (not including insurance premiums) in Arizona.  The premiums are of course steep, but after calculating co-pays, deductibles, paying for whatever the insurance company didn’t cover, prescriptions, equipment and other associated costs, I think an average of $1,200 a year is on the modest side!  That’s a complete and total guess.


Transportation is just over $800 a month in Maricopa County for a family of four, and taxes are right about the same, just slightly less.

Let’s throw in $120 for a cheap cellphone plan, $280 a month for student loans (, and assume there is no unsecured debt involved.


We will not be considering clothing or entertainment, nor will we consider things like dental or vision care, life insurance or donating to fundraisers that students are always working on.  Aside from those items, here’s what we have:









Transportation $800
Phone $120
Student Loans $280
Taxes $830
Total $4,881


Now let’s consider that the average teacher’s salary is $42,540 (  That’s $3,545 a month before social security, medicare and ASRS, which all add up to around 20% of the gross income.  That bring us to $2,836 on average, per month.

Compare that to the standard cost of living in Arizona and you perhaps can appreciate why teachers are leaving!


Concerns from a Thoughtful Voter
I would like to see a good economic analysis so I can respond meaningfully with my vote.
Concern: First I would like to be assured that all Arizonans have recovered sufficiently from the financial crisis that they would be able to support these demands.
Response: It is tough to assure that ALL Arizonans have recovered. However, how about signs of a healthy economy?

Arizona’s growth is outpacing the national growth.

Plus, our population is growing as are the number of jobs.
Concern: Secondly the demand for a 20% salary increase is still quite out of line with the raises most of us are getting in the range of maybe 2% to 5%.
Response: If one only looks at the number 20%, it is shocking. This number would put us back where teachers were paid a decade ago.
I’ll try to explain as clearly as possible. This gets complicated quickly, and I’d be happy to share all of the background information. Here’s the situation:
Due to pay freezes, lack of cost of living increases over the past decade, and increased employee contributions to “benefits,” teachers are making less take-home money than a decade ago, without adjusting for inflation!
The gross salaries have increased slightly the past two or three years, 1% to 4% depending on where a teacher works, but that is the increase for an entire decade. Inflation has far outpaced this.
Using the government’s inflation adjustment calculator teachers made around $10,000 more in starting pay a decade ago than they do today. That, in combination with years of pay freezes, has veteran teachers often earning less than brand-new teachers with similar educations.
Concern: Thirdly it seems when demanding equivalence with other locales we should verify that cost of living stats are also equivalent with those of those other locales.
Response: This one is actually pretty easy to answer. We are 20th cheapest in the nation. So, right around the middle. Oklahoma, by comparison, is 3rd.
Concern: Finally many of us are now severely underemployed as our jobs in high tech moved to Asia – after ten years working retail a job for which I am qualified finally opened at a salary of 20% less than I was making in 2008. I have yet to see a thorough economic analysis of these issues but as a supporter of education I would love to see one.
Response: This last point is painful for many, and I am very sensitive to this line of thinking. The biggest difference here is public versus private. Education is a public concern and there’s not been a shift in technology or economy (sustained shift negative shift) to cause the education funding issue.
To see an overview of the nature of the situation in Arizona with education and to see why it is “suddenly” a crisis, this 5 minute video can help explain. All of the data is verifiable and I can provide references for any questions one might have.

By Jay Figueroa:

Why are furious with the rhetoric of Doug Ducey? There is a tremendous amount of misinformation being spread. He continually spouts for people to “Get the facts!” It’s his almost childish way of deflecting from the truth. He continually distorts the truth by spouting, “Get the facts!” and then proceeds in telling half-truths of which he fast talks and tries to dominate the conversation before anyone can dig deeper. He knows how TV and Radio work; Get in. Build confidence. Say the word “FACTS” and get out. Well, here are some facts that Doug Ducey does not want you to recall. He only accounts for 2015-present. Enclosed are some Pre 2015 facts that he always leaves out because he is hiding a lot from the public.

Fact: On November 7th, 2000 the voters of Arizona passed proposition 301 part of which secured cost of living increases and increases in inflation.,_Pr…
Here are some highlights: (j) For increases in teacher base level compensation, teacher compensation based on performance, and maintenance and operation purposes.

