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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By:  Kate Peters Guymon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The page in concern is titled:

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

And the statement made is:

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And in case you think this is nonsense, consider the story of the teacher in Yuma, Arizona, who works in California at a teacher, doubling his pay!  https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-education/2018/04/06/yuma-teacher-leaves-california-job-doubles-his-pay/471758002/

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teaching never has a slow day.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

10 Facts You May Not Know About Education in Arizona

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

 

Fact: This is not “NEW” money which is a misrepresentation of the truth. The lion’s share of these monies is restitution for a lawsuit that the state lost, in which Doug Ducey is named as the state treasurer. So, he even knows this is a half-truth. That’s why he always says since 2015 in his public arguments and on the commercials.
http://caselaw.findlaw.com/az-supreme-court/1645559.html

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.azcentral.com/…/yarbrough-tax-credit-…/30894481/

https://www.azcentral.com/…/arizona-legislature-f…/998002001

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

By Philip Brown

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

What does it really cost to live in Arizona?

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

https://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/ 

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

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

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

https://smartasset.com/mortgage/the-cost-of-living-in-arizona

http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2012/01/03/what-does-average-home-owner-pay-mortgage

The question of utilities in Arizona is tricky, something all Arizona residents know well.  The summers are famously hot, but the winters quite mild.  The average cost of utilities (water and electric) is just over $165 according to smartasset.com  (link above).
A family of four in Arizona typically spends almost $875 a month on groceries.  http://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/04013

Medical insurance has been well document to have risen by over 100% since 2014, (http://tucson.com/news/state-and-regional/key-facts-about-rising-arizona-health-insurance-premiums/article_a47dd56a-9d18-11e6-932f-afb173228d09.html) premiums cost a family $7,800 a year in my district. 

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

 

Transportation is just over $800 a month in Maricopa County for a family of four, and taxes are right about the same, just slightly less.  http://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/04013

Let’s throw in $120 for a cheap cellphone plan, $280 a month for student loans (http://www.cicmoney101.org/Articles/Budgeting-for-Student-Loan-Repayment.aspx), and assume there is no unsecured debt involved.


 

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

Mortgage

$1,061

Utilities

$165

Groceries

$875

Medical

$750

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

 

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

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

 

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

Arizona’s growth is outpacing the national growth. 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.

By Jay Figueroa:

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

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

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

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

http://azsba.org/…/uploa…/2017/04/Unrestored-Budget-Cuts.pdf

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

http://caselaw.findlaw.com/az-supreme-court/1645559.html

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

 https://research.wpcarey.asu.edu/…/State-Trust-Lands-and-Ed…

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

https://www.12news.com/…/gov-ducey-dismisses-d…/75-508062936

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

http://www.politifact.com/…/vote-heres-what-you-need-know-…/

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

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

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

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

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

My Take on the Demands

by John Harris

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!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did some research and used this link (https://smartasset.com/mortgage/the-cost-of-living-in-arizona) to calculate the average cost of some basic needs here in Arizona.  Some of these seemed a bit high, others a bit low, but I just went with what I found.

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

I do not believe that is appropriate. 

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

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

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

If you’d like to help our cause you can find information on our website to do so:  http://arizonasworkingpoor.com 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the article about Elisabeth Milich:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/03/15/arizona-teacher-salary/427200002/