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.

If you’ve seen the movie, A Christmas Story, you undoubtedly remember the scene where the boy is goaded into sticking his tongue to a frozen flagpole, and of course, his tongue sticks to it.

The scene is great because it captures how posturing and speech are involved in our interactions, and how we can paint one another, or sometimes ourselves, into a corner.

Flick: Are you kidding? Stick my tongue to that stupid pole? That’s dumb!

Schwartz: That’s ’cause you know it’ll stick!

Flick: You’re full of it!

Schwartz: Oh yeah?

Flick: Yeah!

Schwartz: Well I double DOG dare you!

Narrator (Ralphie as an adult): NOW it was serious. A double-dog-dare. What else was there but a “triple dare you”? And then, the coup de grace of all dares, the sinister triple-dog-dare.

Schwartz: I TRIPLE-dog-dare you!

Narrator (Ralphie as an adult): Schwartz created a slight breach of etiquette by skipping the triple dare and going right for the throat!

 

If you’re in education, in any capacity, you’ll undoubtedly have heard the phrase, “ … what’s best for kids.”

If you’re not in education, you’ll likely be surprised to hear how vexing that phrase is to teachers!

The phrase is often used in the context of, “I want you to do this, after all, we have to do what’s best for kids, right?”  It’s coercive, manipulative, and rarely used to promote something that has any impact on what’s best for kids. It almost always has to do with what’s best for the person using the phrase.

And, it’s powerful.  I’ve used it myself, a few times.  Like the triple dog dare, it’s a trump card.  The first person to play it tactfully wins.

Let’s talk about what really is best for kids, in the context of education.

  1.  Stable Home Life

I never appreciated how important a stable home life was until I became a teacher.  I believed it was imperative, without consideration, and my wife and I worked very hard to provide a quality upbringing for our daughters.  But I never knew how bad things can turn for kids in the absence of a stable homelife. I’ll not chase this too far, though it deserves an incredible amount of attention, but is just far beyond the scope of what AZWP does.

The vast majority of incarcerated felons are high school dropouts.  The number one reason kids drop out, and this could be argued and dissected many ways, goes back to quality home life.

  1.  Teachers

Education is performed by teachers.  

In a way, I think that says it all.  The end, thanks for coming.

As a society we can provide the best books, facilities, the safest possible schools, the best support staff, counselors, administrators, school board members, the best buses and athletic programs, but the vast majority of kids will not receive a quality education without a quality teacher.

Yet, a quality education can be received by a student in a dangerous school, without textbooks, in a run down facility, without counselors or support staff, with bad administration, and corrupt politicians…if they have the right teachers.  That teacher that’s a source of light in a dark, dark world.

I’ve heard many, and want to tell, stories of those diamonds in the rough.  The story of a bad school in a bad neighborhood, and a kid with the cards stacked against him (or her).  Yet, in the most unlikely of places a teacher reached them, put them on a different path, one that led to prosperity and fulfillment.

If we, as a society, do not attract the right people into education, and then help develop those people into quality teachers (nobody is born a good teacher), and then encourage those people to stay IN THE CLASSROOM, it’s all for not.

Let me clear up a few points.  For a school to function well as a whole, all of the pieces need to be in place.  The top priority though, is the quality of the teacher in the classroom. We need the right people in the classroom doing the dirty work.  All of the other components are important and need to be high quality as well, but the act of educating kids is done by teachers.

The value teachers provide and the baseline perceived quality of teachers have both been under attack for decades.  Teachers are vilified and distrusted, they’re pointed at as the problem in education by textbook and test publication companies, politicians, and sadly enough, many citizens.  I could easily write volumes about each of these sources, their motivations and their proposed solutions. But there’s no need because they all have a common tactic, attacking the value of the teacher.

