An estimated 75,000 teachers, school support staff, students and community members arrived at Chase Field on Thursday to march to the state capitol and rally in support of funding for public schools.
The rally will continue Friday, though with no march. It is unknown how long the teacher walkout will continue, causing over 800,000 students to participate in a mock snow day. Many schools have already announced they are preparing to add extra school days to the end of the semester to make up for the lost days.
Related: Legislators respond to over 1,000 schools closing as teachers stage a walkout
“I think a lot of teachers are prepared,” Amber Gould, high school teacher and president of the Glendale Union Education Association, says. “I know that we have had a lot of conversation and teachers were informed about possible discipline all the way to not receiving a paycheck. This is stuff we knew about in advance. We knew the risk we were taking. The risks are worth it because our students are worth it.”
Governor Doug Ducey met with about a dozen teachers, none of whom were on the appointed negotiations team for the teachers. Gould says it is important that he’s listening to educators, but he’s avoiding the ones that teachers have collectively asked to speak with him.
Related: President of the Arizona Education Association explains the teacher strike
Gould emphasizes that the walkout isn’t just for higher teacher salaries. She says that they won’t quit until his plan includes methods of increasing pay for the support staff and putting more money into the classrooms for new resources.
“We’re not here for him to just buy us out as teachers,” Gould says.
Ducey’s three year plan to get the teachers a 20 percent raise is a good start, but it doesn’t go far enough, Gould says. He needs to provide a sustainable way to give teachers the increase, raise salaries for support staff and return the one billion dollars that were taken from public education due to the recession. Not until then will the rally stop, she says.
TED SIMONS: JOINING US NOW TO TALK ABOUT TODAY'S TEACHER WALK-OUT AND WHERE THIS ALL GOES FROM HERE, IS AMBER GOULD, A TEACHER AND PRESIDENT OF THE GLENDALE UNION EDUCATION ASSOCIATION. SHE WAS AT TODAY'S MARCH AND RALLY. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.
AMBER GOULD: THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.
TED SIMONS: WHERE DOES THIS GO FROM HERE?
AMBER GOULD: WELL IT GOES ON TOMORROW. WE CONTINUE WITH THE RALLY AND IT CONTINUES WHEN WE CALL OUR REPRESENTATIVES AND E-MAIL THE GOVERNOR AND TELL THEM THIS IS WHERE WE WANT TO ROLL. IF THIS NEEDS TO CONTINUE, WE'LL CONTINUE UNTIL WE HAVE AN AUDIENCE.
TED SIMONS: ARE TEACHERS PREPARED FOR IT TO CONTINUE?
AMBER GOULD: I THINK A LOT OF TEACHERS ARE PREPARED. THESE ARE THINGS WE DISCUSSED IN ADVANCE. WE KNEW GOING INTO THIS THE RISKS WE WERE TAKING, BUT THE RISKS ARE WORTH IT BECAUSE THE STUDENTS ARE WORTH IT.
TED SIMONS: WHERE AND WHEN DID THE MARCH START TODAY?
AMBER GOULD: THE MARCH STARTED DOWN BY THE DIAMOND BACK STADIUM. WE WALKED ALMOST TWO MILES TO THE CAPITOL. IT WAS A FANTASTIC ENERGY.
TED SIMONS: I WAS GOING TO SAY, WHAT DID YOU SEE ALONG THE WAY?
AMBER GOULD: A LOT OF FUNNY GOOD SIGNS, LET ME TELL YOU. TEACHERS AND SUPPORT STAFF GET CREATIVE WITH SIGNAGE. IT WAS PEOPLE HAVING FUN, BEING TOGETHER, KNOWING THEY ARE HERE FOR A CAUSE, AND CELEBRATING THE SENSE OF PURPOSE BEING DOWN HERE, BEING PART OF THIS HISTORIC EVENT.
TED SIMONS: HOW MANY PEOPLE OTHER THAN TEACHERS WERE PARTICIPATING FROM WHAT YOU SAW?
AMBER GOULD: IT'S HARD TO TELL WHEN YOU ARE WEARING THE SAME COLOR, BUT I RAN INTO SEVERAL COMMUNITY MEMBERS, STUDENTS -- CURRENT STUDENTS AND FORMER STUDENTS, RUNNING INTO ADMINISTRATORS AND SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS. WE RAN THE GAMUT. IT WAS EXCITING TO HAVE THAT MANY PEOPLE SUPPORTING THEIR CAUSE.
TED SIMONS: COULD YOU TELL THE HEAT WAS BECOMING A CONCERN?
AMBER GOULD: THERE WAS A SIGN I READ SOMETHING ALONG THE LINES OF, I WISH THE TEMPERATURE WAS LOW AS MY SALARY. I THINK PEOPLE WERE FEELING THE HEAT, BUT WE KNOW IT'S ARIZONA. WE WERE TELLING PEOPLE TO BE PREPARED, DRINKING WATER, BRINGING SUNSCREEN.
TED SIMONS: YOU MARCHED TO THE CAPITOL. YOU WANTED YOUR VOICES HEARD. STATE SENATE ADJOURNED TODAY UNTIL MONDAY, WERE YOU AWARE OF THAT, A, AND B, IF SO, YOU’RE THOUGHTS?
