Open letter to those opposed to Prop. 123

Cross-posted by Christine Marsh, Arizona’s 2016 Teacher of the Year:

To all of the folks who are voting “No” on Prop. 123,

In case people don’t read to the end (but read to the end), if you are voting against Prop. 123, contact your legislators and the governor and tell them why. If Prop. 123 fails, the false narrative from our legislators and the governor will likely be something along the lines of this: “SEE?! We knew that the public didn’t care about public education. And this proves it.”

As a teacher in the trenches, I have to wonder where the public has been for the past six years. Education—students, teachers, parents, support staff—has been left to languish in the bottom of the nation for many years. We have the worst funding in the entire nation, and we’re over $3000 per student per year below the national average (we’re about $15,000 below the states that fund their public education the best/highest).

We also have the lowest administrative costs in the nation, the highest class sizes in the nation, and we’re in the bottom four states for what we pay teachers.

We already have a teacher shortage, and with roughly 30% of our state’s teachers retiring in the next five year, we’re reaching crisis proportions. In many districts, it’s already a crisis.

As a teacher, I feel abandoned by the public. You can say, “I didn’t cause this. I’ve voted for education-friendly people.” But that doesn’t change the fact that the majority of the voting public has continued to elect legislators and other politicians who simply do not care about public education.

Now, when we have a bit of light (meaning—yes—money) coming our way, the public that has essentially abandoned us for the past many years wants to extinguish it by killing Prop. 123.

You do realize that we’re in this mess because of the way Arizonans voted (or apathetically skipped voting) in 2014, right?

You also realize that the plaintiffs (representing the schools) have been fighting for this money since 2010, right? Where were you then? Why didn’t you vocalize your support?

You hopefully also realize that as much as we want to, we can’t force the legislature to pay. And, apparently, we can’t throw them in jail for their refusal to pay, either (although, I wish we could). It’s ironic that we can throw “deadbeat dads” in jail, but not deadbeat legislators and that Ducey is going after deadbeat dads.

If you vote this down, what’s your plan? The fact is that we have a legislative majority that doesn’t value public education, so the chances of them paying are slim to none. You can’t claim that they “should” pay and that the money exists without raiding the trust land, because what “should” happen doesn’t matter. The facts matter, and the fact is that they won’t pay. They’ve already proven that they won’t. So if Prop. 123 doesn’t pass, we won’t see the money for many years, if ever. (Remember “Flores Vs. Arizona”? It took over 20 years to settle that case).

So if you vote this down, do you have a plan?

Are you going to as aggressively fight to elect new legislators as you are fighting to defeat Prop. 123?

Or are you going to kill this one chance at light and abandon public schools again? Again??

Please, have a plan if you kill this.

Because with this particular legislature, we won’t be seeing any other funds any time soon.

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8 thoughts on “Open letter to those opposed to Prop. 123

  1. Don’t put the blame on us who are too smart to be blackmailed into voting for a bad fix. There is no one who has everything to be thankful, that without even my limited public education I appreciate the opportunities it has afforded me.
    This is the problem, too many people have one overriding issue when they vote people into office. Guns, mining, abortion, tax benefits, on and on.
    I am not in anyway connected to “education” yet it is foremost in my voting decisions. You say, “As a teacher in the trenches…”, I say as someone in active elective politics for over 55 years teachers haven’t always been the political force they should have been or some of these elected officeholders would never have been sworn into office to create what you call six years “left to languish with the worst funding in the entire nation.”
    The fact is check around and find out where many of your teaching buddies were in the past few elections. This crisis in education is not the fault of the ‘no on 123’ voters.
    It is time all of us stand up and say enough! Stop playing legislative games, political ploys, ideological moves to the detriment to society at large move over reason is about to take over and education is about to regain it’s place at the table of public needs.
    Voting no on 123 in May and electing a new slate of officials in November will be a start to repair the damage you and I agree has been done.

    • Thank you for the comments, Harvey; however, I am not placing blame on those who are too smart to be “blackmailed into voting for a bad fix.” That’s not at all what I’m saying. I’m saying that IF you vote “no,” please take it the next step and tell your elected officials why you are voting No. We can not let the false narrative from our elected officials be that Prop. 123 has failed because the public does not care about public education (if it does, indeed, fail).