2. Automatic inflation adjustments in the state aid to education base level or other components of a school district’s revenue control limit. Remember, this is what the VOTERS wanted.

Fact: In the earlier part of this decade then Jan Brewer had a choice to make with the state’s career ladder bonus program. This entailed teachers putting together a portfolio of their work to demonstrate and prove growth over the school year. This was one of the best programs in AZ because it really made teachers strive to do better and improve student performance. Her choice was to fully fund and make these bonuses available to the entire state, or cut the program entirely. She chose to cut. This was a cut of about $8,000 to many teachers who were on the program. In addition to that our salaries were cut a few thousand by our district. Now if you do the basic math. A teacher making $50k has their salary drop $10,000. That’s a 20% reduction in salary that was due to state cuts.…/uploa…/2017/04/Unrestored-Budget-Cuts.pdf

Fact:  The State Legislature started making illegal cuts out of the state’s 301 deal.  They broke the law by doing “their will” and not the will of the voters. Doug Ducey, in capacity of State Treasurer, was directly named in the lawsuit that ordered to make it right.

Fact: Instead of paying back the teachers in full, now Governor Ducey, and the state legislature came up with the prop 123 scam which the state trust land were used to come up with the quick cash to settle. This was a heck of a bold move because the state trust land is there to help education in the case of an emergency. It was his emergency.…/State-Trust-Lands-and-Ed…

Fact: On channel 12 Sunday Square Off in January 2018, Ducey stated that the prop 123 was a settlement of a year long lawsuit he inherited, as if it was from Jan Brewer’s term. He was the state treasurer who was NAMED in the lawsuit. That is a straight out lie unless he has a multiple personality disorder and thinks he is a different person than the state treasurer. He says Prop 123 is a settlement and new money in the same interview contradicting himself. The basis of the story is stating why he thanked the Koch Brothers for enabling him to pay for advertisements that protect his record on education.…/gov-ducey-dismisses-d…/75-508062936

Once again. Doug Ducey does the dance to get himself out of trouble. This time he is robbing the childrens’ future funds to pay for his mistake before. He’s “robbing Peter,”…… to “pay Peter.”…/vote-heres-what-you-need-know-…/

Fact: The lion’s share of the 9% new money that is put toward education is a restitution payment from the past lawsuit. 
To put into perspective. If someone smashes into your car and causes $10K worth of damages.

Then only pays you back $7,000. You would be angry. Then if that same person who hit you, tells others that he gifted you $7,000 in money and that you are greedy for wanting more. You would be irate. Not to mention. You find out that the $7,000 he paid you came from your own rainy day fund? You would be….us.

Please understand that teachers aren’t in this for the money but just want things to be made right. Teachers and children have carried this state by filling the shortcomings of our tax base for the last 18 years. We went from 34th in per pupil spending to 48th. The state legislature would have us believe that a tax increase would be catastrophic. This can be done as a combination of tax increases and removal of some corporate tax breaks. It’s time to give the kids and teachers of this state a break and think of our future.

Below are the thoughts regarding Arizona Educators United demands improved education funding. of  a fellow educator and contributing member of AWP.  Check out his website and let us know how you feel about the demands from AEU.  To read the demands themselves and show support, click here.  

To read a draft of the proposed salary schedule, click here.

My Take on the Demands

by John Harris

I hated not being at the capitol with my fellow teachers supporting #RedforEd. Of course, I was stuck in Professional Development. I did, however, hear that we made our “demands” to the legislature and the public at large. First, let me say I have been a supporter of AEU since it was another page that had to be scrapped. I am now a moderator in the AEU Main channel where I have had the privilege of having lively conversations with many people along with the members of the Mod Squad. As a firm believer in the cause, I wanted to explain, although I am happy with the intent, I am rather displeased with the content. Let’s start with the demands:

  1. 20% salary increase for Arizona teachers in order to create competitive pay with neighboring states.

Good. 20% is fine, but you don’t have to tell them WHY you want it, or what it is being used for. Who cares? They didn’t tell us why we keep having lower salaries and bigger class sizes. We want 20%, damn it, and that’s final!

