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Families: A Call for Unity with #REDforED 

Jess Ledbetter Current Affairs, Education Policy, Parent Involvment, Social Issues

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So wow: A teacher strike. It’s a lot to take in. No doubt, upcoming school closures are causing families inconvenience and stress. It is difficult to find childcare, rearrange work schedules, and entertain little ones for extra days at home. We live in a very busy society–and this is a very busy time in the school year. It’s enough to put tired parents out of their mind! I totally get you.

Since the walkout announcement Thursday, I have seen frustrated comments on Facebook and Twitter that teachers are “greedy,” that this is “bad timing,” and that the strike will “hurt kids and families.” It’s an emotional time. At this difficult crossroad, I am calling families to do something REALLY hard: Continue to stand strong with the #REDforED movement and consider how these very inconvenient challenges will benefit your kids in the long run. Our state ranks 48th in per pupil funding (that’s $3,300 less per child than the national average). If we are going to get your kids the education funding they deserve, we need to work together!

There are some powerful people who are trying to divide teachers and parents. In this upcoming week, the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) will run $3M in persuasive ads telling AZ citizens that Doug Ducey’s #20by2020 plan is a good solution to fund Arizona schools. The ads will likely say that teachers are turning down a raise and leave out the truth: Teachers reject this plan because it does not increase funding for your kids. If we become divided by misleading information and emotion, we have less strength to improve Arizona schools. More than ever, we have to join together. I think information and dialogue are key right now to keep parents and teachers moving together in unity and advocacy.

First, families should read the #REDforED 5 demands to improve AZ schools for students. Seeing the comprehensive demands can help families understand why Ducey’s #20by2020 proposal is not sufficient—and why teachers feel the strike is necessary even though it is inconvenient and expensive for all parties involved. Further, it’s important to understand perspectives that (1) teachers feel strongly that change is needed in our schools (2) AZ has great difficulty retaining teachers (3) suffering in bad conditions is not a solution, and (4) teachers feel out of other options. These school conditions are bad for your kids. Teachers have voted to strike because six weeks of peaceful demonstrations outside the workday have been dismissed by Doug Ducey as “political theater” instead of beginning solutions-focused conversation about improved school funding.

Second, it’s important for families to understand there is money in destroying public education—big money. I used to think educational reforms came from well-meaning but misguided people. Now I believe there are forces intentionally changing AZ public education to benefit themselves financially. We have seen a huge push for charter schools in this state in the last 20 years under the premise of “school choice.” Recently, the Grand Canyon Research Institute published a comprehensive report stating, “charter schools use taxpayer dollars for questionable transactions.” This report described how charters spend far less dollars on your students, charter executives pay themselves outrageous salaries, charters tend to pay teachers lower salaries, and charter owners often have tricky practices like “renting” the school building from charter board members (for an inflated price). None of these things are regulated by the charter model. Concerning? I think so.

In addition to charter schemes, there is big money to be made from online K-12 public ed. According to the guide Online Learning: What Every Parent Should Know, online K-12 schools often receive FULL per pupil funding but have far less costs (and often uncertified teachers). These people benefit from the destruction of brick and mortar schools. And they don’t want you to be unified with #REDforED. They want to divide us. Public schools really are in great danger, and we have to work together to demand change and social justice for AZ kids. Many families do not have the resources to drive their children to charter schools, commit the volunteer hours that some charters require, or have the option of keeping their child home to attend online K-12 schools. We need brick and mortar schools in AZ!

If you feel strongly about saving AZ schools, the #REDforED movement needs your help now more than ever! What if AZ families showed up in massive droves to the walk-ins that all local schools will be holding Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning this week? Would Doug Ducey and Arizona legislators continue to dismiss the #REDforED movement? Or would they get very, very busy to find sustainable funding for AZ schools? I think increased demonstrations of family support—huge amounts of family support—could make a dramatic difference in avoiding or shortening the walkout. Lawmakers need to see that we are UNIFIED despite attempts to divide us.

Ready to go? Here’s some info! The walk-ins are peaceful demonstrations that start about 30 minutes before the school day. If you contact your local PTA (or similar parent organization), they can give you the specific time and location. Lots of people wear red and bring signs, but you don’t have to. Cars drive by and honk their horns in support. We typically take a picture for attendees to share on social media. Personally, I think they are fun—and a good opportunity to teach kids that getting involved and having a voice matters. Your teachers will be so excited to see you!

