A group of Arizona teachers called in “sick” Wednesday so they could protest at the state Capitol. Their absence closed nine schools in a district that serves roughly 10,000 students in Phoenix and the West Valley. The teachers want higher wages and more school funding.
Their right to protest is not in question, and that’s a worthy conversation to have.
But these educators walked out of their classrooms in a school district where the families most need them to show up, robbing students of precious instructional time. As a former school leader, I know the difference just one or two missed days can make.
And as a Latino, I know far too many students who look like me get left behind by our current system.
According to the Arizona Department of Education, the vast majority of students at Sunset Ridge, one of the nine shuttered schools, are Latino — and in desperate need of utilizing every second of instructional time constitutionally allocated to them by the state.
Two-thirds of the student population there is not proficient in math or reading.
The main question I and others are asking is why walk out on so many economically disadvantaged students in Glendale and not the more affluent students of, say, Ahwatukee?
I am not suggesting that Sunset Ridge is a bad school. They may be doing a fantastic job helping the two-thirds of their students who are behind make great progress toward their proficiency.
What I am suggesting is that walking out during classroom time is counterproductive to their goals of helping these children succeed. For the record, I’m not suggesting that Ahwatukee teachers walk out on instructional time, either.
Those educators are garnering attention for their needs, but are they meeting the needs of the students in those schools? Would those students be better served elsewhere if they could access another opportunity?
This situation makes the case for more school options – and equal access for all families.
If teachers want to walk out on their students to protest, that’s their right. But families also should have the right to attend another school if they’re not getting the support they need. I support self-liberation and affirmation for both teachers and parents.