State educators continue to pressure elected officials despite Ducey deal

Pictured above: The #RedforEd movement had a broad range of support, including students that joined in on a May 1 gathering on the highway bypass in Globe.

After an historic six-day walkout and tens of thousands of red-clad teachers and their supporters marching in Phoenix, Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill that he said will give teachers a 20 percent increase by 2020.

But educators throughout the state are skeptical of the governor’s claims and the #RedforEd movement has morphed into #RememberinNovember, a movement to change the political winds in the capital via the ballot box.

“Yes so 20x2020 was passed, with lots of ins and outs that will make it not live up to what they claim it is,” Erika Flores said. “Overall, teachers statewide will probably receive around a 4- to 5 percent raise this fiscal year. I highly doubt we will see anything from this particular bill in years 2019 and 2020.”

Flores, a first-grade teacher at Copper Hills Elementary School in Globe, has been a leader in the local actions and spent several days making the long trek from Globe to Phoenix to join in the movement and meet with Ducey to try to convince him to increase educational funding throughout the system.

The movement was not just about teachers’ salaries, but sought to increase spending in the classroom and restore nearly $1 billion in cuts in the past decade that have left Arizona near the bottom in educational funding in the U.S.

The #RedforEd movement received plenty of support from local districts, with teachers and their supporters participating in walk-ins and walk-outs, lining Highway 60 at various times throughout the days of action.

“This is not just about teachers’ pay,” Dee Palmer of the Miami Unified School District said prior to a march on April 26 that saw 50,000 protestors gather in Phoenix. “We need to take a stand.”

Palmer has taught seventh and eighth-grade science at Miami high School for 11 of her 20-year teaching career. She added that the actions of Miami teachers were in support of staff and overall spending increases, as MUSD teachers signed new contracts prior to #RedforEd.

“This is about restoring education in Arizona to the level it should be funded,” Palmer said. “Some of my textbooks are from 1998 to 2000, when Pluto was still a planet.”

Among the demands made by Arizona Educators United, a grassroots teacher-led group, and Arizona Education Association, the state’s teachers’ union, were expanded free and reduced lunches; a redefinition of the word “teacher,” so that all educators received increases in salary; more money for support staff and decreases in student teacher and student counselor ratios.

The groups are seeking 250:1 student to counselor ratios, down from more than 900:1, and 25:1 student to teacher ratios to improve student classroom experiences.

Educators think the current bill does not go far enough and will change — possibly for the worse — once legislators approve next year’s budget.

So the new message is to vote in the primaries for politicians that support increased school spending.

“We’ve got to vote these people out," Flores said. “It has to change, and the voters have to do it.”

A cadre of Miami Unified School District teachers joined protests in Phoenix last month.

Pictured: A cadre of Miami Unified School District teachers joined protests in Phoenix last month.

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