Mesa couple call lawmaker's response to Red For Ed email 'rude' and 'appalling'

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Krystle and Tony Mathews were shocked by their representative's response to concerns about teacher pay. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Krystle and Tony Mathews were shocked by their representative's response to concerns about teacher pay. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The response Tony Mathews received from Rep. Kelly Townsend. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The response Tony Mathews received from Rep. Kelly Townsend. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The message Tony Mathews wrote to his representatives. (Source: Tony Matthews) The message Tony Mathews wrote to his representatives. (Source: Tony Matthews)
Rep. Kelly Townsend. (Source: azleg.gov) Rep. Kelly Townsend. (Source: azleg.gov)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

One Mesa family describes a response they got from their state representative as "rude" and "appalling."

Last week, Tony Mathews, the husband of a teacher, decided to write to his lawmakers for the first time regarding the "Red For Ed" movement. He wrote:

I reside in District 16 and have for almost 5 years.  Please fund education adequately without hurting any other service.  My two girls that go to Augusta Ranch Elementary School deserve a properly funded education system that can provide smaller class sizes, up to date curriculum with teachers not needing to have a second job.  Every school year, at the start of school, their teachers ask for a page of supplies from parents; as well as, thought [sic] the year. We do help out every year, but this shouldn't need to happen. Also, what about the schools that have parents that can't support the teacher with supplies, teachers have to spend their own money; this also shouldn't happen.

I have faith you can work the next few days to find a way that funds education so there is no walk out [sic] (add additional tax to gas or alcohol or cigarettes, increase property tax, increase corporate tax, etc; you get it)!  But if there is a walk out [sic], I do support the teachers!!"

Republican Rep. Kelly Townsend of District 16 was the only one to respond to him. She said:

I’m sure we can take it from the correctional officers [sic] pay who make minimum wage in some cases, release some of the prison population, take it from the developmentally disabled and close adult homes from the disabled, freeze Alzheimer’s research, take it from Veteran’s services [sic], dental services for the underserved, desperately needed road funds, the university funding, and put another freeze on Kids Care health insurance. We’ll find it somehow.

"At first, I was shocked and thought, this can't possibly be a real response from a representative," said Tony's wife, Krystle Mathews, an elementary school teacher. "She represents me and I need to be respected as I respected her."

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona Schools in Crisis]

"I was in shock," Tony said. "I was kind of appalled by it."

We reached out to Rep. Townsend, and she sent us a statement saying:

I indeed sent the email when the proposal to sweep all remaining funds from the budget was presented to us.  I explained to him that I was not being sarcastic, this was my initial understanding as to where the funding would be taken from.  Since then, we have been searching for viable ways to free up dollars for the classroom without raising taxes.  Just yesterday, I posted information that detailed how there are 65 school districts in Arizona with only one school in them, one of which has only 17 students.  The sum of the salaries that were provided to me of the Superintendents [sic] of 50 of these schools is $3.9 million dollars [sic].  This does not include other costs of maintaining a district.  I am in support of a teacher increase, however, I want to see it done in a sober and responsible way, not by promising forecasted dollars that are not there yet and could be impacted by a downturn in the economy.  Regarding a tax, the overrides of many districts have been defeated in recent times, which is an indication that the taxpayers do not support this idea.  I represent teachers, taxpayers, and children alike and it is my responsibility to find the most viable solution, not the most advantageous solution for my campaign.  I am looking for dedicated sources of income for the teachers, without taking it from the most vulnerable of our population.  If I am met with anger and scorn, I am prepared to face that in the interest of the State as a whole.  I request you read my statement in its entirety, or reference it at my Facebook account.

We then asked her, in hindsight, whether she had anything to say about the tone of the message, given that her constituents felt it was not appropriate.

[RELATED: Arizona school districts release plans for teacher walkout]

She sent us a statement saying:

Remember, we had a budget that included those items ready to go and had to reorganize the priority of the spending due to the Governor’s [sic] announcement. I was asked where the money was going to come from for the 20% raise, and I answered.  I stand by my statement.  I am not going to sugar coat it, and I am not going to lie.  It is an honest answer and intended to cut to the chase.  It was not intended to be sarcastic, it was intended to highlight the reality of the situation.  At the time it was written, it was the option given to me on how we would fund the increase to teacher salary.  I know my answer might not be what the public might expect when it comes to polished responses, however I can only present the reality of the situation.

Townsend said she is in communication with an unnamed law firm regarding a potential class-action lawsuit for teachers who feel they will be negatively impacted by the walkout. She is also collecting names of teachers who don't support the walkout and fear for their jobs, to protect them. 

[RELATED: 'Stay on the job!' AZ school superintendent urges teachers not to strike]

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Lindsey ReiserLindsey Reiser is a Scottsdale native and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

Click to learn more about Lindsey

Lindsey Reiser

Lindsey returned to the Valley in 2010 after covering border and immigration issues in El Paso, TX. While in El Paso she investigated public corruption, uncovered poor business practices, and routinely reported on the violence across the border.

Lindsey feels honored to have several awards under her belt, including a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award, Hearst Journalist Award, and several National Broadcast Education Association Awards.

Lindsey is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and she currently serves as a mentor to journalism students. She studied for a semester in Alicante, Spain and also earned a degree in Spanish at ASU.

She is proud to serve as a member of United Blood Services’ Community Leadership Council, a volunteer advisory board for the UBS of Arizona.

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