Arizona teachers' struggle frightens governor

An Arizona Senate committee is set to hold the long-delayed first hearing on Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's wide-ranging school safety proposal

Here's what schools plan to do in the event of a walk-out

The potential for Arizona educators to walk out en masse is causing some confusion about how school districts would respond.

While many Arizona teachers were ready to walk out today, the Arizona Educators United Facebook group, clearly under the direction of the AEA union, is opposing immediate action and giving the governor and the state legislature more time to make some gesture to prevent a strike.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, teachers will continue hosting walk-in demonstrations at more than 1,100 schools. "We can no longer allow the status quo in this state to go unchanged", he said. "I don't want to put any limitations in it right now, because we need to stay responsive".

Florence Unified School District Superintendent Chris Knutsen was among the school leaders at the press conference earlier this week.

The vote was held after weeks of protests and walk-ins by teachers.

The proposal also has the backing of the Arizona School Boards Association as well as groups representing school superintendents and rural school districts.

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"Education isn't just a job, it's a calling".

Add to the skepticism over permanent funding sources, local and state teachers are also leery of the Republican-controlled Legislature and governor. Education, as a whole, is being destroyed and if we don't fight now, we are going to see a populace of educated (the wealthy) and uneducated (working class and poor) people in this country.

"We can't take from one pot to give to another pot", Democratic state Rep. Reginald Bolding told AZFamily.com.

Shortly after West Virginia's strike, Oklahoma teachers followed suit with a nine-day strike protesting low teacher wages in the state.

Unlike West Virginia and Oklahoma, Arizona has never before had a statewide teacher walkout, and has experienced only a handful of districtwide strikes over the past four decades.

Ducey's proposal would to raise teacher salaries by 9 percent this year and build on that each year until teacher pay is 20 percent more by school year 2020. "I felt better today, when we received an update from the governor's office indicating that the proposed 10 percent raise will be given to ALL classroom teachers in FY2019 without cutting services in important social programs such as AHCCCS".

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It was that public support that effectively forced Ducey to come up with his offer last week. Some school districts have warned that they would close schools if they feel they don't have enough employees to safely operate.

Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced a proposal last week to raise teacher pay by 20 percent by 2020, but teachers said it doesn't address larger issues with cuts to education funding since the recession or large classroom sizes.

The governor's hastily-announced proposal, meant to quell teachers' calls for a walkout, came after weeks of protests and peaceful demonstrations by Arizona educators and their supporters.

With Ducey's proposal my children would still be attending schools that are underfunded. And he has said that schools, which have been using operating funds for those capital needs, would now have more cash for other priorities, including pay hikes for support staff.

Ducey's smug "political theatre" comments on April 10 came as more than 300 educators, parents, students and supporters picketed for the second month in a row on the sidewalk outside KTAR radio in Phoenix, where Ducey does a monthly interview. Thirteen of 38 teachers at her school, Circle Cross Ranch K-8, are planning to resign at the end of this academic year, she said, because of factors like low pay and a lack of rental housing in the area. Under Arizona law, school districts choosing to play hardball could deem strikers as having canceled their employment contracts, and could also seek to revoke their teaching certificates. Democratic Janet Napolitano, who served as governor from 2003 until 2009, when she quit to become Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security, backed a half billion-dollar tax cut in 2006, which has robbed the state of critical revenue.

"We either think short-term or we think long-term", said Pamela Simon, a teacher at Bioscience High School in downtown Phoenix. Imagine if educators stuck to their demands.

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Teachers in the Osborn, Kyrene and Chandler school districts said ahead of Thursday's vote that several of their educators appeared split on the question of whether to walk out.

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