AMBER GOULD: WHAT'S INTERESTING, IF THEY ARE AGAINST US WALKING OUT, AND THEY WALKED OUT WHEN THEY HAVE A JOB THEY SHOULD BE DOING, IT IS WHAT IT IS. I GET THAT THEY ADJOURNED. HOPEFULLY, WE HAVE GIVEN THEM A LOT TO THINK ABOUT NOW TO MONDAY BECAUSE THEY HAVE WORK TO DO WHEN THEY RETURN.
TED SIMONS: GOVERNOR'S OFFICE SAYS THE GOVERNOR MET WITH TEN EDUCATORS TODAY. ENCOURAGING NEWS?
AMBER GOULD: WERE ANY OF THEM NAMED JOE THOMAS OR PRESIDENT OF THE ARIZONA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION?
TED SIMONS: DOESN'T SOUND LIKE IT, NO.
AMBER GOULD: THEN THEY ARE NOT THE PEOPLE WE REQUESTED TO BE ON THE NEGOTIATION'S TABLE FOR THIS. WE WANT NOAH AND JOE TO BE PART OF THOSE CONVERSATIONS. THE GOVERNOR IS REFUSING TO DO SO.
TED SIMONS: THE HOUSE IS SAYING AND PEOPLE IN THE SENATE AS WELL, THERE ARE VOTES FOR THE GOVERNOR'S PLEDGE TO INCREASE 20% IN THE NEXT THREE YEARS. IF LAWMAKERS MONDAY, OR WHATEVER THE CASE MAY BE, IF LAWMAKERS PASS THE 20% PLEDGE BY THE GOVERNOR, DOES THE WALKOUT CONTINUE?
AMBER GOULD: THE 20% IS TALKING ABOUT TEACHERS. WE SAW WITH 1% THAT HIS DEFINITION OF TEACHER IS SMALL. IT DOESN'T COVER SOCIAL WORKERS AND SUPPORT STAFF AND OTHER PEOPLE THAT MAKE IT SO OUR STUDENTS SUCCEED IN PUBLIC EDUCATION, SO WE ARE NOT JUST TALKING SALARIES. WE WANT MONEY IN OUR CLASSROOMS FOR RESOURCES AND THINGS LIKE TEXTBOOKS, WITH IT BEING THIS HOT OUT, A WORKING AIR CONDITIONER. THESE THINGS ARE IMPORTANT TOO. THE PROBLEMS WE ARE SEEING WITH THE PLEDGE OR PROMISE AT 20%, I HAVE FRIENDS WHOSE KIDS ARE SUPPOSED TO GO TO COLLEGE NEXT YEAR. THEY CAN'T CALL THE UNIVERSITY AND SAY WE PROMISE THEY'LL HAVE THE FUNDING NEXT YEAR. WE NEED A WRITTEN DOCUMENT. WE DON'T HAVE THAT YET.
TED SIMONS: IF IT'S SIGNED, THE WALKOUT CONTINUES AS IT STANDS, THE GOVERNOR'S PLAN NOW?
AMBER GOULD: IF THE GOVERNOR'S PLAN DOESN'T SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS OR PUT MONEY INTO THE CLASSROOM AS WELL, WE ARE NOT HERE FOR HIM TO BUY US OUT AS TEACHERS.
TED SIMONS: THE GOVERNOR SAYS IT MAKES NO SENSE TO HIM IF THE STRIKE CONTINUES IF THE PAY RAISE GOES THROUGH.
AMBER GOULD: IT MAKES NO SENSE TO ME THAT HE IS NOT WILLING TO SIT DOWN AT THE TABLE WITH THOSE OF US MARCHING DOWN THE STREET.
TED SIMONS: SO THE WAY YOU SEE IT, RELATIVELY BLACK AND WHITE. ARE THERE SHADES OF GRAY OR IS IT A BLACK AND WHITE THING? YOU HAVE TO INCLUDE THESE PEOPLE AND OTHER DEMANDS OR IT'S A NO GO.
AMBER GOULD: FOR ME, THAT HAS TO BE PART OF THE DISCUSSION. RIGHT NOW, NOT. UNTIL WE DISCUSS THAT IN THE CONVERSATION, AND MAYBE NOT JUST THIS YEAR, IT COULD BE OVER TIME, BUT WE NEED TO MAKE SURE FUNDING IS PERMANENT. THAT'S THE BIGGEST THING, WE CAN'T ACHIEVE SUPPORT FOR OUR PROFESSIONALS UNLESS WE HAVE A PERMANENT REVENUE SOURCE.
TED SIMONS: ALL RIGHT, AMBER GOULD, TOMORROW THE RALLY AT THE CAPITOL BUT NO MARCH, CORRECT?
AMBER GOULD: WE ARE CERTAINLY GOING TO BE AT THE RALLY.
TED SIMONS: ARE TEACHERS RISKING THEIR JOBS WITH A WALK OUT? WE'LL ASK SUPERINTEDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION DIANE DOUGLAS WHEN WE COME BACK.
Amber Gould: High School Teacher and President, Glendale Union Ed Assoc.