  1. Competitive pay for all Education Support Professionals.

What does “competitive pay” mean? Competitive with whom? Teachers? Other contractors in their field? Other school employees in other states? And, are we talking all school employees, or just paras, and aides? If we mean everyone from superintendent to crossing guard, “competitive” is very vague. Do they mean site level? What about the janitor who cleans at the district office?

5% pay increase for all other public school personnel. Keep it simple!

  1. Permanent certified salary structure which includes annual raises.

This says certified. At the last Meet and Confer, we JUST talked about how classified employees deserve the same benefits as certified employees. I don’t want to now go back and say, “All these things were fighting for….not for you.” Nope. Janitors and cafeteria workers deal with the same kids. And they get it worse because they have no pull.

  1. Restore education funding to 2008 levels.

Don’t make me do homework. Now I’ve got to go Google the spending per student in 2008. Show me the number. I still have not looked it up.

  1. No new tax cuts until per-pupil funding reaches the national average.

We can’t say no tax cuts. If they wanted to cut gas taxes because fuel prices were too high, you’ve just screwed yourself. They’re going to put a time limit on the tax. What happens when the time runs out? Teacher pay nosedives and we are REALLY in a crisis. You also can’t push a bill through that ties pay to a projected national,average. Taxes are numbers. Every year, the national average is going to change and the percentage will change with it.


Overall impressions:

These are supposed to be DEMANDS! If you are going to demand something, by God…DEMAND THEM. This is not a dog and pony show. We have been disrespected long enough. You WILL hear us. You WILL do what we say, and you WILL do it now! We are the parent, and you are the child. We tell you what to do, not the other way around, and if you don’t do what we tell you to do, there will be consequences. When did we ever lose sight of that? Some friends and I had this conversation. We talked about demanding versus asking. When do we stop asking?

We told them we were going to demand, and then…we asked. I can hear the sound of the Price Is Right when the contestant forgets that Betty Crocker Cake Mix is only $2.47. It would have been so much better to begin with, “We are going to ask the legislators…” and then show up with 1500 of our closest friends and DEMAND them to give us what we want or we will go West Virginia on them! That sends a statement. What we have done now is put ourselves on the defensive in a fight with people who are trained to fight to the death.

As I said to a colleague the other day, “Three is a magic number. Yes, it is.” You want to have enough demands to open negotiations and for them to take you seriously. At the same time, you want everyone to be able to remember them off the top of their heads. Three is easy to remember and easy to chant. It’s easy to put on the tailor-made slogan of #RedforEd and their THREE reasons.

Why am I #RedforEd?

Reason one: 20%.

Reason two: Guaranteed raise every year

Reason three: lower health premiums

THAT plastered everywhere! Make Gov. Ducey not forget those three things. Chant them in his sleep.

Finally, and most importantly, the admins put out a poll and asked everyone to comment on it. It’s still active right now. The top three things (as voted by AEU members.)

  1. 10% raise
  2. Healthcare overhaul
  3. 301 solvancy.

None of those made it into the demands. Why bother asking if you aren’t going to listen anyway?

As I stated, I agree with the intent. I just don’t agree with the content. Whoever wrote these demands should have asked for help.

Of course, this is just one man’s opinion.


In a few short years there will be no one left to teach in Arizona.  That’s not an alarmist’s statement, it’s just the nature of what’s to come.

This #RedforEd movement is important for all members of our great state because the government has not been executing the will of the voters.  The price will be high.  Education needs to be restored for the stability of Arizona, both economically but also socially and culturally.  

Without arguing the merits  of education, or the reasons education has been gutted, or any of the possible remedies, let us just look at the current state of affairs with educators (teachers) in Arizona.

  • 24% of current teachers are within 4 years of retirement (source)
  • 42% of new teachers leave the profession within 3 years (source)
  • Almost 900 teachers left mid-contract in 2018 (source)
  • 2,000 teaching jobs are unfilled (source)
  • 3,400 teaching jobs are filled by unqualified people (source)

Let’s look at a couple of looming funding and financial issues that will only make this worse.

  • The small extra funding the state has produced for education has come from Prop 123 (which was a sham to begin with).  That has been ruled as illegal by a federal judge.  That means education could be cut by another $344,000,000.  (source)
  • School districts may have to repay millions in mis-allocated (by the state) federal Special Education funding.  (source)
  • Insurance premiums have tripled between 2013 and 2017 (source) and are going up again this year! 
  • Teacher pay in Arizona, adjusted for cost of living in the state, is worst in the nation.  Check out this map for great information.
  • Funding for education has been in decline since 2001 when monitoring began by the Auditor General.