You can also help by participating in the social media dialogue. Many people are confused about why teachers voted to strike after Ducey announced the #20by2020 plan. Post information about why the #REDforED demands benefit your kids and why Ducey’s #20by2020 plan is not sufficient or sustainable. Encourage others to show up for walk-ins. Contact our Governor and your state legislators (Find them here). Encourage others to do the same. Together, we can bring change through unity. ONLY THROUGH UNITY. See you out there! Let’s improve AZ schools for our kids!

I welcome your comments below and look forward to the dialogue!

For those interested in reading more, here are some additional facts about education funding in Arizona.

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I teach preschool students with developmental delays in a Title I school in Glendale, Arizona. I am a National Board Certified Teacher (ENS-ECYA), an Arizona Hope Street Group Teacher Fellow Alumni, and a Candidate Support Provider for teachers seeking their National Board Certification. I earned my doctorate in Educational Leadership and Innovation at ASU. My research explored how early career special education teachers collaborated with peers to increase their team leadership skills working with paraeducators in their individual classrooms. I believe all teachers are leaders in their classrooms and possess the skills to be leaders within their schools, districts, communities, and greater context. I am passionate about National Board Certification, mentoring early career teachers, improving teacher retention, elevating teacher voice, and collaborating with a network of courageous educators who passionately advocate for kids and schools. I believe that real-life stories from our schools should inform the policies that affect students, teachers, and their communities. Therefore, I am grateful to have the opportunity to share my stories here. I welcome your comments on my blog posts and hope that we can advance the dialogue together.

Comments 23

  1. Nate Kennedy

    Wrong time for the Teachers to strike. There are better options than walking out. I support them, but if a strike happens, they take ownership in blame with Governor Ducey for this debacle of negotiating.

    1. Jess Ledbetter

      Hi, Nate! We’ve exchanged some messages on Twitter! Thanks for reading the blog and sharing your thoughts! You are right that the timing is inconvenient. It’s unfortunate that lawmakers have not been responsive to the previous six weeks of teacher demonstrations and requests for solutions. It’s also unfortunate that the legislative session is nearly over–and a solution is needed before session ends so AZ kids can receive the funding they need and deserve. If you are experiencing any challenges with child care during the walk out, you might explore if there is a parent group coordinating plans in your community. I just learned that parents in my community are working together to arrange day care options. Perhaps similar things are occurring in other communities. I sure hope so! Let’s all work together to pressure lawmakers for a fast, comprehensive, sustainable school funding solution. I’d love to hear if you attend some walk-ins or email any of your lawmakers :) I know you are already engaging in social media dialogue! Thanks again for the comment!

      1. Jess Ledbetter

        This is a great point. Hopefully, voters can look carefully at all candidates this coming election to choose people who will faithfully support AZ kids and schools. And for those especially upset about the strike, perhaps they can get personally involved in promoting candidates that offer viable solutions for our state.

    2. M_Hawke

      When is a “good time?” There isn’t. What are the “better options?” The better options would be these:

      1) Ducey would be honest and give an honest effort to resolve this.
      2) Ducey would be honest and give a proposal that is not smoke and mirrors and not merely a good sound bite.
      3) Ducey would actually meet with teacher groups instead of other groups that are not affected by any salary rates.

      If there is no strike, what, exactly, do you propose happen to get Ducey’s and the legislature’s full attention to the matter?

      I will be interested in your response.

  2. Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    Also, there will be a huge “Stand Out to Stand Up” event Wednesday evening along Baseline Road from East to West valley. Tons of Mesa/Gilbert/Chandler schools will be out, and also I have seen posts from Tempe. It think word is also spreading west. 4:30-6:30. Find a major intersection in East Valley and you will probably find a place to wear your red with others!

