#RedForEd

UPDATE:

A state-wide walk out has been announced and will take place on Thursday, April 26th. Please be in prayers for Arizona schools, teachers, and families. This walk out will last indefinitely.

Welcome!

This is my support page for the local #RedForEd movement in Arizona. If you’d like to know more about this cause specifically, you can go here for how they got started and here for their demands. Don’t worry – we’ll cover how you can help later on!

This is a cause I’m passionate about because my husband is a first grade teacher. I see firsthand what he goes through everyday, how much he works, and also feel the stress of the financial insecurity that his job causes. For those of you who don’t know, my husband is the sole source of income for our family. Raising a family, even with just one child, on a teacher’s income is nearly impossible these days. And my husband and I are not lavish people!

In fact, here’s a list of sacrifices we make due to being on such a tight budget:

  • My husband drives a 1996 Jeep without air conditioning that is on its last leg because we can’t afford a new one.
  • We don’t pay for two of our recurring bills. That’s right – family and friends have stepped up to help us in our time of need.
  • Myself and our daughter are not on my husband’s health insurance. That would cost us an additional $600+ per month.
  • Additionally, I have eczema that is eating my hands alive and we can’t afford the monthly cost of an ointment to treat it.
  • We regularly ration our food.
  • We don’t buy birthday, Christmas, Valentine’s, anniversary, or Mother’s/Father’s Day presents for each other.
  • We don’t go out on dates unless we’ve received a gift card or have a really good coupon.
  • We’ve lost 85 lbs collectively and can’t afford new clothes for either of us.
  • Our backyard is currently unlandscaped and we can’t afford to landscape it. FYI, having a dirt lot for a backyard sucks when you have a two year old.
  • Neither one of us are able to explore and develop our recreational hobbies.
  • We haven’t been on any type of vacation since our honeymoon in May of 2013.
  • We can’t afford new furniture. The only pieces of brand new furniture we own is our night stands, my vanity, and some cheap book shelves from Target. Everything else was previously owned and none of it matches.
  • My husband’s paternity leave consisted of a whole 5 days off from work because we couldn’t afford for him to take more time off.
  • I recently cut my husband’s hair in an attempt to save $20.
  • We can’t afford things like a mechanic. So when my husband’s Jeep isn’t working properly, he sacrifices his weekends to fix it. That’s right – after working 50-55 hours a week educating students, he gets to “recuperate and rejuvenate” while stuck underneath his Jeep.

I don’t say these things to complain or to make you uncomfortable. I don’t want this to be a pity party, but I do want to be authentic and transparent to the struggles we’re facing. This is the reality that many educators in this state are facing. And some are even worse off. Some are living with their parents. Some are driving cars even older than my husband’s. Some don’t have any insurance for their children. Some aren’t even starting their families because they don’t know how they would afford to.

So if you see the demand for a 20% raise and think that seems quite greedy, just keep it in perspective. Teachers aren’t asking for a 20% raise so they can go on luxury vacations. Teachers are asking for a 20% raise so they can buy houses, expand their families, have reliable vehicles, afford monthly medications, etc.

Teachers are asking for a 20% raise so they can buy houses, expand their families, have reliable vehicles, afford monthly medications, etc. #redfored #arizonaeducatorsunited Click To Tweet

Teachers are responsible for educating the youth of the future. Their jobs perpetuate society! We wouldn’t have doctors, lawyers, or professional athletes if it weren’t for teachers. But you wouldn’t guess that based on how they’re compensated.

Something else to take into consideration when looking at how teachers are compensated is the fact that there are no opportunities for any raises. Teachers are evaluated by their administrative teams, and proficient teachers don’t get raises based off of their performances. The only way for teachers to significantly increase their income is to actually stop teaching and go into administration, such as a principal. The real kicker is that you need a masters degree to hold an administrative position.

And let me be perfectly clear: having your masters as a teacher does not guarantee you a significantly higher salary. A masters degree in education and remaining a teacher will only earn you a couple thousand dollars more per year. Can you imagine having your masters degree and only making around $40,000/year?! I mean, think of how much it costs to get your masters!

In case anyone was curious, here’s how my husband’s work week often looks like:

  • On his good days he’s at work by 6:15am. On his bad days, 6:30am.
  • School is in session by 7:30am and students are released at 2:30pm. I believe his contract hours are from 7am-3pm.
  • He teaches after school Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays until 4:10pm.
  • He is generally home by 4:30pm.
  • It is not uncommon for him to have other professional obligations, such as conferences, staff meetings, staff training/development, fairs/festivals, etc. All of which, by the way, he does not get additional pay for but is still expected to do.
  • My husband has also partook in the Begin program through his district. It is a 3-year program for new teachers and he is graduating this year. They meet once a month on Mondays and the meetings go until about 7:30pm.
  • He is also on the leadership team this year, which meets monthly as well.

To give you some more insight on this #RedForEd movement (because this is about so much more than just teacher pay), I asked Courtney, a personal friend and teacher in Tucson, for an interview. I’ve known Courtney for some time now, maybe nine years or so, and we’ve kept in touch via social media. I’m so grateful for her to volunteer some of her time to me, especially considering the school year is winding down.

Courtney with her husband, Ridge, and their puppy, Theodora

K: Tell us about yourself.

C: I recently turned 30 and have been married to my wonderful husband for 4 years.  We have a 5 month old Golden Retriever puppy named Theodora who basically controls our life.  In my free time I love shopping and have a real passion for cooking and nutrition.