Teachers will still be leaving, at a record pace, if they do not make a livable wage.  As many have noted, and I’ve explored at some length here on my blog, the state average teacher salary is around $48,000 annually, as reported by the state.  That amount is far from reality when you consider the phrase I used earlier, IN THE CLASSROOM.  For those that don’t understand the reference, there are a lot of people that do not teach students that are reported as teachers.  (I’m not suggesting the services they provide aren’t valuable, but they skew the averages drastically.)

I have been teaching longer than most in Arizona and I’d be dancing in the streets if I made $48,000.  I work my second job to get to $48,000.  I would need another 26% increase over the 10% I just received to get to $48,000. I’m a quality math teacher headed into my 12th year of teaching.

Our current situation is this: #REDforED is trying to get more money into schools, and in my opinion the bar is too low.  We are trying to return to our per-pupil funding levels of 2008, when we were considered “The Mississippi of the West,” for education.

Regardless, once that money goes into schools the first and most important thing that must happen is that teachers need to earn a livable wage.  That’s not to say that other employees should be forgotten and passed over. That’s not to say facilities shouldn’t be updated. It’s not to say better safety precautions are not essential.  The act of education is performed by teachers. All other components support education.

We need enough money for all of those things.  The reality of the situation is that we are not receiving enough money for those things, not even close.

Analogies are risky because they’re always riddled with connections that are close, but not quite right.  The understanding gleaned from analogies is based on different situation with its own set of nuances and relationships and pitfalls are plentiful.  But analogies are powerful and useful in exposing key ideas.  These are all similar in the respect that the primary function of an organization is performed by one role.  Please consider a hospital without doctors, a transportation system without drivers, a computer with a processor, an airline without pilots, a team without players, a band without musicians, a canvas without a painter, a school without teachers.

#REDforED was spurred into existence because of a massive teacher shortage and all signs pointing towards the rapid expansion of that shortage.  Teachers, even after (if it comes to fruition) the 20×2020 deal, will not be staying in education, at least not in Arizona.

If you want what is best for kids, attract the right people into education, support and develop them into quality teachers, then reward and encourage them for staying.

Having quality teachers in classrooms is what’s best for kids. 

Some dead-end towns heft such a weight on their youth that all the dreamers can do is hope to, “Get out of this place.”  We all know these places; once bright and full of promise, and booming with opportunity. But, as times change and factories close, some families remain.

Blue collar is tough when times are good.  When The Mill cuts hours and then jobs, blue collar gets real tough, the kind that hardens people.  The hope, the draw to stay is that things will return back to the good old days. Spring follows winter, right?  

Let’s not uproot the kids, we just bought this place, things will get better …

But they rarely do.  Prosperity, and eventually hope itself, wash away.  

A few generations of this changes people, shapes their outlook and mindset.  The standard of what’s good, better than just getting by, drops a few pegs with each business that closes, each company that leaves town.  Eventually the culture and expectation of the the youth from such places becomes: You grow up, get a job, get married and have kids, the order is optional, but start young.

In many ways, Camas, Washington was  just such a place. Kids graduate from high school, get blue collar jobs, have kids, and stay in the area. The nearest college is over an hour’s drive away, and most of the jobs in the area don’t require a degree.

Christina Snyder grew up in Camas.  Nobody in her family had more than a high school diploma, and they had all lived in the area for over 30 years.  The Snyders are a hard working family, but one that embodies this dead-end town culture. Nobody leaves, nobody advances, nobody breaks the expectation.

That culture we grow up with, the expectations established by history, are powerful and nearly completely unseen in our youth.  They put us on a path and being kids, we move forward, rarely seeing what’s ahead or wondering why we are headed such a way. Once we arrive, we almost never look at how we got in such a place.  

At an early age some seed of a vision, a draw to something more, stirred within Christina. She realized her family was poor, as were her friends and community.  Not all of Camas was this way, of course, but the side of the tracks where Christina grew up, despair and lack of hope was obvious, even to a small child. The stand-in tutor for all of her neighborhood friends, Christina wanted to help her community, want to prove something about herself and her family, make them all proud.  This seed germinated in her heart in elementary school. This child, from an entirely uneducated family and a dead-end town, wanted to become a teacher.

