While the spotlight has been shining bright on teachers during the largest-ever strike in Arizona history, there is more to their demands than money for themselves.
Two of the more popular arguments against the teachers and the walkout are:
1) Teachers are just being selfish and;
2) Teachers are walking out on our kids.
The Daily Miner editorial board is labeling these arguments as false.
If teachers were being selfish, not only would the walkout be over, but the walkout would have never started. Gov. Doug Ducey has offered the teachers a 19 percent (he gets to say 20 percent because of the 1 percent he offered earlier this legislative session) over the next three years, including an immediate 9 percent raise this year.
Selfish people would have accepted that deal and moved on. A 12-year teacher at Kingman Unified School District signing a contract of $34,000 for this year would have seen that amount increased by $3,060 from the governor. However, teachers in this situation have continued to say they will be continuing to strike. We find it impossible to label them selfish.
Arizona Educators United and the teachers are walking out over five core demands:
1) The 20 percent increase in teacher salaries that will make Arizona competitive with other states and can be a tool into cutting down the 2,000 teaching vacancies currently in our state.
2) Restoring per-pupil funding for Arizona public schools to 2008 (pre-recession levels). Arizona’s government has withheld more than $1 billion from education funding from that time, including KUSD’s shortfall of more than $3 million this school year alone.
3) Competitive pay for all education support professionals, those counselors, reading specialists, lunchroom aides and custodians who are instrumental to bringing about a quality educational experience for our children, but are not included in Ducey’s plan.
4) A salary plan that provides an annual raise. They only want a system in which they can earn raises and not be beholden to lawmakers and governors who have been choosing willy-nilly not to give any of them a raise.
5) A halt to tax cuts until Arizona’s per-pupil funding reaches the national average. Arizona is third from the bottom in student funding, but there are $13 billion annually given away in tax breaks.
Gov. Ducey has come out over the weekend touting that deal has been reached with 20 percent raises by 2020, a protected base formula for funding, $100 million in additional assistance to districts for textbooks, support staff salaries, and building improvements. That will increase to $371 million over five years, and all without any tax increases.
Joe Thomas of the Arizona Education Association and the AEU are concerned about the details behind the governor’s plan because they have not been released. So are we. Education has been hoodwinked before.
In 2016, educators and voters were talked into Proposition 123 and the selling of assets that belonged to the state education system as part of the plan to pay back the education system for the shortfalls it had experienced from 2008. A federal court recently decided this play by Gov. Ducey was illegal, but the matter is still in the court.
The state of Arizona walked out on our kids when government legislators and governors reached into education funds and transferred monies for what they deemed to be more important items. There is nothing more important than education.
We need our children to be educated. They are going to be in charge when we’re older, and we better be sure they are well-equipped for the responsibility.
Teachers are not walking out on our children. They are standing up for them, and The Daily Miner stands with them. #RedforEd