Student majority below proficiency
Hundreds of Arizona schools were closed again last week, keeping about 840,000 students out of class as thousands of teachers, wearing red as part of the #RedforEd theme, rallied at the state Capitol in Phoenix.
Strike organizers said educators would go back to work if lawmakers pass a school funding deal backed by Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, and legislative leaders from his party.
Mr. Ducey has offered a 20 percent pay increase for teachers by 2020, as well as $100 million for new textbooks, building improvements and salaries for support staff, which would increase to $371 million over five years.
The governor is vowing that he will do it without a tax increase, but the Arizona Education Association is calling for $1 billion in educational funding in addition to the 20 percent pay raise.
Arizona teacher salaries rank 46th nationally after adjusting for cost of living, according to an analysis by EdBuild.
“They have earned this raise,” Mr. Ducey said in an open letter. “Now it’s time for us to deliver.”
The free market Goldwater Institute has threatened to file a lawsuit against school districts over the walkouts, arguing that they amount to an illegal strike and breach of contract in a state that does not permit strikes by public school employees.
“This unlawful strike — and the district’s efforts to aid or encourage it — are therefore not only a breach of contract, but an intentional effort to deprive Arizona students of their constitutional rights,” Timothy Sandefur, Goldwater vice president for litigation, said in a statement.
Arizona’s walkout represents the latest in a series of teacher protests that began in February in West Virginia, where the Legislature approved a 5 percent pay increase for all state workers after a nine-day strike.
Teacher strikes in Kentucky, Oklahoma and Colorado followed, with mixed results.
Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas praised teachers after the first walkout last week, saying it was wonderful to see the “sea of red flowing from downtown Phoenix to the Capitol, where we took over the entire grounds of the Capitol.”
He said the march had “75,000 educators and supporters and students, all with one simple message: that we needed to do more for our students. We absolutely can do better as a state, and we have to do better for our students.”
Then again, anyone expecting a revenue boost to translate into improved test scores is likely to be disappointed, said Ben DeGrow, director of education policy for the