#Redfored: Understanding Why Arizona’s Teachers Are Taking A Stand

Let’s be honest. The US Education system is a mess. No matter which direction you look at it from, there’s just one tangle after another: student debt, college tuitions, classroom size, teacher pay, classroom funding, arts programs, mandatory state testing, curriculum standards, the list goes on.

Yesterday marked the third day of a state-wide teacher walk out here in Arizona (technically, 5th if you count the weekend when many teachers spent time either at the capital or canvassing their local communities).  School districts have shut down in an unprecedented move to demand 5 critical items from Governor Doug Doucey and the AZ legislature that are crucial to allow our kids a fighting chance at a decent education. Let’s take a look at these demands.

1.       20% salary increase for teachers. This is to ensure competitive pay with neighboring states so we can keep teachers in our schools. Currently, AZ ranks 49th for teacher pay. With the adjustments for inflation, teachers here make between 11-14% less than they did in 2001. I should note here that the Governor has proclaimed a 20% by 2020 plan. This is, the last I’ve heard, just a statement. There isn’t a cohesive plan for where the money will come from.

2.       Competitive pay for all Education Support Professionals. This means for everyone in the educational system: secretaries, counselors, bus drivers, etc.

3.       Permanent certified salary structure which includes annual raises. Many companies offer this sort of structure. It would go a long way to ensuring the changes we make today are sustainable and that Arizona could remain a competitive paying environment for certified teachers.

4.       Restore education funding to 2008 levels. The AZ Legislature has cut 1.1 Billion dollars from Education spending since 2008. With Prop 301, funds meant for schools were shifted to other areas of the budget.

5.       No new tax cuts until per-pupil funding reaches the national average. Currently, the national average of per-pupil funding is $11,392. Arizona skates in at $7,489.

These demands are pretty straight forward. As of this afternoon, there has been no indication from the AZ Legislature that there will be a vote. A smear campaign has been launched by several conservative lawmakers, most notably, Rep Kelly Townsend who has threatened to leverage a class action lawsuit on behalf of the families impacted by the school closures. There’s even insinuations that these teachers are wearing red because of their obvious ties to Communism.

With a protest that’s gone on this long, it’s obvious how much we as a society rely on the public education system, not just to teach our children, but to care for them. And believe it or not, the teachers do care. In addition to taking their demands to the government, they are attempting to educate the public on why they are necessary. While the opposition is strong, the support is even stronger. Several PTA’s have taken in food donations to get meals together for those kids that rely on the meal programs. Local businesses are offering cut-rate deals for child day camps. Did you know that during the walk out, several Proms still took place with teacher chaperones? Did you know that many teachers are still making lesson plans to make up for the time they were out protesting? Several more are catching up on grading papers. These people are working tirelessly and fighting for your kids’ education.

What are you going to do for them?

I implore you to do your own research on the matter, talk to teachers, talk to your local government, check out the budget that has been proposed. Take a stand. Call Doug Doucey and tell him what you think of this mess and how we can fix it: 602-542-4331 or engage@az.gov


Public School vs. Private School vs. Home School: The Best Way To Train Your Rug Rat

In most modern first world countries, there is a huge debate on schools. Specifically what kind of schools are the best to train your spawn in subjects that have very little to do with real life scenarios. I like to think of them as hypothetical training camps for non-effectual humans.  Really, schools do very little to actually prepare your offspring for real life. But, if you insist on following the rules of the government and making your kid be subjected to the regime approved curriculum, here are some things you need to know about your options.

Public School: This is the most common option utilized by the masses. Public schools are subject to government regulations and approvals. The teachers are paid (poorly) by state and federal taxes. This means they are government agents and should not, I repeat, should NOT be trusted. Anything they tell your child is most likely being recorded and is heavily scripted. (however, you pay taxes, so that would make the government YOUR employee, and, de facto, the teachers as well... Something to consider there). Children in public schools must go at the pace of the slowest learner. This means if your offspring is quick on the uptake, they will get bored rather quickly. Public school is also a place for every one of all walks of life to send their spawn. This means your goober will be exposed to varied influences ranging from “oh, that’s nice,” to “for the love of everything sacred, why would you do that?!” Your child would be able to pick up any range of habits based on their school mates. Public school is a role of the dice.

Private Schools: While not run by the government, they still have to adhere to the state standards for most subjects. They can choose not to teach certain things, but usually this is linked to some sort of religion. Just because they are not sanctioned by the currently ruling regime does not mean they are much better for your rugrat. Instead, you will have someone’s personally held beliefs presented as hard facts. Teachers are typically paid more to care in private schools, but not by much. They do offer a sort of predictable quality in their attendees, though. Usually those who get in are part of a pre-established group (e.g. Catholics). This, I have found, can have a limiting impact on your offspring, making them snooty or smug or any other s- word. Oh, and tuition into private schools is often a LOT more than public school. Ostensibly, it is to pay the teachers more to care, but there is no empirical evidence for that.

Home School: Ah, the DIY of schooling. If you are unsatisfied with the above two options, you can choose to teach your spawn yourself. This would mean hours of lesson planning, research, course guides, disguising chores as assignments, grading, and actually being around and interacting with your spawn on a daily and constant basis. The up side to this is that as long as certain government educational standards are being met, you can teach them whatever you see fit. You can create a mini economy in your home where your happy children are your indentured servants for pennies on the dollar. The down side is literally everything else. Instead of having alone time when the kids would have gone to either a public or private schooling facility, they will stay home. With you. Instead of going out and having fun with your friends, you will be stuck grading or lesson planning or whatever else needs to happen in your own little school. This much time with the parent is also not so good for the child. They can become antisocial, under-developed, and downright unable to cope with modern society. There’s a reason the home schooled kids are often made fun of.

Whatever you decide, remember that it’s your kid. You have a say in what they learn and when they learn it. Don’t be afraid to insist on certain standards, regardless of which option you choose for your offspring’s education.

Education Ho!


***Disclaimer***Azra has been around children for centuries. While not having any of his own, part of being an exiled angel means blending in on earth. As he traveled the earth, he picked up on a lot of parenting practices across the globe. This blog is meant to share his parenting wisdom with a new generation. And to win a bet.

*Note: any advice given is meant to be satirical and not to be taken literally. Please do not exercise it upon any living being, child or otherwise.*