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Arizona Teachers Rally At Capitol, Bring Their Stories To Lawmakers
Arizona educators marched on the Capitol for the third day on Monday. The rally drew an estimated 10,000 teachers according to Arizona’s Department of Public Safety.
Individual schools marked their territory on the lawn with pop-up tents and local businesses distributed pizza and water to the masses.
Lucia Sandoval, a seventh-grade teacher at San Luis Middle School near the Arizona-Mexico border, woke up at about 3:30 a.m. to drive to Phoenix with more than 100 of her colleagues.
“The main reason for us to be here is for our kids,” Sandoval said. Many of her students come from migrant farm worker families.
“Their mentality is graduate from high school, then go to work at a restaurant or go to the fields,” Sandoval said. “We want to change ... their mentality and encourage them to do more.”
Sandoval said after nine years of teacher her salary is about $32,000.
Teachers from around the state also took the opportunity to speak to their lawmakers directly.
Erika Flores teaches first grade at Copper Rim Elementary in Globe. Though her school reopened Monday, she and several other teachers from her district took the day off to represent their rural district at the Capitol.
They met with Globe Republican legislator David Cook, who supports the governor’s plan to increase teacher salaries 20 percent by the year 2020.
“While I feel this 20 by 20 could potentially be a step in the right direction, I don’t understand how forecasting into the future and not being able to have a budget that does truly extend that far,” Flores said. “It makes me nervous.”
The governor announced Friday he had reached a deal with lawmakers on a budget that includes funding for education but released no details.
There was a group of less than a dozen counter protestors who identified themselves as part of the far right patriot movement and gathered in the courtyard outside the House of Representatives.
Jennifer Harrison wore a gun on her hip, a Donald Trump ball cap on her head and held up a sign with the words, “Get back to work ya commies!” in blue marker.
She said her son is a senior at a Peoria High School and she’s frustrated he’s home in bed instead of at school.
Teachers at the Capitol maintained the #RedForEd movement is about more than teacher pay.
Amy Bowser teaches at Lake Valley Elementary in Prescott and has two children in public schools.
“They’re in third and sixth grade and they have never been in a fully funded classroom and that angers me,” Bowser said. At her own school, a leaky roof has dripped for years and a broken boiler closed a school in the winter.
Bowser also shared her experience with Noel Campbell, a legislator in her district.
Ayda Sandoval, a Nogales High School teacher, says with her school’s current technology budget, her students only get to use laptops once a week.
Crystal Bright is a school social worker in Tucson’s Amphitheater School District. She wore a sign that said “Best Practice is 1 social worker per 250 students. I serve 942.”
“A school social worker is the main mental health professional at a school,” Bright said.
Arizona Educators United, the grassroots group that helped start the #RedForEd movement announced Monday night on Facebook the walkout would continue through Tuesday and Wednesday.
Several of Arizona’s largest school districts including Mesa Public Schools, Tucson Unified School District, Chandler Unified School District and the Peoria Unified School District report they will remain closed through Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.