Valdez: Why talk of an Arizona teacher strike terrifies this teacher's wife
Noah Karvelis and Dylan Wegela, both teachers and leaders in Arizona Educators United, list their demands during a #RedForEd rally at the Arizona state Capitol. David Wallace/azcentral.com
As a teacher’s wife, I take Arizona’s decision to starve public schools very personally.
And I find talk of a teachers' strike very scary.
Don't get me wrong, I’m very glad to see teachers organizing and making reasonable demands for fair pay.
Teachers do God's work
As Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva puts it: "Teachers do God's work."
That's good because in Arizona, they are going to need divine intervention.
The public has long demonstrated support for education while electing leaders who continue to cut taxes and starve public schools.
Which side are the people really on?
After all, nobody who voted for Doug Ducey could be surprised to see him perpetuate policies begun by previous GOP governors – policies that cut taxes, reduce revenue and leave the state without the resources to properly fund education.
GOP wants us to forget how we got here
Yet these days, even the tax-cutting politicians talk about the importance of teachers.
They want the public to forget that GOP policies and GOP choices are the reason our schools are in such a deep funding hole that getting out demands huge sums of money.
Giving teachers the 20 percent raise they want would cost about $680 million, according to reporting by The Republic’s Ricardo Cano.
And it would still leave Arizona’s elementary school teachers – like my husband – below the national average.
The cost of fixing this is enormous
Restoring state education funding to 2008 levels would cost about $1 billion.
That’s a lot of money.
Ducey brags about his budget proposal because it calls for $400 million in education funding. Yet 30 percent of that is required spending to cover inflation and student growth.
His budget would give teachers a 1 percent raise this year, on top of another whopping 1 percent last year.
Making a real difference means raising taxes.
Will people stand with teachers?
That’s why I’m scared.
If push comes to strike, will people stand with the teachers? Will they recognize that the crisis facing Arizona education is of Arizona’s making?
Or will they turn on teachers and dredge up that old dreck about how teachers work short days and get summers off?
I know what teachers do for this state.
Here's the reality of teaching
I see my husband put in all those extra night and weekend hours creating materials and doing other student-centered things.
I hear his stories about the children who have few resources and huge challenges.
When he gets a new student, he always says: “Such a nice kid.”
To him, they are all nice kids.
He thinks teaching is a noble profession
He stays late to accommodate parents who can’t get time off work for parent-teacher conferences.
He gets to work well before school begins to make sure his class is inviting and conducive to learning.
In short, he does what so many teachers do.
He acts like teaching is a noble profession, which it is.
After years of being treated like unskilled labor, teachers are demanding better.
Teachers must fight the propaganda
I’m glad. I’m proud.
But it scares me because teachers need the public behind them.
Grijalva, a former school board member, says he thinks the public will stick with teachers even if they strike.
I'm not so sure.
Politicians who have been cutting taxes have a rich and powerful forces behind them. Those deep-pocket brothers can pump out propaganda to discredit teachersand convince people that there really is no problem with how we treat public schools.
They have already done so.
Yes. The teachers have right on their side.
I hope that’s enough.
Reach Linda Valdez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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