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Arizona teachers counting on community for support during walkout

Posted at 7:28 PM, Apr 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-26 00:18:55-04

As Arizona teachers prepare for an unprecedented walkout that has shut down schools all over Arizona, education leaders say they are counting on the community for support.

Joe Thomas, the president of the Arizona Education Association says this walkout is very emotional for teachers, who know this will affect their students and families as well.

"Tomorrow is going to be difficult, but what would be more difficult is to stay in our schools, finish out the year with the same status quo that hurts our students every single day. We have a big fight in front of us, and we want the parents to understand this fight is for your children," Thomas said.

Marisol Garcia, the Vice President of the Arizona Education Association, added that she was speaking as a mother, and not a teacher as she described the plight many of her colleagues are facing daily.

"Despite the fact that I had secondary degrees, despite the fact that I am 38 years old, despite the fact that I do everything I can to provide for my son, when we were filling out the school paperwork my son was able to qualify for free and reduced lunch. It was the most humiliating, embarrassing moment in my life as a young, single mother," Garcia said.

She too hoped the community would stand behind their fight for higher pay, and more funding for overcrowded, underfunded classrooms in Arizona.

"I know there are thousands of mothers and fathers today who are worried about what they're going to do tomorrow, but I want them to know that we are doing what we're doing, walking out tomorrow for their students."

Arizona education leaders said they had sent multiple requests to sit down with Governor Doug Ducey and be included in the conversation surrounding school funding, but their requests have been ignored.

"For ten years we've waited for the Governor and the legislature to restore funding for ten years. We have not seen anything," Thomas said.

As teachers worried about the next ten years of funding for public education, many Arizona parents are worried about tomorrow, and the next week as they scrambled to find daycares, babysitters, and figure out what to do with their children during the school closures.

Rick Reiss who had two daughters in the Deer Valley Unified schools said initially he had supported the Red For Ed movement.

"It seemed to me they got what they wanted. The governor has offered them a 20 percent raise by 2020, I thought cool you know, they made a stand, they did the right thing. Now all of a sudden it's about something else. I support raises for teachers, and money for schools, where they lost me was the walkout," Reiss said. 

Another father, Jesse Sorenson questioned the timing of the walkout.

"Personally I don't think now is the time, considering there is a month left of school. The teachers haven't fulfilled their contract. Just walking out and leaving their kids behind is not going to help them. In my opinion, it leaves some kids behind because of that decision," Sorenson said.

Education leaders said they too wanted the walkout to end soon, but how it would end in their opinion, lies in the hands of the Arizona state legislature.

"The ball is now in the Governor's court. How this ends is up to him and up to our legislative leaders. Tomorrow we will be lifting our voices in a way that they cannot ignore us," Thomas said.