By Roger Wagner II
Representative Finchem, Representative Leach, and Senator Smith,
Thank you for representing Maricopa’s local education agencies in the 53rd Legislature. We appreciate the work you have done to improve education funding for your constituents and our stakeholders. Our staff will appreciate the greatly needed raises as we try to appropriately pay our staff and close the $3,000 gap between us and the state average salary. Our students can definitely use the support of the new funding that will fill some of the holes operating at $2,300 per student less than the state average makes.
We see the attempts at progress, we thank you for them, and we will ensure that these funds are used judiciously and with transparency. Our community will be incredibly appreciative of the continued investment in education. They have seen our classrooms that are 10.4 percent more full than the state average, so they continue to invest their time and resources into us.
We have an open invitation to come to your workplace. And believe us, Maricopa did. Around half of the instructional staff of MUSD, along with our colleagues from Leading Edge Academy, Legacy Traditional Schools and Sequoia Pathway, stepped foot on the Lawn. Every single minute of every single committee had a Maricopa educator present or watching. We were even privileged enough to have some of our own speak or meet with Legislators. This most certainly constitutes the largest engagement of educators in Maricopa, in the history of Arizona, and, by some measures, the United States. We are a proud people and we now have a unity that did not exist before.
In the spirit of committed educators, we assessed and we have some feedback we would like to share. This is our Preposition Proposition.
We have learned that some of the most important words in education are the smallest ones. Those words are to, for and with. Each word deals with intent and purpose. Each is unique and can help determine a path forward or provide understanding.
To – To is a unidirectional word. When you do something to someone, your purpose or intent is solely your own. To is a one-way street. To is what happens without consent. To is solitary, but might impact others.
For – For is also a unidirectional word, but for pretends a little bit. For is to wearing a mask. For is to where sometimes the other direction is considered and sometimes it isn’t. Think of a two-way street, isn’t it really just two one-way streets until someone needs to cross? Or worse, until someone gets out of their lane?
With – With is not a unidirectional word. With is what it is like driving in a roundabout. Everybody enters, flows together, and exits when they need to. Preference doesn’t matter in with and direction changes are made with an understanding that they may impact others.
Throughout this week, especially last night and early this morning, we saw Legislators turn around during sessions to say to us, “We heard you and we worked with you to get this.” Some of them added, “It is something, but it is not enough.” While others said, “We are content here.” These Representatives and Senators met with us, talked with us and developed plans with us. We stood with them, regardless of their affiliation.
Then, as if a switch was flipped on Wednesday night, we started to hear things during roll call votes like “We made changes for you,” giving chunks of funds with no designation is “For your best interest.” And the one that really stung, “You should be thanking us. We did this for you.” These Representatives and Senators often did not meet with us, talk with us, or develop plans with us. We turned our backs to them, regardless of their affiliation.
We felt it necessary to solidify our stance regarding politics in response to Sen. Smith’s commentary on partisanship amongst educators. Maricopa #REDforED/Maricopa Arizona Educators United is a non-partisan group. It was formed with that intent, developed initiatives with that intent, and will move forward with the purpose of advocating for education in Maricopa. Our constituency includes all education workers, community members and stakeholders who would like to be involved.
With all of this being said, we would like to extend an open invitation to our classrooms. Come see us work with students. Come see our spaces, places and faces. We look forward to it.
Roger Wagner II is a music instructor at Maricopa Unified School Distirct and a member of Maricopa #REDforED/Maricopa Arizona Educators United.