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A rally at the state capitol in Phoenix, Arizona.
A rally at the state capitol in Phoenix, Arizona. Credit: Photo @ Jack Kurtz/ZUMA Press

PHOENIX — Arizona’s education system is in a state of crisis.

The state’s schools operate with a funding deficit of over $1 billion each and every year.

This inexcusable lack of funding means that teacher salaries are among the lowest in the nation, per-pupil spending is thousands of dollars below the national average, and many of our schools and resources are quite literally crumbling. All the while, Gov. Doug Ducey continues to pass corporate tax cuts. Now, with billions missing from our general education fund, we are in the midst of a crisis in Arizona.

The result of these budget cuts is an education system hardly able to function, despite the efforts of even the most expert teachers. Each year, administrators and superintendents across the state are forced to reconcile district and student needs with insufficient budgets.

Our movement is also different from those in other states. While West Virginia placed a large focus on health insurance and Kentucky is mobilizing around a pension plan change, our focus is primarily upon ensuring that public education funding is restored. This means several things, including increasing our per-pupil funding to the national average and halting corporate tax breaks that continue to deplete our education funds, as well as our demand for a 20 percent raise so that we may be regionally competitive.

The timing of our movement has some unique characteristics. We are at the start of our standardized testing schedule, and soon we will be at the end of the school year. Meanwhile, the legislative session that decides the state budget is winding to a close.

In the face of these realities, which make for a complex situation, we are continuing to build our membership, support and infrastructure. We must now consider the most strategic path to the victory that will bring us the change that Arizonans seek and deserve. One thing is for certain — we will do whatever it takes to win. We will not stop organizing and taking action until we win.

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for our newsletter.

Noah Karvelis is a K-8 music teacher in Phoenix and an organizer for Arizona Educators United.

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