Friday, 16 November, 2018

Demanding Arizona Put Schools Over Corporate Tax Cuts, Teachers Approve Statewide Strike

An Arizona Senate committee is set to hold the long-delayed first hearing on Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's wide-ranging school safety proposal Arizona Teachers Vote to Support a Walk Out Featured font size + –
Jay Anderson | 21 April, 2018, 13:52

Following the decision made April 19 by teachers to strike next Thursday, Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas has implored teachers not to walk out of their classrooms if their salary demands are not met by that time.

The state's educators voted Thursday to strike next week, making Arizona the third state in the past year to host a statewide teacher walkout.

"We either think short-term or we think long-term", said Pamela Simon, a teacher at Bioscience High School in downtown Phoenix.

The Arizona Education Association and the grass-roots group the Arizona Educators United announced that teachers will walk off the job April 26. The strike will be the first teachers' strike in the state's history and will effect every district.

"If we maintain the status quo, that is way worse than missing a couple days of school", said Noah Karvelis, organizer of the grassroots group Arizona Educators United.

Teachers and other labour supporters around the country are showing solidarity with Arizona.

Educators have been calling on Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and state lawmakers to increase their pay by 20 percent, increase the pay of school staff and improve school conditions.

Organizers with AEU have been teasing the possibility of a statewide walkout for weeks.

"The plan Governor Ducey announced is $274 million in new education funds for FY 2019 dedicated exclusively to the teacher base level (so that it becomes permanent funding our districts and their teachers can count on) and $100 million for restoring district additional assistance that can be used for capital needs plus inflation", said Linda Lyon, president of the Arizona School Boards Association's Board of Directors. "I respect our teachers and you know I've been talking for a long, long time about getting our teachers more money and looking for ways to get new revenue streams into Arizona, but they are public servants and we have to put the children first in my opinion".

Teachers on both sides of the walkout vote have shared concerns.

Rep. Tom Cole said he understood teachers and parents acted for a reason, but still commended the legislature for their budget action. "We are grateful for the governor's proposal but realize it is just that".




That's not good enough, the teachers say.

Several Democratic groups said they supported the teacher walkout. Arizona's House Democrats have already endorsed the strike as "brave and righteous".

Governor Doug Ducey, after months of insisting teachers would not see a raise above 1 percent, conceded last week that he would approach the legislature with a plan to raise teacher's salaries by 20 percent over the next three years.

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.

The PTA on Monday embraced Ducey's plan, but Simek says new reports and the group's own analysis shows major flaws.

"Originally, we were really encouraged that the governor is really hearing teachers and parents", said Dawn Penich-Thacker, a spokeswoman for SOS Arizona.

The delayed strike date was meant to make it possible for school districts and parents to plan for school shutdowns.

Arizona teachers are conducting another round of protests outside schools as they weigh whether to escalate their push for more school funding by walking out of their classrooms. But others have more openly criticized the #RedForEd drive.

Others, however, have sided with teachers, agreeing with their assessment that the governor's plan to finance the $670 million cost of the pay hikes and the $371 million for those capital needs is not financially sustainable.

"I've been listening, and I've been impressed".

Thomas dismissed the allegations. "This is undeniably a mandate for education".

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