Arizona teachers call strike vote, despite raise plan

Posted: Updated:
PHOENIX (AP) -

Arizona teachers who have pushed for big raises and an increase in school funding say Gov. Doug Ducey's teacher raise proposal falls short and they're moving to take a strike vote.

The leaders of the grassroots group Arizona Educators United posted a video on Facebook Sunday night saying three days of voting begins Tuesday.

[READ MORE: #RedForEd not slowing down despite pay hike proposal]

Joe Thomas, the head of Arizona's largest teachers union, says the governor's proposal doesn't meet their demands.

[RELATED: Teachers wary of Arizona governor's pay boost plan]

The Republican governor on Thursday proposed a 9 percent teacher pay raise this year and 10 percent more by 2020, on top of 1 percent they are getting this year.

But he didn't address teachers' other demands, which include raises for support staff, a return to pre-Great Recession school funding levels and no more tax cuts until school spending reached the national average.

[READ MORE: Gov. Doug Ducey proposes teacher pay increase of 9% this year, 20% by 2020]

Thomas says voting is open to all teachers and will require more than a simple majority vote to move ahead with the strike.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona Schools in Crisis]

Ducey has not provided details of how he plans to fund the raises over the long-term. Instead, he said stronger state tax collections from a growing economy, lower social services spending, government "efficiencies" and a decision to drop some of his budget priorities will fund the $274 million raise next year. By 2020, it's expected to cost $650 million.

"One of the main things is we don't have a sustainable revenue source to fund these raises. What that means is that these are empty promises," teacher and organizer Noah Karvelis told members in the video. "We don't know where that money will come from to sustain this over time."

He said the governor's pledge also "does not do enough for our kids and colleagues," he said.

Over the weekend, Ducey won support from business community members in a social media blitz. Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwill and Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Glen Hamer posted videos backing the plan. So did some education groups and Ducey administration staffers.

"The fact is that that good policy is coming out of this administration and I think you're seeing people step up to the plate and support it, Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said. "This is a policy proposal and one that we need to get across the finish line."

Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature didn't embrace the teachers' rejection of the governor's proposal.

"It's unfortunate that some people in Arizona can't get used to taking yes for an answer," Rep. Maria Syms of Paradise Valley said Monday.

Rep. Anthony Kern called the refusal of teachers to settle for a big pay boost "a joke" that will hurt them.

"I've heard teacher pay, teacher pay, teacher pay since I've been down here," Kern said. "And now they're extending the people that they would like to get raises. I think the Legislature's doing everything they can to put enough money in teachers' salaries."

In the Senate, President Steve Yarbrough said teachers might pay a big political price if they strike.

"I guess they'll just have to do what they'll have to do and we'll see if the public finds that activity honorable or not," Yarbrough said. "I think to strike when you've signed a contract is frankly dishonorable, and I think you are sacrificing the education of students for your own well-being."

The bigger issue for Sen. John Kavanagh, the Republican who heads the appropriations committee, is finding the money.

"That level just for K-12 might be attainable, but there's going to an awful lot of deprivation everywhere else in government, and that concerns a lot of members," Kavanagh said.

Details on how the governor will pay for the teacher raises are still being developed. But he mostly relies on rosy economic projections for the state to provide the funding.

"It's not just about our pay and that's one of the reasons we are not satisfied with what Gov. Ducey said the other day," said teacher Natalie Peck. She said she is concerned with things like aging textbooks, and not having a gymnasium at her elementary school where kids can run around in the hot summer months. 

"Our textbooks have missing pages and are not even in the 2000s, some of them," she said.

School districts are thinking about what to do if a strike is called.

[VIDEO: How parents should prepare for a teacher strike]

The Arizona School Board Association has offered guidance to superintendents, school administrators and governing boards on how to prepare for a possible walk-out.

In the Flagstaff Unified School District, Superintendent Michael Penca said he hopes for a week's notice of a walk-out date in to give time for parents to make child care plans.

"Anything we can think about in advance is worthwhile," he said.

---

Associated Press reporter Melissa Daniels in Phoenix contributed to this report.


Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

© 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Lindsey ReiserLindsey Reiser is a Scottsdale native and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

Click to learn more about Lindsey

Lindsey Reiser

Lindsey returned to the Valley in 2010 after covering border and immigration issues in El Paso, TX. While in El Paso she investigated public corruption, uncovered poor business practices, and routinely reported on the violence across the border.

Lindsey feels honored to have several awards under her belt, including a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award, Hearst Journalist Award, and several National Broadcast Education Association Awards.

Lindsey is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and she currently serves as a mentor to journalism students. She studied for a semester in Alicante, Spain and also earned a degree in Spanish at ASU.

She is proud to serve as a member of United Blood Services’ Community Leadership Council, a volunteer advisory board for the UBS of Arizona.

Hide bio