Behind the teacher strikes that have roiled five states

04 May, 2018, 10:07 | Author: Jeannette Greene
  • As governor approves raises, Arizona teacher strike ends

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed an education budget into law Thursday that will increase teacher pay, likely ending a teacher strike in the state.

The House and Senate began working on education funding in earnest April 26, the first day of a statewide teacher walkout that would still be going a week later.

With state governments the primary sources of public education funding in the U.S., teachers in several Republican-dominated states have recently protested for more funding after years of cuts.

In the first few days of the walkout, nearly all of the state's 1.1 million public school students were affected and unable to attend school.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, who has been a vocal opponent of the teacher walkout sought to make it illegal for teachers to "use classroom time to espouse political ideology or beliefs", language that could be read to preclude teachers from wearing their #RedForEd T-shirts in class.

One of those large districts, in Scottsdale, announced shortly after the budget passed that schools would reopen Friday.

Republicans also rebuffed attempts by Democrats to send more money toward schools and received concessions of their own.

"I know people look at it as 'oh, look at all of this money we just got, '" she said. They also wanted the state to fully restore funding cuts made in the past decade, which would have cost more than $1 billion.

When you adjust for inflation, in the last full school year, teachers in Arizona made almost $9,000 less on average than they did in the 1989-90 school year.

"The hard work we've done with budgeting in the Legislature over the past few years helped put us in a position to provide funding for unprecedented pay raises for our outstanding teachers, without raising taxes".

"Signed", Ducey tweeted. "Teacher raises are on the way".

It also scrapes together funds by other means, including more than $100 million in dollars freed up as a result of a new vehicle registration fee. Still, it comes up well short of the walkout organizers' demand that funding be restored to 2008 levels, adjusted for inflation.

Through labor militancy, Arizona teachers succeeded in forcing Republicans to make investments in public education that they did not want to.

With comparisons to the Arab Spring revolts that swept a wave of democratization in the Middle East and North Africa in 2010, the teacher strikes of 2018 are empowering educators to take their fights for salary hikes and increases in education funding to the streets.

Although the teachers' raise is now enacted, districts in Phoenix, Tucson and Tempe, along with more than three dozen districts throughout the state, had notified parents that classes were canceled Thursday, according to the Arizona Republic newspaper.

"It's a lot easier for teachers to strike and agitate in a red state because they're not anxious about getting crosswise with their allies", said Rick Hess, resident scholar and director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

Most of the statements being handed down from the union have been delivered by Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association (AEA).



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