As an effort to demand a higher salary, Arizona teachers wore red on Wednesday in the #RedForEd campaign sparked by West Virginia teachers.
A teacher strike is the last thing anyone wants, but it may be necessary if nothing is done. West Virginia’s campaign was successful in that they won a five percent salary increase. Arizona’s teachers, who are currently paid the least in the country, may demand a little more than five percent.
Democrat Assistant Senate Minority Leader Sen. Steve Farley points out that in a sense, many teachers have already gone on a permanent strike, as over a thousand educators have left the state since the start of the school year. Because Arizona pays so little, other states offer teachers a bonus or some other incentive. Oftentimes that’s all they need to move.
“[A teacher strike] is a frightening prospect,” Democrat House Minority Leader Rep. Rebecca Rios says. “If we do nothing, it’s a real possibility… I would support us getting off the dime and coming up with revenue to give them a pay increase. We can find the resources so there’s no need to wait for them to go on strike. I hope it doesn’t come to that.”
Farley says that lawmakers need to get behind teachers and their push for better salaries. It’s a cause that both sides of the political spectrum can agree on that needs to be fixed. He says that if nothing is going to be passed in the legislature, then lawmakers need to support the teacher strike.
“We do have the money here in Arizona,” Farley says. “We do have the money. We have chosen to give it away to large scale corporate interests, many of whom are out of state, instead of paying our teachers. The kids are paying the price right now. Why push it to a teacher strike? Go ahead and give teachers a real raise, a 20 percent raise, right now.”
Governor Doug Ducey has explained that one of his goals for the year is to increase education funding. Rios explains that right now, all the governor has in the budget is to give educators a one percent salary increase. In actuality, it’s basically a stipend and not a real investment in teachers, Rios says.
The politicians also discussed the bill that is trying to make clear which online goods and services should include a sales tax. The bill is focused on highlighting what online purchases are exempt from such a tax. Rios says that 47 percent of the state’s budget comes from sales tax, so it would only help the state if businesses were able to tax products on the internet as well. Farley says that the bill “directly discriminates against brick-and-mortar sales.”
There may be a new vehicle registration fee in order to pay for road maintenance and repair. Farley says it’s good that the state is investing in itself, but they would have more money for the roads if they would “stop stealing gas tax money.”