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More than 100 teachers of northern Arizona public schools, along with notables like Coral Evans and Shonto Begay, issued the following open letter to the State Representatives of Legislative District 6 – Rep. Robert “Bob” Thorpe, Rep. Walter “Walt” Blackman, and Sen. Sylvia Allen:

April 30, 2019

Dear Representatives of Legislative District 6:

Teachers of northern Arizona have long been ignored by our current state representatives — Reps. Bob Thorpe and Walt Blackman and Sen. Sylvia Allen, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. There is a continued lack of attention to the ongoing needs of public schools in northern Arizona from our legislators.

This session, longtime Representative Bob Thorpe has done nothing to improve Arizona’s schools. His most noteworthy actions on education are his failed attempts to limit ethnic studies in public schools and make it harder for college students to vote. Sen. Allen has prioritized expanding the school voucher system after voters overwhelmingly voted against Prop 305 last November, instead of fighting for more funding for our public schools. And newly elected Representative Blackman has attempted to limit the income students can receive – voting in favor of HB 2523, which would have reduced the minimum wage to $7.25 for working students.

We the undersigned have written this letter to urge our representatives to stop playing games and get to work for northern Arizona's children.

It has been one year since teachers in Arizona took to the streets to demand that:

● Our students are put first in the annual state budget.

● Arizona teachers are paid fairly for the tireless work they do to educate and support children.

● More support staff is hired such as school counselors. Arizona ranks last in the country in student to counselor ratio.

Since the 2008 recession, Arizona’s Republican-led legislature has underfunded our public school system to the tune of $800 million – robbing children across our state of a quality education, and the opportunity to thrive. Teachers see these effects every day in ballooning class sizes, outdated textbooks, broken school buses and unhealthy classroom environments.

Further, the lack of funding for our public schools is a violation of Arizona's constitution. The Arizona Constitution states in Article 11, Section 10 that the Arizona Legislature “...shall insure the proper maintenance of all state educational institutions, and shall make such special appropriations as shall provide for their development and improvement.”

Not only has the legislature failed our students, but the powers that be in the state legislature have failed in their duty to uphold the state constitution. Every year that education funding has not been restored is a year Arizona has moved further and further away from the principles that founded our beloved state.

After months of election-year promises to prioritize education and boasting the passage of a 9% increase in funding in the 2018 budget, we the undersigned would like to remind the representatives of Legislative District 6 that the job is far from done.

What we are still asking for:

● Full restoration of education funding to 2008 levels.

● Competitive pay for all education support staff such as teachers’ aides and paraprofessionals.

● No new tax cuts until per-pupil funding for Arizona students reaches the national average.

It has been one year since teachers and parents marched to the state capital to demand our state legislature takes comprehensive steps to strengthen our schools. Last year, we received marginal improvements in funding, which has led to marginal improvements in classrooms in northern Arizona. The children of Legislative District 6 deserve better and we demand action from our representatives.

Concerned teachers of northern Arizona,

Dana Almquist Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Judith Arnold Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District #1

Sheri Bain Mathematics, AP Calculus Teacher FUSD

Barbara Ball Teacher FUSD

Neal Barnett Teacher BASIS

Matthew Barquin Teacher Flagstaff

Shonto Begay Professional Artist/Educator Coconino

Heather Bigley Teacher BASIS Flagstaff

Derek Born English Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Lauren Bradshaw Teacher Flagstaff unified school district

LiAnne Brant Math teacher Flagstaff unified school district

Tami Butters Tutor and Reading Specialist Flagstaff

Ross Carpenter Teacher Payson Unified

Rebecca Cauthen Teacher Maine Consolidated School

Rachael Cersosimo Special Education Teacher Fusd

James Connell School Psychologist Flagstaff Unified

Annie Crego Retired FUSD1

Jennifer Cummiskey Teacher Pine Forest Charter Association

Michelle Despain Teacher Montessori Charter School of Flagstaff

Travis Doerfler 4th Grade Teacher Flagstaff Unified SD

Cree Donovan Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Kristen Doughman 3rd Grade Teacher FUSD

Coral Evans Mayor Flagstaff Unified School District

Robert Farrell School Counselor Maine Consolidated School District #10

Amy Faull Professional Education Program Advisor, instructor, and student teacher supervisor Northern Arizona University