  3. Treva Jenkins

    Excellent post Jess!! Great minds think alike lol. I was working on my blog this past week and it looks like we had the same idea in mind. I did reference your blog in my post because its so important that we educate the public on what we are doing and why we are doing it, especially the upcoming walkout. Having a school closure is very tough on families and I am very sensitive to that fact, but how long have we been fighting and working with our legislators through letters and other outreach efforts and organizations like Hope Street and yet nothing changes, so this is the time. We have to act now while we have their attention…Thanks for the facts….sharing…

  4. Ryan Appleberry

    Teachers aren’t very smart if they are walking out. There are over 90,000 certified teachers. They want a 20% pay increase + 3400 more teachers? That’s over a billion dollars a year to the Budget. You are wondering where 1.1 billion went over 5 years? You cut 1.5 billion over 10 years? Well it would cost 5 billion dollars to give you the raise you are asking for over 5 years. Not to mention your 47,500 income is better then what 80% of Americans make. If you became a teacher to get rich, maybe you should of chosen a different profession. Public Service has never been a get rich sector. It’s about teaching the kids, not the money. The facts above are highly distorted as doing just a little bit of your own research will contradict about everything stated above. Sure do teachers deserve a raise? Ducey proposed a 9% raise and up to a 20% raise. Wasn’t enough It’s greed at this point.

    1. Jess Ledbetter

      Hi, Ryan! I appreciate that you took time to share your perspective. Thank you for reading the blog and contributing to the conversation. Many of your comments above are related to the headline the media keeps running that Governor Ducey has proposed a teacher pay increase (known as the #20by2020 plan). There are many who criticize the plan as being unsustainable and harmful to the state. Also, it’s been more than a week since his proposal and it’s still stuck in the legislature. Perhaps it won’t even pass. Some say Ducey’s #20by2020 plan is simply a publicity stunt to divide the community and make it seem that teachers have no reason to strike. I’m beginning to believe this is true. Worse, I think it’s working. Some people think that teachers are being “greedy” and striking for a HIGHER raise. This is a misconception. Teachers are striking because the Governor’s plan does not address the needs of our schools, such as increased per pupil funding (the money given to schools for each student attending there). If teachers simply wanted a raise, there would be no need for a strike. If you have not already, click on the link above in the blog to read all five of the #REDforED demands to better understand the comprehensive needs for school funding that far exceed a teacher raise. I look forward to additional comments and conversation! Thanks again!

      1. Ryan Appleberry

        Jess, as I said before financially the teachers demands are not possible. It comes down to simple economics. You would have to increase state sales tax 3.4% in order to cover the pay raise alone, yet alone more funding for students. If you truly want the funding you desire stop funding illegal immigrants to go to school. 1 in every 6 students in Arizona is illegal or an anchor baby. This needs to stop. Your classroom sizes would decrease from 30 to 25 your funding per student would increase 17%. In the classroom. Plus the free meals we are providing for those who aren’t paying taxes are additional costs that could go into teacher pay or student funding in the classroom. If classroom sizes decreased by 17% Arizona would be in the top half in the country. If funding per student increased by almost 20% we would be middle of the pact in the country. The government simply can’t support an extra 17% student load and financially be where the rest of the country is at.. you want to solve your problems as teachers. Crack down on illegal immigration and anchor babies. Otherwise the economics of the situation just don’t work, and I shouldn’t have to pay another 3.4% in sales tax to fund a raise teachers are demanding.

        1. Jess Ledbetter

          Hi, Ryan! Once again, I appreciate your time sharing your perspectives and contributing to the dialogue. I looked for a source that supports the 3.4% tax raise statistic you included above. I couldn’t find one. Would you mind replying with a source that others can read? Perhaps immigration is contributing to the children we have in schools and funding issues. This is beyond my expertise, but I know immigration has been part of the national dialogue for a very long time now without any major improvements. We are seeing the same thing in AZ schools: Years are going by without any major improvements. In fact, things seem to be getting worse each year. What should we do for the 5 out of 6 AZ kids who are natural born US citizens that want an education to compete when they join the workforce? I think we need to be focusing on THEM!

