Fighting to make sure things don’t get worse…

Christine Marsh Education, Education Policy

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Maybe we will end this legislative session with little-to-no damage to public schools! For the past few legislative sessions, that’s all I’ve wanted.

Yes, I have extremely low expectations when it comes to Arizona’s public education system as it pertains to politicians’ actions.

As 2016 Arizona Teacher of the Year, I mostly tried to do whatever was in my minuscule amount of power (which was about the weight of a grain of sand) to simply make sure things didn’t get worse. I would have loved to had the luxury of trying to make things better, but that wasn’t possible. There seemed to be little point in focusing on something like “teaching the introverted child” when there were so many attacks on public school funding that every child was at risk, not just the introverted child.

Obviously, it’s not over until sine die (which is when the legislature passes the budget and adjourns for the session), but it’s looking hopeful that voucher bills won’t make it through, that not much with a negative impact on education will make it through, and that some bills with a positive impact may land on the Governor’s desk.

That’s the bright side.

The dark side is that many of us spent many hours pushing back against destructive bills. Even our local reporters did some heavy lifting. I’m not sure how many anti-voucher op-ed’s Laurie Roberts, David Safier and E.J. Montini posted, nor how many fact-based articles that Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Elvia Diaz wrote about teacher pay and voucher bills, but they all helped kill bills. Of that I am sure.

It would take dozens of pages to delineate the various education groups that pushed back and a few more dozen on top of that to discuss all the individuals who pushed back. I will mention one, though: Arizona Schools Now, which is a coalition of many of the education alphabet groups (ABEC, AEA, ASBA, ASA, APN, VIP, AZ-PTA, AEN, AEF, SOSaz), was powerful and forceful in its ability to control the narrative about the need for additional pay for teachers to combat the teacher-shortage.

Imagine if all those man-power-hours could have been devoted something that would make children’s lives better, instead of just making sure their lives don’t get worse?


Christine Porter Marsh

Scottsdale, Arizona

My favorite thing about teaching is watching the lights go on in students’ eyes, watching them getting passionate about traditionally boring things like reading and writing well. This is why I keep coming back. I am in my 24th year of teaching in the same high school from which I graduated, and I still feel like it’s the best job in the world.

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  • Donnie Lee

    That last line, imagine if that many hours went into improving the lifes of children. That’s powerful. And what a lens to put on our view of our current reality. Every hour I spend in advocacy for our profession (which is needed) is an hour that I could spend doing my primary responsibility; teaching my students. I have heard my principal say that she puts the children first. In my head, I wonder, if she would put me first and take care of my needs, then I could put the students first. That’s what the legislature needs to understand, take care of teachers and they will take care of students.

  • Mike Vargas

    Christine, thanks for being such a strong advocate for teachers down at the state capitol. If I have learned anything the last year of being an ambassador with you is that we as public school teachers are not represented nearly enough down there. In all the committee hearings I attended the last few months, fighting for my bill to save Arizona physics, I think I saw public school people in a handful of hearings. However on the flip side, I saw a charter school person, someone from an online school, and a” business education” type person in nearly every single committee hearing buddy-buddy with our legislators at ever corner. If your sitting down there for hours on end as a fly on the wall as I was indeed doing; it becomes very obvious WHY state leaders listen to these people and not us… We have real jobs and are not there to advocate for ourselves..

  • Mike Lee

    Mic drop. Spot on, Christine. I’ve thought about this quite a bit. It’s exhausting for educators to always be advocating for the importance of their work. In what other field do professionals have to deal with the reality that their bosses (local and now federal) do not essentially believe in what they do? Keep up the fight!