When Rosa came around to take our breakfast orders, Sour Frank stood up and gave her a high-five across the counter. “Congratulations, teacher. You got the governor’s attention this week.”
When she’s not waiting tables at the Arroyo Cafe part-time, Rosa is the self-proclaimed “most amazing public school fifth-grade teacher west of the San Pedro.” This morning, Rosa managed a modest smile of pride as she poured Sour Frank a cup of her finest brew.
Lurlene shook Rosa’s hand. “Darlin’, you all were looking at a puny 1 percent pay raise and no additional funding for education and then 50,000 of you showed up at the Capitol and the governor and his legislators changed their tune. That was a trip to see!”
Rosa’s smile remained modest. “Yup. It’s true. They gave us a 9 percent raise this year on top of the 1 percent raise they approved last year. Coffee?”
Lurlene nodded. “And didn’t they promise you another 5 percent next year?”
Rosa filled Lurlene’s cup to the brim. “Yup. And they promised another 5 percent the following year. The only amount that’s guaranteed is the 10 percent for this coming year. I’ll see it when I believe it. Coffee, Romero?”
Rosa poured and sighed. “The truth is, it’s not enough.”
Sour Frank rolled his eyes. “Not enough? The #RedForEd Movement just won a historic victory and it’s not enough?”
“When we took to the streets by the thousands, the Republicans had no choice. The Republican-backed budget doesn’t come close to the $1 billion in new funding that public education desperately needs. And we want the billions they stole from our schools restored! We’re not even close to what we were spending 10 years ago! We need to fix our run-down buildings. We need to give our support staff raises. We need to cut classroom sizes to a manageable level. I’m exhausted from teaching way too many kids. Cream and sugar, Lurlene? And there’s another thing …”
“Uh-huh. Sugar. No cream. What’s the other thing, sweetheart?”
“We have to elect a governor and a Legislature that actually believe in public education. We deserve the kind of leaders who would rather invest in school counselors than give corporations tax breaks for corporate jets. I saw state Sen. Steve Farley stand up for us during the budget debate. His parents were public school teachers.”
Romero added, “Yeah. Farley wasn’t going to let futility stop them from adding amendments asking for reasonable class sizes, better counselor-to-student ratios, a review of corporate loopholes to see which ones actually stimulated revenue. Every Republican voted every reasonable amendment down.”
I told my pals I watched the entire debate online.
“Gee, I wonder why the dark-money parasites wouldn’t want to see which corporate loopholes actually worked. I was impressed by Farley. He’s such an earnest policy wonk.”
Romero said, “The guy is a cross between ‘Mr. Deeds Goes to Washington’ and Jimmy Neutron.”
Rosa took my egg and bacon order. “Would you like those eggs scrambled?”
“Yes, please. Like the brain of every anti-public-ed lawmaker in this Koch-forsaken state.”
I asked Rosa about her first day back.
“It felt good to be back with my students. I answered all their questions. We talked about civil disobedience and we debated the governor’s position and why education is important.
“And then we started catching up on the schoolwork we missed. When I’m not here on my feet I’ll be grading student work. All. Weekend. Long.”
Sour Frank said, “So, it’s over?”
Rosa served Frank his breakfast. “Good question, Frank. You’re my star pupil. When the day’s over, I’ll let you clean the menu chalkboard.”
“Well, is it over?”
“It’s just the beginning. We’re just getting started. Thanks to social media, we’re part of a growing grassroots movement powered by teachers, parents, kids and people like you, Frank.
“Every last one of us in the #RedForEd movement are going to work to put an initiative on the ballot this November to give education a permanent 21st century funding stream. And I’m going to work on behalf of the candidates who support public education. Salsa for those eggs, Frank?”
“I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a public school system Arizonans can be proud of. Can I get you anything else, Frank?”
“A petition to sign.”