Three encouraging takeaways for me from Thursday's walkout.
A Sea Of Red:
50,000 to 75,000 teachers and supporters filled the streets of Phoenix and gathered in front of the state Capitol. Thousands of others lined the streets in Tucson and, I imagine, other cities as well. A terrific show of unity.
Good #RedforEd Ink:
The media appeared to be awed by and delighted with the teachers and the walkout. The Yays! far outweighed the Nays in print and on TV news.
The Governor's Seal Of Approval:
Ducey had nothing but positive things to say about teachers Thursday. No talk of political theater. Nothing about teachers deserting their classrooms and their students. In a televised interview, he said, "I'm listening to these teachers. I think citizens have a voice. They have a right to petition their government. I think they want to be heard, and they are being heard."
Ducey's almost-endorsement of the walkout is huge, as is his acknowledgement that teachers deserve a 20 percent raise. Governor One Percent got religion a few weeks ago and increased his salary offer twenty fold. He even said—be still my heart—that the work Arizona's teachers have done makes them worthy of a raise.
"These teachers have earned the pay raise. They're getting the results and outcomes inside the classroom. . . . Our public districts and our public charters are improving faster than any state in the nation."
The improvement he's talking about is Arizona's scores on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress ( NAEP) test, which went up while most other states stayed flat.
It's not time for balloons and confetti falling from the ceiling, not by a long shot. The teachers aren't happy with what Ducey is offering, and the legislature isn't ready to vote for Ducey's budget plan. If the lege were ready, if Ducey had pulled together the votes he needed, I imagine the legislators would have stayed at the capitol Friday rather than heading home for a three day weekend. It looks like the walkout will continue Monday. After that, who knows? Everyone is a long way from getting to Yes.
But the thing is, Ducey is on the record. He's said the teachers deserve their 20 percent raise and the support staff deserves a raise too, though I don't think he's put a figure on it. And the Republican leadership in the legislature appears to agree, even if it doesn't agree with Ducey's way of getting there (The Democrats were already on board with the teachers). And while Ducey didn't exactly praise the walkout, he gave it half a thumbs up by folding it into the democratic notion of citizens petitioning the government.
Ducey said it, and he can't unsay it. Well, yes he can, and probably will. But he's already set a tone of accepting the teachers' salary hike demands. Meanwhile, recent national polling shows the public still likes and respects public schools and school teachers, no matter how hard Republicans have tried to demonize them, and they recognize teachers are grossly underpaid.
Things are going to get tense and dicey on the education front in the next few weeks. It'll make things a little easier for teachers starting out with a surplus of good will from the public and the press and an agreement from most Republican elected officials that the educators' basic demands are just.
Ducey announced Friday afternoon that he has reached a deal with Republican legislative leaders on a teacher raise. What's the deal? That remains to be seen.
Some education advocates filed a ballot initiative with the state to raise income taxes on individuals making over $250,000 or households making over $500,000 to be used for salary raises and other educational needs. Who are the "advocates"? That remains to be seen.