Tuesday, May 29, 2018

My Thoughts on #RedforEd

Greetings! If you are old to the blog, then I apologize for the next paragraph which will be boring to you. If you are new and just here because it looked like an interesting post you, here's a brief summary of me and how my life relates to #RedforEd movement.

I'm a substitute teacher for a public school district in Arizona. In addition to that, I also offer private music lessons because that's what my educational background is in. I also am a catechist, which is a fancy Catholic word for religious teacher. We're having Vacation Bible School next week, and somehow I was "promoted" to being the small groups leader. I don't know how that happened. I just volunteered and shrugged my shoulders when the Director of Religious Education asked me what I wanted to do. 💁

Okay two paragraphs, regular readers. Beyond all that education experience, I have two children, each with their own varied special needs, that attend public school. So the #RedforEd movement affects me both as a teacher and a parent. Or rather it doesn't.  But I'll get to that.

The facts as I understand them:
So a group of educators and administrators called Arizona Educators United decided in April to hold a walk-in. Once a week, I think it was on Wednesdays, teachers and staff were encouraged to don red t-shirts. They were upset with the way education was being treated in the state and wanted to bring to light the poor pay and insufficient school funding.

This then escalated to at the end of April. There was a vote to strike. They called it a walk-out, but that's poor wording. A walk-out implies that you show up to work and then walk-off the job. Instead the teachers just notified their respective employers (this is an important part to remember) that they weren't coming in to work.

The strike started on a Thursday and educators showed up in droves to Phoenix, which is the capital of the State of Arizona, from all over the state (this is also important to note). They were demanding that the governor do something about education (again important to note).

Because of the strike and a number of substitute teachers also supporting the strike, schools were forced to close. The strike varied in length. Vail School District, for example, returned to work on Wednesday May 2nd. My school district returned to work on Friday, May 4th. 

Click here for the specific list of demands. It's important to note that the governor/legislator passed a budget that allowed for a 19% increase for teachers, a small increase for administrators, and decrease of counselor to student ratios. None of the other demands such as decreased classroom sizes were met.

Those were the facts, here's the reality and my opinion of it:

The movement appealed to the public. It tried to paint itself as attempting to improve education for Arizona and that the teacher pay increases were just a part of that. Yes, it's nice to attract good teachers, but there really wasn't any big improvement to education beyond that. The strike simply stopped once the budget for the teachers was passed.

The two people spear heading the movement have been in Arizona for roughly 1-2 years and are teaching under a new law that past in 2017 which allows certified teachers from other states to teach in Arizona under a provisional license.  In other words, they aren't fully certified teachers, and they haven't lived in Arizona very long. But they road the wave of teacher's strikes that have swept across the country.

It looks to me that they weren't so much into revamping education as they originally said they were.  On top of that several substitutes I know were very much for it. Except none of their demands include substitute teacher pay increases. Subs, in most of the state, are independent contractors or work for a sub (no pun intended) company that the individual school districts hire. They are not technically district employees even if they move about in a particular district. So I don't understand why people believe some trickle down effect would happen. It won't because they districts have to tighten their belts to now afford regular teacher salaries.  Or more subs are going to be used in the long term in lo of new hires.

Furthermore the strike on a state level makes absolutely no sense. Teacher's salaries and budgets are made at the district level.  Let me repeat that. It's made at the district level. And if you don't think this makes a difference, let me expound on that a bit more with examples.

My children's school has a computer lab. The schools that I sub for have a classroom set of lap tops in every classroom. My children go to school in a middle class school but the vast majority of the students in the rest of the school system are at or below poverty level. I think my husband is one of the only parents with a PhD. A number of the parents are immigrants and many don't speak English. Even though that is the case the "specials" they offer are music, PE, STEM, and computer. In contrast, the school system I work in offers PE, music, art, and Spanish. Computers are integrated into the regular classroom setting. Some of the schools offer Spanish immersion or Chinese Immersion.  The school system I work for is comprised mainly of upper middle class to wealthy. They can afford to do that.

So the discrepancies are made a more localized level and not the state level. We even passed a bond in our area to improve school facilities. This money didn't come from the state. It came from tax payers in the area.

I really cannot understand the logic of a number of educators striking at the state level. They should know that that's not how it works. You should start at the school board level and work your way up. But that's not what happened.  And that's why it really failed.

I haven't even gotten to the part where asking for a pay increase makes little sense. The average salary of an Arizona teacher is 48,000 USD roughly. But teachers don't work two months out the year and they get paid over holidays like winter and spring break. I would say that's a really sweet deal in terms of pay with that much vacation. This is why all the whining about needing a second job just makes me want to roll my eyes. "Why, yes, you'd need a second job. You don't work a full 40 hours work week all year long." There are after school programs and summer programs that many teachers earn a second pay check through.  It's not all waiting tables and selling tickets. On top of that, they receive health care and sick leave. I don't know of any job that offers health care and sick leave for only working 10 months of the year.

But of course this is just my opinion of the whole lot of it. I could go into the fact that it was spelled out as being bi-partisan but was only supported by Democrats. I could discuss the fact that the movement really pushed voting for Democrats. I could leave you with the fact that my neighbor works as a Correctional Officers hasn't seen a raise in years, works year round, and works in a hazardous line of work. His wife is not too happy that this is the sword we've fallen on.  Instead I will leave you this link to the Heritage Foundation's Article/Opinion on this disaster. I will note that while agree that teachers should be judged on merit, using standardized testing as a method for evaluating teachers makes me cringe when dealing with special needs teachers and teachers who work with numerous English as a Second Language (ESL) students. Heritage doesn't elaborate, but I wanted my opinion on that score on the record.

Do you have an comments and questions for me? Leave them below. Thanks for stopping by!

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I love to read your thoughts. Thanks for sharing!