Seeing red: Teacher walkouts close Arizona, Colorado schools
Teachers in Arizona and Colorado turned their state Capitols into a sea of red Thursday as they kicked off widespread walkouts that shut down public schools in a bid for better pay and education funding, building on educator revolt that emerged elsewhere in the U.S. but whose political prospects were not clear.
Tens of thousands of teachers wearing red shirts and holding “Money for Schools” signs launched the first statewide strike by marching 2 miles in 90-degree heat to a rally at the Arizona Capitol. They plan to walk out again today to press lawmakers for their demands as will Colorado educators.
Educators in both states want more classroom resources and have received offers either for increased school funding or pay, but they say the money isn’t guaranteed and the efforts don’t go far enough. The walkouts are the climax of an uprising that spread from West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky.
Most of Arizona’s public schools will be closed the rest of the week, and about half of all Colorado students will see their schools shuttered over the two days as teachers take up the Arizona movement’s #RedforEd mantle.
“I feel like funding for the schools should be at the top of the list,” said Brandon Hartley, a charter school teacher from the Phoenix suburb of Peoria who brought his 7-year-old son to the rally at the Arizona Capitol.
Other parents who brought their children to the Phoenix protest expressed their support despite school closures that led makeshift day-care operations to open at schools and recreation centers to help working parents. Food banks and some schools also were providing free meals that many students rely on.
In Colorado, several thousand educators rallied around the Capitol, with many using personal time to attend two days of protests expected to draw as many as 10,000 demonstrators. They chanted, “Education is our right” and “We’re not gonna take it anymore,” drawing honks from passing cars.
Lawmakers there have agreed to give schools their largest budget increase since the Great Recession. But teachers say Colorado has a long way to go to recover lost ground because of strict tax and spending limits.