Dear Diane Douglas,

You do not likely remember, but a few weeks ago we met.  You spoke at an awards assembly where Rio Rico High School was awarded the College Board (AP exams) and Cambridge International Examinations (IGCSE) school of the year for the nation among small schools.

In your speech you spoke a few times about how funding for education needs to improve and in particular about teacher pay.  It was a deft political move.  #REDforED was just beginning to make waves and you felt them.  A teacher friend expressed a weight lifted off her shoulders by your words, saying, “It was sure nice to hear the state superintendent talk about the need for increased funding.”

We shook hands, you congratulated me and went about your way.  It was the last I’d seen of you until very recently.

Since then the Arizona Educators United group has exploded to it’s nearly 50,000 current members, and much has happened with the #REDforED movement giving you many opportunities to step in and provide the guidance that only someone in a high level position like your own can do, you’ve done little.  Let’s review:

  • There was a march on the capitol where the demands of the AEU were made.  
    • You were silent.
  • In response to the demands Doug Ducey pushed through more legislation that cuts funding for public education.
    • You were silent.
  • Doug Ducey says that teachers will only get the 1% “raise,” nothing more.
    • You were silent.
  • Doug Ducey calls #REDforED, “Political theater.”
    • You were silent.
  • Over 110,000 people participated in Walk-Ins around the state, showing incredible solidarity.
    • You were silent.
  • Governor Ducey comes up with his 20×2020 proposal to pay teachers but not fund education as a whole.
    • You were silent.
  • A plan to vote on a walk-out among educators was developed.
    • You were silent.

Now the line is drawn in the sand.  Both sides are backed into corners.  Now you speak.  The quality and character of your message will be discussed soon.  But first, an observation.

The time where people will hear you has passed.  Your inaction has shown that you serve your own political and financial concerns, not the need of students.  Your silence has been heard loud and clear.  Your statements now, both in timing and quality, only serve to confirm the public has long since known to be true.

Let us address two things that you have said.

  1.  Give the governor time to fix this.

The governor has had years.  You have failed to step in and help motivate change.  This is a stall tactic.  Your opportunity to step in and slow down the #REDforED movement to provide time so that meaningful and sustainable changes could be made has passed.  

2.  Teachers will be investigated fully, teaching certificates can be revoked and teachers can be fired.

Newsflash Diane Douglas:  You don’t need a teaching certificate to teach in Arizona.   (What did you say about those moves by the governor when they went through … oh yeah, nothing.)

You have chosen sides.  Your bread is buttered by the cream taken off  of the top of public education funding, and the knife dives deep when in your hands, doesn’t it?

The strike is upon us.  We will have a lot of work to do.  One of our many jobs will be to address concerns of the public that doesn’t see things our way.  How we do this is probably more important that what we actually do and say.  Keep that in mind.    

Public education is a mess, especially here in Arizona.  While we have the #REDforED movement and the newly created AEU (www.arizonaeducatorsunited.com), if the movement wasn’t named this and wasn’t started by the AEU, it would have had some other name and been made by some other upstart organization.  

This is truly an emergent phenomenon where the relationship between the parts creates its unity instead of a leader.  Even though there is no leader there is behavior that is specific and easily identified.

The condition of public education brought about this movement, not the teachers or those that wish to piggy-back on the momentum and power this movement has gathered to service their own agendas.

There are people pretty far removed from the reality of the nature of education, there are also trolls.  Regardless of who it is you encounter, be respectful, seek to understand their position, and work to establish a good connection.  If the person is a troll and you respond in kind you’ll only provide the trolls with fuel for their fire. Remember, trolls don’t care what burns, they just love a good funeral pyre.  

I’d like to spend the rest of the time you’ll lend me reading this to discuss common objections by level headed people that aren’t on board with #REDforED.  Some of these objections may seem outlandish, inflammatory even, but a good response with engaging in an argument is still appropriate. However, if you feel you cannot respond to comments without anger, it’s best to move along and keep your mouth shut.  

