Arizona public school teachers have voted to go on strike beginning April 26, following the example of colleagues in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky earlier this year.
Their vote last night (April 19) comes even after the state’s governor Doug Ducey has proposed increasing teachers’ salaries by 20% over two years, starting with a 9% raise in 2019.
That’s not good enough, the teachers say.
With the support of Save Our Schools Arizona and the Arizona Parent Teacher Association (AZPTA), two organizations that initially supported Ducey, the teachers say the plan is not sustainable because it doesn’t contemplate more investment in schools alongside any higher salaries.
It’s a bold stance: Arizona teacher salaries are among the lowest in the country, at an average of $47,403.
According to the teachers’ analysis of the plan, the funding for their salaries wouldn’t be part of a plan of larger investment in schools and will come at the expense of paying to improve the state’s already-depleted education infrastructure and its underfunded learning programs.
In deciding to strike en masse, Arizona teachers take especially high risks: The state does not guarantee their right to strike. The Arizona Education Association, the teachers’ union, says its members will likely be standing against a 1971 Arizona attorney general opinion that said a statewide strike would be illegal and could lead revoking of teaching credentials.
Although the situation in Arizona is especially dire, it’s not an exception in the American landscape: US public-school teachers are amongst the worst paid in rich countries.
The strike’s announcement comes on the same day of another school-based protest, the latest nationwide student walkouts to demand stricter gun laws, timed for the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre.
Those leading the walkouts have expressed their support for Arizona’s teachers. At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, protesters at the site of America’s worst high-school shooting have carried signs showing their solidarity with them.