The historic teacher’s revolt —which saw mass strikes in red majority states like West Virginia, Oklahoma, Colorado and Arizona—continues to have a powerful effect on the political landscape. The strike in Arizona on April 26— where 50,000 teachers and school staff walked-off the job— directly influenced yet another significant crusade for public education.
A large coalition of teachers, teacher unions, parents and other volunteers hit the streets collecting signatures in over 500 locations in midst of Arizona’s oppressive June heat. The goal was to gather 150,000 signatures by July for “Invest in Ed”—a campaign which proposed increasing income taxes on the wealthiest Arizonans to fund public education by raising $690,000,000. Corporate media—the mouthpiece of the rich—condemned the measure as “socialist”—and lamented even more once the proposal proved so popular with the working-class. The “Invest in Ed” petition surpassed its original signature goal by collecting an unbelievable 270,000 signatures easily making it eligible for the November ballot.
This initiative is part of long battle fought by Arizona educators. The conservative state legislature has repeatedly refused to raise teacher salaries or provide adequate funding for classrooms despite Arizona being a wealthy state. Consequently, Arizona teachers are among the lowest paid in the country and must provide classroom materials out of pocket. The Invest in Ed initiative would have raised teacher salaries 20 percent by 2020. The measure would have also funded better school support staff pay and other such needs as full-day kindergarten.
Invest in Ed is a product of the #RedforED demand for a comprehensive funding plan for public schools; not just the bare minimum “solutions” offered by politicians. Earlier this year, striking teachers rejected Governor Doug Ducey’s plan to raise teacher’s salaries by 20 percent over the next three years. Strikers rejected the plan because it would not give other support staff raises or bring more money into classrooms. It gave them the impetus and dedication to launch this amazing drive.< Frightened by such a radical turn of events, on August 29, the Arizona Supreme Court blocked the ballot initiative. Incredibly, the court argued that the wording of the proposition could have confused the voters about the extent of the proposed tax increase. This decision ended all chances for the proposal. Furious, petition leaders vowed to continue the fight. More than 200 protesters gathered in front of the federal building downtown on August 31. Despite many liberal politicians and pundits encouraging protestors to use this gross injustice as a reason to focus energies in the November elections, working-class Arizona parents, teachers, students, and other advocates are rejecting these business-as-usual tactics. In an interview with local news outlet, Kgun9, Montserrat Caballero, a co-chair for the Invest In Ed Campaign in Tucson said “The universal reaction is anger, frustration, and outrage. But I think the message about here is that we are still invested, we are nowhere near being done.” Protestors are also enraged about Proposition 305, a measure that is being pushed by politicians unwilling to listen to demands. This plan will create a charter school voucher program and is a continuation of Arizona’s push to privatize education. Proposition 305 will likely be on the November ballot instead of Invest in Ed despite the latter's widespread support. Advocates for public education and proponents of the measure have vowed to continue organizing. The continuation of the #RedforED principles demonstrated in Invest in Ed protests show that the working class is fed up with empty promises. Despite bipartisan efforts to dampen the teacher’s movement, the working-class remains steadfast in their principles out of necessity. The #RedforED strikes and the Invest in Ed support is continuing the dialogue about the increasing gap between the rich and working-class ---and why the “Whatever it takes!” chants from the state to state teacher strikes still echo!