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The Next Stage in the Teachers Struggle

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Arizona teachers are going on strike.

Teachers in Arizona held a strike vote on Thursday that launched Arizona’s first-ever statewide walkout and turned down a proposed pay raise — instead demanding increased school funding.

The Arizona Education Association and the grass-roots group the Arizona Educators United announced that teachers will walk off the job April 26.

At issue is a plan crafted by Gov. Doug Ducey to give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020, starting with a 9 percent hike next year.

Why go on strike when you are getting a 20 percent raise?

Initially, Ducey’s plan drew support from two education advocacy groups, Save Our Schools Arizona and the Arizona Parent Teacher Association. But both groups have withdrawn their support, saying the plan is not sustainable and likely will come at the expense of others in the educational system.

AZPTA President Beth Simek, in a video statement, said that an analysis from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee staff, coupled with her group’s research, led to their decision to oppose Ducey’s plan.

“In light of the funding streams that have come to light regarding the ’20 by 2020′ plan, we can no longer support the governor’s proposal,” said Simek. “As a voice for children, we hope to see the governor and this legislature find a sustainable, long-term permanent funding source that does not hurt others in the process.”

School support staff groups say they feel left out of the governor’s plan.

In a tweet, Save Our Schools Arizona said, “It is now clear the existing proposal is not sustainable or comprehensive as a means of increasing educator pay and re-investing in Arizona’s classrooms and schools.”

In other words, the teachers are going on strike for increased and sustainable state education funding, not just for more money in their pockets. This is a critical part of these strikes. They are strikes for government. They explicitly are demanding real government investment in one of the most important institutions of the state–educating citizens. The reality is that no one is more invested in educating our children than teachers, especially unionized teachers–except for parents and that only sometimes. This is part of the reason why these strikes have a high chance for success. Couching the action in state investment instead of higher wages is not only politically smart, it’s also what they are actually fighting for. And while they could lose their teaching credentials over this, its almost certainly an idle threat unless Arizona simply doens’t want to educate children, since who is going to move there to take low-paying jobs replacing them?

Also, Colorado.

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