Growing up, I loved that my dad was a teacher. I remember when I was 4 or 5, going to work with him and sitting quietly at his desk as he recited Hamlet to his big, scary high schoolers.
“Alas, poor Yorick!” I remember him saying. I didn’t know what that meant, but it made me smile anyway. I loved listening to him read.
Not long after, I was one of those seniors sitting in my dad’s English class. I remember blushing at all the innuendos in Othello that none of my classmates understood. I understood them. My dad knew I understood them. He had been reading Shakespeare to me since I was 4.
My dad raised me with a love, appreciation and respect for public schooling. After all, some of my earliest memories are of me keeping busy in his classroom.
And he wasn’t the only teacher to have made an impact on my life. There were so many others before and after — teachers who have been shaping me since I began my formal education 18 years ago. I could name every single one of them.
But education in the United States has been failing. Teachers no longer want to work, and students are no longer learning.
Teachers all over the U.S. have been organizing school walk-outs to march to their state capitols, protest the low salaries teachers receive and discuss the budget cuts that were never restored after the recession. They’re calling this the #RedForEd movement.
In the past decade, Arizona’s education programs have lost $1.5 billion in their school funding and another $4.5 billion in public education funding.
“That money covers everything,” said Monica Flint, an Arizona educator who has been teaching in public schools for 16 years. “We’ve got kids learning out of textbooks that are older than they are.”
She also said there are schools with crumbling buildings and roped-off rooms because the districts can’t afford to fix them.
That budget cut also affects teachers’ salaries. Flint said she started working in the Paradise Valley Unified School District in Phoenix, Arizona, 13 years ago with a yearly income of $30,500. Now, she makes $37,500 — far less than she expected to be earning at this point in her career.
“There are teachers who have been working here for three years who make just as much money as I do,” Flint said.
But ultimately, Flint said she and other teachers involved in the #RedForEd movement want to give their students the education they deserve.
“We’re doing (this) for the crumbling school buildings, the buses that won’t work and the huge class sizes,” she said.
Schools are pushing as many students as they can into a single class because there are fewer certified teachers able to teach. She said even some kindergarten classes have up to 30 students.
“We’ve been starved for so long,” Flint said. “It’s all coming to a crisis point.”
As I have followed the #RedForEd movement 1,000 miles away from behind my computer screen, I’ve wondered how something like this has an impact on me and what I can do about it. I have to do something about it.
Teachers in Arizona have been on strike for almost a week. The Arizona legislature has made a couple improvements — they are promising teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020. But the promises they have made regarding budget improvements are fickle and insufficient.
This is not just about teachers getting the pay they deserve. This is about giving the future of our country an education upon which they can stand. Every student — whether they come from a public, private or charter education — deserves a fighting chance in the world.
These kinds of education movements are happening all throughout the country, and I stand behind every last one of them. Let’s create an educational environment where teachers are excited to teach because they can afford to do so. Let’s give our upcoming generations the learning environment they need.
In elementary school, my school’s motto was, “Never settle for less than your very best.” Twelve years later, I still take that to heart. Let’s not settle for less than our country’s best.