Few things move more slowly than the wheels of government.
Finding a fix to the problem of inadequate state funding for education in Arizona is a classic case in point.
The problem with the way the state funds Arizona’s classrooms has been a constant source of contention between Arizona lawmakers and the state’s education community for well over a decade now. Several different gubernatorial administrations have pledged to address and find solutions to the problems raised by educators. The education community has consistently said those were empty promises.
The position of the education community has been backed up by study after study by several different organizations year after year that shows Arizona’s fiscal commitment to education fails to measure up to other states across the nation. Many of those studies place Arizona at or near the bottom of such national comparisons.
The “empty promises” complaint voiced by educators obviously has merit.
So, this past week’s vote by Arizona teachers and support staff that heavily support a walkout April 26 should come as no surprise. It’s a move Beaver Creek School teacher spokesperson Allie Wheeler described as personally painful, but professionally essential. “Will it be difficult to walk out on Thursday, yes; but is it necessary to show support for a movement I believe in, yes,” Wheeler explained.
The planned walkout comes at what some would say is the worst possible time of the year for such action. The end of the school year, with graduation looming, and final-emphasis demands on students to continue their education progress now may come to a halt. But as Wheeler explained, there never is a good time for a teacher strike. Something is always placed at risk, no matter what time of the year teachers and support staff decide to take such a drastic move.
There is a personal cost as well. Teachers teach. That’s what they do. It’s their life mission. To walk away from it, even if it’s only for a brief time, is foreign unchartered territory. “This has been a very difficult conversation for me over the last month, with the idea of a walkout in the future. Now that it is here, and we are quickly approaching the date, I continue to find myself torn. I understand that to make change you have to do difficult things,” said Wheeler.
That does not make it any easier.
The hope, though, for the entire Arizona education community, is that the planned April 26 walkout will be a wake-up call for the governor and state lawmakers.
Let’s hope the wheels down at the State Capitol have been properly greased with the action taken by Arizona educators this week.
It’s time for action, and no more empty promises.