The teacher walkout continues for a fifth day, and President of the Arizona Federation of Teachers Ralph Quintana explains why and when it may stop.
The Glendale teacher says he doesn’t really know when it will stop because the legislature refuses to address the teachers’ other demands besides salary. They are pushing for more money in the classroom because the simple truth, Quintana says, is that teachers don’t have what they need to do their job.
Quintana gives the example of all-day kindergarten being funded at only 50 percent right now. As a result of that, kindergarten classroom sizes are in the 20s when they should be in the teens.
A lawsuit has been filed that addresses the need to get back the missing $1 billion for site classroom and capital funding – the remainder of $1.4 billion cut from education early in the recession. Classroom funding goes toward buildings and maintenance while capital funding provides curriculum, materials and other resources.
“It’s not surprising to me that many districts did what my district did and chose to close,” Quintana says. “It protects us from any kind of litigation.”
Governor Doug Ducey’s proposal to give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020 is an undeniable win even if it’s not clear where the money will come from. Quintana says that even if that proposal does pass, his worry is that it won’t stop teachers from leaving the profession or the state.
“We’re still going to have teachers leaving in the middle of the school year and having to rely on long term subs,” Quintana says. “It’s just not enough. It’s not going to help what we’re dealing with in the classroom.”
To make up for the loss of school days, West Virginia and Oklahoma got rid of their early release days or added additional days at the end of the school year. They are going to keep graduation on the same day to not interfere with family plans, but the students will be given their certificate at a later date. Arizona is looking to go in the same direction.
Quintana says he thinks the teachers are starting to push the public’s patience. He says if the Ducey’s proposal goes through, he sees teachers being under pressure to take the win and go back to the classrooms.