April 28, 2018

Why Arkansas teachers struck

Talk Poverty - Resentment among Arizona educators has been simmering for years, caused by repeated budget cuts, the misuse of sales tax monies intended for public education (as confirmed by an Arizona Supreme Court ruling in 2010), and related lengthy lawsuits between the state and its public schools seeking back payments. During the Recession, the Arizona state legislature cut $1.5 million from public schools, more than any other state, leaving Arizona schools more than $1 billion short of 2008 funding. “There’s no toilet paper, there’s no soap, and our textbooks are like 15 years old”

Arizona currently ranks 49th in the country for high school teacher pay and 50th for elementary school teacher pay. When adjusted for inflation, teacher wages have declined more than 10 percent since 2001. Per-student spending in Arizona amounts to $7,205, compared with the national average of $11,392. There are currently 3,400 classrooms in Arizona without trained or certified teachers, and the state has over 2,000 teacher vacancies.

Inspired by grassroots teachers movements in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, Arizona teachers are using their collective power to demand change. A newly mobilized coalition, Arizona Educators United, has partnered with the state’s teachers union, the Arizona Education Association, to organize and coordinate demands. Teachers have held organizing meetings and “walk-ins” over the past few weeks, gathering together before school hours in protest of low pay for teachers and support staff—many of whom rely on second or third jobs just to get by—as well as insufficient classroom materials and per-student spending well below the national average.

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