We recently had a discussion with a teacher whom we respect a great deal. The talk was about the continued lack of financial support for public schools.
We agreed that more money needs to go to public school districts because local public school districts tend to spend money responsibly — paying teachers, buying supplies and textbooks, and making the best effort to reduce class size.
Where we disagreed was in how to convince legislators, the governor and other elected officials to properly fund public education.
We believe teachers squandered the perfect opportunity to accomplish a great deal two years ago. In the spring of 2016, the #RedforEd movement was picking up steam in Arizona. And it was an election year for both the Legislature and the governor, which meant both were listening.
The governor actually caved and gave the teachers a raise — not as much as teachers deserve, but a start. However, no extra money found its way to public school districts.
We believe that’s because teachers — notably teachers in rural school districts — didn’t walk out on strike.
Teachers, already poorly paid and paying for supplies out of their own pockets, could hardly afford to go weeks without a paycheck. Plus teachers in rural districts felt an obligation to remain on the job for their students. After all, rural teachers actually know their students’ parents and have often watched those children grow from babies to graduates.
Unfortunately, staying in meant there was no reason for those parents to contact legislators or the governor’s office demanding action. There was no reason for legislators, who would rather tax dollars go in the pockets of for-profit educational operations (which fail at a 30-percent rate) to take any action.
In other words, there was no pain felt by anyone, which meant no reason to take any action.
Had teachers actually walked out, delaying high school graduations by a month or so during an election year and upsetting parents, we guarantee Arizona would be funding education in a completely different way today.
Speaking of walking out, did anyone else hear Education Secretary Betsy DeVos say that teachers who walk out should do so on “adult time?” In other words, she wants teachers to protest during their off hours, which wouldn’t make those protest marches as much as hikes with signs.
But we digress . . .
Next year, legislators are up for re-election, but the governor is not. Which means there may not be another opportunity to really enact educational funding change until 2022 — and that’s a long time to wait for children who need properly funded schools today.
By the way, while we remain critical of the Legislature’s repeated effort to take tax dollars out of public school to fund for-profit and parochial schools (via empowerment scholarships, also known as the voucher program), we want to praise Rep. Becky Nutt, R-Clifton, for her continued support of school vouchers.
Nutt remains steadfast in her belief in the value of the voucher program and makes no secret of that support. She also proudly trumpets her support of the agenda of the American Legislative Exchange Council and her co-chairmanship of ALEC’s rural legislative caucus.
ALEC is the main driver behind the national push for charter schools, for-profit private schools and school vouchers.
While we disagree with Nutt on some policy issues — specifically the voucher issue — we respect her standing by her beliefs and not hiding when questioned.
We wish more legislators would show Nutt’s courage of her convictions.