Teachers began a walkout on Thursday, causing 1,000 schools to close and affecting over 800,000 students. It is unknown how long the walkout will continue.
Governor Doug Ducey announced a proposal to raise teacher salaries by 20 percent by the year 2020, but many teachers don’t believe the plan he is financially sustainable. Educators also want to bring attention to the current lack of funding to pay school support staff, purchase supplies and maintain infrastructure.
“It’s not that the money wasn’t good enough, but where’s it going to come from?” says Erik Francis of Maverik Education. “There’s been a big violation of trust over the last decade when it comes to our governor and legislature about promising teachers more money, but the money never shows up.”
Janine Mernard, a member of the Arizona School Counselors Association, says there is no language in the proposal that indicated a pay raise for school counselors or elective teachers in areas such as art, music and physical education.
Francis emphasizes that teachers aren’t walking out of schools just so they can receive a higher salary. They are asking for funding to maintain and improve school buildings, textbooks and technology, in addition to more support for all school staff. “Education as a whole had been underfunded in this state,” Francis says.
Mernard adds that another demand from educators is no new tax cuts. She says that Arizona currently has the highest student-to-counselor ratio in the country with over 600 students per one counselor.
The first step to gaining teachers’ trust is to have a written commitment and guarantee, Francis says. He says they need more than just a promise and numbers being tossed at them.
“We’re looking for a long term sustainable funding plan,” Mernard says. “[We won’t stop] until our demands are met, and we’re satisfied with the way we’re treated.”