  • In many cases teachers make less today than they did in the past.  Here’s one example:

As awareness of the financial landscape increase among teachers, and as more would-be teachers look into the financial prospects of teaching, it will become increasingly difficult for schools to fill positions.  

Who will be teaching in Arizona in five years?

Going on strike is powerful.  But, like a nuclear bomb, the fallout is dangerous!  Maybe it could be powerful enough to win the war, but at what cost?

To be clear, here’s my view.  I fear that if a strike took place in Arizona over education, teacher pay in particular, we may get lucky and get a 5% raise.  But that would fail to bring most teachers from the depths of poverty. We would likely be in the same exact situation in a handful of years.  What would we do then, strike again? I don’t think it would work a second time so soon. Maybe I’m wrong.

During a strike people will panic to find ways to appease the striking force, while others will certainly be hardened to our causes. But those working under duress to fix education will be the same that failed to do so during calm times.  

And for how long could we strike?  We are poor, remember. Many of us have zero savings, scraping by if barely so.  

It is my opinion that teacher pay is just the first major symptom of a diseased system.  Throw a bandaid over it, let it scab over, and the infection will fester under the skin, just out of sight of the public’s eye.

The next time the sore opens, it may be too far gone to repair.

The #RedForEd movement in Arizona started the same weekend as this company.  The situation with education is ripe for some changes. It feels almost all parties involved sense it, feel it coming.  Last week Litchfield School District used a bond (or budget override) to increase teacher and support staff pay by up to 10.4%!

There are around 3,000 teaching vacancies in Arizona, despite Ducey’s plan to stick anyone, regardless of ability, in a classroom.

A small district in Sonoita had to eliminate 5th grade, integrating those kids with 6th and letting a teacher go.

The writing is on the wall.  I don’t think a strike is most effective here.  I think we just need to educate the public, show them the writing on the wall while also showing them the value we bring to our communities.

It is an election year for many school board members and for our state positions.  Reach out to your board members, let them know that it is time to change. Even short term help, for a year or two, can buy time for things to get straightened out at the state level.

What are your thoughts.  These are the things that stand out to us at Arizona’s Working Poor, but we wish to have a conversation with those that disagree.  Leave a comment below, maybe you’ll sway us!


Regardless, avoiding infighting is crucial at this point.  Yet, these approaches are contentious. We are all articulate and educated, so ask to learn, not coerce, listen to understand, not respond.  And remember, we all want the same thing … a great education system that best promotes the health and stability of our communities. (Attracting and retaining quality teachers is a big part of that!)

In a previous entry I discussed how during the recession the structure of teacher pay was gutted and never resurrected.  The end result has been that teachers today, that taught a decade ago, are in worse financial positions than a decade ago.

While we all hear about the turnover of new teachers, this financial situation is forcing veteran, experienced teachers from the profession.

Teaching takes a long, long time to learn how to do.  If I had to pin a number on how long it took become a component teacher, I’d say 5 years. Regardless of that number, the quality of education coming from a beginning teacher is low, regardless of their potential as a teacher.

I’d like to draw your attention to how veteran teachers, mid-career, are leaving, and what that means for students.  These are the heavy lifters on campuses, those with experience to help new teachers and the energy, lacking from those ready to retire, to do it.  But, they can’t make ends meet! To teach has become a luxury that most cannot afford.

In a post coming soon I’ll discuss how reported teacher salaries are grossly misleading.  You can decide for yourselves, but according to our research the average teacher salary in Arizona is in the middle $30,000 before deductions and taxes.  Throw in medical insurance premiums of up to $8,000, 12% mandatory withholding for ASRS, and taxes, teachers are trying to me ends meet on around $700 to $800 a paycheck.

Now consider that, supposedly, ¼ of teachers in Arizona are within 4 years of retiring.  In that four-year period droves of veteran teachers will find new careers.

The people that will step in will be unqualified or brand new, and as pointed out earlier, doing low quality work. However, without veteran teachers to mentor and coach these new people along, I don’t believe it’s a stretch to imagine that the end result will be damaging to the hopes of students.

