On Wednesday, May 3, 2018, the Arizona House of Representatives debated the K-12 education budget bill late into the night. Educators and supporters filled the lobby or gallery of the House of Representatives and watched for several hours as pro-public education amendments would be introduced and debated, but not passed. It had already been a long week for educators, because it was the fifth day of the teacher walkout. On the evening of May 3, 2018, I was physically and mentally exhausted. I could not believe what I was watching. I was outraged. I was sad. I was frustrated.
Some of the amendments were meant to improve the K-12 education budget bill. They included phasing out tax credits, providing a broader definition of “teacher” that would allow more certified teachers to be included in the raises, they included capping classroom sizes at 25, and limiting counselor caseloads to 250 students. As I watched and listened to the amendments being debated, I was also reading the comments and posts on FaceBook and Twitter. Teachers, parents, and House Democrats were angry. Representative Reginald Bolding of Phoenix said, “You can’t set the house on fire, call 911, and pretend to be a hero.” Comments such as “Vote them out” and “I will #RememberinNovember” were resonating on social media.
Three outrageous amendments were introduced by Representative Kelly Townsend of Mesa. Her amendments proposed making it illegal for teachers to espouse political beliefs at work, wanted the attorney general to investigate schools who allowed political activity at school, and wanted to bar schools from closing down. The comments continued on FaceBook, “This doesn’t seem real. Vote them out!” Thankfully, these amendments were voted against unanimously.
Out of all the amendments introduced that evening, one amendment co-sponsored by Speaker J.D. Mesnard did pass. The amendment removed requirements for charter schools to post their budget on the school’s website. A research report published in September 2017 by the Grand Canyon Institute reported on the need to have greater transparency and accountability, but this amendment would do quite the opposite. I watched as Representative Eddie Farnsworth argued that charters should not be accountable, and I watched as the amendment passed. Representative Farnsworth is also the CEO of Ben Franklin Charter Schools, and he just profited millions of dollars from the “sale” of his charter company. A charter company that was underwritten with Arizona taxpayer funds, and it was made legal by bills supported by Representative Farnsworth, Speaker Mesnard, and others.
The midterm elections were still months away, but educators and supporters were fired up on the evening of May 3, 2018. I vowed not to forget the exchange between the representatives who wanted to improve the K-12 budget bill and those who were against improving it. How could I forget? For several days my colleagues and I walked out of our classrooms. A walkout that was not taken lightly. We were outraged and felt betrayed. I kept thinking the fire would continue into the summer and fall. We needed people to keep these events fresh in their minds. However, in my part of the world, many did forget. After the walkout, everything went back to normal. From my perspective, the fire I saw the evening of May 3, 2018 had been extinguished. It has been discouraging to witness, but I am still hopeful that educators will get involved before the election, and they will remember how they felt on May 3, 2018. I hope they will turn those angry and frustrated comments into action.
There are many opportunities to get involved. I have attended candidate forums and have been working to support pro-public education candidates who will Invest in Education by helping restore funds to public schools. I’m spending my fall break learning about the candidates and propositions that will be on the ballot. I’m encouraging everyone to register to vote by October 9, 2018, and I have checked my voter status by visiting Service Arizona. I attended a non-partisan presentation by AZED101 to help me further understand how schools are funded in Arizona. I will receive the early ballot next week, and I will make certain to return it as soon as possible. I will continue to share my story, and I challenge you to share yours. Where were you on May 3, 2018? Do you remember how you felt?
The midterm elections are just around the corner and important now more than ever. I live in Legislative District 17, and the home of J.D. Mesnard. The evening of May 3, 2018 is still cemented in my mind. I plan to make an educated vote this November. What do you plan to do?
Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/clock-pocket-time-losing-time-clock-3442760/