K: What made you decide to become an educator?

C: I honestly decided to become a teacher because I never wanted to leave school.  I had the most amazing high school experience and I really wanted to help create that for other kids.  I have always loved working with students, and my mom was a pre-school teacher and director for over 25 years, so teaching is kind of in my blood.

K: Tell us a little bit about your background in education. Where did you graduate from, how long have you been teaching, what grades you’ve taught, etc.

C: I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from NAU in 2010 in Secondary Education (emphasis in Theatre and English).  I first began working as a substitute teacher since I graduated in Dec. and so that I could get a feel for some different schools in my area. I ended up really loving Mountain Ridge HS and sure enough they had an English teacher position open the following school year that I applied and interviewed for.  I worked at MRHS for one year before deciding to move to Tucson.  Right after I graduated college I started dating my now husband, and after we got engaged, moving to Tucson was the most logical option, as he was still in school.  I went to a job fair and was hired to work at a small K-12 school in the Vail School district.  I taught there for 5 years before finally deciding to move to a larger, more comprehensive high school, Andrada Polytechnic.  Three years ago I was encouraged by my principal at the time to consider a position in school administration.  I did some soul searching and then began my Master’s degree in Educational Leadership- Principal K-12 through Northern Arizona University and graduated this past December.  Currently, this is my 7th year teaching, and my ultimate goal is to become a high school principal, and one day earn my Doctorate and teach future educators and administrators at the college level.

K: On average, how many students do you have in your classroom and how many hours per week do you work? Additionally, as an estimate, how much of your own money have you invested in your classroom?

C: I teach 7 classes a day (Sophomore and Junior English) and my average class size is 28.

Most days I arrive at 7:45, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays I conduct morning re-teach for my students at 7:30.  Beyond teaching, I am an advisor for our senior class, co-sponsor our school run-club, and am a coordinator for our senior exit projects.  Most days I do not leave school until 5pm (keep in mind that I am contracted/paid to work from 8am-4pm).

Over my 7 years of teaching I have probably spent close to $4,000 on my classroom.  This money goes to things like supplies including paper, pencils, highlighters and expo makers (because high schoolers can never seem to come to class prepared), prizes and candy for my kids, sticky notes, staplers, posters and bulletin board materials, items for projects, etc.  My school provides our English department with about $200 for the year to purchase supplies which is shared amongst 6 English teachers.

K: How did this #redfored movement get started and what is their goal?

Courtney in her #redfored shirt!

C: The #RedforEd movement began in early March as teachers in Arizona were inspired by their counterparts in West Virginia and most recently, Oklahoma.  They began rapidly organizing to change the state of educational funding in Arizona and to bring awareness to low teacher pay.  Within just a few weeks time the idea moved from a few thousand teachers wearing red on Wednesdays to bring awareness, to now almost 45,000 members on the Facebook group, Arizona Educators United.

They have also begun a series of highly visible actions including rallies at the capitol and on street corners, and a day of school “Walk-Ins” scheduled for April 5th across the state.

Most recently, the AEU have made demands of Arizona lawmakers which include a 20% teacher pay raise, increased per-pupil funding, and competitive classified salaries.  Our goal is to ensure that students have access to highly qualified and experienced teachers, that educators are compensated fairly, and to improve the educational environment in the state of Arizona.

K: What’s your involvement in the #redfored movement? 

C: Right now I am working as a site liaison for my school.  What that means is that I work to plan #redfored events, communicate important information to teachers, school professionals, and parents.  I can only work on this during my non-contract hours (before 8am and after 4pm) and we can only communicate through personal e-mail.  This makes things very challenging, but all site liaisons are doing the best they can to help inform and educate their school and community.  We need to get a sense of how many people are in support of the movement so that AEU can plan their next steps.

K: Why did you decide to get involved?

C: Simple: I have had enough of the lack of respect and support for the teaching profession.  As someone with two degrees and 7 years of experience as a highly proficient teacher, the only way I can make more money is to take on more responsibility at my school.  In all my years of teaching I have never seen a significant raise. I paid for my master’s degree out of my own pocket so that I did not have to add more student debt to the $80,000 my husband and I already have.

To be honest, I have even struggled with the idea of starting a family because I am not sure how we can afford child care, a mortgage, car payments, student loans, etc. and still live a life that isn’t plagued by constant  financial stress and anxiety.  I want to thrive, not simply survive and I do not think it is right that teacher’s cannot do this or what’s worse, are shunned for wanting to be able to do this! We should not have to work two jobs to make a decent living!

I am also not just fighting for myself.  I am doing this for all the teachers out there who are single parents or are the primary bread winner.  The people educating our youth should not be living paycheck to paycheck or struggling to make ends meet.  It is time that our state and legislators make education a priority!   Our schools will never be able to compete with those across the nation if we are being funding $4,000 per student below the national average.  We are never going to be able to compete nationally if our highly qualified and experienced teachers are fleeing the state to teach in places where education matters.  I love Arizona, but I cannot continue to live in a state that puts their teachers and their students dead last.  50th is NOT okay!

K: How can people show their support?

C: Honestly, we need all the support we can get and we need to put the pressure on our legislators to make some real and significant change.  If you are interested in showing your support, here are the most important actions you can take:

Seriously, you guys, this actionnetwork website makes it SO EASY for you to show your support! They even provide text for you to send right off to the legislators and Governor Ducey.