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.

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.

/
 

Schools should just be privatized.

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

The school system is outdated and doesn’t serve the needs of students.

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

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

Tuition money should follow the student, not the school.

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

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

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

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

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

Teachers are just greedy.  

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

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

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

Response 1:  Okay, pay me $48,000.  

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

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

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

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

Do we have money for these demands?

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

Why pay for public education when private education is better?

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

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

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

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

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

The 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who will be teaching in Arizona in five years?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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/

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

We need to change their focus.

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

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

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