Today, all over Arizona, teachers are walking out to protest for better pay and learning conditions for their students. They plan to walk out again Friday to press lawmakers for their demands as will Colorado educators. As thousands of teachers march on the state Capitol over education funding, many are wondering what happened to the pot money?
In Flagstaff, Arizona, more than 500 teachers, students and supporters gathered at Heritage Square to march to City Hall.
The walkout has prompted the creation of makeshift daycare centers for parents who have no place to leave their children when they go to work. Some parents who had to find daycare, and students trying to finish the school year strong, agreed. "We've done as much as we can with the dollars that we do have", Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran said on Monday.
When they learned that she uses part of that meager wage to buy snacks for her kids, rugs and chairs for her classroom, strangers in NY sent a box of Scotch tape and pencil erasers and a sixth grader in London shipped her a $150 gift card. "And I also run a catering company", said Hughes.
Eight hundred miles northeast of the main #RedForEd event in Phoenix, thousands of Colorado teachers assembled at Denver's Capitol building for the first of two days of protests. They chanted, "Education is our right" and "We're not gonna take it anymore", getting honks from passing cars. "We're all public schools", Roche said. But there's more. "As a priest, I believe our budgets are moral documents".
Colorado has fallen behind in per-pupil funding, now $2,162 behind the national average, according to statistics, largely due to lawmakers diverting education dollars to other areas of the state budget, such as transportation and health care.
But the biggest cheer came when she called for Colorado's tax and spending limits - the strictest in the country - to be fixed.
Teachers in Arizona and Colorado Hold Massive Walkouts to Protest Education Funding
Because lawmakers can not raise taxes without voter approval, they're not expecting an immediate fix.
Joe Thomas, president of the state's teachers' union, blamed the state's deep tax cuts for years of lost revenue and squeezed education budgets. Ducey has stuck with the plan, and said the economy is growing and will continue to do so.
"Our goal is to ensure that students have access to highly qualified and experienced teachers, that educators are compensated fairly, and to improve the educational environment in the state of Arizona", the group said on its walkout planning website. Arizona now spends 13.6 percent less per pupil than it did 10 years ago, adjusted for inflation.
Many marchers carried #RedforEd signs or posters saying, "Fund our future" and "Ducey, you're out of your element", referring to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.
One critic of the walkouts said it sets a bad precedent for other public service groups such as police and firemen and that a better solution is to redirect money from school administration to teachers.
More than 840,000 Arizona students were expected to be out of school Thursday. Four others, including large suburban districts in Jefferson and Douglas counties, will be shuttered Thursday but are expected to reopen Friday.
Addie Martinez dropped off her 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter before rushing off to her job as a medical assistant. The facility has room for up to 100 kids and will provide breakfast, lunch and snacks for $25 per child. "Both the Democrats and the Republicans have undertaken this", she stressed. Lee said they definitely started something.