UA educators support Red For Ed, but graduates hesitate to encourage joining field
Educators in the College of Education will participate in a walk-in at noon every Wednesday for the rest of April to show their support for the Red For Ed movement, a grassroots movement started by the coalition Arizona Eductors United to encourage solidarity between teachers.
This comes after Gov. Doug Ducey promised to give teachers a 20-percent raise over four years on April 12.
“As the kind of people who are teaching future teachers, working with current teachers … it was really important to make a statement that the UA College of Education and especially the Teaching Learning and Sociocultural studies department supports the movement,” said Aubrey Neihaus, a graduate student who helped organize the walk-in.
To Neihaus and other students, the public has not dug into the details of Ducey’s announcement.
“It seems like the demands of the movement are being met when they’re not,” Neihaus said.
Neihaus, who educates future elementary math teachers, has discussed the movement in her classes and said her students know the “deck is stacked against them.”
“The young adults who are getting into this profession are well aware of [the funding issues],” Neihaus said. “That’s a tough position to be in, especially those of us who are here teaching them and trying to prepare them for this work.”
While Neihaus said most of her education students go out of state to teach, some students do stay in Tucson and live with the financial realities of teaching in Arizona.
“I mean, it’s pretty rough [to be a teacher in Arizona],” said Mallory Anderson, a 2016 graduate and an elementary school teacher in Tucson. “Basically, what we make on a month average is below what is considered livable means even in Tucson, so it’s pretty much a struggle.”
To make ends meet, Anderson tutors an additional three hours after school every day to pay for rent, put money into savings and have enough money for other activities.
For her, the funding is about the students.
“Of course I would love more pay for us, but more importantly, more funding for the students,” Anderson said. “They’ve taken a hit, and they notice it. They discuss all the time how our books are old, even simple things like our fields don’t have grass, there’s no equipment or anything … so if a room of 10-year-olds is noticing it, it’s pretty awful.”
Other UA families are thinking of splitting up because they can’t afford to live in Arizona with teacher wages.
“It’s a question that no family should have to face,” said Brandon Bales, a current doctorate student in anthropology. “You shouldn’t have to be asking yourself, ‘Should we divide up our family so we can achieve our goals or so we can make ends meet?’”
Bales and his wife, Annika Kronmiller-Bales, have three kids to support. Kronmiller-Bales, a teacher, is considering moving to get a raise.
“I have a job offer in another state that makes $15,000 more than here,” she said. “And we’ve been debating if me and the girls move away because we’ll be able to afford that. My heart is here; I want to be all together; I love Tucson … I don’t want to feel like I have to make that choice to split my family up, but it’s something we have to consider.”
Kronmiller-Bales has been teaching since 2004 and taught in two other states before Arizona, where she received far more pay. She is stressed because, in addition to providing for her family, she needs to pay for her own classroom supplies out of pocket, which she believes should already be provided.
“Just last month, I spent $300 out of pocket,” Kronmiller-Bales said. “I’ve had panic attacks for the last few years being here because I just want to provide. I don’t have a lavish lifestyle, but I want to be able to pay for the basics for my family and not go into debt on a credit card for that.”
Other recent graduates love their jobs, but some would deter future graduates from working in Arizona right now.
“I wouldn’t honestly recommend to people right now to become a teacher in Arizona,” said Rebecca Edelman, a 2011 graduate who is in her sixth year of teaching.
Edelman now lives with her husband, but before she was married, she had to live with a roommate because she couldn’t afford to live on her own.
“Before I was married, I lived with my sister in college, and I tried to move out by myself,” Edelman said. “I could not afford to live by myself.”
Other teachers have side jobs to support their teaching job.
“I have a side job in photography, which makes it easier,” said Jenna Horist, a 2016 graduate. “Without photography, I would be super stressed out.”
Considering the political atmosphere and the missing funding, Neihaus encouraged everyone to show their support.
“Whatever it is that these teachers are up against, it’s important that they be supported,” Neihaus said.
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