/ Modified may 4, 2018 11:33 a.m.

Navajo Teachers Change Rally Cry To 'Rez For Ed'

Many rural schools stayed open during a statewide walkout, but teachers there participated in their own ways.

FLAGSTAFF — Not all Arizona teachers walked out this week. Many rural schools remained open but still participated in the #RedForEd movement in their own ways.

On the Navajo Nation, several schools are state funded, and those teachers wanted their voices heard, too. In Tuba City, a group of teachers coined their own term: “Rez for Ed.” 

Tuba City High School teacher Carmen Honyouti took personal leave to protest one day last week with two dozen others. Many of the international teachers who come from the Philippines hope to get work visas with the help of the school. They kept the school open. 

Honyouti says the need for better-funded schools is great, if not greater, in rural districts. 

"Our funding goes toward transportation. We bus our kids out at least 80 miles. School districts on the rez, we have to provide staff housing. The other part, because our kids are low socioeconomic, our kids don’t have school supplies," Honyouti said.

Honyouti says she was working at a Bureau of Indian Education-funded school on Hopi, and she took a $13,000 pay cut to come home to the public school in Tuba City. 

Wes Brownfield is the executive director of the Arizona Rural Schools Association. He says many rural teachers chose to participate in #RedForEd in small ways. He says they have to be more careful who they antagonize. 

"Everybody knows everybody. You cannot be anonymous." 

But Brownfield says that doesn’t mean the teachers don’t feel undervalued and want a change. 

Fronteras Desk
This story is from the Fronteras Desk, a collaboration of Southwestern public radio stations, including NPR 89.1. Read more from the Fronteras Desk.
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