      And I agree with you 100% that teachers haven’t been a strong enough voice. There are many reasons for that (which are not excuses, by the way), one of which is that teachers are so overwhelmed that they can barely see straight. We need help, and I am hoping that no matter how Prop. 123 turns out that the public will rally together in “electing a new slate of officials in November.” Thank you for apparently being one of the members of the public who will do so!

      • Change in leadership will have to wait, most are not on the ballot this November. A change in the make up of the legislature would be a start, hopefully it is not too late. As for any message or that the Phoenix political leadership will listen, so far they have turned a deaf ear to our demands. Uneducated, unskilled population is far easier to control, have fewer demands and work cheap, happy with government assistance to feed their families. Too many people have not connected the dots between the communities needs for education and the value to themselves. Whether it is an educated society, protecting their property values or justly compensating the teachers putting it on the line daily for the powerless little children we all can be hopeful and prepared to reach out as much and as often as we can. Just as people reach out to thank veterans, so should they reach out and thank all public employees, start with teachers, police, firemen right down to the librarian at the public library. They sure can’t be in it for the thanks from the crop of political bigwigs running Arizona right now. Now you know why they call Arizona a “right to work state”, work, work , but don’t expect much in return especially if you are a teacher hidden in a classroom. Consider retraining for police or firefighting duty more people feel the immediate needs there.

  2. Ms. Marsh,

    I come from a family with many educators. I started teaching as an elementary school teacher and migrated into university teaching. Teaching in a university is easier, pays better, and is far less important. If I screwed up teaching a graduate level course it really didn’t matter much to the lives of my students. If an elementary school teacher screws up it can have a negative effect on the students for years. I say this to establish a background for my comment and to make clear that I value your contributions and your profession!

    Unfortunately your plea to, “…contact your legislators and the governor and tell them why” is probably one of those nice ideas which will not make a damn bit of difference. Arizona has been run by Republicans for close to half a century and all the initiatives, information and pleas have not led to anything approaching a quality public education system. The only hope is a wholesale change in the Legislature along with a Governor who has a brain and uses it. Meanwhile I wonder why contempt-of-court proceedings have not been pursued. I think it’s unlikely but perhaps a few days in jail would change some minds.

    I admit to be torn about Prop. 123 but will probably vote against it. I think the idea that it will end lawsuits is wishful thinking. The current suit will be settled rather quickly but another will emerge. I also worry about continuing the damage to the current cohort of students but fear that perpetually shortchanging public schools is even worse. Taking money (even if it’s called income) from the Trust Fund is nothing but using school money to pay state debts.

    Thanks again for working to make our society a better place!

  3. Ms. Marsh, I am a retired teacher as of 2012. I retired a little early due to the climate in public schools. Many older teachers are being forced out, so they don’t have to receive as much money from the pension fund. I was tired of trying to fight for my students, who needed testing for disabilities or needed counseling for emotional support and never received either. I was discouraged from bringing children to child study. I do believe our current governor and legislature is bent on destroying public schools. They want charters and private schools. If you look at other states, the same is happening. Many states are waking up and parents are beginning to fight back–like New York where many parents are opting their children out of testing and voting for school board members who are for public schools. Unfortunately, I think it will be awhile before people wake up in Arizona and realize that public education is being destroyed. I am torn about Proposition 123 as I truly want teachers to receive raises (I didn’t receive a raise in the last six or so years before retirement.) and money for supplies, etc. However, using the trust fund is the first step to Governor Ducey totally destroying public education. Once the trust is gone, he can get rid of public education. So, borrowing for today is taking funding away from our future children and most likely destroying public education. I wish we had a better solution. I agree with you that it is time voters voted out people who are not willing to invest in the future of our children. To the people who say, “I raised my children and don’t want to pay for someone elses, so I want lower taxes”, I say, “Someone helped your children by paying taxes, and it is everyones turn to do the same.” We all need to invest in the future of public education.

    • Dottie,
      Right on!
      My response when someone says, “I raised my children and don’t want to pay for someone elses, so I want lower taxes” is to ask them if they want to live in a society full of uneducated people.
      Bill Astle

      • Sorry Bill, I fell asleep and woke up just in time to watch the GOP debate. See what you mean by uneducated past code date people. Round them up and mark them “return to sender.”

    • Well said, Dottie! I totally agree with you on almost everything (especially the part about the state’s leadership wanting to destroy public education); however, I am more hopeful than you are (I think) and believe that changing the dynamics at the Capitol is closer than people might think.

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