          1. Ryan Appleberry

            Really? you need a source for a simple math problem you gave all information too? These are teachers we are talking about and they can’t solve a very simple problem sovling equation? You are looking for a little over 1 billion dollars a year in just the raise for teachers. 90,000 Teachers 20% Roughy 10k + 3400 new teachers. Amounts to just over 1 billion for teachers a year. The 1.5 billion you spoke of you never saw was based on the 1% tax increase Arizona had for 5 years. Now you need about 5.2 billion dollars over 5 years. If 1% = 1.5 billion then 5.2 billion = 3.4%. If the teachers can’t figure out 5th grade math. Maybe they don’t deserve a raise at all. As far as immigration goes. Arizona has the 2nd worst illegal/legal ratio in the classroom in the entire country. Maybe this goes hand in hand with the 2nd lowest $ per student spent. Teachers need to be smart enough to find out the source of the issue and attack that, rather then demanding stuff economically impossible.

          2. Ryan Appleberry

            Jess, If you are complaining about the tone you read into, rather then someone laying out the actual facts for you and being brutally honest. Then I don’t think you need to be teaching anyone. If you are afraid to teach kids brutally honest lessons, then you aren’t preparing them for the real world. This safe space, don’t raise your voice stuff isn’t reality. They are going to get into there first job and not know how to do something they should or do something wrong and management is going to be brutally honest and probably yell at them, or fire them. If you aren’t preparing kids how to handle these situations, then you aren’t preparing them for the real world. You are preparing them for failure.

          3. Jess Ledbetter

            Once again, thank you for your comments. It doesn’t seem that our conversation has been very productive, so I won’t be responding anymore. Kind regards.

          4. Leah Clark

            Hi Jess!
            I want you to know I am 100% in your corner. There is no need to engage with an online bully who clearly has not had the pleasure experience of being a student in an amazing Arizona teacher’s classroom like yours. Ignore the haters. #redfored

          5. Jess Ledbetter

            Thanks for the support, Leah! Fortunately, the REAL truth is out there for anyone with an open mind and heart :) Glad to have the internet at our fingertips!

        2. Angela Buzan

          These are interesting numbers; I’m trying to duplicate them with sources– with primarily right-leaning think-tanks and studies, to your advantage. As far as I can tell, you’re citing a number that includes adult aliens, welfare, incarceration, uncompensated medical care, as well as loss of “probable” tax contributions.

          In rhetoric this is called a red-herring argument. The part where you interpret Jess’s genuine request for a source as her inability to solve 5th grade math: that’s called an ad hominem attack and it’s used when a person lacks topical dialogue and reverts to personal attacks.

          1. Ryan Appleberry

            Lol, excuses and deflection… That’s called out of touch with the realities of the real world and lack of simple problem solving skills. If you deport illegals, and stop allowing there children to use our free school systems, they will have no reason to come here. You can spin it anyway you want. However the facts are facts. When you take the emotion out of it it becomes very black and white. Unfortunately you have muddied the waters and can’t see that. I tried to lay out the cold hard truth, as it is the root of many financial problems for the state. However you want to spin the truth to fit your emotional well being. Fortunately I have the power along with everyone else who voted down the increased sales tax to do it again. So if you really want your demands met, you are going to have to actually admit the cause of the problem, put your emotions aside and rid the school system of freeloaders.

          2. Jess Ledbetter

            Hi, Angela! Thanks so much for contributing to the dialogue and the search for real truth and sources out there :) If I Come across any printed news sources referencing a 3.4% tax increase in the future, I will add them so we can review and comment :)

  5. Ale DisNieland

    Paying teachers more doesn’t mean that the “bad teachers” will become better or that the “good teachers” need the motivation. The point about money is that it has a catalytic effect on a lot of things. One point being is that if you increase teacher salary you change the perception of what it means to be a teacher. Several Republicans in the administration and Legislature now concede that tax cutting got out of hand. (Cohen, et al., 2018). The Red For Ed movement is a binary group in which the intend was not to endorse to vote democrat or republican, but on this occasion people form both parties are coming together to ask all legislators for the same thing which is funding in education even if taxes have to increase.

    Cohen, P., & Gebeloff, R. (2018, April 23). Public Servants Losing Foothold In Middle Class. The New York Times, p. A1.

  6. Lisa Moberg

    Although I read this when you originally posted it, it was a good “reread,” now that we are heading into political season and the “InvestinEd” movement. This is also a new chapter in our teacher movement that requires unity by all stakeholders in education- I hope it lasts for the next 6 months!!

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