Teachers say ‘frustration’ over decade of cuts to education is fueling nationwide revolt

first_imgiStock/Thinkstock(MESA, Ariz.) — On most Mondays, Stacy Masciangelo, a teacher in Mesa, Arizona, would be in her classroom teaching 33 junior high school students computer technology with outdated equipment that sometimes takes eight minutes just to log on.But this Monday, Masciangelo will join thousands of fellow teachers at the state Capitol in Phoenix, walking a picket line for the third day of a statewide public educator strike.“We’re frustrated. It’s frustrating. How can you tell a kid education is so important when everything that our leaders do say otherwise?” Masciangelo told ABC News on Sunday.She has a bachelor’s degree in business marketing and a master’s in secondary education, but her take-home pay every two weeks comes to less than $900, and that’s not including the money she takes out of her own pocket each year to buy classroom supplies.“But it’s not about teachers being greedy. It’s not about our salaries,” she said of the strike. “Most teachers I know, they try to get by, they live paycheck to paycheck. My husband’s a teacher. He has three jobs just to try to make ends meet. But we both have a calling. We’re extremely passionate about it and we work ourselves to the bone trying to do it because it matters.”Teachers across the nation say the chronic cuts to education spending over the past decade lies at the root of a growing revolt by educators who have reached the tipping point.Arizona, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kentucky and Colorado have all seen teacher uprisings this year. All of the states, with the exception of Colorado, are dominated by Republicans in the governors’ offices and legislatures. Three of the states — West Virginia, Oklahoma and now Arizona — have seen wildcat strikes by educators.“It’s happening in our reddest states. It’s happening where for the last 10 to a dozen years there has been an ideology of cutting taxes on mostly big businesses and the expense, of course, comes at public services like a public school,” Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, told ABC News today.“So the last time we had this horrible, horrible cut in school services was in the Great Recession 10 years ago, where we lost thousands and thousands of teachers and they laid off the school librarians and the band teachers and they said this is a crisis,” Garcia said. “Well, nobody steps up more to help their kids in a crisis than a teacher. After a hurricane … good lord, after a shooting.”Garcia said there is a correlation between teachers taking to the streets to make their demands heard, and other protests that have recently swept the country, from the Women’s March on Washington to massive student-led protests over school shootings.“This is not unpredictable. They understand the only power they have is to bring those voices together, to stand together and what they’re saying is, ‘We no longer have any faith in politicians. We have not seen that you have been doing your jobs, that you have been taking care of education, that you have been taking care of our safety, that you’ve been taking care of basic justice. And so we’ll take matters into our own hands,’” Garcia said.On Thursday, about 50,000 public school teachers in Arizona went on strike to pressure lawmakers into giving them a 20 percent pay hike, fork over a $1 billion in education funding and up the salaries of school support staff.About 10,000 teachers in Colorado took personal leave to go to the state Capitol in Denver and lobby legislators to boost funding for education there, which they say has been slashed by a whopping $6.6 billion over the last nine years. The teachers are also demanding no new corporate tax breaks until education funding is restored.The labor actions in Arizona and Colorado come after teachers in Oklahoma went on strike and won a pay raise and about a $500 million increase to education funding. Earlier this month, Kentucky educators walked out of class angry over a pension reform bill they said was passed by legislators without their input and signed into law by their governor despite their vociferous objections.The teacher revolt stated in West Virginia, where educators went on a nine-day strike and won a five percent pay hike in March.“I would say that that’s the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Masciangelo said of the West Virginia strike.Masciangelo said the public appears to be with the teachers, some even joining the picket line.“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” she said. “It’s incredible the support we’re getting from the community itself.“Whenever I have my #RedForEd shirt on and I’m out just doing daily stuff, I’m getting stopped constantly by people saying we support you,” she added.Public educators in Arizona rank 46th in the nation in teacher pay, earning about $12,000 less than the national average of $59,660, according to a 2018 report by the National Education Association.Arizona spends about $4,500 less than the national per-pupil average of about $12,000 a year, ranking 48th in the nation, according to the NEA report.Like in other states where teachers have taken action, Arizona lawmakers appear to be getting the message.