This past Wednesday, by the thousands, Arizona teachers and students alike started their school day wearing red. A common enough color, yet all on this most auspicious of days for one reason alone. A movement known as RedForEd.
RedForEd began as a humble twitter discussion and facebook post over a very simple issue. Arizona teachers are underpaid. Not just the teachers, but the schools in general recieve near nil from the State government in ways of funding. Arizona is now dead last in the nation for school funding and still fifteenth in population, that struggles to keep pace with the rest of the nation.
Governor Doug Ducey has notoriously shot down demands for fund redirecting to schools, requirements for teacher pay, and released a blatantly lying ad campaign across television networks claiming that Arizona held education as their top priority, and took great pains for their teachers.
The destitute teachers sitting at home, where not amused.
The fact of the matter is schools are given a pittance to work off of. Budget cuts have become an exponentially increasing threat since 2009 where the standard that held us roughly afloat was lost. Still, the phrase, “budget cuts,” is a little too general. Here is what it really means.
As of now, the average starting wage for a teacher in Phoenix Arizona is thirty-two thousand dollars a year, meagerly above minimum wage and still below the salary of the QT manager working down the street.
Bonds for tens of thousands of dollars are directed away from classrooms to continuously repave parking lots while teachers pay out of pocket for classroom supplies. On the harsher end of the scale, teachers and courses are dropped entirely no matter how many years of their lives they had dedicated to their students.
A large amount of teachers work second jobs to support their families, or even themselves, when the teacher’s salary fails to. Many resort to abandoning the education profession entirely for a more profitable career, leaving their students to completely unqualified substitutes who will cycle in and out throughout the year.
The charter school trend that is coming about from lack if public funding would strip the already underpaid teachers of the benefits they depend on to have enough left over at the end of the school year to put food on the table over the summer.
The conditions are perturbing at best. It is one thing to pay minimum wage for entry level jobs but teachers are vastly more important to society than the legislature seems to understand. Education is the key, the great hand that levels the playing field and gives an opportunity to every hungry soul who seeks something more. Education is what gives the chance. In Arizona of all places, that is all anyone can ask for. America, the land of opportunity, the destination for which millions have travelled miles upon miles, fight tooth and nail for the chance at a chance. The opportunities that lay here.
Every single one of them is out of reach if education is taken away. It is no big secret that Arizona has a massive immigrant population, all coming here for that chance; so how can we justify taking that away. Teachers embody the hope we all strive for and the pathway to fortune. They go into massive amounts of debt to receive their degree so that they might provide hope for the hundreds of students that will pass through their class every year.
And it is for these reasons that at four pm, on wednesday, march twenty eighth, thousands of educators and students banded together in red shirts, waving signs and cheering, “we will win,” outside the capitol building. Demanding a twenty percent wage increase, amongst other things. All done with the fear of arrest at any moment, losing their jobs even in the right to work state that Arizona is. But to the words of Noah Karvelis and Dylan Wegela, They stayed strong and made their demands to the active legislators just inside the building behind them.