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 (www.arizonaeducatorsunited.com), 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.

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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.

The Truth About 301

By John Harris

@IH8PD

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 (https://aztreasury.gov/local-govt/revenue-distributions/prop-301/), 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.

©2018 IH8PD.com

Top photo borrowed from: https://azednews.com/prop-301-revenues-trend-up-raising-concerns-about-its-2021-expiration/
In-Text photo from: https://medium.com/tson-news-by-three-sonorans/how-ht-sanchez-took-teachers-money-to-hide-tusd-s-15-million-debt-the-reason-prop-301-was-971085d751cf

 

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!

 

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!