For the first time in state history, Arizona educators have voted to strike after weeks of demanding better school funding and teacher pay. KNAU’s Gillian Ferris has more.
Represented by the Arizona Education Association and the group Arizona Educators United, teachers are keeping their vow to strike if Governor Doug Ducey does not grant their request by next Tuesday for a twenty percent pay raise and a billion dollar increase in school funding. Ducey last week offered a gradual pay increase over the next two years, but did not agree to restore funding back to pre-2008 levels when education spending in Arizona took a big hit.
Derek Born is the president of the Flagstaff Education Association. He says, “All we’re trying to do minimally is to get back where we were 9 years ago, and we don’t think that’s too much to ask. Because Arizona was no education paradise then…but at least it was functional and the schools could operate with an actual budget to purchase the things they need to help kids learn.”
Arizona is a Right to Work state and is not unionized. Strikes are neither authorized nor prohibited by law. Each School district is working out its own plan for the walkouts, set to begin Thursday. Mike Penca, the superintendent of the Flagstaff Unified School District, says, “Right now we’re just trying to communicate well, help parents and families plan, work on logistics and we’ll know a lot more a lot more when we see how long this goes or when it’s over.”
Penca says FUSD has already identified critical needs including breakfast and lunch programs for low-income students. The district plans to continue food services for those children at seven different sites.