AZ teachers vote on whether to go on strike

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Teachers are voting whether to strike. (Source: The Associated Press) Teachers are voting whether to strike. (Source: The Associated Press)

There have been dozens of protests on school campuses across the state over funding for education.

Arizona teachers on Tuesday began weighing whether to walk out of their classrooms to demand more school funding after weeks of growing protests - a vote that's raising questions about how an unprecedented strike could play out across the state's education system.

[RELATED: Arizona teachers call strike vote, despite raise plan]

Tiffany Huisman is a high school English teacher in Phoenix. She is voting in favor of a teacher strike unless the governor and state lawmakers properly fund education. 

"I don't teach math, but right now the math doesn't make sense," said Huisman. "I need to know where the money is coming from, and if we're taking money away from programs that support our kids. That doesn't make sense either. We need to look at reasonable solutions to make sure kids are getting the best possible education in Arizona."

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

Huisman and other teachers are skeptical of Gov. Doug Ducey's recent proposal to give teachers a 20 percent pay raise by 2020.

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

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

For the next three days, thousands of teachers in Arizona will vote on whether they'd be willing to walk out of the classroom if their demands aren't met. Teachers say Gov. Ducey's plan doesn't address other needs, including raises for support staff and a return to pre-Great Recession school funding levels. The vote is meant to gauge interest in holding a strike.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona Schools in Crisis]

The voting process is not that elaborate.

The votes will be collected and counted by the group Arizona Educators United.

[SLIDESHOW: Arizona teachers hold protests at schools demanding higher pay]

A teacher liaison at each school is in charge of collecting the ballots and delivering them.

Voting is not allowed on campus and must be done before or after school.

Teachers will have to go into a parking lot, a park or across the street to cast their votes.

[RELATED: Arizona teachers demanding raise protest at schools]

If there's overwhelming support, a strike date may be set.

Margaret Smith has two kids in school in the San Tan Valley.

Smith is aware of the hardships a strike would create for parents, but if it happens, she's OK with it.

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

"I would support them if they went out," said Smith. "I would hope that the legislature would do something to prevent that because I don't want my kids to miss out on any education, but if it came down to it I would support the strike ."

Arizona teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation, and their actions came as educators in many Republican-dominant states have demanded higher pay. The movement started in West Virginia, where a strike garnered a raise, and spread to Oklahoma, Kentucky and most recently Colorado.

Arizona's Republican-controlled statehouse gave a tepid response at first to state teachers' #RedforEd campaign, then the governor rolled out his plan for a raise.

Organizers said in a video posted to the Arizona Educators United Facebook page that most of the voting on a strike was expected to take place before school Wednesday, the same day of the week that educators have been holding walk-ins.

The Arizona Education Association, which represents about 20,000 teachers, has thrown its support behind Arizona Educators United, which cropped up as a grass-roots effort on social media. Association members will help with the voting process, according to the Facebook video.

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Jason Barry
Jason Barry has been reporting in the Valley since 1997.

Click to learn more about Jason.

Jason Barry

Jason Barry has been reporting in the Valley since 1997.

He is a nine-time Rocky Mountain Emmy Award winner who is best known for his weekly Dirty Dining reports, which highlight local restaurants with major health code violations.

Jason was born in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Miami.

An avid sports fan, Jason follows the Diamondbacks, Cardinals and Suns with his wife, Karen, and son, Joshua.

His favorite stories to cover are the station’s Pay it Forward segments, which reward members of the community with $500 for going ‘above and beyond’ the call of duty to help others.

Jason, started his career at WBTW-TV in Florence, SC before moving to WALA-TV in Mobile, AL, was named the Associated Press Reporter of the Year in 2002.

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