by Fleur Magbanua-Mansur
PHOENIX — The streets of downtown Phoenix became a sea of red on Thursday, when approximately 50,000 teachers — including parents, students, and other supporters of Red for Ed — marched to the state capitol to protest for higher pay and better funding for education in Arizona.
The Red for Ed is a grass root movement started by parents and teachers as a way stand up for public education in the US.
The historic statewide teacher walkout happened, despite AZ Governor Doug Ducey’s proposed 20% salary increase for Arizona teachers over the next three years.
According to a recent study by Expect More Arizona, the wage for valley teachers ranked last in the nation in elementary, while secondary school ranked 49th.
Arizona also ranked poorly in education— 45th among 50 states in the nation this year.
The lack of funding for public school teachers in Arizona caused more teachers to leave the state or the profession itself — just like what happened to this Fil-Am teacher who taught for 13 years, and left in order to make a living.
“I left the profession because I wasn’t making enough money. I just felt that there was not a lot of support from our lawmakers here,” says Christie Cabrera.
Approximately 840,000 students in public and charter schools are affected by the strike. Classrooms in about 99 school districts remained closed because of lack of staff.
Gerry Campos has a senior and an 8th grader in Basis Phoenix, one of the charter schools that closed because of the walkout. Although his family supports the teachers, he said he can’t help feeling worried about the situation.
“If it becomes multiple days, or a week, or a month, then that’s definitely very impactful to the kids as far as education is concerned, especially that we are ending the school year. So I hope it doesn’t get to that point.”
“Whatever the teachers need to do to get the attention and instigate change whatever is necessary up to a point that it doesn’t disrupt our education,” said student Francis Campos.
Nicole Campos is graduating this may. She is hopeful that her graduation day will not be pushed back because of the strike.
“Definitely students will be affected by this because there are so many final exams and preparation going into that so I think it might be an issue if this school year is pushed back a little because we are not meeting the 180 days but I think it’s for a good cause.”
There is no end date for the teacher’s walkout yet. Some of the classes were resumed Friday, while some school districts will open once 75% staff attendance is met.
Meanwhile, Arizona lawmakers will not return to the capitol until Monday.