A majority of teachers voted to walk-out of classrooms to protest low teacher pay and per-pupil funding Thursday evening.
Earlier this week, two education advocacy groups that initially supported Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposal to raise teachers’ salaries withdrew their support citing a lack of financial sustainability.
Ducey’s proposal would to raise teacher salaries by 9 percent this year and build on that each year until teacher pay is 20 percent more by school year 2020. The proposal adds the teacher salary increase to base-level funding, which makes it part of the formula that receives required annual inflation increases, said Dr. Chuck Essigs, director of governmental relations for Arizona Association of School Business Officials.
Teachers across Arizona have been voting at their schools for the past few days on whether they will walk-out or not.
Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas announced the results of that vote on Thursday night, noting that 78 percent of the 57,000 educators who voted said they would support a walk-out.
Noah Karvelis, co-organizer for Arizona Educators United, said teachers across the state will hold walk-ins on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and then walk out on Thursday during a press conference Thursday night at Arizona Education Association headquarters in Phoenix.
Then on April 22, the two-thirds of the members of the Arizona School Counselors Association voted to support the walk-out as well.
AZCentral Video: Results of teacher vote on a walk-out
— azcentral (@azcentral) April 20, 2018
In anticipation of a possible walk-out, Arizona Educators United and Arizona Education Association obtained a permit for all-day events on the lawn at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix on Friday, April 20 and Monday through Wednesday as well as Friday of next week.
“We share the frustration that the State’s investments in education over the last decade have not adequately shown the support and respect that Arizona’s public education systems deserve,” said Christine M. Thompson, president and CEO of Expect More Arizona. “We are saddened that our teachers feel so disrespected and unsupported that they have chosen to walk out.”
“An excellent teacher in the classroom is fundamental to student success. Every student deserves high quality teachers who are treated and paid like professionals – acknowledging their level of training, responsibility, and prestige,” Thompson said. “Expect More Arizona has long championed efforts to significantly raise K-12 teacher salaries and to find a long-term solution for education funding in Arizona. In doing so, Arizona’s budget should not negatively impact other parts of education.”
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. (2/2)
— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) April 20, 2018
Chandler Unified School District Superintendent Camille Casteel said in an email to parents early on Thursday that “We have been reassured by leaders of the movement that there is no walkout planned for Friday,” but Karvelis said that wasn’t necessarily true because they didn’t know the results of the vote at that time, according to a KTAR News 92.3 FM story.
School districts across the state are preparing for a possible walk-out by communicating with parents this week about whether classes would be canceled or not, whether bus service would be provided, what provisions there would be for breakfast and lunch, and what would happen if teachers walked out after the school day began.
The Arizona School Boards Association released a statement that said “ASBA advocates for all school board members, teachers and the students attending public schools across the state. We love our teachers and respect their right to have their voices heard. We now must work with our members to ensure they have access to the resources they need to communicate with their families and communities to ensure student learning is minimally impacted. We have created a webpage dedicated with resources, sample letters and other tools for ASBA members.”
Amphitheater School District Superintendent Todd Jaeger said he supports the teachers in their efforts, but he hopes they don’t walk out, and Sunnyside Unified School District Governing Board President Buck Crouch said he believes teacher need more pay, but he wouldn’t fully support a work stoppage.
Two education organizations withdraw initial support for plan
On Wednesday, the Arizona PTA withdrew its initial backing for Ducey’s plan to increase teacher pay with it’s President Beth Simek saying there is no way to pay for the raises and restore capital funding for schools without cutting other programs the help children.
“We received a report yesterday from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee that contradicts some of what we’ve been hearing so we continued to do some of our own research,” Simek said in a video posted on Facebook.
Save Our Schools Arizona withdrew it’s support for the governor’s proposal on Wednesday, April 18, citing concerns about sustainable funding for the teacher pay increase proposal, according to a KTAR News 92.3 FM story.
“It is now clear the existing proposal is not sustainable or comprehensice as a means of increasing educator pay and re-investing in Arizona’s classrooms and schools. Save Our Schools Arizona hopes the Governor, Legislature, education groups and the grassroots community will immediately collaborate on better ways to invest in Arizona’s starving public education system,” stated Save Our Schools Arizona.
— SOSArizona (@arizona_sos) April 18, 2018
Other education organizations continue to support the proposal
Earlier this week, education advocates spoke in support of Ducey’s proposal at a press conference at the State Capitol in Phoenix sponsored by Arizona Association of School Business Officials, Arizona Rural Schools Association, Arizona School Boards Association, Arizona School Administrators, Education Finance Reform Group, East Valley Institute of Technology and the JTED Consortium.
“The plan Governor Ducey announced is $274 million in new education funds for FY 2019 dedicated solely to the teacher base level (so that it becomes permanent funding our districts and their teachers can count on) and $100 million for restoring district additional assistance that can be used for capital needs plus inflation,” said Linda Lyon, president of the Arizona School Boards Association‘s Board of Directors.
“It does not specifically address increases for support staff, but with the state covering a 10 percent raise for certified classroom teachers, many districts should have additional resources to award raises to certified specialists and support staff at local discretion,” Lyon said. “This is important, because you know best what your district needs are.”
“The real question I’m hearing from many of you is where will the funding for this come from?” Lyon said. “Like me, you are worried about what other important programs will be impacted. I felt better today, when we received an update from the governor’s office indicating that the proposed 10 percent raise will be given to ALL classroom teachers in FY2019 without cutting services in important social programs such as AHCCCS.”
There is much yet to be worked out, Lyon said.
“I also know the proposed solution is far from adequate as it still won’t restore our districts to 2008 funding and doesn’t provide sufficient funding to adequately compensate support staff or take care of our crumbling facilities and replace capital equipment, but, it is a big step in the right direction,” Lyon said.
Florence Unified School District Superintendent Chris Knutsen was among the school leaders at the press conference earlier this week.
“The governor’s proposal is a good thing for our teachers because basically with $280 being added into the base (funding) that equates to $2.45 million. If you take out the benefits and divide it by the 400 teachers that we have that equates to about a $4,900 raise for each one of my teachers in Florence Unified School District,” said Knutsen, superintendent of the district in Pinal County that serves about 8,500 students.
“On top of that we have the district additional assistance which would equate to about $900,000. We would be able to have the flexibility to try and increase our classified salary scale as well,” Knutsen said. “So overall I think the Governor and the Legislature did a good job with this proposal.”