The leadership of the Red for Ed movement clearly understood that the time was right to make needed changes in education funding.
It’s a shame that leadership didn’t help teachers understand the unique opportunity that was being presented.
We say that teachers didn’t know because last week’s walkout accomplished . . . well, pretty much nothing. Oh sure, there’s a 20-percent raise for teachers by 2020, unless the next Legislature decides there isn’t. But that’s it.
2018 was a perfect storm in terms of conditions to effect change. First was a governor up for re-election. A teacher strike would be a significant black eye in a re-election campaign — something that can’t happen again, due to term limit laws, any sooner than 2026 — so Ducey had motivation to get something done.
Then there were teachers finally tired of being paid the worst in the nation, and parents fed up with Arizona’s education being ranked at the bottom of the nation.
Finally, there’s the Trump factor. While Trump’s approval ratings are up slightly, candidates he’s endorsed in special elections over the past two years have gone down in flames. Even the 8th Congressional District, which normally votes Republican by 20 points or more, gave Republican Debbie Lesko a marginal 5-point win in a special election last month.
A motivated governor and a motivated Legislature — every member of which is up for election in 2018 — combined with motivated teachers should have accomplished a great deal. Instead, we have the status quo, because not every teacher walked.
Ducey and the Legislature understood that without 100- percent commitment to a complete shutdown of schools across the state by teachers, there was no need to give in on demands to increase per-pupil funding or increase capital expenditures to repair crumbling schools.
That’s why we say this was a failure of Red for Ed leadership. Too many teachers believed they would harm their students by walking out, so they stayed in the classroom and did their job for too little pay, in overcrowded classrooms, with too few textbooks, most of which are 10 to 20 years out of date.
Had leadership fully explained how a walkout by every teacher would actually benefit students in the long run, we believe teachers would have stayed out of the classroom and meaningful reform might actually have happened.
We received a press release from the Charter School Association, touting how none of its teachers walked out. Of course not; charter schools aren’t under the requirement to hire certified teachers — as the public school system is — so teachers walking away from a charter school face the real risk of losing their jobs. In fact, state law prevents charter districts from giving charter school teachers preference in employment based on tenure or seniority, so walking out is almost a guarantee that the job would be lost because anyone can be hired as a replacement (Arizona also doesn’t require a charter school teacher to have a college degree).
Public schools don’t have that luxury, so a walkout by every teacher would have had a significant impact. And the likelihood of teacher firings because of the walkout would be slim, given Arizona’s teacher shortage — as of the start of 2018, Arizona was short 2,000 teachers, with another 3,000 positions being filled by substitutes.
Yet not every teacher walked. Consequently, teachers who stayed in their classrooms hurt, not helped, the state’s students.
There’s one more opportunity — when the 2018-19 school year starts in August and September. Delaying the start of the school year during the primaries and before the general election might actually bring the governor and legislative leaders to the table, willing to really deal and not just offer lip service.
But it can only work if every teacher is willing to walk out. And that can only happen if the Red for Ed leadership actually leads.
Sadly for Arizona’s schoolchildren, we’re not holding our breath.