As in the other states where teachers have picketed, many districts in Arizona are facing teacher shortages in subjects like math, science and special education, with principals reporting that staff members are moving to deeper-pocketed states to earn up to $20,000 more per year, or to work in better-funded classrooms.
As in states where earlier teacher protests and walkouts have occurred (West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma), the Arizona action is a direct response to the fiscal policies Republicans have pursued in states they firmly control.
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”.
Unlike West Virginia, Oklahoma teachers did not get what they wanted out of their two-week strike.
Teachers, long exhausted of low wages and a dearth of state funding, begin talking to each other online. Students and parents have expressed solidarity with teachers.
Noah Karvelis, one of the Arizona Educators United organizers, said by not funding teachers, “we are throwing away an entire generation’s chance at academic success”.
Meanwhile, legislative analysts said late past year that a new round of corporate tax cuts would leave the state $100 million short in 2018, unless spending was cut.
Prior to the vote, Mesa Public Schools Superintendent Michael Cowen sent an email to teachers saying the district’s 64,000 students would be shut out of school until teachers return to their classrooms.
ABC15 has confirmed that the group, in partnership with the Arizona Education Association (AEA), has also been approved for permits at the Capitol through most of next week.
Ducey, playing hardball with state lawmakers to get his teacher-pay raise plan passed, vetoed 10 Republican-sponsored House bills in an attempt to force the legislature to finish the state budget. Activists hope more school districts will close April 27, the state’s planned day of action. This will give schools and parents time to prepare, he said. That ain’t what this is. Last week, Governor Ducey announced a plan to raise teachers’ pay gradually so that they’ll see a 20% raise by 2020, but support staff were left out of the raises. Reasons behind the rejection are because the plan only covered teachers and not other school staff such as counselors, nurses, bus drivers and more.
Ducey has also proposed to restore education funding from recession-era cuts with $371 million phased in over the next five years. “We’re not going to be divided”.
“I’m exhausted of seeing ex-Arizona teachers”, Thomas said, calling on the Legislature and the Governor to meet their demands.
Across Arizona, tens of thousands of teachers, parents and students, clad in red, participated in protests outside schools on April 11. We are asking also for cost-of-living increases and better healthcare.
Students wouldn’t be able to access buildings on campuses, and any school days missed would be made up at year’s end, Superintendent Michael Cowan wrote to teachers. Despite that fact, teachers’ weekly wages are 23 percent lower than those of other college graduates.
The PHS teachers’ signs read, “Our Students are People NOT #s”, another said, “The Great Recession is not over for Education #RedforEd”. “They know how powerful government is in these matters”.
“I do think that the fact that the governor proposed this plan publicly is a strong indicator of the #RedforEd’s movement and power”.
After a decade of budget cuts, school funding in Arizona is more than $1 billion below 2008 levels. And he said average salaries for teachers range from $43,670 for middle school teachers to $44,220 for elementary school and $48,050 for high school teachers.
“We have worked side by side with the education community to develop a sustainable plan to give teachers a 20% raise by 2020”. But teachers say that won’t cut it.
“I’m all for a strike”, Jane, a teacher in Phoenix, told the WSWS Teacher Newsletter.
The Arizona Center for Economic Progress said 74% of Arizona’s corporations pay $50 or less in tax every year. “I think it’s important for teachers to unite across the country, but the union here doesn’t seem to be doing much to reach outside of Arizona”.
Arizona House Democrats called on Republicans in the Legislature to step up and address education needs.