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Published: Sat, April 21, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Arizona teachers vote to go on first statewide strike

Arizona teachers vote to go on first statewide strike

Teachers count ballots Thursday, April 19, 2018, at Mesa High School in Mesa, Ariz.

Tammy Custis has been acting as a site liaison for Arizona Educators at the school where she teaches in Peoria.

The state also allows an annual $14 billion in tax breaks for corporations; the ten-year drop in corporate income tax has resulted in a $2.5 billion shortfall of public schools' funds.

Arizona is the latest state to join the #RedForEd movement.

Students across the state may be staying home tomorrow, but for now, school officials said they're expecting everyone to show up for class. "We are throwing away an entire generation of students' opportunity of academic success".

There will also be walk-ins at schools on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, according to ABC15.

"We need to give our communities time to prepare, " he said.

"My biggest concern in this moment is we can't let the status quo continue", Karvelis said.

"Arizona educators have delivered a strong message tonight", said Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, during a news conference. Kentucky public school employee Nema Brewer co-founded the KY120 United Facebook group that drew more than 40,000 members in a month.

The strike will be the first of its kind in Arizona to affect every school district in the state, according to the Associated Press.

The teachers in Oklahoma ended their strike after nine days unable to receive the proposals they demanded, but the contribution they made to the movement did not go unnoticed.

Save Our Schools Arizona, one of the grassroots organizations backing teachers, announced Wednesday it does not support the governor's plan. "The state of Arizona and the Legislature is going to have to deal with the crisis they create".

The decision to walk out follows similar actions by teachers in West Virginia and Oklahoma. "No one has more respect for the jobs that teachers do, which is why I proposed a viable, meaningful increase in their salaries past year, as well as sustainable funding specifically for them and school facilities".

The walkout vote comes after Republican Gov. Doug Ducey offered teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020.

Asked by a reporter what the group would do if the governor and legislature resisted the teachers' demands, as they had done throughout the 10-day strike by Oklahoma teachers, AEU leader Karvelis could not answer, saying instead, "I'm focusing on what we can do in this legislative session".

Ducey said in a statement that he is committed to keeping "teachers teaching, and kids learning". Each district will review staff absences and decide whether schools can remain open or need to be closed. But if they don't, they will be forced to close, a measure that would be district wide rather than school by school.

Arizona's House Democrats have already endorsed the strike as "brave and righteous".

Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced a proposal last week to raise teacher pay by 20 percent by 2020, but teachers said it doesn't address larger issues with cuts to education funding since the recession or large classroom sizes.

The governor's hastily-announced proposal, meant to quell teachers' calls for a walkout, came after weeks of protests and peaceful demonstrations by Arizona educators and their supporters.

As many of you may or may not know, many teachers across the country, and in Arizona, are seeking support for their profession.

"We can't support that, " Simek said.

Ducey unveiled the so-called "20x2020" plan, which would take money from other budget areas like surplus funds, as well as anticipate economic prosperity that would put more money into Arizona coffers.

Two prominent groups - Save Our Schools Arizona and the Arizona Parent Teacher Association - initially endorsed the governor's plan. Nor did it calm fears of how the state would find the revenue to pay up.

Arizona is one of several Republican-dominant states where teachers have demanded higher pay this year. Of 57,000 votes cast, 78 percent were in favor of a walkout.

Karvelis said the #RedForEd movement has given a voice to teachers who have suffered the effects of education funding cuts for years.

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