Superintendent Diane Douglas explains her objections to the teacher walkout
April 26, 2018
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas explains why she is against the teacher walkout, and what consequences they may face.
Because the teachers are under contract with their district, Douglas says it is illegal for teachers to strike in Arizona. As public servants, she says that teachers should remain in the classroom teaching “while we work through this.” The duty of teachers is to put their students and parents first, and in her view, by walking out they are not doing that.
“If there is a complaint made with the department, we will investigate,” Douglas says. “That’s our duty, whether it’s because of the strike or whether it’s because of inappropriate classroom behavior. Whatever the reason may be, if they file a complaint it’s our duty to investigate.”
Teachers may receive anything from no action at all to a letter of censure or suspension. Douglas says the board has already received some complaints, and they issued a letter of censure to a teacher who walked out of their contract on Monday. A letter of censure is essentially a written warning to the individual explainingwhat can happen if they break the rules again.
“I certainly don’t want to see them out of the classroom anymore than they are. I think I will wrangle with my conscious on whether or not they will get a letter of censure. They’re walking out on our children, our most precious resource.”
Arizona is already facing a teacher shortage as many depart for states who will over them a better pay. With over 50,000 teachers participating in the walkout, there’s a question of whether or not Arizona can afford to reprimand teachers and risk losing still more of them.
“If it’s an unlawful act, does the number of people who participate lessen the severity of it?” Douglas says. “That’s a rhetorical question and it’s one I’ll wrangle with. Just think of any other crime.”
Douglas believes that more people should pay attention to the backgrounds of the people leading the #RedForEd campaign. According to Douglas, some of them have taught in Arizona for only a short time. She says she is “concerned that some of our longtime, very professional, very qualified teachers may be being led down a bad road.”
When it comes to what the Education Board and Superintendent can do to help, Douglas says their duty is to continue giving guidance. With so many unknowns, everyone is looking for answers. She also says it’s important to know she isn’t there to represent the teachers and students.
“I represent the citizens of Arizona and their voice in education,” Douglas says. “The superintendent is the only elected voice at the statewide level that they have in the education of their children and grandchildren. Our duty is to provide guidance.”
For more information on the walkout and how the Education Board plays a role, visit azed.gov.