Repub­lic ed­i­to­rial: Protests paid off, but a walk­out would be un­wise.

Protests paid off, but a walk­out would be un­wise

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page -

Teach­ers put the pres­sure on. GOP leg­isla­tive lead­ers and Gov. Doug Ducey re­sponded with pro­pos­als that rep­re­sent good progress, with­out be­ing com­plete so­lu­tions.

Nev­er­the­less, teach­ers need to re­tool their strate­gies go­ing for­ward, be­cause any hope of gain­ing pub­lic sup­port with a walk­out has been co-opted.

House Speaker J.D. Mes­nard out­lined a plan to hike teacher pay 6 per­cent in the com­ing year, with an­nual in­creases that would bring the to­tal to 24 per­cent in five years.

This would not be new money. Law­mak­ers would re­di­rect money the gover­nor wanted to re­store K-12 cap­i­tal fund­ing, which was so deeply cut dur­ing the re­ces­sion that un­der­fund­ing is the sub­ject of a law­suit.

Un­met needs for build­ing main­te­nance, com­put­ers, school buses and books re­main.

Mes­nard’s pro­posal amounts to pit­ting teach­ers against the schools where they teach.

Joe Thomas, pres­i­dent of the Ari­zona Ed­u­ca­tors Association, called it a “shell game.”

Ari­zona needs new money in ed­u­ca­tion.

The gover­nor’s plan would pro­vide an im­me­di­ate 9 per­cent raise, with a “net pay in­crease” of 20 per­cent by 2020.

Ducey’s pro­posal does not raise taxes or re­al­lo­cate money from other ed­u­ca­tion needs. It re­lies on a num­ber of sources, in­clud­ing higher-than-av­er­age state rev­enue.

Both pro­pos­als fall short of teacher de­mands for higher over­all spend­ing on schools and more-com­pet­i­tive salaries for sup­port per­son­nel.

Yet both rep­re­sent di­rect re­sponses to teacher de­mands and pub­lic pres­sure.

Ducey’s in par­tic­u­lar is promis­ing and should not be dis­missed.

By re­spond­ing to teacher de­mands, both law­mak­ers and the gover­nor have changed the dis­cus­sion.

Teach­ers must be wise about their own re­sponse.

It is time to aban­don talk of walk­outs, which were never a good idea.

What’s more, in­di­vid­ual teach­ers need to guard against get­ting swept away in the group­think en­ergy that is more about pas­sion than good strat­egy.

Let’s be clear: The Ari­zona Repub­lic Ed­i­to­rial Board has stead­fastly sup­ported teach­ers and pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion.

We know how im­por­tant their job is. We know how badly schools need fund­ing.

But a teacher walk­out would only of­fer a jolt of in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion in ex­change for un­der­min­ing the good­will and pub­lic sup­port teach­ers and schools now en­joy.

A walk­out would be par­tic­u­larly coun­ter­pro­duc­tive, given move­ment to pro­vide higher wages and bet­ter school fund­ing. Teacher strate­gies now need to re­flect that progress.

Con­sider the di­rec­tion things were mov­ing even be­fore pro­pos­als for raises from Mes­nard and Ducey.

Ear­lier this ses­sion, law­mak­ers passed and Ducey signed an ex­ten­sion so the six-tenths of 1 cent sales tax un­der Propo­si­tion 301 would not ex­pire in 2021. The sun­set of Prop. 301 would have cost schools $667 mil­lion a year.

This 20-year ex­ten­sion was not on the leg­isla­tive agenda when the ses­sion be­gan. It hap­pened be­cause of po­lit­i­cal pres­sure on be­half of schools.

It hap­pened be­cause teach­ers told a com­pelling story and won pub­lic sup­port.

What’s more, lead­ers in the busi­ness com­mu­nity have sup­ported in­creas­ing the sales tax to fund ed­u­ca­tion.

So does GOP Su­per­in­ten­dent of Pub­lic In­struc­tion Diane Dou­glas — and Repub­lic con­ser­va­tive colum­nist Robert Robb.

The teach­ers and schools have pow­er­ful friends across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum.

As the state moves in the di­rec­tion of bet­ter fund­ing for ed­u­ca­tion, teach­ers need to shape the dis­cus­sion from their perch on the moral high ground.

A walk­out would erode pub­lic and po­lit­i­cal sup­port by in­con­ve­nienc­ing tens of thou­sands of par­ents.

Teach­ers promised to be there for the kids. They signed con­tracts agree­ing to work for wages they knew were low.

A walk­out would cede the moral high ground on which teach­ers are now firmly stand­ing. It would em­power those who — even in these days of un­der­fund­ing — in­sist schools have enough and teach­ers are just greedy.

(And, yes, there are peo­ple who think that way; they send us let­ters.)

Don’t for­get: A pro­posal for higher teacher pay has to make it through the Leg­is­la­ture be­fore it can get into teacher pay­checks.

But higher teacher salaries should not come at the ex­pense of other ed­u­ca­tion needs.

Teach­ers need raises and K-12 ed­u­ca­tion needs to be re­stored to pre-re­ces­sion spend­ing lev­els. Then schools need to be funded to meet the de­mands of pre­par­ing young peo­ple to com­pete in a global econ­omy.

That will take new rev­enue. Pub­lic sup­port for teach­ers and schools led to move­ment in the right di­rec­tion.

Teach­ers can build on that progress with­out leav­ing the class­room.

PATRICK BREEN/THE REPUB­LIC

Gov. Doug Ducey bowed to pres­sure from Ari­zona’s teach­ers and pro­posed a “net pay in­crease” of 20 per­cent by 2020. In re­sponse, teach­ers must be care­ful not to cede the moral high ground.

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