One year after #RedforED protests, education leader says little progress has been made

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- It's been one year since a sea of red engulfed the State Capitol in Downtown Phoenix, during the #RedforED protests, and on Thursday, #RedforED leaders reminding lawmakers that they don't want their demands to be forgotten.

The news conference was held by the Arizona Educators Association.

"A year ago today, educators came down to the Capitol to deliver a set of demands that we saw as critical at that time to ending the teacher crisis," said AEA President Joe Thomas.

Now, a year after the protest, Thomas was asked if real improvements have been made to the public school system.

"The answer is we haven't moved the needle very much," said Thomas.

Thomas says most of #RedforED's demands have not been touched. A year ago, AEA asked lawmakers for a 20% pay increase, competitive wages for education support professionals, a permanent certified salary structure with yearly raises, funding to be restored to 2008 levels, and no new tax cuts until funding reached the national average.

"They still have outdated or too little technology. They still have old, worn out textbooks. The class sizes are still too high," said Thomas. "So, we don't need a silver bullet. We need a vision for great public schools in the state."

According to the AEA, the raises teachers earned last year hardly helps combat what Thomas calls a "teacher exodus".

"We still can only hire one in four positions with the certified qualified teachers, so we have to have resources to come in to have competitive salaries," said Thomas.

Thomas says way more funding is needed, and the AEA will put out a ballot initiative if lawmakers do not act on the rest of its demands.

"But in a perfect world, the legislature would put three or four or five hundred million more dollars into the classrooms this year through revenue increases," said Thomas. "We would do that again in the next session, which would build us, scaffold us the schools we deserve."

The AEA wants the governor to focus on three top priorities for the 2020 budget: fulfilling the 20% pay raise for teachers instead of phasing it in by 2021, speeding up the restoration of the district, and more funding for capital maintenance and repair.