Teachers behind #RedForEd protest ‘in awe’ of support, plot next moves
Teachers across Arizona participated in the #RedForEd movement that protested low wages for teachers.
Wednesday's #RedForEd protest, arguably the largest demonstration of Arizona educator unity in recent history, started with a group of teachers spontaneously banding together on social media.
The teachers over the weekend created Arizona Educators United, a private Facebook group that in a few days grew to more than 24,000 members.
They used the site to encourage teachers and education supporters to wear red Wednesday to protest the low pay they say has inhibited the state's public schools ability to attract enough qualified teachers.
Who are the organizers?
Noah Karvelis, a K-8 music teacher at Tres Rios Service Academy in Tolleson, said the organizers of the grassroots Arizona Educators United movement are all educators who've had little to no experience in political organization.
The group of about a dozen includes Karvelis; Dylan Wagela, a middle-school teacher in the Cartwright School District in west Phoenix; Derek Harris, a middle-school band teacher in Tucson Unified School District ; Rebecca Gareli, a Phoenix seventh-grade science teacher; Catherine Barrett, an educator in the Phoenix Union High School District; and Vanessa Arredondo-Aguirre, a Phoenix third-grade teacher.
Karvelis, 23, and Wagela in a Wednesday evening Facebook video said they first met in person this week. Karvelis later said some of the group's organizers have communicated online but have yet to meet face to face.
Karvelis and Wagela said they were amazed by the number of educators and supporters who participated in the Wednesday demonstration.
"We’re in awe of everything that’s happened," Karvelis said in the Facebook video.
Said Wagela: "This is our moment. Our students need it. Your fellow teachers need it."
Organizers of the #RedForEd protest have described the effort as the "first step" in mobilizing teachers for further action.
Hundreds of educators have discussed the possibility of a strike on social media, with many of them saying they've been galvanized by the efforts of their colleagues in West Virginia. Legislators in that state committed to boosting West Virginia teachers' pay by 5 percent after they staged a nine-day statewide strike.
Organizers have noted the possibility of a teacher strike, though have said they are not currently prepared for such action.
Much of the focus from organizers appears to be focused on setting up an infrastructure of leadership, including finding teacher representatives from each school who could then keep their co-workers updated on future plans.
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Wednesday's protest showed "how much teachers really care about these issues and how much they care about each other," Karvelis said in the Arizona Educators United Facebook video.
"It’s been really, really powerful and it’s only growing. This is only the beginning. I hope everybody’s in it for the long haul.”
Many teachers in Arizona are getting second or even third jobs to make ends meet. The state ranks near the bottom nationally for teacher pay.