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.

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.

Take-Away

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.

Consider helping support Arizona’s Working Poor by purchasing a t-shirt or wrist band.  All proceeds fund our programs.

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).

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. https://www.azleg.gov/jlbc/budgetprocess.pdf

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 (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.

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 ?

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. https://www.azeconomy.org/data/forecast-data/

 
Plus, our population is growing as are the number of jobs. https://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/2017/02/21/arizona-economy-population/98197566/
 
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.
https://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/
 
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.

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

Ih8pd.com

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.

 

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. 

SHAME ON YOU!

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.