“Without a doubt, teachers are some of the biggest difference-makers in the lives of Arizona children,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a Twitter post last week. “They need to be respected, and rewarded, for the work they do — and Arizona can do better on this front.”On Friday, he proposed granting teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020 and budgeting an additional $100 million for new textbooks, building improvements and support staff salaries. The governor proposed increasing money for education by $371 million over 5 years.“We’ve all been listening — but now, it’s time to act,” Ducey added.But teachers union officials aren’t about to call off their strike just yet.“That’s why we do know how to do our homework. We can see through all of these fake plans and unless there is a dedicated funding source, we are not going to be fooled,” Garcia, the National Education Association president, told ABC News. “We want to see the plan and it has to be something that makes sense. This is not calculus. This is adding and subtracting.”Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.last_img read more


Jamal Custis’ career is dedicated to creating a better life for his mother Jeanette

first_img Published on November 15, 2018 at 12:59 am Contact Matt: [email protected] The basketball hoop hanging on the living room door could barely take any more damage. Dunk after dunk rattled the backboard against the top of the door. Still, each night, Jamal, Sharif and Kadeem Custis rocked the rim, leaping across the living room furniture to avoid the imaginary defenders lurking.Outside Custis’ home on 31st and Napa St., gunshots rang through the air. But the three brothers played on.“We were used to it,” Sharif said. “We heard it every day. After a while it didn’t really phase us. We knew how our neighborhood was. The best thing to do was stay out of the way. Stay off the streets. When the sun goes down, go in the house.”In one of Philadelphia’s poorest and most violent districts, Jamal Custis’ family, struck by tragedy, turned to their household and sport for a foundation. Custis, now 23, is having a career year in the midst of No. 12 Syracuse’s (8-2, 5-2 Atlantic Coast) best season since 2001. After battling injuries early in his career, he leads SU in receiving yards and has become one of the best special teams players in the country, Babers said.But Custis dreams of being more than a great player, he said. He dreams of fulfilling his promise to his mother, to rid her of the impoverished lifestyle she has been trapped in her whole life and to give back to the family that made his career possible.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAt about four or five, Custis waved to his mother, Jeanette, from her hospital bed before she went into lung surgery. Months after their father died of bone cancer, Custis and his two older brothers had to temporarily live across the city as Jeanette underwent the surgery due to chronic bronchitis.Jeanette promised her son she would be okay, but Custis wanted to be there for his mother, the same way she sat beside his beds for months on end when he suffered from whooping cough as an infant. Custis, a self-declared “mama’s boy,” always clung to Jeanette. When his brothers used to go play outside, Custis stayed in the house, attached to Jeanette by the hip. Seeing her in the hospital was the toughest moment of his life, Custis said.“I just always felt some type of attachment to her,” Custis said.After months of recovery, Jeanette was back on her feet, working to support her children as a single mother and protect them from the neighborhood destroying the lives of other kids in the area. As a student at Temple, Jeanette was forced to drop out when her parents died. After enlisting in the Army, she and her future husband, also an Army veteran, institutionalized a regimented lifestyle in her house to combat the gangs and violence in the neighborhood.Jeanette enrolled her sons in nearly every summer program she could find, making sure that they were constantly active and not hanging around the streets of Grays Ferry in Philadelphia.At seven years old, while Jeanette was working, Custis learned cartwheels and back handsprings in summer gymnastics classes. When she was off from work, she took the three hiking and rock climbing, despite her lung condition.“They have to follow some type of regiment,” Jeanette said, “some type of exercise to build their minds and their bodies. I wasn’t going to let (gangs) be an option.”When Custis and Sharif developed a love for basketball, Jeanette bought a mini hoop to place over the door in their living room so the two could continue to play basketball at night, when it was dangerous for children to be outside.Custis’ oldest brother Kadeem also helped fill a father-like void for Custis and Sharif in their early years. When Jeanette couldn’t pick her kids up from school or practices, Kadeem walked them home. Every day Jeanette would stand on the front porch, looking for her three sons to turn the street corner. When they were finally in sight, she knew they were safe.