Empowered by educators in other states, Arizona teachers voted on Thursday to walk out next week in an effort to pressure the state government to comply with requests for additional education funding. The walkout vote was a joint venture of the Arizona Educators United (AEU) grassroots group and the Arizona Education Association (AEA). AEU organizer and teacher Noah Karvelis said that the teachers will continue the walk-in demonstrations for the first three days of the week and then formally walk out on Thursday, April 26. This delay will give school administrators and families ample time to prepare a plan during the teachers’ absence.
AEA President Joe Thomas pointed to high polling numbers of educators proving this was a strong mandate for change. Although some schools voted against the walkout plans, an overwhelming 78 percent of the 57,000 educators that cast a vote did so in support of a walkout. Although some officials are hopeful that the state legislators will be able to work with the educators to provide necessary funding and avert a walkout, school districts are already putting plans in place to work around a strike. Some districts have already begun the process of notifying parents that the schools may be forced to close if there is not the necessary staff on site.
The decision to walk out came one week after Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposal to raise teacher salaries by 20 percent by the year 2020. Although some education advocates were supportive of the proposed legislation, other groups dismissed it for being shortsighted and not addressing the bigger picture of funding concerns.