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.