If a quality education removes barriers,allowing people access to better lives, and teachers provide that education, and they are leaving in droves because they cannot pay the electric bill, and the public doesn’t hold the governments (state and local) accountable, we will be paying higher taxes for welfare and prisons.  Is that run-on sentence hyperbole?

Is it a stretch to claim that if education is not properly funded today, with powerful oversight to keep the money going where it most matters for students, that we will instead be paying for an increasingly militarized police force? We can give those in greatest need of a quality education access today, or we can incarcerate them tomorrow.

The stability of our economy and the stability of our society is dependent on a quality education system.  

This is a crisis in the making.  We need to exact massive reform in education today!  

This coming year is an election year.  School boards and state level officials from both parties need to feel the urgency of fixing this.  Education reform must be the top priority this November!


As many know, I have poured myself into the purpose of trying to do something to help fix this problem in education. It has come at some personal expense and sacrifice (this has been hard)…but when I turn around and see that in a 24 hour period one of my blog posts has over 1,000 people reading it, I know I’m addressing the concerns that people outside of education also carry.

The opposition I’ve received has only fueled my motivation, yet, ironically, some of the shows of support I’ve received have left me dead in my tracks, crushed with humility and gratitude.

And strangely enough, while I have mentioned none of this to my current students, there’s been a powerful impact in my own classroom. Those kids are killing it. While the on-level (non-honors) freshmen this year have been well below the norm, we have a new saying, we’re going to Flip It. The past few years my freshman have done well at the beginning, but could not maintain and struggled as the year went on. This group is all about flipping that around, finishing strong, showing the world that what they really are is more than what they’ve done so far.

A freshman, 16 years old, held back sometime in elementary, passed his test today with a 71%. I pulled him aside and showed him. He’s a big boy, 6 feet and 200 pounds at least, and he let out a huge breath and had to wipe his eyes. He’d never really tried before and felt a massive weight lifted off his shoulders because he discovered he was capable.

That’s why I am crushed by the shows of support. That’s why this is important.

It’s not about teachers, it’s not about money. But without paying quality teachers, who need money to live, it won’t be for the students either.

Oh, those greedy, whining teachers…complaining about pay when they knew the job didn’t pay when they got in it.  Why don’t they just shut up and get a different job? 

And this nonsense with showing pay stubs, come on.  Really people?  The governor told us how much money has been pumped into education, how much more teachers are making.  On top of whining and being greedy, you’re distorting the truth to line your own pockets…and at the expense of what’s best for kids. 


These are things I have read on the internet and heard directly.  But I don’t blame the people that are saying these things.  They are misinformed.

I’d like to share with you how we ended up where we are today.  It didn’t happen overnight of course.  In recent history, the biggest contributing factor happened during the recession.  During the recession the leaders in education said, “Hey, we don’t have any money, so teachers, time to tighten your belts, it’s what’s best for kids … and you do what’s best for kids, don’t you?” 

The claim was that all of education was going to trim down, financially speaking.  To what extent that happened is history.  What’s not history is that the rest of education has had their belts loosened, while teachers have been punching holes and tightening all the while.


The cute story of the administrator who once made so little, but stuck it out, persevered and served her community well, the “look at me now, if you only knew me back then,” story, is not what’s happening today. 

Today, a teacher is worse off financially after a decade of teaching.  The story is, I started super poor, and went down from there!  Let me explain.

Before I got into teaching I sat down with my wife and we looked at the finances.  We would be able to support our small family because there were extra programs offered for teaches to participate in that paid a little extra and there was a salary scale.  Every year you worked, if you were retained, you got a small bump in pay.  Over the years, this helped make ends meet. 

Lean at first, but a promise of slightly better finances in the future.

During the recession teachers were devalued.  It was a paradigm shift that allowed schools to maintain programs (some great for kids, some that don’t affect kids at all).  There were years of pay freezes.  Since then, the pay freezes have gone, but none of those earnings were restored for teachers (non-educators working in education did not experience pay freezes in most places in the state). 

The real killer, however, is that the salary scales have disappeared!  The only way for a teacher to make more money in many districts across the state is if their local school board approves a raise. 

