April 20 (UPI) — Teachers in Arizona will strike next week, following weeks of growing national protests and a proposed 20 percent pay raise by Gov. Doug Ducey.
Arizona is the latest state to join the #RedForEd movement.
Thursday’s vote to walk out of the classroom next Thursday is the state’s first teacher strike, and follows walkouts over pay in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Colorado.
Arizona teachers turned down Ducey’s proposed pay raise, instead pushing for more money for classrooms and support staff.
Arizona Educators United and the Arizona Education Association announced the walkout late Thursday, after a vote of approval from 78 percent of teachers and school staff.
“We are underfunding our students,” said AEU organizer and teacher Noah Karvelis. “We are throwing away an entire generation of students’ opportunity of academic success.”
To give schools and parents time to prepare, “walk-in” demonstrations will be held Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before the walkout Thursday.
Ducey said if a walkout occurs, Arizona’s children are the losers.
“No one wants to see teachers strike,” he said. “If schools shut down, our kids are the ones who lose out.
“We have worked side-by-side with the education community to develop a sustainable plan to give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020. I am committed to getting teachers this raise and am working to get this passed at the Legislature. We need teachers teaching, and kids learning.”
Teachers asked Ducey to oppose new tax cuts until their salaries reach the national median and asked for the return of school funds that were cut over the past decade.
Arizona Rep. Anthony Kern said the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average salary for all Arizona workers at $48,160, and average salaries for teachers range from $43,670 (for middle school) to $44,220 (elementary) to $48,050 (high school).
Under Ducey’s proposal, average teacher pay would reach $52,725 by the upcoming school year and $58,130 by 2020.
AEA and AEU leaders say Ducey’s offer falls short because if doesn’t support other staff, like reading specialists, custodians and bus drivers.