Educators running for office in the post #RedforED era

PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- Last spring, thousands marched on the Arizona State Capitol, as Arizona becomes one of many states pushing for education reform.

In the wake of those movements, hundreds of teachers across several key states are taking it upon themselves to run for state office, and Arizona is no different.

"Teachers have finally woken up," said Christine Marsh, 2016's Arizona Teacher of the Year.

"You can't complain about something unless you're going to try and fix it," said Krystin Dybvig-Pawelko, ASU Professor and former PTO president.

The push for education reform in Arizona reached a fever pitch this spring.

So what now?

"#RedforED was the greatest single professional development of my career," said Eric Kurland, who runs a K-8 Behavior Program.

"I'm 27 years old, I've never run for office before," said Joe Biscaccia, a 2nd year middle school teacher.

For the last month, FOX 10 has talked with candidates for the State House and the State Senate with education backgrounds, in order to learn more about their motivation to throw their hat in the ring.

"I had a cup of coffee with my husband and I said I really think I should do this," said Jennifer Samuels, a middle school English teacher. "I jumped in that weekend."

"My mother was a little bit more hesitant," said Marsh. "She was afraid for me, afraid that this was taking on quite a lot, but my mother has risen to the occasion."

From teachers of the year to PTA presidents, substitutes to school board members, there's no hiding the fact that #RedforED shined an unflattering light on Arizona classrooms.

"What I saw, when I looked at that room full of red, was this is a turning point," said Peoria school board member Kathy Knecht. "This is when we finally change the trajectory of education in Arizona."

How one fixes that is still tricky to pinpoint.

"We need to come to the table, whether that is through cutting waste, whether that is through -- we need to look at corporate tax loopholes, closing those or not closing those, we need to investigate that further," said Kristina Kelly, a 2nd Grade Teacher and former PTO president.

The sense of urgency from these candidates changed, in the wake of #RedforED.

"I had thought about it, but I was going to wait a few years down the road until I was a little more established in life, but I thought based on what was going on in public education in Arizona, that now was the time," said Bisaccia. "I had nothing to lose, and why not?"

"I've been waiting for that hero and I realize that hero is me," said Knecht. "And I'll tell you the truth, my husband wasn't thrilled with the idea of running for office because it is a challenge to an individual's personal time and energy and all that, but it's the right thing to do, and the important things are always hard."

"Teachers are not doing this for teachers," said Dybvig-Pawelko. "Teachers are doing this for their students, and I think we've lost sight of that a little bit, but that's why teachers are in the race because ultimately, that's where their heart lies."

A pivotal moment awaits in Arizona politics  and it could mean rewriting the textbook on how one gets elected.

"The Secretary of State's website, and I did a lot of reading and I figured out how to formally declare my candidacy," said Ben Carmitchel, a substitute teacher and small business owner.

"I think it was an element of frustration," said Kelly. "I think that the teachers felt that they weren't being heard, and I think that we can all agree, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, that teachers have been undervalued, underappreciated, underpaid for far too long."

This is Part 1 of a two-part series on the impact of the #RedforED movement, and Arizona politics in the post #RedforED era. For Part 2, click here.

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