Be prepared – rant ahead. Not something that I typically focus on here – but it’s been heavy on my mind for a few weeks and it’s all coming to a head.

If you’ve watched the news recently, you’ve probably noticed that Arizona is struggling in the education department. Today marked day one of the teacher walk-out – which closed the schools. (We are a right to work state and being a part of the teacher union is voluntary. Less than half of teachers are part of the AEA.) We got a call this evening that we’ll be closed again tomorrow. In fact we’re closed until the teachers come back.

What started as a rally to support teachers has blown up into something much larger than they could’ve ever imagined and it still might not work out how they’re hoping. It’s a mess and I’m frustrated.

It seems to be the perfect storm. The state cut funds when the recession hit and schools have a taken the hit, even with the recovery of the economy, the money hasn’t made it’s way back into the schools. Teachers haven’t had raises. Schools need updates and repairs. They need more teacher support. The list could go on and on…and it does. We spend far more money incarcerating individuals than we do educating them. It’s sad.

Add to that we have the largest school district in the state, with almost 64,000 students, in 84 schools and I wouldn’t say they’re managing their budget very well. I spent a lot of time reading through the 2016 financial audit of the school district and it opened my eyes. It takes a lot of money to run a district this size but there is also so much waste. There is no getting around it – the district has put money into programs that they’ve put as a priority over the teachers.

On top of it all – the district has it’s back against the wall because it feels the need to provide so much where they feel it isn’t being provided at home. It’s one thing to provide food while at school, but then also free after school programs for working parents and busing situations outside our district and laptops for the students to have at home…its all so expensive. Yet the district obviously feels the need to compensate for family situations, but that ends up being the majority of our district. We are a high needs district. Unfortunately, they can’t do it without sacrificing something else and I can’t help but feel the teachers have partly been that sacrifice.

Of course the district blames the state. If they were to get more funding, they would pass it down to the teachers. But I’m not confident that would be the case. Throwing more funds at an already mishandled financial situation is not going to solve the problem. We have passed several bonds over the years and every time they’re advertised as making up for lost funds from the state. The 2012 bond was for $230 million dollars for capital improvements and buses and technology. And yet it’s never enough. It never will be.

Lets be clear – teachers deserve the world. They are shaping the future and making a difference in our children’s lives. They deserve active parent participation. They deserve our support in the classroom, they deserve our support in helping our kids at home. They deserve to be compensated well.

When this movement started they really pushed that this was for the kids. To create a better school environment for the kids. And I was all for that. Pay our teachers more. (even better is if its based on merit and qualifications instead of a blanket raise like originally requested.) Give them the support they need. But then when the prospect of getting what they asked for was being pushed to them, the demands started to change. Even my kids teachers are not in support of whats taking place now. It’s not about the kids anymore. It’s political and there’s a power struggle and the kids are no longer the purpose of it all – instead, they’re the pawns.

It has become ridiculous and the longer it goes on the more angry and less supportive parents are going to be. When a teacher from our school was asked, “what’s your end game? When are the teachers going to be willing to walk back in those doors?” She didn’t know. She’s not sure at what point the know they got what they wanted. That’s frustrating as a parent. Fight for what you know is right but you’ve got to know what you’re fighting for exactly. If the state turned around tomorrow and gave you and your support staff a solid raise would this be done? “Well, how do we know how sustainable that raise will be?” How does anyone in any industry know how sustainable a raise will be 5 or 10 years from now. Once again – the kids are just pawns at this point. (especially when this took place during their large curriculum testing week and we’re told because of the walkout there wouldn’t be any make-up days – they would just not be tested on certain sections).

It’s the perfect storm and it’s ugly. There are heated arguments and discussions coming from both sides and it you don’t support the walk-out then you hate the teachers and if you support the walk-out you’re ignorant and selfish. It’s exhausting and consuming on all accounts.

And now the district wants to make sure we’re all aware that every day the teachers aren’t willing to teach is a day that will be made up at the end of the school year and into the summer. The days that many families and teachers have already planned to be on vacation and won’t be in attendance.

Here’s to hoping our legislation can come up with a solution quickly and that the teachers can get back in the classroom and that our district can start plugging the holes in the bucket of expenditures that is spilling out money. Because if not we’ll be in this position again 10 years from now. All wishful thinking I suppose.

Rant over. For now.

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