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Sun, Dec. 15

KAOL teachers were back at work Monday

Susan Chan, executive director of Kingman Academy of Learning, said she met with teachers in advance of Thursday’s walkout to ask how long it would last. They returned to school Monday.
Photo by Hubble Ray Smith.

Susan Chan, executive director of Kingman Academy of Learning, said she met with teachers in advance of Thursday’s walkout to ask how long it would last. They returned to school Monday.

KINGMAN – Nearly 1,500 students and 66 teachers went back to school Monday at Kingman Academy of Learning, one of a few Arizona school districts that have ended the #RedForED teacher walkout.

Susan Chan, executive director of KAOL, called a staff meeting on April 23 in anticipation of Thursday’s walkout and told teachers she was fully in support of their cause, but wanted to know how long they planned to be out of their classrooms.

“The issue for me was we have a responsibility to our students,” Chan said Monday in her district office. “My hesitation in all this is, if we let school out on Thursday, how many days do you want?

“They looked around and said, ‘We only want one day. We only want Thursday.’ I told them I’ll give you Thursday, and we need you back on Monday for the kids and they’re here.”

KAOL, a charter school, and Kingman Unified School District do not have classes on Fridays.

About 55,000 teachers dressed in red marched to the state capitol in Phoenix on Thursday, Friday and Monday, making national headlines along with teachers from Colorado. Teachers in several other states have walked out.

It was “powerful” to watch on television, Chan said.

“I can’t stress enough that our moral duty is to these children,” the Academy director said. “It’s fine for teachers to gather and try to make a difference. Because of what we saw Thursday, that’s going to make a difference.

“My thought is we have elected officials and we need to communicate what our needs are, what we as constituents would like them to do. We put them in office, and it’s our job to communicate with them.”

Arizona’s walkout continued for the third day Monday, and uncertainty looms over how long it will last. Some districts, including Casa Grande, Cave Creek and Fountain Hills, announced they would resume classes on Monday.

Pay is the biggest issue, with Arizona reportedly ranked 49th for average teacher salary. Teachers have been promised a 20 percent increase from the state Legislature, but the budget was being worked on Monday and many are wondering where the money will come from.

Gov. Doug Ducey, who spoke Saturday at the Mohave County Republicans’ Patriot Dinner in Kingman, announced that the Legislature has reached a deal to increase teacher pay without raising taxes, but no details have been released.

Chan said she emailed Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, and received a reply that lawmakers were in the final stages of formally approving the budget, and that “you’ll be pleased.”

Academy teachers start at $31,750 a year, Chan said. She could not provide an average for teachers across the primary, intermediate, middle and high schools.

She said it’s becoming extremely difficult to recruit new teachers, and there weren’t any applications this year.

“That’s kind of scary,” Chan said. “Part of it is the pay. A lot of teachers come out of school with a lot of loans and you’re looking at making $31,750. You’ve got to go to a state that pays $10,000 more if you want to pay off student loans.”

A lot of Academy teachers have to work second jobs just to make ends meet, she mentioned.

Arizona’s education funding has not kept pace with inflation. The state has never been in the upper half of the nation, but it wasn’t ranked 50th, she added.

“We were funded to where we could give raises and pay for increases in utilities and increases in gas for the buses, but that’s become harder to do in the last 10 years,” Chan said. “I hope we can turn the corner and at least be on the upward side of where we need to be financially.”

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