Protest: Teachers back at station.
As 300 teachers marched on a sidewalk outside a Phoenix radio station on Tuesday, Gov. Doug Ducey — who was on the air inside the station’s studio — suggested the problem with teacher pay was largely one of communication.
Ducey, in his monthly interview on KTAR-FM (92.3), said he has already boosted teacher pay and expects to pass a budget to increase it more.
That message was not getting through to teachers being egged on to protest as part of a “political movement,” he argued.
“If (teachers) can understand where we are and where we’re going to go, not only will they see that we respect them, but we want them to get higher pay,” the governor said.
Ducey said he wanted teachers to “understand there is a plan.” He said he was “working hard to communicate, so they can see what the plan is.”
Teachers have called on the governor to act on their demands for 20 percent pay raises and more education funding.
Ducey, in comments to reporters after the on-air interview, said the increase in the amount of money flowing to schools under his watch has been misreported or underreported. He said there had been a 9 percent increase in dollars available for teacher pay since 2015.
That money is the total compensation for teachers, though, which includes funding for hiring new teachers. Not all of it went to raises.
He also questioned statistics that he said wrongly place the state at or near the bottom in teacher pay.
“We want to make sure they have the proper information,” he said. “They can see what’s going to happen in the future and the commitment that we have for teacher pay.”
Ducey said he met with a group of superintendents at the Capitol on Tuesday, speaking with them about way to increase the amount of money flowing to teachers.
The governor said he would be willing to speak with other decision makers to help solve the education funding problem. But, he said, he was not interested in meeting with those involved in the #RedForEd movement.
“What I don’t want to do is get into these political operatives’ political circus,” he said on the air.
Ducey said the organizers of #RedForEd, on the day of their first protest “endorsed my potential political opp for governor.
“Why would I sit down with someone who wants to play games?” he said.
After the interview, Ducey clarified. He said the #RedForEd movement was being led by a political operative, seeming to reference Noah Karvelis, a 23year-old music teacher in Tolleson.
Karvelis is the campaign manager for Kathy Hoffman, a Democrat running for Superintendent of Public Instruction.
#RedForEd (also known as Arizona Educators United) is nonpartisan and leaders have said it will not endorse any political candidates.
On the first day of the #RedForEd protest, the president of the Arizona Education Association, Joe Thomas, held a news conference endorsing David Garcia, who is running as a Democrat for governor.
Ducey seemed to conflate the two. Representatives for the teachers’ union and the #RedForEd movement said the announcements were coincidental and entirely separate from the other.
Neither Karvelis nor Hoffman was at the news conference where the AEA endorsed Garcia.
At the time of the union’s endorsement of Garcia, Karvelis was at school teaching. Hoffman has not endorsed any candidate for governor.
Outside the radio station Tuesday, teachers — who have said they are planning a “long-term” school walkout —paused their marching to listen to the governor’s interview. There were some sarcastic laughs at Ducey’s answers.
Some shook their heads in disapproval when they heard the governor’s remarks that much of the movement has been spurred by political operatives.