Arizona teachers vote to go on first statewide strike

Casey Quinlan Think Progress

Arizona teachers plan to go on strike next week.

After three days of voting, on Thursday, Arizona Education Association (AEA) and Arizona Educators United (AEU), a coalition of educators, administrations, and education support professionals, announced that teachers won’t be coming into work on April 26.

According to AEA President Joe Thomas, 78 percent of school employees supported a walkout.

Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced a proposal last week to raise teacher pay by 20 percent by 2020, but teachers said it doesn’t address larger issues with cuts to education funding since the recession or large classroom sizes. Parents have also chimed in to say that they oppose a proposal that does not include a long-term solution.

Arizona Parent Teacher Association President Beth Simek said, “As a voice for children, we hope to see the governor and this legislature find a sustainable, long-term permanent funding source that does not hurt others in the process.”

Arizona’s education funding experienced severe cuts since the Great Recession. State funding per student fell by 36.6 percent between 2008 and 2015, more than any other state. Teachers are also leaving the state for smaller class sizes and higher salaries, leaving many vacancies.

Striking teachers want a 20 percent raise in addition to implementing a permanent salary structure, competitive pay for educational support staff, no new tax cuts until the state’s per pupil funding reaches the national average, and restoration of education funding to 2008 levels.

Gov. Ducey (R) tweeted minutes after AEA and AEU’s announcement on Thursday and said that “No one wants to see teachers strike” and that “kids are the ones who lose out.”

But teachers say they are walking out to support students and their education, and that although they don’t want to leave their classrooms, this action is necessary.

“None of us went to school, none of us spent money on tuition, on books, none of us spend our time and our energy to not care,” Nancy Maglio, a teacher at Magee Middle School, told ABC News. “I am eagerly anticipating the walkout, but I’m not eagerly anticipating leaving my students.”

There will also be walk-ins at schools on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, according to ABC15. Communities supporting the strike, such as parent-teacher associations, plan to prepare meals for kids who won’t be in school.

There are risks to what is reportedly Arizona’s first statewide teachers walkout, however. Arizona Education Association informed members of an opinion by Arizona Attorney General Gary Nelson in 1971 that said strikes by public employees are forbidden. Nelson said that state law indicates a striking teacher has effectively resigned, Arizona Capitol Times explained, and that since it is illegal in Arizona to resign without getting local school board approval, the state Board of Education could revoke their teaching certificate.

Derek Harris, one of the teachers who is on the leadership team of Arizona Educators United, said on the dangers of striking, “We’ve worked on the assumption that they can’t fire all of us. If it was that easy to replace everybody, we wouldn’t have 2,000 teacher jobs unfilled.”


Reposted from Think Progress

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