“I feel like now in older age, me and my brothers are developing the brother relationship,” Kadeem said. “For awhile my role in their lives was their dad along with their brother.”Kadeem was also the first of the three to develop a passion for sports. When Sharif and Custis saw what their brother could do on a football field, they wanted to join.By 12, Custis became the star of a local AAU basketball team, the Philly BallHawks, and was coached by Charles Martin, who began coaching Custis and Sharif two years earlier in a neighborhood league he created to help kids avoid violence.When the team came together in 2007, no one had any idea how exactly to handle it, Martin said. He was new to coaching and never wanted to get into it. The BallHawks had been a great team in the area a few years prior when former Syracuse star and current Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters led the team, but hadn’t had a player even close to Waiters. Custis became that player.The BallHawks soon began traveling to local tournaments in the area, and subsequently the region. Within a few months, Custis’ name began generating buzz in the area and coaches from different high schools in the Philadelphia Catholic League began recruiting the young seventh-grader.“We didn’t understand how good he was until high schools started calling his mom,” Martin said.Custis and Martin went through his options: Martin picked Roman Catholic because of its premier basketball and football team. Custis could play both. But Custis chose Neumann-Goretti instead because both his brothers went there. He wanted to follow.At the same time, other AAU teams in the area tried to poach Custis to come play for their teams, selling more exposure, better competition and new basketball gear. But Custis never considered it. His brother, Sharif, was on the team and the rest of the players became like family. Custis would never abandon family.“They were with him before he became Jamal Custis,” Neumann-Goretti head basketball coach Carl Arrigale said. “He wasn’t going to leave them after he became Jamal Custis.”As Custis progressed through high school, he became a two-sport star and earned national attention in basketball and football, which he began playing because of Kadeem. In college, Custis decided to pursue football, as it provided a better opportunity for a career, Kadeem said.During his senior season, Custis committed to play wide receiver for then-SU head coach Scott Shafer, who’s wide receiver coach at the time was former All-Pro Rob Moore.“He wanted to be coached by that type of caliber coach,” Martin said. “Somebody that played and understood that nuances of the NFL. He felt like that would enhance his chances to get there.”But when Custis visited to sign his letter of intent, Moore informed him that he would be leaving Syracuse to take the same position for the Bills. Martin wanted Custis to attend SMU from the beginning, where he was offered a spot in both basketball and football. Despite his frustration with Moore’s departure, Martin said, Custis signed his letter with Syracuse, and refused to transfer.“What he was really concerned about was if his mom was going to be able to get to the games and see him play,” Martin said.During Custis’ first four years at Syracuse, he faced many setbacks on the football field. Within his first two years he changed positions twice. SU’s offensive coordinator left after his first year and Shafer was fired after his second.When Dino Babers took over the program in 2016, Custis suffered near-season-ending injuries in back-to-back seasons: a severe high ankle sprain in 2016 and a separated shoulder in 2017.Still, Custis persevered. While his brothers failed to reach the NFL due to their hotheaded nature on the football field, Kadeem said, Custis channeled that frustration and used it for motivation with their help.“I was scaring him away from that direction of frustration, because that’s what kind of hindered me in my career,” Kadeem said.For senior night against Louisville, family and friends came to visit and watch the game. Custis and Jeanette celebrated their birthdays — Jeanette’s is Nov. 5 and Custis’ falls on the 6th. They shared a chocolate Carvel ice cream cake and she proudly watched from the stands as her son played his final game in the Carrier Dome.“That’s the ultimate reward,” Jeanette said. “To watch my son live out his dream, that’s the ultimate reward.”But Custis’ dream isn’t done yet. His dream is creating a better life for Jeanette. He promises to do for her what she did for him.“That’s why we play,” Kadeem said. “To make a better life for us and our mom. To never need or want for anything. He’s able to fulfill the mission. Whether the NFL works or not. He’ll be able to put a smile on my mom’s face.”— Senior Staff Writer Matthew Gutierrez contributed reporting. Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more