Teacher honored by 3TV's Silver Apple award given pink slip

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With just days to go before the statewide vote on Proposition 100, thousands of the state's teachers are waiting for Arizona voters to decide their fate.

As Patti Kirpatrick discovered, among them was one teacher who epitomizes just what's at stake.

Patti went to Suzi Figueroa's Sonoran Trails classroom to give her the news that she had won 3TV's Silver Apple Award.

The day that Figueroa was presented with her Silver Apple Award, it seemed all was right with the world. A great teacher being honored all thanks to a student who had nominated her for the difference she's made in his life.

"She helps me bring up most of my grades," Brandon Sinani said.

But that wasn't the end of the story. What we didn't know was Figueroa wasn't seeing just red that week, she would see pink as well.

Her principal, Bill Dolezal, explained she was the recipient of a reduction in force notice.

"The irony is that great teachers are facing situations like this and I would be willing to bet that Suzi is not the only great teacher that is facing a scenario like this," Dolezal said.

Statewide 4,000 teachers have been given reduction in force notices. In Figueroa's Cave Creek district, 56 teachers got the bad news.

It's all in anticipation of budget cuts, in case voters reject the 1 cent sales tax increase in next Tuesday's special election. Although there's no doubt she's a great teacher, seniority will play a role in Figueroa's future as it does for most teachers in our state.

"Unfortunately, that got all the way up to Suzi, who is a five-year veteran in the district and a 30-year veteran in the state of Arizona," Dolezal said.

Many Arizona teachers are going through the same agonizing waiting game. Figueroa says she knows teachers who have quit because of the way budget cuts have hurt their profession.

"I know a lot of people who have actually left teaching period because they just don't want to have to deal with it," she said.

But Figueroa is not giving up yet and wants to keep teaching. She said the Silver Apple Award she just received is the perfect validation at a difficult time.

"In light of everything that was happening to me personally, as far as my career, this just made me so happy," she said.

A lot of people will be watching to see how the vote on Proposition 100 turns out. Many worry about how it will translate into our classroom, but others have said they're against the tax. Anti Proposition 100 groups have been busy.

A Phoenix No on 100 group was responsible for the sign that was unfurled on the Loop 101 Thursday morning. Earlier this week the No on 100 folks were making those signs in the Valley. As to the issue of how a no vote will affect education in our state, they aren't buying the argument it will mean drastic cuts.

"Those are just scare tactics, it's false, it's a hundred percent not true," Judy Hoelscher said. "They could cut waste in the administration. There's many more place in government that they could cut waste."

"We're spending over $9,000 per student today in the classrooms," Brandon Tursoe said. "That should allow teachers to be paid over $100,000 a year with plenty of money. That's $260,000 in each classroom each year. Where is that money going? That's what we want to know."

Spending is expected to be very lopsided in this debate. The pro-100 group has spent at least $1.5 million to date. The anti-tax group has not filed its report.