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Voices of the Red for Ed movement

(Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

A crowd of red-clad teachers, students and Red for Ed supporters could be seen from the top of a parking garage near Chase Field as they gathered there on April 26 before marching to the Arizona Capitol. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

The Arizona Educators United and Red for Ed movement drew an estimated 150,000 teachers, students and public school staff to the Capitol to demand more for education.

Those in favor of the strike were easy to spot, wearing red and carrying signs often critical of Gov. Doug Ducey and the Republican-controlled Legislature.

They came from across the Valley and beyond.

At 8 a.m. on Day 3, a school bus arrived from Nogales Unified School District, which is about three hours from the Capitol. On Day 4, indigenous educators who called themselves the Nahuacalli Educators Alliance played drums and conch shells at the foot of the historic Capitol building.

Some folks set up canopies for their schools or districts to provide shade for their colleagues as temperatures reached triple digits in the first days of the strike. And one canopy was even designated for mothers with children in tow, equipped with a diaper-changing station and power for breast pumps.

But some in the crowd did not feel represented by the demonstrators and their leaders. Others may have voted to strike, but did so still hoping it would never come to that.

Whatever their reasons for being there, these teachers, administrators and students came to the Capitol to make their voices heard.

Alison Bruening-Hamati (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Alison Bruening-Hamati (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Alison Bruening-Hamati, principal of Arredondo Elementary School, Tempe

 What has the strike meant to you?

“My son is 9, and I tear up when I think about how there are school districts that are using textbooks that are as old as he is to meet standards that were just put out last year. I hate that our kids are home, but I don’t know what other choice we had. And I don’t know anybody who went into this thinking this was going to be easy. … But I’m hopeful because that’s kind of our gig.”

When your teachers were voting on whether to walk out of your school, did you vote?

“I did. I voted to support my teachers and my staff. I have been in this fight for a long time, and I think nobody really wanted to (walk out). My staff cried. I cried. … As we put our votes in the ballot box, I thought, ‘Where is this going? Please, let’s not go there.’ But sometimes, you just have to go with what’s right.”

Patrick Thompson (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Patrick Thompson (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Patrick Thompson, math teacher at Aprende Middle School, Chandler

What has the strike meant to you?

“I feel like this movement has leadership that has an obvious conflict of interest, and in the best interest of our standing as respected teachers in this state, we owe it to ourselves to have leadership that doesn’t have such obvious political leanings. … And I think the leaders of this movement have a vested interest in not coming to an agreement before November, which you see by this (Invest in Education Act) ballot initiative. We don’t get to vote on this for seven months. We don’t see money from it until next year. … I think the plan was to keep us rallied and upset until November so we can just oust people the leadership doesn’t like.”

Why do you think it’s important to talk to people who feel differently?

“Just to have those civil dialogues. I don’t want to argue with people. I don’t want to yell at people. I don’t talk politics all that often with the teachers at my school. It just got to a point where I felt like my side wasn’t being represented.”

Ben Englader (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Ben Englader (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Ben Englander, biology teacher at Raymond S. Kellis High School, Glendale

What has the strike meant to you?

“I’m here for our students. We need more funding for our schools in general. I have 46 kids in my honors biology class. That’s a lot for a lab class. We need more supplies. We need more resources to help all these kids. … We need to keep chipping away at our agenda. But I think it’s going to come down to a vote in November and putting those issues on the ballot.”

Why did you feel a strike was necessary?

“We needed to come together as a collective group. … We can’t support our families. I have a second job. A lot of our staff does as well, and some have three jobs. … We needed to come together as a collective voice and stand strong together.”

Raquel Mamani (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Raquel Mamani (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Raquel Mamani, mother of twin fourth graders

 What has the strike meant to you?

“I’m a native Arizonan who loves my state. I’m a mother of twins. I’m a PTA mom. … It doesn’t seem like our legislators and our governor are listening, so I’ve been here supporting the teachers as they fight for quality public education. They’re fighting for all of us.”

How much longer would you be willing to have your kids out of school?

“As long as it takes to get some meaningful change. We want nothing more than to be back at school… but we understand this is a critical time in Arizona. It’s obviously greatly impacted us, but I’ve talked a lot to my children about why we’re out here. I’ve relied on my community, on my family members, on people who support us – grandparents, babysitters. … The inconvenience that we are going through is greatly outweighed by what has to happen for Arizona. We should not have our kids in underfunded classrooms. It’s time for that to stop.”

Lacey Perdomo (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Lacey Perdomo (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Lacey Perdomo, physical education teacher at Raymond S. Kellis High School

What has the strike meant to you?

“People always say, ‘You knew what you signed up for.’ I’ve been married for two and a half years. I have an 11-month-old. I have a house. I have a mortgage. I have bills. I think until you actually experience it, you don’t understand how hard it’s truly going to be. … This movement has given me a voice and has opened my eyes. … People like me didn’t realize really how bad it was.”

Why do you think it’s important to talk to people who feel differently?

“I believe in relationships and that once people can have conversations to understand instead of conversations to get their own point across, the world will be a better place.”

Marco Veloz (Photo by Carmen Forman)

Marco Veloz (Photo by Carmen Forman/Arizona Capitol Times)

Marco Veloz, former student at Coronado High School, Scottsdale

What has the strike meant to you?

“I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for my teachers, especially the ones who taught me how to speak English when I moved here. They deserve better pay. There is inflation all the time. Prices are getting higher, and they’re not getting any more money. They deserve it. That’s the bottom line. They need it. They deserve it. And we’re demanding it.”

Do you think Ducey’s 20 percent teacher pay raise by 2020 proposal was reasonable?

“We don’t want promises from the governor. We want to see action.”

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