President of the Arizona Education Association explains the teacher strike
April 23, 2018
President of the Arizona Education Association Joe Thomas talks about the teachers’ decision to strike and their goals for the strike.
Thomas says the walkout is still scheduled for later this week until movement is seen by the legislature and governor. If there is no conversation between Governor Doug Ducey and the negotiation team for teachers to “try to end the teacher crisis and bring one billion [dollars] back to our schools, then I think it is on,” he says.
“This has been about 10 years in the making,” Thomas says. “We went into a recession in 2008 and we started to see some cuts to our public school systems. We’ve come out of that recession and we are still one billion dollars per year less in investing in our students than we were back in 2008.”
That one billion dollars for education comes out to about $950 per student. Thomas says it contributes to why Arizona has the lowest-paid teachers in the nation, old textbooks and technology, and overcrowded classrooms.
“Teachers and educators and education support professionals are serious about their students and serious about the plight they see their schools and communities in,” Thomas says. “They are willing to risk their jobs to come back with more resources for their schools.”
There was a vote among educators on whether or not a walkout was the correct way to go. Over 78 percent of teachers said they were willing to risk their jobs and strike. Thomas says it’s a sign that they are serious, and they are done with politicians ignoring them.
Because of the November election this year, Thomas predicts that the revenue stream won’t be invested in schools until the 2019-2020 school year. It leaves a year and a half gap for teachers to struggle and make ends meet.
“We saw the governor come out with what he called a raise, but it’s not,” Thomas says. “It’s fund sweeps from the developmentally disabled, Medicaid and arch programs. Educators don’t want that money and rob Peter to pay Paul when Peter and Paul are both broke. We need to see new revenue streams.”
Thomas says that it’s necessary to solve the teacher crisis now, and for legislators to stop passing tax cuts then claiming there isn’t any money to go to education.