Michael Fillerup Educational consultant Flagstaff unified school district

Kelly Fischer Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Jana Fix Physical Education Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District #1

Sarah Flores 1st grade teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Kimberly Fors Elementary Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Theresa Freas Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Alexa Frechette Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Toby Friedman Teacher District 9

Evangeline Garciaguirre First grade teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Marti Gilmore Teacher Mingus Union High School

Gretchen Gooby Teacher (Retired) Flagstaff Unified School District

Margie Goulden Parent of a teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Jeff Goulden Parent of a Teacher Flagstaff United School District

Angela Gray Transition Specialist Flagstaff Unified School District

Jon Griffith Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Lee Haferkamp Substitute Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Walter Halaberda Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Carrie Harrington Homemaker Flagstaff Unified School District

James Hasapis Director of Choirs and Theater Northland Preparatory Academy

Kevin Heinz SpEd Resource Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Kim Helwig Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Carol Hixson Special Education Teacher Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy

Susan Holiday Substitute/Retired Science teacher Flagstaff Unified #1

Emma Horlacher Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Katheen Hughes Special Education Teacher Cottonwood-Oak Creek Schools

Diane Immethun Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Amy Iniguez Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Lee Irby Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Martha Jansen Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

James Jones Navajo Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Angela Keller Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Jessica Kitterman Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Dan Kitterman Parent , Former Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Sara Klause Instructional Specialist Flagstaff Unified Schools

Greg Klause Manager Flagstaff Unified School District

Maureen Knowles-Short Program Specialist

Katie Krause 5th Grade Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Maureen Landrith Certified Teacher Flagstaff Unified Schools

Britney Lawler Special Education Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Molly Lesandrini Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Olivia Lorents Middle school English teacher, retired Flagstaff Unified School District

Natalie Mann Teacher Williams Elementary Middle School

Julia Manygoats Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Katherine Mareck Second Grade Teacher Pine Forest Charter

Lora Mattke Former Spanish teacher Flagstaff

Lynn Mavrek-Gurne Special Education Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Erin McCamish Physics Teacher BASIS Flagstaff

Nancy McCleskey School Counselor FUSD

Joan McCoy Instructional Specialist Flagstaff Unified School District

Danielle Morales Kindergarten Teacher FUSD

Kori Morrow Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Matt Nichols Former practicing licensed teacher Flagstaff

Kevin Oelerich Teacher Flagstaff

Chris Pabst Teacher (PE) Flagstaff unified school district

Yvonne Parent Second grade teacher FUSD

Rachel Perugini Teacher Flagstaff unified school district

Benjamin Proctor Art Teacher FUSD1

Russell Randall Transition Facilitator Flagstaff USD

Ilene Ryan Teacher FUSD

Beth Sanborn Program Specialist (Retired) Flagstaff Unified School Dist.

Jeremy Schroeder Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Sarah Shamah ELL Specialist FUSD1

Lily Stevens Teacher FlagstaffUSD

Victoria Tomas Teacher Flagstaff unified school district

Erika Tsouras Teacher FUSD (BASIS Flagstaff)

Angela Waltner Teacher Flagstaff Unified school district

Faye Warner Teacher Fusd

Nancy Wildermuth Reading aide (retired AZ teacher) Maine Consolidated

Lynn Winslow Retired Teacher COCSD

Anamaria Ortiz Teacher Northland Preparatory Academy

Alithea Gorski Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District #1

Valli Denmark Resource Teacher FUSD

Levi Davis Teacher Flagstaff unified school district

Amy Iniguez Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Jennifer Cernohous Teacher Flagstaff Junior Academy

Ryan Brydenthal Elementary librarian(classified) Flagstaff Unified

Heidi Thorne Certified Teacher Sedona Oak Creek School District

Mary Phillips 1st gr teacher Window Rock

Hesper Petersen Teacher Flagstaff unified school district

Danielle Grimmett Teacher Flagstaff unified school district

Cristina Guerrero 4th Grade Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Katherine Scholler Teacher Flagstaff Unified School District

Rachel de Jesus Special Education Teacher FUSD

Naomi Konkel Special education teacher WUSD2

Cam McCord Teacher FUSD

Derek Born English teacher Flagstaff Unified

Lee McGarey M.D. FUSD

Mike Cosentino Teacher

Brian Lewy Dean of Students Camp Verde School District

Todd Schipper Science Teacher Winslow Unified School District

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For a full list of those who signed on to the letter, visit this story at azdailysun.com.

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