Originally published Thursday, May 17, 2018 at 06:00a.m.
Our state legislators may think that because the budget has been passed the #REDforED movement is dead, but it’s not. In fact, this movement is just getting started because teachers throughout all of Arizona are feeling the painful truth of just how little priority is given to funding education, and they are “fed up.”
After watching the recent television ads promoting Gov. Ducey’s “great job” of supporting education without raising taxes, all I can do is shake my head in disbelief. Maybe the people who haven’t been following closely will not understand why these “non-campaign” campaign ads are so damaging to the truth about the #REDforED movement, but I do…and so do the teachers.
I also remember when Gov. Ducey defended the 1 percent raise for Arizona teachers, while providing his staff a 20 percent raise that was NOT shuttled across multiple years (the way the teachers’ raise has been staggered in the budget just passed).
I remember when Gov. Ducey defended the 20 percent raise for his staff because a worthy salary is what attracts talented, highly-qualified professionals, but somehow that same fact conveniently does not apply to attracting talented, highly-qualified teachers.
And I remember when Gov. Ducey, State Sen. Borrelli, and State Rep. Cobb all avoided the crowd of #REDforED supporters outside of the 2018 Patriot Dinner at the Mohave County Fairgrounds in Kingman, not even driving past with an obligatory wave or nod of acknowledgement to their constituents.
But constituents have an amazing ability to hold even the most reluctant representatives accountable. Prior to the Patriot Dinner, Jean Meersman tracked down Gov. Ducey at the closed meeting with local officials and made sure he answered her questions about where he stood on the education issues, then shared the Governor’s “fancy footwork” video to Facebook.
At the May 7 Mohave County Board of Supervisors meeting, Regina Cobb was praised by Supervisor Gary Watson for the “heavy lifting” she did to get the budget passed. And I made sure the Board knew that she did no heavy lifting for education in Mohave (or La Paz) County by voting against all five of the amendments that would have made significant improvements for local education.
Cobb then defended her votes, clarifying that she didn’t agree with many of the amendments (which is interesting, because as an elected public servant she’s supposed to be representing her constituents’ needs, not her own personal preference).
Cobb also made a flippant comment to Kingman Daily Miner reporter Hubble Ray Smith justifying her vote on the classroom size issue, “What do you do when you hit 25? Do you throw the rest of the kids out?” At least I hope it’s just a flippant comment, because otherwise I have grave concerns about her ability to be voting on such a serious issue.
It also looks like State Senator Borrelli is learning a lesson or two about constituent accountability. He may have avoided the #REDforED line of supporters outside of the Mohave County Fairgrounds, but he did show up for a Lake Havasu school board meeting on May 8, even if to justify his vote for the budget. This is progress in the right direction.
So the #REDforED movement is just getting started because it’s not just about a marketable, livable wage. It’s about class sizes and caseloads that are too large to make the difference. It’s about not having toilet paper and soap in the bathrooms. And it’s about students riding buses for five hours a day, rather than participating in extracurricular activities.
And as long as there are cracks this large in the funding of education in Arizona, #REDforED lives to fight another day.