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6:06 PM Tue, Sept. 25th

Locals cautiously optimistic about pledge to make education a priority

Within minutes of Gov. Doug Ducey’s announcement he will propose to the Legislature raising teacher pay by 9 percent for the next school year, with net increases of up to 20 percent by 2020-21, Chino Valley Unified School District Superintendent John Scholl was penning a memo to faculty and staff.

“I think this is great,” said Scholl, who prior to Ducey’s news conference was, like several of his neighboring superintendents, preparing for a potential teacher/staff walkout.

The grassroots demands of Arizona Educators United which has generated unified support of educators and their advocates across the state was credited with Ducey’s apparent change of approach. The #RedForEd movement has pushed not only for higher salaries for teachers, but to raise all education levels to ensure Arizona public school spending is no longer among the lowest in the nation.

More must be done, but Scholl said this seems to be a strong step in the right direction, particularly as Ducey did not opt to take away other promised capital dollars — $371 million — that are equally essential.

“This is a good compromise,” Scholl said.

Humboldt Unified School District Superintendent Dan Streeter was in Phoenix on Thursday. In the late morning hours, Streeter was circumspect about walkout threats. He said he was waiting to see what the powers that be might do later in the day.

Streeter did say he has been in constant communication with his #RedForEd teacher leaders, and expressed admiration for how teachers and staff remain focused on “wanting what’s best for kids.”

To Streeter, and other administrators, this movement is focused on making a difference for this state’s children; with salaries a means to retain and recruit the best of the best.

“To this point, that’s been the message and that’s what I’ve appreciated about this movement,” Streeter said.

Yavapai County Education Service Agency Executive Director Stan Goligoski said he has been in conversations with superintendents across the county on how best to respond to this crisis. He hoped it would not come down to widespread walkouts, but recognized the frustration behind such a notion.

“We’re in the business of trying to help out schools with funding in so many creative ways, but the bottom line is that salaries are atrocious and show zero respect to our teachers; the people to whom we send our kids for eight or nine hours a day,” Goligoski said. “We entrust our kids’ future to these people, and we’re not showing them any respect. So good for them — they needed to do something. And teachers, traditionally, have kept quiet.

“We’ve reached a tipping point.”

“The Governor’s teacher pay proposal is a good step forward and would propel Arizona closer to meeting our shared goal of being at the national median for teacher pay by 2022,” said Christine Thompson, president and chief executive officer of Expect More Arizona, a nonprofit educational advocacy group. “As we consider (Ducey’s) plan, we still need a long-term funding solution that supports the entire education continuum and ensures safe learning environments and access to 21st century resources for educators and students across the state.

“Expect More Arizona is eager to continue working together, across party lines, to find long-term funding solutions that support the success of every student, every step of the way — regardless of background, income or zip code.”

Prescott Unified School District Superintendent Joe Howard was conducting a tour with potential teacher recruits on Thursday afternoon. He didn’t hear Ducey’s press conference, but was flooded with texts that good news was on the horizon.

“I’m a bit taken aback,” Howard said.

Of course, he said he’s relieved that this appears to close down the threat of a walkout. As much as he endorses the movement, Howard said he did not want to inhibit classroom instruction even for a day.

“At first blush, this looks real good to me. I’m happy to hear he (Ducey) is working with us and acknowledging that we are in a crisis with education funding,” Howard said.

Earlier in the day, Howard was unable to hide his ire that teachers had to go so far to catch politicians’ attention.

“Come on, Arizona, let’s make education a priority,” Howard exclaimed.

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