Instead of joining the #RedForEd March from Chase Field, Sonoran Foothills School physical education teacher Landon Benson ran from Christown Spectrum Mall to the Capitol to raise awareness for the need for more classroom funding.
“I’m here today supporting the #RedForEd movement that’s been started by educators for educators for the students, because we need to stand up for them,” said Benson, who has taught in the Deer Valley Unified School District for 14 years.
“Our state public school system has really been losing funding over the last 10 years. It’s showing in our classrooms with the amount of students per teacher, and we need to get that funding level back up for all aspects of education,” Benson said.
AZEdNews Video by Brooke Razo: Landon Benson on #RedForEd
Benson said that he loves teaching physical education to 600 kids at school each year, and this lets him put his passion for running in service to his students.
“It’s neat for them to see me running,” Benson said. “It’s a natural crossover from what I teach to what I’m doing in my real life.”
Benson said the kindergarteners he teaches are full of energy, while the seventh- and eighth-graders he teaches ask good questions and “you can have meaningful dialogue with them when they don’t want to do P.E. I can communicate with them and build that relationship so they can see the value in what I’m doing.”
“I hope that they can see us as teachers standing up for what we believe in, taking our passions and putting it towards one cause, knowing that it’s for them,” Benson said. “That’s why we’re doing this.”
When asked about the governor’s proposal to raise teacher pay, Benson said, “Well, I think the plan that he proposed hits a teacher group, and I think that’s good.”
“I don’t believe the funding is actually there,” Benson said. “I think it’s really overinflated numbers that were used, but more than that, we’re looking at the support staff – a particular group at our schools from our maintenance staff to our paraprofessionals to office staff to counselors to our psychologists – and all the people that make a school work.”
Benson said that without any one of those groups it doesn’t work, “so we have to support them, and I will support them.”
In addition, “it’s getting base funding levels back for textbooks, for classrooms, for fixing buses, for fixing school roofs, for desks, for technology, for all those things that we use every day.”
Benson said more per-pupil funding could really help at his school.
“The biggest example I saw this year is in our fourth grade. We had 36-37 students in our classes,” Benson said. “We finally got approval for a fourth teacher about halfway through the year, and that dropped their numbers a little bit.”
“Unfortunately it was a long-term sub who then moved on and we had another long-term sub in that position,” Benson said. “I’m thankful for those long-term subs coming in; however, it’s the third teacher that these students have had in one school year and that’s not fair to our kids.”
“We need to have a sustainable system so that when a teacher or any educator gets into it we realize that this is important, that this has value and there’s respect there,” Benson said. ” That’s going to keep people and that’s going to help the whole system.”
“We’re not walking out on the kids, we’re walking out for the kids,” Benson said. “There’s not a teacher I know that was excited to get the day off, to have some time because we just want to leave our school. That’s not it at all.”
“The biggest public perception that I hear right now is “They got 20 percent, what are they still complaining about?’ ” Benson said. “Well, Number One – it was a proposal that’s not even done yet, so we haven’t received anything.”
“Number Two – it was only teachers that were mentioned. There are a lot of support staff out there that are critical and haven’t been included,” Benson said.
Benson said educators want to see sustainable funding for the future.
“So that my son, who is a first-grader right now, as he is growing up and going through the public school system, he can see those changes,” Benson said.
Benson also said that he hopes his son will “never have to deal with having multiple teachers in one classroom over a year or have to have multiple substitutes in one classroom over a year, because there are teachers who are qualified and are willing and see the value and respect in that position and they stay there.”