So here I am again with my yearly blog post.
A few updates:
Cali and I have adopted two dogs: Jojo (Jack Russell terrier mix- we were not adequately informed about the breed prior to our purchase, but we love her spunkiness), and Cleo (Australian Shepherd Mix). Both our wonderful and have been a great addition to our pack!
Cali and I have also both purchased our first house. We moved in about 3 weeks ago. No one warned us about the stress that would ensue with buying a house, but my was it worth it! Our pups love their back yard, and the ability to have a space to call our own, to fix up, and to have break down on us, has been great. Yes multiple things have already broken on us so no need to worry if we’ve been initiated into homeownership.
As you have probably heard, Arizona teachers had a walk out at the end of the school year. This was the culmination of a #redfored movement that has moved across the country for the past several month. When I moved to Arizona, I knew I was moving to a state that didn’t pay their teachers well, and whose education system continually ranked at the bottom. I also knew that the state was in desperate need for teachers, so desperate that they would be willing they pay for my certification. There are currently 2,000 teacher vacancies in the state, and there are teachers fleeing the state due to the fact that Arizona is the 48th lowest paid teachers in the country.
What I didn’t know about the Arizona education system was it has been suffocated of funds for the past 10 plus years. Since 2008, budget cuts have drained public education systems of proper funding of the schools. Now this makes sense due to the economic situation, I understand that. But what does not make sense, is that with the gradual incline of the economy, the gradual incline of money coming into the public education system did not increase.
Apparently what happened was in 2000 Proposition 301 was passed which required the state to provide school funding with a 2% increase in funding to adjust with inflation. This also prohibited per pupil school funding to drop below $2,687. But, during the recession this money was not met nor given to the public education system as promised and a lawsuit ensued claiming it was in violation of the “Voter Protection Act”. Proposition 123 was enacted to supposedly replace the missing funding and attempted to settle this lawsuit.
Since I just finished my first year, all of this history happened before I even lived in the state of Arizona. So, I feel like I don’t know what I’m talking about, but from the experience of the teachers I have chatted with, neither of these propositions have made a huge difference in their salaries. Whether that money is getting caught up in the legislature, the school districts, or it’s being distributed too thin, the money didn’t make the per pupil spending anywhere near what they were proposing, and it didn’t increase funding like they were expecting. Classrooms are still falling apart, and teachers are still working for close to nothing.
The #redfored movement started in West Virginia and was a huge success. It moved to Oklahoma and was not successful- or was shown as not successful by the media. The teachers did not receive any of their demands and were ultimately told after two weeks to go back to work, or they would be fired. The movement moved to Arizona. None of it had to do with the union, it wasn’t political at all in fact there was no political divide. This was purely for our students, our classrooms, and for our families. The media portrays a certain aspect of a good story- they paint a political picture of a movement, that it was led by a political fascist, who is going from state to state, or we’re all communists and liberals, it’s not true. We were teachers. That’s all we had in common. We were teachers who knew we could do better for our students and that’s what we were fighting for.
When I was in college, I never wanted to be a public school teacher. I would sit in classes, and we would discuss standardized tests and the laws set forth about taxes, testing, how we measure learning, etc. I found it all annoying, because all I cared about was seeing my students go from not knowing something to understanding and succeeding at something they couldn’t do before. I didn’t think that could be measured, and I also didn’t think you could monetize it. I sat back frustrated that there was money and politics involved and I told myself I could never teach in the public schools because there were too many politics involved. And here I was. Involved. Speaking out and fighting for my students and what I knew my students needed- a classroom that didn’t have holes in the walls. A classroom that had desks that weren’t falling apart in the middle of my teaching. A classroom with windows that I could open without fear of them breaking. A classroom with Wi-Fi that I can connect to. A classroom where my students have access to 21st century technology- maybe even an iPad, or Google Classroom! I was fighting for all of that. On top of the small fact that I knew if I had a family, we couldn’t afford to live. If Cali and I had one child, we couldn’t afford to send them to daycare. If we decided to have a child, we couldn’t afford health insurance for them, or to send them to the doctor when they were sick. Right now, all we can afford is to live for ourselves. We can’t have a family and survive teaching. And I don’t think that’s right. If teaching is a career, than why do we need to work 5 jobs total in order to pay the bills? That’s not ok.
Unfortunately, Cali and I probably won’t be teachers for the rest of our lives. We love teaching and we love our students. But we can’t live our lives like this. We want a family and we see our lives differently than this. If we have a family as teachers, we would struggle, and our family would suffer. If things don’t change, we can’t be public school teachers. This breaks my heart because I really am passionate about the kids that I teach. I love what I do, and the lives that I change, but it clearly is not valued like I value it.