Joe Thomas, President of the Arizona Education Association, speaks to the public at Primera Iglesia United Methodist Church in Phoenix.
Following the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision to throw out the Invest in Education Act, the Arizona Education Association held a community forum last month featuring a speech by the President of the association, Joe Thomas. The forum, held at Primera Iglesia United Methodist Church in Phoenix, was meant to inform the public about the rejection of the Invest in Education Act as well as urge the public to reject Proposition 305 that will be on the ballot in November.
Thomas explained that the Invest in Education Act, which vowed to raise $690 million for Arizona schools, was shot down by the Supreme Court and will not be included on the ballot because of its misleading description. President Thomas defended his association’s description and argued that the Arizona Supreme Court’s 100-word maximum for the description was not enough to fully explain the bill. “Imagine taking 100 words to tell someone about a movie you just saw, and they want all the little plots and all the little twists and all the main characters, it’s difficult. You have to pick and choose what you talk about,” said Joe Thomas.
Proposition 305 would expand Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts also known as ESAs. This is opposed by the Red for Education movement and supported by groups like the Patriot Movement of Arizona who also attended the forum. The gathering encouraged both groups to share their thoughts and opinions on the recent events. Adam Rocha, an attendee of the forum, disagrees with the Red for Education movement because of taxes, “They already went so far, and that was good but now they still want more and more and more. There has got to be an end to it because our taxes are getting higher and higher,” said Rocha.
Aaron Abbott, who has been a teacher for 14 years joined the Red for Education movement not only for himself but for his kids as well. “I have a kid who has down syndrome and one of the biggest cuts to education has been in special needs,” said Abbott. While Abbott believes that the education movement was set back by the Arizona Supreme Court’s rejection of the Invest in Education Act, he has faith in the future of Arizona’s education and has goals for the upcoming election, “Right now we need to work on voter turnout and make sure people vote for pro-education politicians to ensure that Proposition 305 is voted down in November.”
The moderator of the forum and pastor at Primera Iglesia United Methodist Church, Brian Kemp-Schlemmer, emphasized that while not everyone was on the same page the objective of the event was to create an opportunity to reflect and to listen and learn rather than push opinions on the audience. “The goal is to develop a common language so even when we disagree we’re at least having the same conversation.”