PHOENIX — The fight for the better treatment of teachers is in full swing again this school year, and one very important advocate is leading the charge.
Andrew Morrill is the president of the Arizona Education Association (AEA) and he believes results are happening, slowly but surely.
“Teachers are going to end up getting raises. In fact, we’re seeing small salary increases here and there,” he told News/Talk 92.3 KTAR’s Mac & Gaydos Thursday. “Remember that it’s very much a local decision, district by district.”
For years Arizona cut taxes, a tactic that Morrill said was a actually double-edged sword.
“The state cut so many taxes for so many years, which sounds great,” he said. “But we just have to remember that a major part of our taxes goes to supporting our education system, so years of tax cuts have led to an underfunding.”
While very important, lack of decent pay is not the only factor in not just hiring, but keeping, good teachers.
“We have a three-legged stool that is driving teachers out of the classroom,” Morrill explained. “One is the compensation, which has never been great, but teachers were willing to put with that. They understood they weren’t able to get rich, but they’d be able to make a living.”
But in many areas, teachers can’t even do that, citing the rural areas of Arizona as examples.
“As we know, as families grow and as kids become older, you’ve got to be able to save for the security of your own family, while you’re educating the children of other families,” he said.
The other two “legs” of the stool, he explained, are the overuse of standardized test scores and the teacher evaluation process itself, even calling the state’s current education system “dysfunctional” and “not sustainable.”
“Arizona is a choice-rich state — more options for how we education our students, public and private, than any other state in the country — and what do 85 percent of parents in Arizona choose to do every year? Send their students to their neighborhood district public schools,” he said. “Why is that not the choice that we are then honoring with public policy? Why is that not the choice that we are investing our dollars in?”
Despite his frustration, Morrill was quick to point out that he views the Arizona Legislature as an ally, not an adversary.
“We need to see the Legislature not as an enemy…but as a partner that has yet to come around,” he said. “They play an important role…in creating systems that encourage good teachers to stay in the classroom.”