In my district we have received 2% each of the last two years.  Without adjusting for inflation over the past decade, that puts teachers with dependents a couple of hundred bucks behind where we were a few years ago because of insurance premiums.  Look at inflationary changes in the economy and the slow growth of teacher salary over the last decade, and it’s readily apparent that teachers are upside down in their careers.

To be clear:  During the recession a paradigm shift occurred where teachers were devalued.  That shift has only led to continued depreciation of teachers in the minds of the public and has given clear path for those allocating money to find clever ways to not pay teachers.

I should have stood up, spoken, taken a stand a decade ago.  I can’t fix that past mistake, but I can learn from it and try to do better now and in the future.

That’s what we are doing, fixing this now. 

A teacher should be able to comfortably support a family on their income. 

There, I said it.  It’s out in the open.  If you disagree, let’s hear why in a positive and constructive manner.   If you believe that a teacher should not earn enough money to support a family, why not?

The fact of the matter is that teachers do NOT make enough money to support a family.  In fact, they don’t even get close to making enough money.  The situation is like this, in my opinion.  The structure of teacher compensation in Arizona today is such that the profession is the epitome of a dead end job. 

A dead end job is a job that offers no hope of financial security, despite improving in the skill and production the employee provides to the organization, a job where the input and expertise of the employee is not considered, a job where the employee is treated as interchangeable, perhaps even replaceable by a computer program.

Let’s tackle the financial aspect for now.   In Arizona many districts had a pay scale based on number of years served in the district.  Every year a teacher worked they would receive a slight bump in pay.  Every few years the board would adjust that baseline to meet inflation (or try to make it look as though they were).   It has been common practice to remove those pay scales (called steps) and instead rely on the board to give a raise of percentage to all teachers in that district. 

That means that the teacher that is a warm body, handing out worksheets daily, and the teacher that is devoting their personal time to helping students and is actively helping other teachers improve their craft, both receive identical changes in pay, IF a governing body will approve the raise proposed by the district office.  Since the largest expense of a district office is teacher salary, and they’re scrambling to make ends meet themselves, they’re pretty stingy about offering raises. 

Combine that with inflation and out of control medical insurance premium increases and we suddenly have a situation where a teacher supporting a family is going broke, and fast.

I think we’ve established the lack of connection between compensation and performance.

What about the hope of financially securing a better future?  Can a teacher support a small family by living modestly and still afford a surprise broken water heater, a flat tire, car registration and a trip to the doctor for a toddler with a cough, all in the same month without breaking out a credit card?

I did some research and used this link ( to calculate the average cost of some basic needs here in Arizona.  Some of these seemed a bit high, others a bit low, but I just went with what I found.

A typical monthly income for a teacher with a family, one that is paying for insurance, is around $1,300 a month.  The average expense for a family of four living modestly in Arizona is $1,840.  Now that family will likely receive some public assistance, might have slightly cheaper auto insurance, might not own a cell phone … but even so, trying to raise a family on a teacher salary would mean living in debt.

I do not believe that is appropriate. 

While people are working on the state to improve teacher pay and also, hopefully, excite some meaningful education reform to remedy the issues that caused this problem to begin with, as well as to improve the experiences of our students, I’m doing something to help.

Arizona’s Working Poor is a nonprofit organization.  Our main function is to find teachers in Arizona that are the sole source of income for a family and give them a gift of $500.  It is not welfare, it is a show of gratitude as well as an apology.  We thank you for what you do, we thank you for the incredible sacrifices you and your family make on the behalf of the greater good of our society.  We are sorry it took us so long to start working to change this thing.

If you’d like to read more about this program, called Giving Back, click here.

If you’d like to help our cause you can find information on our website to do so: 


There has been a lot of national attention regarding Elisabeth Milich’s photograph on her Facebook page where she showed her salary of just over $35,000.  The hashtag, #whatireallymake has become viral.  I too posted a picture of two pay stubs, one from this current year and one from five years ago.  My picture didn’t get national attention but I was interviewed by KTAR in Phoenix about it and the responses, good and bad, from people regarding the picture.

What I really make is a good question.  I earn just over $36,000 in base pay this year.  But that’s not what I make.

