Teachers in Arizona held a strike vote on Thursday that launched a first-ever statewide walkout and turned down a proposed pay raise — instead demanding increased school funding.
The Arizona Education Association and the grassroots group the Arizona Educators United announced that teachers will walk off the job April 26.
At issue is a plan crafted by Gov. Doug Ducey to give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020, starting with a 9 percent hike next year.
Initially, Ducey’s plan drew support from two education advocacy groups, Save Our Schools Arizona and the Arizona Parent Teacher Association (AZPTA). But both groups have withdrawn their support, saying the plan is not sustainable and likely will come at the expense of others in the educational system.
AZPTA President Beth Simek, in a video statement, said that an analysis from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee staff, coupled with her group’s research, led to their decision to oppose Ducey’s plan.
“In light of the funding streams that have come to light regarding the ’20 by 2020′ plan, we can no longer support the governor’s proposal,” said Simek. “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.”
School support staff groups say they feel left out of the governor’s plan.
In a tweet, Save Our Schools Arizona said, “It is now clear the existing proposal is not sustainable or comprehensive as a means of increasing educator pay and re-investing in Arizona’s classrooms and schools.”
Both groups said that they are still ready to work with the governor on a new plan.
Arizona’s teachers plan to strike is an unprecedented move and comes with high risk.
According to The Associated Press:
“Teachers themselves could face consequences in this right-to-work state, where unions do not collectively bargain with school districts and representation is not mandatory. The Arizona Education Association has warned its 20,000 members about a 1971 Arizona attorney general opinion saying a statewide strike would be illegal under common law and participants could lose their teaching credentials.”