Here’s a true story: Every August I walk out of Target with a cart full of classroom supplies. I tell myself the art teacher NEEDS rainbow colored bins to hold supplies at every table! My little artists NEED metallic colored pencils and neon markers! Our teachers NEED that extra container of Clorox wipes! And every August when I walk out of the store I feel that pit at the bottom of my stomach and think to myself, “My husband is going to kill me!” I ALWAYS overspend! Thankfully he never does and manages our budget to allow me to get my classroom set up.
If you live in Arizona, chances are you’ve heard of the grassroots movement called #RedforEd organized by the Arizona Educators United (AEU). According to their mission statement, AEU is a coalition of teachers, education support professionals, administrators, and those who care about the state of education in Arizona. Our goal is to ensure that students have access to highly qualified and experienced teachers, that educators are compensated fairly, and to improve the educational environment in the state of Arizona. This movement is HUGE and just keeps getting bigger. I’ll admit I was a little hesitant about getting involved at first. It goes against my nature to “rock the boat.” But when I started educating myself on the issues and I realized I was making the same amount of money as teachers that had been teaching their entire careers I was shocked. When I started reading the stories about textbooks that were over ten years old and the bindings were falling apart I was sad. And when I heard about schools with no working air conditioning and broken plumbing I became angry. Don’t believe me? Here’s a link:
Things need to change. I am currently in my tenth year teaching art, I have my Master’s Degree in Art Education, I have a Reading Endorsement, and I have even more credit hours past that. By next year I will need to take two more college classes to keep my teaching license current in the state of Arizona. When we moved here from Ohio almost two years ago I took a $12,000 pay cut. I certainly did not go into teaching because of the money, but I’m kind of sick of deferring my student loans more times than I can count. Six months ago we welcomed our baby boy into the world. Our excitement turned to worry when we went to add him to my insurance and found out it would cost us an extra $700 a month. Thankfully my husband’s plan was more realistic.
But this is not about me, this is about our kids! And they are watching, and listening, and LEARNING from this! What are we teaching our future generations if we do not take the proper steps to fix their school buildings, give them challenging and updated curriculums out of their own pockets, and provide them with qualified teachers and staff? In my opinion, I feel like it sends the message “WE DON’T CARE.” I feel like their education is just being thrown away. And teachers, being the kind and compassionate people they are, continue to buy up to date curriculums out of pocket, provide school supplies and sometimes groceries when families can’t provide them, and even ADOPT students who – because of various reasons – have no one to call family or a home.
If you are not familiar with AEU’s demands, I’ve listed them below: (straight from their website Arizona Educators United – Demands)
20% raise for all teaching and certified staff
Competitive wages for all classified staff
Return school funding to 2008 levels
No new tax cuts until AZ per-pupil spending reaches national average
Yearly raises until AZ teacher salary reaches the national average
So why am I #RedforED? I literally have my dream job working as an Art Teacher at the BEST school with the BEST staff with the BEST students! I want to continue sharing my passion for art with my kids. I want my son and my future kids to grow up in a state that VALUES their education. I want our support staff and our paraprofessionals to feel like they are worth more than $10 an hour. (Seriously they are the unsung heroes working with our special needs kids!) And I am PROUD to walk FOR our kids on Thursday at the Capitol with my fellow teachers and supporters.
For anyone wanting to find more information on the #RedforEd movement or further educate themselves, please visit the Arizona Educators United website! Please help us inform the public with the facts!
Anyone looking for childcare options: there are a lot of Facebook groups compiling lists of activities and/or programs that will help give parents options. Here is one: Hulafrog North Phoenix
Any supporters looking to help donate non-perishable food items to food banks and family resource centers to help families in need during the state-wide walk out – please check with your nearest school district as many are holding food drives.
And if you are a supporter…. tell a teacher how much you appreciate them!