Amid the whirlwind of demonstrations and walkouts against low teacher pay as part of the Red for Ed movement, students at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers' College are preparing to face life inside and outside the classroom.
Teachers and students have taken to the streets in protest with a list of five demands: a 20 percent salary increase; restoring education funding to pre-Recession levels; increased pay for education support staff; permanent salaries with increased raises; and no new tax cuts.
A 2018 survey conducted by Education Week found Arizona's education system ranked of 45th out of 50 states based on several metrics, including school funding. Despite this, many aspiring teachers are dedicated to starting their careers in the state.
Breonn Peoples, a educational studies senior, said the prospect of low pay is frightening but it won't stop her desire to be an educator.
"Arizona is one of the lowest paying states as far as teacher funding," Peoples said. "It’s to do something they are passionate about, you have to really have your heart in it to be a teacher because it is so low paying."
Peoples said local teachers want to fight for more educational support in Arizona.
"I think Arizona is really unique because while we are one of the lowest performing education-wise, a lot of our people want to change education, and I think there is a lot of room and resources around the state that are trying to help with that," Peoples said.
Governor Doug Ducey proposed a plan to raise teacher salaries by 20 percent by the year 2020. He plans to cut Medicaid expenses and focus on increasing revenue to fund teachers' paychecks.
But students and teachers are still divided and skeptical about where this money is coming from. Carole G. Basile, the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers' college dean, said it's unclear how exactly the proposal is going to work.
"So this is tricky, right, because I don't think we know all the details yet," Basile said. "I'm sort of not passing judgement on this until we know more ... We're hoping that it's coming from increased revenue, but I just don't think we know exactly how it's going to be disseminated."
Basile said many of her students plan to stay in Arizona and the teachers' college is giving them the tools to be strong educators.
"Most of our students stay here," Basile said. "You know, this is where they live. This is where their families are. This is where they are committed. So, I think for the most part, most of our students stay in Arizona. You give them a big enough tool kit that they feel confident walking out and you put in situations where they've had a lot of clinical experience."
Gabrielle Altmark, a special education and elementary education sophomore, said teaching isn't about the money and shouldn't be about the money. She said passion is key when going into the education field.
"There are teachers in the field of education that aren't passionate about their job — they just went in and lost their passion," Altmark said.
Altmark said teachers have options to make extra money.
"As a teacher, you have options to work sports, work clubs and get added stipends to move up," she said. "It’s just something you have to work for, and if you aren’t moving forward, that’s more on you, and you can’t really blame everyone else."
A 2018 Brookings Institute study using Bureau of Labor Statistics data found that 19 percent of full-time secondary education teachers and 12 percent of full-time primary education teachers nationwide work multiple jobs, compared to 11 percent of the general working population.
She said passion is key when going into education and all teachers are aware about the struggles of teaching before they enter the classroom by themselves.
"We aren't here for the salary, so while it would be nice to be paid more for the work we do, I think the recognition of what a teacher does for a student is almost more important than the money aspect."