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How a statewide walkout would affect teachers financially

Amanda Hoskinson (KTAR Photo/Griselda Zetino)
LISTEN: Teachers discuss a possible walkout

PHOENIX – Eric Rogers and his wife are both teachers in Phoenix. They live on a tight budget, owe $70,000 in student loans and have a baby on the way.

“We’re looking at the possibility of living out of our van, moving into a different state or moving back home with our parents,” he said. “It’s unbelievable that those are the three realities we have right now.”

The couple knows they’ll likely go without pay if they take part in a teacher walkout, putting them in a deeper hole financially. But Rogers says it’s a fight they can’t afford to lose.

“It’s going to be hard and it’s going to be a struggle,” he said. “But we have to realize what’s harder – the current system that’s in place or trying to create change so we can get a better system.”

Across the state, teachers are bracing for a walkout as a way to pressure state leaders to act on their demands. They’re calling for a 20 percent teacher pay raise and to restore school funding to pre-recession levels.

Organizers with Arizona Educators United, the teacher-led group that launched the state’s #RedForEd movement, said late Monday they will soon be announcing a date for teachers to walk out of their classrooms.

Saying he has been listening to teachers, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced Thursday that teachers in the state will receive a 20 percent pay raise over the next two years.

But organizers with the Arizona Educators United said via their Facebook group that the proposal was “an attempt to divide” teachers and support staff, such as bus drivers and librarians. They didn’t rule out the possibility for a statewide walkout.

Alexis Aguirre, a second grade teacher at Encanto Elementary School in Phoenix, said teachers don’t want to walk out but the current conditions “leave us with no choice.” She said many teachers, including her, are struggling to make ends meet with their current salaries and see a walk out as a way to improve their situations.

“We have to use credit cards just to get from paycheck to paycheck,” Aguirre said, speaking about her and her husband’s situation.

“I have two children,” she added. “I can barely pay for my mortgage. My family’s health insurance costs as much as my mortgage payment. So you can imagine it’s really tough to be a teacher in Arizona.”

Arizona teachers are among the lowest paid in the country.

A recent study by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy found, when adjusted for statewide cost-of-living, pay for Arizona elementary school teachers was the lowest in the nation while pay for Arizona high school teachers ranked 49th of the 50 states.

Amanda Hoskinson, an eighth grade English teacher at Desert Shadows Middle School in Scottsdale, said she’s not sure if she’ll continue teaching if teacher salaries don’t increase.

“As much as I love the classroom, as much as I love the students, I want to live a life,” she said.

The newlywed said she and her husband want to have kids one day and “not being able to potentially afford that is just devastating.”

Hoskinson said she is willing to participate in a statewide walkout but only for two weeks.

“That’s rent for me,” she said. “A two week paycheck that’s rent. That’s how we pay for our bills, so I wouldn’t be able to go past that.”

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