If you have an additional response, or would like to add an objection and response, please do so in the comments below.

Why fund education when there is no return on investment?  (Why throw money at a broken system … that type of question)

Response 1:  If your car ran out of gas it would not run.  Why spend money on it?

Response 2:  Perhaps less snarky:  The government has crippled public education both financially but also with the advent of a bloated and largely pointless testing system and failures of curriculum overhaul and implementation.  The little money we get we have to spend to administer these tests and to integrate these new curricula.

They have had a negative effect on education.  Yet, that is not the fault of the educator but the politician, the same politicians who say, through action and sometime verbally, that education does not need greater fundinng.

I cannot afford more taxes to pay for education.  The governor says he is not going to raise taxes, I support that.

Response 1:  By not funding education taxes on the middle class home-owner will be raised, and government will be expanded…just not directly by Ducey, but in response to his in-action. Schools absolutely need money for building maintenance, textbooks, transportation and equipment.  The state has not provided that funding. In return districts must pass bonds and overrides. A bond is a local tax.

To have a bond a committee is formed, campaign is run and election is held.  This takes a significant portion of the money raised by the bond to pay for the bond.  This is more government and less efficiency.

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Schools should just be privatized.

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

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

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

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

Tuition money should follow the student, not the school.

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

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

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

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

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

Teachers are just greedy.  

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

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

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

Response 1:  Okay, pay me $48,000.  

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

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

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

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

Do we have money for these demands?

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

Why pay for public education when private education is better?

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

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

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

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

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

Dear ASBA,

Instead of #REDforED, you’re #BLUEforCHANGE.  Your actions suggest that you don’t want to see improvements made to education in our state.  By supporting Doug Ducey’s ploy you are getting on board with what appears to be a long-term plan to gut public education.

In a video posted yesterday, that has since been wiped from the internet, the ASBA president begged teachers to trust Ducey as he was, “giving his word,” and, “putting his reputation on the line.”  I don’t have access to the video where questions were being fielded anymore, but the essence of the speech was that Doug Ducey’s given us his word, we should take this and thank him for how far “we’ve” come.  All we can find today about this is in this article here.

What’s at stake here is huge.  First, only teachers are getting extra money, and from sources that seem unacceptable for cuts, like services for the disabled.  Another source of funding for the raise is “budgetary efficiencies,” and schools would have the ability to use “flexible funding.”  All of this is alarming as it’s not sustainable and is language that couches hidden measures.  (Read the article hereand here.)  Second, by cutting capital, which seems to be the game plan (AKA flexible funding), the state won’t be raising state taxes but will be forcing local schools to tax their local communities for building maintenance and the like.  The communities that can afford this because they’re wealthy will be okay, while rural and poor communities will struggle.

This is a blatant tax on the poor.

As for rural communities, I wonder:  What political deals have been swung here?  The Arizona Rural School Association are also on board behind this Ducey proposal.  (Read about that here.)  

This sure appears to be a plan to restructure public education in the same way that our prison system has been restructured…which sure is a golden goose of revenue!

But suppose there was a magic pot of money from “budgetary efficiencies,” and it was sustainable.  The 20% raise by 2020 only addresses teacher pay.  Teacher pay is a symptom, nothing but a sore developed by the cancer eating away at public education.  

This does nothing to address the budgetary short-falls over the past decade which have been well documented.  

It fails to address how the over 1-billion dollar short fall in funding since 2008, our horrible counselor-to-student ratio, funding for new books and building maintenance.  

This proposal by Ducey is designed to pay off teachers, to shut the up.

Those that are supposed to be advocating for education and our students are at best failing to learn from their past mistakes (Proposition 123). 

Here is a list of those currently supporting Doug Ducey.  Are they #REDforED or #BLUEforCHANGE, or the question must be asked, #GREENforPOLITICALGAIN ?

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/

 

 

 

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!