A sea of red coated the lawn of Flagstaff City Hall and poured onto the sidewalk along Route 66 as Flagstaff teachers marched in support of additional funding for public education and teacher pay as part of the Red for Ed movement in Arizona.
Signs such as “Help! 32 in a class,” "Underfunded and underpaid,” “I made this sign with money from my second job” and “By the time you finish reading this another awesome teacher will have left the state” floated above the crowd as it drifted down the street followed by a chorus of honking car horns.
Sara Klause, a third-grade special education teacher at Puente de Hozho Elementary, told the crowd of about 300 that she started teaching in Arizona about 30 years ago. At that time, both of her parents were teachers. Her father retired about 20 years ago.
“I will never make what my father made 20 years ago and I will never have the money that he had for retirement 20 years ago,” she said.
When she started work as a teacher at Wickenburg 30 years ago, she had to work two 12-hour shifts at the local hospital in order to make enough money to pay her bills and feed her family. At her second teaching position, she worked a second job and received food stamps and health care through the state for her family, which had grown from one child to two. She took an $8,000 pay cut 20 years ago to come to teach in Flagstaff because she wanted to return to the city where she had earned her college degree.
“We should have teachers who can teach and don’t have to work two or three jobs to pay the bills,” Klause said. “I feel like the momentum is here, now.”
Johanna Thebert, a student at the march, pointed out to the crowd that the state of Arizona had recently been given a D for its education system and teacher pay.
“If a D is unacceptable for me as a student, then why is a D sufficient for the state?” she said. “Why is the state more interested in arming teachers with guns and not arming them with markers and glue sticks?”