Why Walk-Out?

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Why Walk-Out?

Kate Ourada

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A few weeks ago, Arizona’s first teacher walk-out took place under a movement known as #RedforEd. This was not some flight of fancy, but a serious action in an effort to combat several long standing issues that had gone unfixed for years.

The walk-out had been brewing for some time after West Virginia staged theirs back in February, acting as a catalyst for frustrated teachers all over the country. It took about two months for the following movement to reach its high point in Arizona, culminating in a 6 school day walk-out. Smaller walk-ins and protests had been taking place leading up to the event, but for a lot of teachers, it was just as surprising to them that such a momentous event was happening as it was to everyone else. Nevertheless, they were united in this movement and something was going to come of it.

There were five goals teachers were fighting for with the #RedforEd movement.

  1. 20% salary increase- According to the Arizona School Boards Association, the median pay for a teacher in 2018 was $46,949, which, for context, is about how much a general manager at McDonald’s also makes a year. With the increase, it would raise salaries to about $56,339, which would still be significantly below the national average, $58,064.
  2. Restore Education funding to 2008 levels- Some of you may remember back when you were in elementary school when budgets for fine arts, libraries, and anything else that was considered “extra” were seriously cut.  According to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, Arizona spends $924 less per students than it did in 2008, adjusted for inflation.
  3. Competitive pay for all education support staff- This includes classroom and administrative assistants, nurses, or bus drivers. Currently, these classified staff members are paid by the hour and competitive pay would help ensure they are being paid fairly.
  4. A permanent salary with annual raises- Many teachers currently find themselves without a raise structure, meaning they could have worked within their district for 15 years and have no way of knowing that their experience and loyalty would lead to an increase in salary the way it would nearly every other profession.
  5. No new tax cuts- Until the per-student funding, currently at $7,489, reaches the national average, $11,392, teachers are demanding no new tax cuts be made.

To reach these goals, teachers took part in marches and protests down at the state capital everyday that they would otherwise be in school. Thousands of teachers gathered, creating a sea of red surrounding the buildings where legislators worked to write the budget for the following year.

When the results came out, most of the goals were not met. On paper, the budget will give a 9% raise to teachers for the ‘18-‘19 school year. In practice, the money will be given to the districts to distribute at their discretion. This could leave many teacher without the raise they fought for. According to The Arizona Republic and based on the state auditor general’s numbers “59 school districts wouldn’t get enough money under the law to give all of their teachers the promised raise.” These raises also only go to teachers in classrooms, excluding all classified staff and teachers like councilors, academic coaches, special-ed resource teachers, and certified librarians. There was also a small funding increase, but no where near what was asked to bring funding up to the 2008 level.

Overall, the walk-out was an incredible show of unity and involvement in the political process. There is a momentum from this movement fueling action for November’s voting season and hopefully then will we see more of what was asked for.