US: Arizona teachers vote for first-ever statewide strike

The vote to strike comes amid a growing movement of educators demanding better pay and increased funding for US schools.

Oklahoma Teachers Go On Strike And Rally At State Capitol
Teachers are striking across the US for more funding and better pay [AFP]

Teachers in the US state of Arizona have voted for a first-ever statewide walkout after being offered a raise without increased school funding.

The results of the vote, held on Thursday, were jointly announced by the Arizona Education Association and grassroots organising group Arizona Educators United (AEU).

Results showed that 78 percent of 57,000 voting educators supported the walkout, set to begin on April 26.

AEU has a list of demands for legislators, including an increase in school funding to 2008 levels and a decrease in class sizes to 23 students for each teacher.

The group also demands there be no new tax cuts until per-student funding reaches national levels.

The AEU demanded pay increases for teachers, who reportedly often have to work a second job to make ends meet. A 2017 study by education advocacy group Expect More Arizona found that Arizona ranked last in elementary school teacher pay and 49th of 50 for secondary school teacher pay.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey drafted a plan to give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020, beginning with a 9 percent increase next year.

Teachers turned down the offer because of its lack of increased funding for schools.

Nationwide walkouts

The US has recently seen a number of teacher walkouts, beginning in West Virginia in February.
West Virginia educators secured a five percent pay increase after a two-week long strike.

Arizona teachers’ refusal to take a raise without increases in school funding echoes a similar situation in Oklahoma.

Teachers there were given a $6,000 annual raise but still went on strike, calling for more funding for schools and students. 

The Oklahoma walkout was called off after nine days. The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) President Alicia Priest said teachers “need to face reality”.

The announcement took many teachers by surprise and has caused a rift between educators, parents and the OEA.

“As a Tulsa parent, I actually really hope the teachers stay out! This is not a solution! Nothing has changed!” Brandi Morgan commented on the OEA’s announcement.

Teachers in Oklahoma have been told to focus on November elections to put pro-education politicians in office.

In Arizona, educators are preparing for the April 26 walkout.

Save Our Schools Arizona, an educators advocacy organisation, said they stand with teachers and “will continue to fight for public education because in order to have a strong state, we need strong schools.”

Source: Al Jazeera