Opinion
Teaching Profession Opinion

I’m an Arizona Teacher. This Is Why I’m Walking Out Today

Teachers statewide are on strike to demand respectable salaries
By Donald R. Sheldon — April 25, 2018 3 min read
Thousands of Arizona teachers protest at the state capitol on April 26, the first day of a statewide teachers' strike in Phoenix.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Teaching is not what someone does if they don’t have the skills for a high-powered career in corporate America. As someone who has worked in both worlds, I know that being an educator is a calling that helps a country develop and defines the character of its citizens. Character is what gives educators in Arizona, who voted yes earlier this month to the first statewide teacher strike in the state’s history, the ability to stand confident in the face of fear and determine their best course of action.

I am a high school teacher in Phoenix, and I have closely watched the events around teacher pay unfold. Arizona is the latest in a string of states—Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia among them—whose teachers are walking out of schools to demand higher salaries and more funding and respect for education. The headlines have provoked political agendas, economic turmoil, and views that teachers’ actions will inconvenience parents and that they do not have students’ best interests at heart. What those who criticize teachers’ choices don’t realize is that the underlying support structure to the survival of our country is its educators—and they cannot continue to put up with current conditions. Drastic action is in order.

I, like many of our teachers, am tired of expectations that I will remain silent and accept the trickle-down crumbs from the table of our state legislature."

The experience I bring to my students as a teacher of career-and-technical education was hard-earned over a period of 30 years in corporate America. When I was a software engineer and developer, no one thought twice about my $750 hourly rates to write programs or perform system analysis for large corporations. My students now leave my classroom well-qualified to enter college or careers as network administrators, cyber-security technicians, or information-technology support staff. The average starting salaries for these jobs are anywhere from $60,000 to $90,000.

Yet, my salary as an expert educator does not even come close, even with three decades of work experience. We Arizona teachers make, on average, $48,000 a year—that’s about $10,000 less than the national teacher average. The state governor has promised that he will encourage the legislature to give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020. But we’re skeptical—and we can’t wait.

I, like many of my colleagues in Arizona, am tired of expectations that I will remain silent and accept the trickle-down crumbs from the table of our state legislature. On the contrary, I am fighting for our collective dignity and joining thousands of others in the walkout. What would happen if teachers with my kind of skill set stopped teaching the technology experts of tomorrow? Where would we be if we had no online systems for defense? When our elected officials put themselves in a position of elitism and superiority, I believe they have forgotten how they acquired their skills and abilities that got them to their elected positions in the first place.

See Also

Want to know more about how teachers strikes have changed over time? Wonder if striking is legal in your state? We’ve compiled the answers to four common questions about teacher strikes.

Educators across our nation deserve the right to have affordable living conditions and equitable working conditions—ones in which rats don’t fall through the ceilings and electrical outlets don’t shock teachers. (Both of these things have happened to me.) No Fortune 500 company would put up with these conditions. We shouldn’t have to, either.

Yes, I could return to the corporate community and make two to three times the amount of money I make now. But I believe I am making a difference in the lives of my students by helping them develop the skills and abilities to be tomorrow’s technology experts. Teachers turn unbelievers into believers, fearfulness into hope, and dreams into reality.

I ask you, America: What price are we willing to pay to accomplish this?

A version of this article appeared in the May 02, 2018 edition of Education Week as I’m an Arizona Teacher. This Is Why I Walked Out

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Opinion How I’m Keeping Ahead of Burnout: 4 Tips for Teachers
An English teacher shares her best advice for battling the long-haul blahs until spring break.
Kelly Scott
4 min read
Young woman cartoon character making step from gloomy grey rainy weather to sunny clear day.
iStock/Getty + Education Week
Teaching Profession Opinion Why Is the Nation Invested in Tearing Down Public Education?
Education professor Deborah Loewenberg Ball argues that panic over test scores keeps us from building on the strengths of our children.
Deborah Loewenberg Ball
5 min read
Illustration of school text books and wrecking ball.
F. Sheehan for Education Week / Getty
Teaching Profession Teachers Censor Themselves on Socio-Political Issues, Even Without Restrictive State Laws
A new survey from the RAND Corporation found that two-thirds of teachers limit their instruction on political and social issues in class.
4 min read
Civics teacher Aedrin Albright stands before her class at Chatham Central High School in Bear Creek, N.C., on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. The class is debating whether President Trump should be impeached. The House impeachment inquiry into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine has become a teachable moment in classrooms around the country as educators incorporate the events in Washington into their lesson plans.
Civics teacher Aedrin Albright stands before her class at Chatham Central High School in Bear Creek, N.C., on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. The class was debating whether President Trump should be impeached. A new national survey found that a majority of teachers are now limiting instruction on political and social issues in class.
Allen G. Breed/AP
Teaching Profession 10 Major Challenges for Substitute Teachers
Substitute teachers want more support to do their jobs well. One state has identified their top concerns.
4 min read
Illustration of people climbing stacks of books. There are 3 stacks of books at different heights with people helping people climb up.
iStock/Getty