I make kids understand the value of education, that’s what I make.  The old question, “When am I going to use this in my everyday life,” has a great answer for High School … never.  The truth is, education is not about training someone for their daily life.  That happens at home, or should.  The basic facts are learned K – 6th grade.  But High School is about learning to get the most from yourself.

The purpose of an education is not to prepare you for the known obstacles one will face in life because, well, nobody knows what those will be.  The known problems are things people can be trained to do, but education is different than training.  Education is about learning how to adapt information and skills in new and unpredictable ways.  Education is about learning how to identify meaningful and useful information and how to incorporate that to serve one’s needs.

Training, as opposed to education, prepares individuals for circumstances that are entirely predictable.  You can be trained to handle complicated situations, if the trainer knows what will be faced, when it will occur, under what conditions and the desired outcome.   Training prepares people for a narrow focus on the future, a known and predictable future. 

A person that is trained resists new methods, even if they’re more efficient.  A trained person fails to identify new information as useful and thus struggles to incorporate appropriate responses to changing circumstances.  Someone that is educated is adaptable!

I make kids understand this, give them opportunity to experience it.  As a result, my students perform very well on standardized tests, SATs and the like.  Many students, that were never strong math students (I teach math), come to me and say they tested out of all of their math classes because they learned how to learn with me.

There are ear marks distinguishing those that have been trained from those that are educated.  To be clear, many educated people earned their educations outside of the education industry, and many people that are merely trained received their training within the education industry. 

The best compliment I ever received about my teaching came from a student making an innocent observation.  She said, “You don’t really teach us Mr. Brown, but we learn when we’re with you.”

That’s what I make…learning opportunities that empower children!  I make them see the value in education, which in turn motivates them to make the most of themselves.  That’s what I make.

Here’s the article about Elisabeth Milich:



Why I Wear Red for Ed

I wear Red for Ed because education is the cornerstone of the American Dream.  The American Dream is the ability for an individual to “lift themselves by the bootstraps,” and make more of themselves than their original lot in life would have led you to believe possible.  Education can be used as a ticket to a better way of life, a more meaningful, purposeful and thus, fulfilling life.  And education makes this possible for all, not just the rich, which levels the playing field. 

I wear Red for Ed because teachers perform the acts of education.  Administrators administrate.  Politicians … I think we all know what they do.  The large publishing companies lobby the politicians and have created this bloated, yet useless, testing monster that is gutting the quality of the education our youth receive.  It is destroying the American Dream for our youth.

I wear Red for Ed because the politicians and large publishing corporations have rotted the system while lining their pockets all the while.  Yet, they point the finger and blame low quality teaching as the reason for the rotted system they created. 


I wear Red for Ed because it touches on a very important issue that goes beyond education.  Red for Ed is an a-political movement.  I believe the politicians and media have pitted us against one another, and we eat it up!  We love the righteous indignation and the validation of seeing others fuming over a policy or action taken in government. 

I wear Red for Ed for the people opposed to the movement.  Tomorrow’s leaders are being educated today.  Tomorrow’s leaders will decide if caring for the feeble and old is worth the financial expense. 

I wear Red for Ed because to do otherwise is to turn your back on the noble causes of education and instead support the politicians and lobbyists that are lining their pockets with our tax money, with the funding and resources that should be used to keep the American Dream alive for those that need it most…our youth.

I wear Red for Ed because I believe in taking care of those that serve us. 



(The #RedforEd movement is an a-political movement in Arizona to raise awareness of low teacher compensation and its ramifications.  Teachers salary in Arizona is the lowest in the nation, and to make it worse, it appears the average salary for Arizona is vastly exaggerated.  The average teacher pay in Arizona, as reported by the state, is approximately $48,000.  However, that is a very suspect number as various administrators and other positions, that are compensated at a much higher rate than teachers, are thrown into that average.  The state average is probably closer to $38,000 than $48,000.)


Good morning everybody.  For those that don’t know, my name is Philip Brown and I’m a High School Teacher that is stepping out of his comfort zone to take on a monster.  I am starting a grassroots movement to tackle education reform.  From top to bottom, inside and out, the education system is largely failing our students that need it most and I cannot stand by and allow that to happen any longer.

