By Jackie Gonzalez
We have all heard about the failing education systems across the country. Most recently this has taken the form of strikes occurring in Kentucky, Oklahoma and West Virginia. Teachers who are fed up with low wages, lengthening hours, and increasing costs walked out as one to make their message clear: Higher Pay, More Education Funding. This frustration has been boiling over for years and the tinderbox has been lit.
Teachers in KY, OK and WV crafted messages, gained support, and marched to their respective capitals. In the process they called in sick and walked out for a higher calling. This resonated across the country, with renewed calls by other states for more funding for Education. Due to the limited funds, teachers often have to pay for items for their classrooms out of their own pocket. Some even work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Median pay for Arizona elementary teachers in 2016 was $42,474 per year, compared with $55,800 nationally. In 2014, Arizona ranked 48th in average per-pupil spending at $7,457, compared with $11,066 nationally. What has been talked about at the Capitol is a 1-2 percent raise, paltry when compared to what could be done.
All of that being said, I was dismayed when I found out that Arizona’s plan rolled out to the teachers was a “Walk-In.” This is an event that’s taking place on Wednesday, April 11, before school. Parents are invited to come to schools (including those in Maricopa Unified School District) at 6 a.m. to walk together for the cause, wearing red. This is a sham activity. Don’t get me wrong, there needs to be more focus on education; from better conditions to higher pay to more overall help. This will lead to lower class sizes, lower turnover, and a better student experience. But this activity may not get many parents to come into the schools (most may be at work by the time this happens), let alone cause actual change. We need to plan stronger activities to really hit the point home that we are serious as the other states.
Gov. Doug Ducey and the state Legislature have made it clear that they don’t seriously care about Arizona teachers. This planned walk-in is an effort for the Governor and Lawmakers to appear like they support education, without actually sacrificing anything to get it done.
Jackie Gonzalez is a resident of Maricopa.