Journalists’ Roundtable: Teacher vote to strike next week against Ducey’s proposal
April 20, 2018
Journalists respond to the decision made by teachers to strike on Thursday until Governor Doug Ducey provides a clearer proposal for how to fund a salary increase for both educators and school support staff.
Teachers vote to strike
Thursday night saw about 78 percent of voting teachers decide to strike the following week to gain better salaries. There is a lack of clarity on how many sites and schools voted, but it is without question that the majority of those who did vote were in agreement to strike.
“They believe the governor’s plan does not hold water,” Dianna Náñez of the Arizona Republic says. “They want support for their support staff. They want to know the when the one billion dollars that’s been missing since 2008 will be restored. They want a new revenue stream. They were quite clear about that.”
Ducey is banking on the fact that the state will continue to see high economic growth in the years to come,as it has seen this past year. The idea of using these extra funds for teachers appealed to many people, but it is not clear where funding would come from after this extra money is used.
“They want to go to the table,” says Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. “They’ve hand-delivered letters saying education leaders want to sit down with the governor, and he replies basically saying, I only want to deal with the people who want to fix it, meaning the administrators, the school board, the business community, but not the people who got that strike vote.”
Why teachers voted to strike
One thing the governor has promised is to not raise taxes whatsoever. In this scenario, people are wondering how else to pay for increasing teacher salary and provide funding for K-12 education.
“The teachers are telling the governor to not make the strike be only about the pay raise,” Náñez says. “The case they are going to make is, the recession happened. There’s not a person in our family in Arizona that didn’t have to recover. Yet you say it’s okay to keep that billion away from us.”
The governor has stuck to his promise of not raising any taxes since he’s been elected. However, he’s cut corporate income taxes to the point where some of the generated revenue from those taxes could’ve been used to support schools.
“In the middle of the recession, we cut 30 percent off of the corporate income tax rate and then set up another scheme that allows some corporations to not have to pay any corporate income tax at all,” Fischer says. “Plus, we allowed corporations to divert their money to private and parochial schools. Then they say we don’t have the money.”
Cost of governor’s pay raise for teachers
Arizona will be the largest state to conduct a teacher strike. Náñez says the governor is grasping at straws trying to find a way to pay for the demands of educators including a keno game to help pay.
“When you see the momentum of this, the fact that everyone either knows a teacher or has a child in school or had a teacher they loved, this is putting him in a situation where he is scrambling to find money in a way to not raise taxes,” says Steve Goldstein of KJZZ.
Raising taxes does not necessarily mean losing votes, Náñez reminds everyone. Former Arizona governor Jan Brewer, also a Republican, raised taxes to fund education, an act that recieved widespread support.
“I think he was advised that they very much lost the narrative,” Náñez says. “Arizona operates off voters who are grandparent-age. What do grandparents have? Grandchildren in school. They realize at this point they have to put their heads together and have conversations.”
Political fallout of teacher strike
“The only possible winner here from a political standpoint, someone who’s actually in office, is Governor Ducey,” Goldstein says. “He’s going to be the big loser or the big winner. Unless you’re in an individual district, you don’t necessarily care about the lawmakers.”
Once the national press starts to cover this more extensively, it will become a nightmare, Náñez says. Unless the governor and lawmakers can figure something out ASAP, the narrative of this argument will become worse for those decision-makers.
Governor’s school safety plan
On another education-related topic, the panel agrees that Ducey’s school safety plan will be extremely difficult to pass with bipartisan support. With no universal background checks, no ban on bump stocks and no moving the age from 18 to 21 to own a gun, there won’t be much, if any, Democratic support.
“This is a partisan issue,” Goldstein says. “I think the phrasing of this is interesting. Which walk out does the governor pay attention to? He’s clearly paying attention to the teachers walking out, but not the children walking out to protest gun violence.”
Fischer says the governor will sign anything that reaches his desk since he’s “very pro-NRA, pro-Second Amendment.”