What I’d like to talk to you about today is important for those that don’t believe education needs greater funding in Arizona as well as those that believe the opposite.  You see, when the state spends, on average, $0.53 cents of every education dollar in the classroom, there’s a problem!  How we spend the money we do have needs to change.   But in order for that to happen, there is something that we need to address.

In order to change education we need to change the way education, and educators, are viewed by the general public.  Right now there is the fairy tale notion of the poor teacher.  And that character has an air of nobility because of what they do despite the compensation.

Teaching is a charitable act.  Teachers are noble people because of what they do, not because of what they do despite the compensation. 

To increase teacher pay, to better fund education, or even make better use of the money we currently have, that fairy tale needs to be squashed!  The character of the teacher needs to be reinvented in the public’s mind. 

My call to action for those protesting teacher pay is to cite the value teachers bring to their communities as why they deserve better pay.  Cite the fact that education is a cornerstone of our society, it’s the best way we can level the playing field so that people from all backgrounds have equal footing.  With an education the proverbial American Dream is alive for individuals.  Teachers keep that a reality.


If the notion of the American Dream, the ability to advance beyond your upbringing, to make something more of yourself is important, then keeping that alive and well needs to be nurtured.  Teachers are perhaps the largest single force keeping that alive!

While it is true we (teachers) are frustrated because of lack of respect, low pay, abusive contracts and no hope of a future that offers financial stability, none of those will change the minds of the public.  They already see us as The Poor (yet Noble) Educator. 

We need to change their focus.

There’s a program we are working on here at Arizona’s Working Poor called the Featured Teacher of the Week.  With this program we will highlight the positive and powerful impact individual teachers have in their communities.  We’ll shower them with praise and some gifts and do so in a way that gets the message out in the public that teachers are powerful and influential members of our communities.

So please focus on the reasons we are important to our communities, how we promote a cornerstone belief of our society, and how what we bring is of great value.  Squash the fairy tale along the way!  We are not beggars looking for a handout!  We have a valuable impact on our society!

If you have comments or ideas, or just want to say hey, keep it up, please do so in the comments below!

My name is Philip Brown and I’m one of Arizona’s working poor.  I am a full time high school teacher and I have lost faith in the education system.  However, I am not leaving education. To abandon education is to allow it to continue its downward spiral until … well, the end is unknown, but dark.

I am starting a nonprofit organization called Arizona’s Working Poor.  Here a team of creative, devoted and willing people will work to raise money that will be used to supplement teacher salaries, directly to the teachers individually (…keeping top-heavy district office and grubby politicians out of it).

My goal is to establish Arizona’s Working Poor as a recognized nonprofit organization with both the state of Arizona and the IRS.  That means where the money raised goes is 100% transparent and known. Where it is going to go is to teachers in need based on their annual take-home pay.  We will start at home, at my current high school (Rio Rico High School, which has been selected by two separate entities as the school of the year for the nation this year!), and then work our way to other sites in the district and eventually onto other districts and hopefully across our wonderful state.

Teachers do not get into education to get rich, of course.  However, our living wages (take home pay) has steadily decreased over the past decade, with all signs pointing to the trend continuing. There are many stories of teachers on welfare, having to borrow money from family members to make ends meet, and something around 80% of us hold two or more jobs.  

This is a non-sustainable situation for our society.  Education is important and we need high quality people in the positions of teachers.  To have a dead-end financial situation presented to potential teachers is unacceptable.

While I can do little about the political structure, I can do something to help.  That’s what I do, I’m a teacher. I serve others, helping them with difficult things.  This venture is no different in that respect.

To get started with all of the paperwork filings, attorneys to make sure that we are doing things the right way, internet presence, and some seed money to start projects to raise money to establish a record of appropriate, honest and transparent business practices, I am asking those willing to support in two ways.  

First, if you find this idea to be meritorious please share it on social media and spread news by word of mouth.   Second, if you are in the fortunate position to send a few dollars our way, we will use every penny to meet our stated goal, which is to improve the financial outlook of teachers in Arizona.  

I estimate that $2,500 will be needed to get everything started.  

For those able to donate and those that can only spread the word I am grateful.  I am humbled by all shows of faith and wish to use all support to promote a better education system for our youth by promoting a higher quality of life for our teachers.

I respectfully thank you for your time and consideration,

Philip Brown