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AZ State Rep. Kelly Townsend: Teachers Union Leader ‘Wants Every Knee to Bow to Him’

Joe_Thomas_
Gage Skidmore/Flickr
MICHAEL PATRICK LEAHY

An Arizona state legislator is pushing back against the head of the Arizona teachers union, who recently called on teachers to intimidate colleagues who refuse to join walkouts.

Arizona Education Association (AEA) president Joe Thomas was caught on video recently telling teachers who serve as union liaisons, “if you have people that don’t want to walk out, that don’t want to go back down to the Capitol, don’t want to leave their classrooms, they better be out on that walk out, that stand out, excuse me.”

Thomas’s comments did not sit well with Arizona State Rep. Kelly Townsend (R-16).

“It appears that Joe Thomas wants every knee to bow to him, using angry threats to bully teachers into another illegal walk out.  I encourage teachers to stand up to what amounts to a toothless tiger and to see this for what it is,” Townsend said in an exclusive interview this week with Breitbart News.

“The fact that he is trying to organize a rally during school hours on May 1 (a Socialist/Communist holiday) contradicts their claim that ‘Red’ for Ed is not fueled by anti-American ideology,” the four-term state legislator continued.

“I prefer to work with Legislators and teachers to find a realistic way to get districts to direct education dollars to the classroom and to insure teachers’ pay is prioritized, without all the far-left Marxism,” Townsend concluded.

Thomas is the same union leader who helped orchestrate the launch of the #RedforEd movement in March 2018 when he reportedly appointed then 23-year-old Noah Karvelis, a second year teacher with provisional standing, to head up the Littleton Education Association. Karvelis, an avid Bernie Sanders supporter and left wing political activist, was the organizational front person for Arizona Educators United, the local #RedforEd group in Arizona.

Earlier this week on Monday, State Rep. Townsend issued a press release expressing concern “for teachers in light of video showing excessive intimidation tactics.”

“I wish to encourage our teachers to come to the Legislature and speak directly with us to find a way that ensures districts are allocating the funds that we appropriated specifically intended for teacher raises,” she continued.

“I have been working with my colleagues to come up with benchmark funding that will encourage the districts to prioritize the classroom and teacher pay, first. There is no need to succumb to these intimidation tactics used by a person who seeks to undermine the progress we have made by making this so-called walkout an event on an international Socialist holiday,” Townsend added in her press release:

Rep. Townsend referred to the International Worker’s Day on May 1st, declared by the international Socialist Conference in 1889. Townsend has been a vocal critic of the Socialist overtones of the #RedForEd movement, pointing to the activities of the leaders of the movement like Noah Karvelis, who attended the Socialism 2018 conference in Chicago last year and openly advocates for teacher activism in the classroom.

At a recent #RedForEd event, speakers railed against her bill, HB2032, that would disallow political activism in the classroom, saying it was not needed. However, Rep. Isela Blanc celebrated that activism does indeed happen in classrooms. Rep. Blanc stated, “I was speaking to a group of students, this activist Legislator, and I saw her and they are creating some real activism in their schools, and that’s what someone like Townsend is afraid (of).”

Though significant May Day teachers rallies are planned in other states, it is unclear what kind of event the AEA and #RedforEd have planned for Phoenix on May 1.

A number of teachers who participated in walkouts and rallies in April and May of 2018 are apparently reluctant to engage in the same kind of walkouts this year, as the Arizona Daily Independent reported earlier this week.

Union leaders like Thomas appear to recognize that support of the #redfored movement has been waning and many overwhelmed teachers are too focused on their classrooms to engage in political activity. As a result, Thomas’ admonishment comes as no surprise.

What might come as a surprise to parents, however, is the fact that the teachers union does not appear to have plans for a May 1 walkout. The threat of a walkout has been held out throughout the 2019 legislative session in order to ensure that teachers see the promised 5 percent increase in funding.

On Saturday, Michelle Dillard, an organizer with PurpleforParents, a group formed to push back against #RedforEd in Arizona, tweeted a video of AEA and #RedforEd organizers promoting a May 1 walkout event in which participating teachers were asked to wear red shirts and hold red umbrellas:

So far, however, no formal public announcement has been made by either the AEA or #RedforEd organizers providing specific details of a May 1 rally or event.

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