Estimated Crowd Of 50,000 March For #RedForEd In Downtown Phoenix
An estimated 50,000 people filled the streets of downtown Phoenix on Thursday to march for teachers and school staff across the state.
Teachers say it’s been years and years of chronically underfunded classrooms that led to them walking out.
“My school right now, even though it’s a new school, we don’t even have a library, because they can’t fund it," said Jessalynne Chavira.
Chavira works in the Liberty Elementary School District in Buckeye. She said it’s time to disrupt classes in a way that will actually help her students, like walking out today.
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“Whenever it rains, it would flood, and we’d have to move classes and disrupt classes. It’s been disrupted for 10 years now," she said.
High school students and families joined teachers in support.
The mood was controlled as the crowd gathered at Chase Field before walking almost two miles through downtown.
Watching the crowd pass was Nivaldo Morales and his wife. They met on the job at the Phoenix Elementary School District.
His wife, a teacher, would be included under Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan to raise teacher salaries 20 percent by 2020. Morales, a math coach, would not.
“I think it’s very unfair. We’re working as hard as we can, and we’re not getting support from the Legislature and governor," said Morales.
A state representative said Thursday a majority of Republican leaders in the House have agreed to support Ducey’s pay-raise plan — but the details still need to be worked out.
At the Capitol, Noah Karvelis with Arizona Educators United called for teachers to speak out for what they want.
“This movement was born out of the experience of looking into our students’ eyes and knowing that our state, the people who sit in this building, do not fund their success. That’s why we started this movement, that’s why we’re here," he said.
Mark Koss-Fillinger, a retired elementary school teacher from the Kyrene School District, said that the massive turnout was proof of the challenges teachers have faced in Arizona.
"Well it's long past due and it's quite extraordinary. I'm really fired up about this," said Koss-Fillinger.
Susan Cormier, a current teacher in the Kyrene district, said she hopes legislators find a way to put more funding into public schools.
"We need to look at the corporate tax credits that are given for tuition for private schools. We need to look at several other sources, but we don't need to take it away from the disadvantaged already," said Cormier.
While Gov. Doug Ducey has pledged to increase teacher salaries by 20 percent by the year 2020, many teachers are concerned about where that money would come from.
Sheri Schreck, an elementary school teacher in the Paradise Valley School District, said the pay bump wouldn’t actually be that much for her, because her district plans to split that money between teachers and all other staff.
"Which will give us just a 2 percent raise, and along with the state retirement increase and this year our health insurance, there was an increase in our premiums, we actually would walk away with very, very little," said Schreck.
Schreck, who’s been a teacher for three decades, said she’s actually making less now than she did in 2003. So she marched, even though she knows the walkout is hard on her students.
"They actually were crying in my classroom, my first and second graders, and they were very sad about the idea of not coming to school, as we are very sad about it, too," said Schreck.
But Schreck said she feels a lot of support from her community.
"The parents are phenomenal. We gave them all red signs. They’re all in their cars," said Schreck.
Over in Tempe, away from the march, Yesenia Andrade said believes in these teacher walkouts.
"Statewide, nation-wide, I support them," Andrade said.
Andrade was at the YMCA as she looked for activities to keep her 6-year-old son busy during the walkout. It would be a hardship for their family if the strike stretches on, but Andrade said her son understands how important this is.
"A teacher is basically there with him eight hours a day, and it take a lot for them to stay motivated for the kids, and if there’s no funds for them, no funds for the school, no funds for the teacher, where is the inspiration?" she said. "We all need to stand up for a voice, and if we need to do this to support the teachers, I got to do what I got to do."
What Arizona teachers feel they have to do is demonstrate for at least one more day. Meanwhile, the state Senate — which has not approved a school funding deal — has adjourned until Monday.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been modified to correct the spelling of Yesenia Andrade's name.