There is a lot of chatter about teacher pay and the possibility of a teacher strike. People are wearing “Red for Ed” and posting their reasons on social media.
It’s obvious that teachers are frustrated, overwhelmed, and at the end of the rope. I am a teacher, and the problems are large and far reaching. What can citizens do to support and enhance our local schools?
A few months ago, I encouraged you to get involved in your local school and make a difference in the November 7 article, “Schools are about more than test scores.” I hope that many are doing that.
Being in the school with the educators and the students is the best way to get an accurate view of the effects of lack of funding. When I talk with my colleagues, I hear how they struggle to meet the needs of every student every day because they have 30-plus students and a laundry list of standards that must be covered. Administrators are frustrated by the heavy load on teachers and the pressure to perform on standardized tests. Superintendents are juggling state regulations, audits, rising healthcare costs, retention/recruitment of qualified professionals, transportation costs, and delayed building maintenance and repairs. All of this with a diminishing budget.
In February 2018, USA Today published “Geographic Disparity: States with the Best (and worst) Schools.” Arizona ranks 44th in that study. The authors, Samuel Stebbins and Thomas C. Frolich, said, “The large share of ESL students and low graduation rate may suggest Arizona needs to invest more in its education system.” (emphasis mine)
The Network for Public Education publishes a “report card” to “alert the public about whether their state is acting as a responsible guardian of its public schools.” Arizona received an “F” in the areas of professionalization of teaching, resistance to privatization, and school finance; a “D” in spend taxpayer resources wisely, and chance for success; and a “C” in no high stakes testing. Our overall grade was an “F.” (networkforpubliced.org)
When I look at these reports, two questions come to mind: Why did our legislature pass a bill that expands the use of public money in private schools? Why did Gov. Doug Ducey sign that bill?
As I ponder these issues, and many others that effect our public schools, my conclusion is that the citizens of Arizona can make a difference by learning about candidates and voting in elections. According to the Arizona Secretary of State’s office website, midterm elections have a voter turnout of about 50 percent, and presidential elections increase to about 75 percent. The upcoming election in November is a midterm election. We are charged with electing a governor and state and federal legislators. The governor and state legislature hold the key to funding our schools.
You can register to vote at the Department of Motor Vehicles, online at servicearizona.com, in person at the Mohave County recorder’s office, 700 W. Beale St., or mail the form you downloaded from servicearizona.com or obtained at the county recorder’s office.
Education is a political issue, but it is not a partisan issue. I will wear “Red for Ed” every Wednesday because I believe in strong schools for a strong economy. I will vote for candidates that I believe will fight for funding public education.
I urge you to research the candidates and vote your conscience.