Guest Editorial: Don’t Forget Arizona’s Rural Teachers?

By Scottsdale Pinetop

It’s happening!

Arizona teachers, parents and support staff have decided to take a step outside the classroom and fight against Arizona’s State Capitol for higher teacher pay and adequate school funding. Today, teachers are banding together in a state-wide walkout strike, leaving many Arizona lawmakers questioning what to do next.

By now, Arizona’s first teacher walkout in history has caught the attention of national headlines. Some school districts plan to close. Among that list is the Paradise Valley Unified School District and Scottsdale Unified School District. Others districts are holding out.

But it seems like all the recent attention has been centered on metropolitan school districts. What about the thousands of educators living in rural communities? Don’t they have a voice too? With over 60% of Arizona’s school districts being located in rural areas, one would think they would.

Unfortunately for rural communities, there isn’t much awareness or assistance from the Red for Ed Movement. Rural schools are often placed at a disadvantage. While many of their needs coincide with the needs of larger districts, they don’t have the political power of geographic proximity to gain support. Currently, rural districts are left without much representation from the Arizona Educators United. Without any support or clear direction, many public education employees are doubting if their voices will really matter come today’s strike.
While the teachers’ strike may be difficult to execute in these rural areas, it is not forgotten. Blue Ridge Unified School District announced that it would be joining the already long list of schools closed indefinitely. Fellow White Mountain school districts such as Show Low and Round Valley may host limited strikes on Thursday and Friday in support of the movement.

Schools are the lifeblood of the community, regardless the size. Every community needs a place to educate their kids. Right now that means finding a way to do their part in helping support our local educators. Governor Ducey’s proposed plan to provide a 20 percent boost in teacher’s salaries is subpar at best. It’s going to take a lot more than teacher salaries to fix the school funding dilemma. The future of Arizona’s education reform relies not only on finding solutions that benefit the big schools – but also the small schools that are too often left in the dust.