Arizona teachers share photos of ‘disturbing’ classroom conditions
PHOENIX — Old and worn out textbooks, broken desks and carpets held together with duct tape.
Those are some of the classroom conditions shown in photos posted on social media by dozens of Arizona teachers.
“What really is disturbing is not only are these the conditions that adults are working in, but these are the conditions that the kids have no choice but to study in,” said Noah Karvelis, a music teacher and a lead organizer with Arizona Educators Untied.
Karvelis asked teachers to post photos on the group’s Facebook page last week. Since then, dozens of teachers have been posting photos from inside their classrooms.
One teacher posted nearly two-decade-old history books – according to the books, George W. Bush was still the president of the United States, she said.
One teacher posted a photo of a note that stated, “Please leave lights on at all times due to roaches.”
And one teacher posted a photo of a stage light switch and said it heats up if the lights are on longer than 30 minutes.
“I should put the kiddos on stage for concerts with no lights?” the teacher wrote. “Fire hazard.”
Karvelis said one of the photos that stood out for him showed a faculty bathroom with a cement floors and moldy walls.
“It looked more like a prison cell than anything in a school,” he said. “It’s devastating to see.”
He said these photos are a result of poor funding for Arizona public schools. The state ranks near the bottom of the nation for K-12 funding.
A recent study by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy found Arizona was one of the bottom five states for per-pupil funding, with students receiving 31 percent less than the national average.
They study also found that 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.
“When we don’t properly fund education, that’s what happens,” Karvelis said, pointing to the photos shared by teachers. “We create terrible and sometimes dangerous conditions for teachers and students.”
Teachers across the state have been calling for more funding for public education and a 20 percent teacher pay raise.
Last month, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill to extend an education sales tax that provides more than $500 million a year for K-12 public schools until 2041. Ducey has also stressed that his budget proposal for the coming year commits 80 percent of new spending to K-12 public schools.
But teachers continued pressuring the governor, saying he can do more. Karvelis said teachers want to restore state education funding to 2008 levels, which would cost the state about $1 billion.
“We’re truly in a crisis and those pictures show that,” Karvelis said. “The governor needs to fix that.”