Opinion: We cannot forget #RedforEd

Although the walk-out ended after six days, the movement is far from over

Rachael Clawson doesn’t need to look very far to see the extreme need for change in Arizona's public education system. The four-year Marcos de Niza high school history teacher only needs to look around her classroom.

Clawson, a 2010 ASU alumna who also earned her master's degree two years later from the school, said the carpet in her classroom becomes sopped in some places during monsoon season. She teaches her class with 20-year-old history textbooks that do not even cover Monica Lewinsky. She said that even though the state requires that she administer standardized tests to her students on computers, it does not provide adequate resources for the task.

For these reasons and many more, Clawson is dedicated to the #RedforEd movement and said it is not over. She, among thousands of other Arizona teachers, participated in the walk-out. Clawson said she was among the educators who waited at the capitol in the middle of the night while senators worked to pass the budget.

That was the moment that the #RedforEd grassroots movement in Arizona came to a head. However, after weeks of protests and a walk-out, the movement did not see many of the changes they were demanding in the newly passed budget.

Although Governor Doug Ducey’s 20 percent by 2020 plan to increase teacher salaries was a part of the new budget, there were many more demands that were not addressed. Still more needs to be done in order to restore education funds to pre-2008 levels, obtain higher pay for support staff and ensure annual raises and no new tax cuts.

In the aftermath of the walk-out and the budget passage, some of the general public may be under the impression that the #RedforEd movement has achieved its end or that it will lose its momentum, but there is still more to come.


 

To Clawson, having the public's support is very important. 

"It means a lot because so much of what we do already is determined by public opinion," Clawson said. "Every decision that can possibly be made about resources and materials and that sort of thing that can be decided by the public is influenced by it."

63.8 percent of ASU students on metropolitan campuses are in-state students. To many of these students, the #RedforEd movement may seem irrelevant now that they are in college, but this is an issue that should be important to all of us — and not just students of Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College. 

For those of us who were educated in Arizona for primary and secondary school, we were subject to one of the worst education systems in the nation.

We were the students in school during the recession in 2008 when education funds were slashed. We were the students who never saw those funds restored. Yes, we moved past high school and into college. But that does not mean this is not an issue for us to think about, and we can find ways to be a part of the solution.

The next step on the road to higher quality education in Arizona is putting all of this to a vote. Arizona Educators United is seeking to ensure that a proposition is put on the ballot this coming November to see more of the changes they were striking for. It is campaigning the #INVESTinED movement in hopes that they can continue making progress. 

Noah Karvelis, a K-8 music teacher at Tres Rios Elementary School in Tolleson and a leader of #RedforEd, said this movement is relevant to college students too, and they should be engaged in it as well.

"They're a part of the education system here," Karvelis said. "It's a K-16 system essentially, so they should care about that. It affects our economic system as well. Even if you're looking at it strictly from dollar and cents and the economy, a positive, effective school system is going to equal a positive workforce and economy." 

As for the momentum of the movement, Karvelis said he is not worried about losing it between now and November. 

"We have events all the time," Karvelis said. "There are things sustaining people's energies, and we're continuing to mobilize, especially around this ballot initiative. Summer is also a time for people to refresh and rest up and come back even more engaged and more fired up and have fresh ideas."

For the betterment of our state, our younger family members and future children, we need to be proactive, take a stand, sign petitions and get out to the polls this November. When we left high school behind, we did not leave behind the responsibility to use our voice to do what we can to improve our state's school system.


Reach the columnist at amblodge@asu.edu or follow @AndiBlodgett on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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