Red for Ed, the same organization that last year helped earn a pay raise for teachers, didn’t get everything that they were rooting for this election day. But despite their lack of victories, teachers are still empowered.
This national movement links educators in West Virginia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Colorado to increase public education funding and teacher pay.
The Red for Ed movement started over a year ago with teachers wearing red, speaking out and organizing walkouts to protest the underfunding of public schools.
After teachers went on strike for seven days, last spring the Arizona Legislature voted and gave teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020. But the teachers and advocates who enforced that political change said they wanted more.
They first supported the Invest in Education Act an initiative seeking voter approval to increase taxes for Arizona education and teachers.
The State Supreme Court threw that off the November ballot because of its wording.
“It was a slap in the face to every teacher,” said the co-founder of Red for Ed and teacher, Noah Karvelis, 24.
Karvelis is from Rockford, Illinois, and has been teaching for three years. He says that the 270,000 supporters that signed, including himself, were infuriated and depressed when they tossed out “Invest in Ed.”
He says that teachers love their jobs, and speak up because they see the same issues in the classroom daily.
Patrick Diehl, 72, has seen those issues in the classroom. He’s a retired teacher and supporter of Red for Ed.
Diehl says that he’s been wearing his Red for Ed shirt every day for the last month to bring awareness to public education.
“I’m very upset with the Supreme Court for stomping on the people’s will and not letting us vote,” said Diehl.
Red for Ed’s goal for the November election was to get people to vote no, on 305; no, on 126, and yes, on 127.
They canvassed, held phone banks, endorsed candidates, and worked to get out the vote, but their efforts still fell short.
Their primary goal was to defeat Proposition 305 would have allowed the expansion of tax-paid vouchers of to pay for private education. Sixty-seven percent of the state rejected that one.
Two other propositions that the movement supported — to prohibit the government from increasing taxes on services in the future, and one that would have would have required 50 percent of energy to come from renewable resources such as solar and wind by 2030 — were defeated.
Another one of Red for Ed’s organizing leaders, Derek Harris, 34, says that he’s grateful for all the hard work the supporters put in.
“It was a victory in some ways, and a defeat in others,” said Harris.
Harris has been teaching for 12 years and now teaches at Robins K-8 School. He grew up in Mexico and Texas and has been living in Tucson for four years.
He says that the work continues and Red for Ed will keep doing what they’re good at: educating people about what Arizona’s public education needs.
“If we can get everyone on the same page about Arizona’s education needs, then other things will start to fall into line that is also good for Arizona,” said Harris.
Harris says that Red for Ed is planning how to move forward.He’s hopeful that Kathy Hoffman will win the race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction once all votes are counted.
“She’s actually an educator, and is going to try and return education back to the people and the community,” said Harris.
Harris believes that Hoffman will make education serve the students. He had no kind words for Frank Riggs, her Republican opponent.
“I think that one of those is the morally right thing to do, and the other is dastardly and cruel,” he said.
Harris worries that educators won’t keep the Red for Ed spirit alive once things get better.
“You can’t beat us there because we’re still going to school every day, and dealing with the same kid that is not getting the help they need at home,” said Harris.
Harris says the fight to get increased funding for public schools is nowhere near done. He says the big thing to remember is that Red for Ed made education the No. 1 issue in Arizona.
“They think that they’re going to make us quit, but it is the core of our being to not stop. The only time that we’re going to back off is when we get what we want, what we need for our students,” said Harris.
Bria Fonteno is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Click here for a Word version of this story and high-resolution photos.”