Red for Ed came to the Kyrene School District headquarters on April 11. A grandparent of four granddaughters who have attended Kyrene community public schools, I decided to attend the Red for Ed Rally.
Like the many others who attended, including teachers, school staff, parents, grandparents, kids and other education supporters, I wanted to show my support.
The enthusiasm shown by participants was contagious, especially as the demonstrators peacefully lined the streets at the corner of Kyrene and McClintock. The demonstrators chanted slogans and were encouraged by drivers who indicated their support by honking their horns.
In addition to offering my support, I wanted to learn more about the motivations of the demonstrators. I came away impressed by the comments I got from those I talked to.
While there was concern for the need to lift Arizona teacher salaries from rock bottom, most teachers wanted to make it clear that they were most interested in helping the children they teach. They want improved funding for all aspects of public education.
As a longtime observer of Arizona education, I share our teachers’ concerns about the perennial lack of community school funding.
In lean times, such as the recent recession, teachers were told that “now is not the time to ask for more.” As the economy recovered, funding did not materialize as our Legislature chose tax cuts for corporations over educational spending.
As teachers waited for educational funding for our community public schools, our Legislature found money to fund private school vouchers. In addition to tax cuts, corporations were allowed tax credits (up to 100 percent of tax liability) for private school tuition.
Community public schools were slighted in two ways, reduced state income for public education and diversions of educational funds for private schools.
There is little doubt that public schools are not adequately funded, but as some teachers have pointed out, “we regularly see TV ads designed to convince the public that our schools are well supported.”
Rightly in my view, teachers feel these ads are intended to undermine the Red for Ed movement.
To his credit, Gov. Ducey (since the rally) announced a 20 percent raise for Arizona teachers to be delivered by 2020. But many are skeptical, especially after the governor’s suggestion that the Red for Ed movement was simply a “political circus.”
If funding for our community public schools and their teachers materializes, the Red for Ed movement deserves much of the credit. From what I observed, the Red for Ed movement has strong support and it will not dwindle until adequate funding community public school actually occurs.
Now that promises have been made, it will be important for supporters of community public schools to carefully keep watch to see if the governor delivers on his promise and to see how our legislators vote – and then hold all candidates who do not support community public schools accountable in November.
-Chuck Corbin is a long-time educator and resident of Ahwatukee.