My turn: Arizona teachers, students need you as an ally this week
This is a huge week for supporters of public education. As many of you know, our school districts are underfunded from the state level. Our community has taken on the slack passing override and bonds, but it’s time we demand the state fund public education and rural public education.
Schools across the Verde Valley will hold walk-ins Monday-Wednesday before school to create awareness for this massive issue we are dealing with on a state and local level.
Partners in Education is asking that you get involved. Contact a local school to find out what time you can arrive to show your support for our students, teachers, and future workforce.
If you know an AZ teacher, please be supportive right now.
Last week teachers across the Verde Valley and State voted to approve an unprecedented, first ever, state-wide walkout.
If you think that 44,000 teachers made a mistake by voting to walk out, please know: they fear you’re right.
I don’t know a single teacher who is 100-percent convinced that this is the right move. They were happy for our West Virginian brethren but also saw what happened in Oklahoma. They know they may lose this fight. They have agonized for weeks over this decision.
They don’t want to leave their kids and classrooms.
They don’t want to inconvenience their students’ families.
They don’t want to break their contracts.
They don’t want to have extra school days into June.
They don’t want the classified staff to go unpaid for the duration of the walkout.
They don’t want kids to go hungry.
They don’t want to jeopardize future bond or override elections in this community.
But they are doing it anyway. Even though it may not make sense to those people, who aren’t present every day in classrooms around Arizona.
Want to know why?
Because they don’t see an alternative.
Something that has been broken for a long time has finally completely snapped.
It’s not just about low pay. If it were, they would have voted to take the offered pay increase.
It’s about our students. It always has been.
Teachers can’t be as effective in helping students succeed if they are working 60 hours per week at three jobs.
Our schools need better and more current resources.
They need safe buildings.
They need more counselors, nurses, reading coaches, and lunch workers to help the schools run.
They need to be competitive in wages, so they don’t have a constant talent drain of the best teachers from our state and valley to those states surrounding us.
They need a salary plan that doesn’t exclude special teachers and support staff.
Why didn’t we opt for the legislative option? Why didn’t we wait until October? Why didn’t we take the deal?
There’s no one answer to any of those questions.
Because we’ve had money earmarked for education stolen out from under us before. Because we have been continuously advised not to make this political and waiting until October seemed like it would be targeting politicians up for re-election. Because we are afraid of losing momentum. Because we can’t take money that doesn’t include everyone on our campuses or money that steals from veterans and the arts.
Because, because, because.
Because they are tired of sounding an unheard alarm. Our system is broken, and they don’t know what else to do to make people hear them.
No, they don’t know where the money is going to come from.
But something is broken, and they have to fix it.
If you are a proponent of schools, support staff, and teachers - even if you don’t agree with the walkout - please consider being an ally for our teachers and students.
Lead with empathy. Encourage others around you to stay supportive of teachers, even if the walkout personally inconveniences them, and things start to get ugly. Speak up. Ask questions. Don’t automatically believe the commercials. Or the hateful rhetoric. Show your public support, if you can.
Children are the most vulnerable members of our society and our most important asset for the future.
It’s time for us to stand up – and walk out – for them.
Stacey Seaman is an Arizona native and 13-year teaching veteran. She currently teaches K-5 general music and band in the Casa Grande Elementary School District.