Teachers deserve the best we can give them

It’s about time.

I see that school teachers in many parts of the country – including my home state of Arizona – are starting to say enough is enough.

Teachers in West Virginia recently struck for higher wages and won. Now teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky are doing much the same. Arizona teachers are also starting to get loud about not only a lack of competitive pay, but constant cuts to education funding in the state.

I feel a particular kinship with teachers, as my parents were both educators and my daughter is a teacher as well. I came close to being a teacher myself before I realized being in class full of kids every day might drive me insane.

I give teachers a ton of credit.

Sadly, many people don’t, and that includes the Legislature and governor of the once great state of Arizona. Arizona has cut funding for school severely over the years, and beginning teachers don’t make enough to survive in many communities.

Remember, teachers all start with a college education, and in most states – including Arizona – are required to have continuing education. That means achieving a master’s degree and still taking required courses after that.

When my parents moved from the South to Arizona back in the late 1950s, the state held much promise for young professional educators. Arizona took public education seriously and gave schools the funding they needed to develop the young minds that filled their buildings daily.

But Arizona eventually became a bastion for small government, meaning the green parks, good roads and solid schools of my youth are a thing of the past, especially in poorer communities.

The same, apparently, has happened in Oklahoma and Kentucky.

Arizona ranks low nationally when it comes to education spending, and its classroom sizes are some of the highest in the country.

Instead of spending more on schools and teachers, the state has worked to simply lower the standards.

And I want to be clear – this is not just about teacher pay This is about having much-needed materials for schools too, including books. In Oklahoma, the text books are falling apart. It’s a travesty.

Look, we can agree that much government spending can be wasteful and that keeping a close eye on local, state and federal budgets make sense.

But slicing education funding to the bone not only hurts communities, but can destroy them. I personally don’t want to live in a country that cares so little about education.

A strong, basic education is something this country always took pride in. What happened to that? Do we care more about low taxes than an educated society? Because if we do, that is going to come back and bite us all in the butt in the worst way possible.

I am glad that I live in a state that supports teachers and actually pays them a competitive salary. I think good teachers deserve good pay, period. I don’t mind my tax dollars going to good schools and teachers. Ultimately, that is a huge benefit to my community and society as a whole.

If we ignore education, and continue to underfund it, we will see our standing in the world slide. Eventually, we will not be a world leader. We are already seeing movement in that direction.

A strong education system can help. And that means not just the basics, but also art and music education. Every study I have seen on the topic proves their importance to developing sharp young minds.

I hope these teachers across the country continue to fight the good fight for not only themselves, but for their students and their states – for all of us. This is about the kind of future we want to see in our country.