Arizona teachers aren’t walking out of schools to protest teacher pay — yet — but they’re moving one step closer by organizing “walk-ins” at schools Wednesday.
Teachers will arrive early at select schools Wednesday to host short rallies aimed at informing parents and commuters about teachers’ struggles to get higher salaries and more funding in the classroom. Teachers will “walk in” to their classes before the bell rings.
Derek Harris, a band teacher at Dietz K-8 school in the Tucson Unified School District and a lead organizer with Arizona Educators United — the group pushing for teacher raises and more funding for Arizona’s education system, said tomorrow’s event will be a kind of test run for Wednesday, April 11, when they hope the majority of the schools in the state will participate.
“There will be some sign holding, marching around, stuff like that, to let people in the area and people dropping kids off at school know what’s happening, get them more involved,” he said.
And while educators aren’t calling for walk-outs yet, Harris said unless the Legislature makes a serious effort to increase teacher pay and school funding, they’re not ruling it out.
“I think (a walk-out) is an inevitability unless something very drastic happens,” he said.
He said whether teachers in Arizona strike will be dependent on whether lawmakers approve a significant investment in Arizona’s education system in the budget they’re now hashing out behind closed doors.
“We’ve said that we don't want to strike, but we will. And the Legislature still hasn't finalized their budget yet. So it’s their move. We know there’s more money in the budget that could be given to us than what is being offered,” he said.
Budget documents being discussed by Arizona House Republicans show lawmakers are still debating how much of a raise to offer teachers. Gov. Doug Ducey has offered an additional 1 percent salary increase over the 1 percent offered last year. But the pressure has been mounting for lawmakers to go significantly beyond that.
Lines in the budget documents outlining teacher salaries contained question marks Tuesday as budget negotiations continued.
Noah Karvelis, a Phoenix-based organizer with Arizona Educators United, posted on the group’s Facebook page that the walk-ins are the first step toward gauging support for walkouts, if the group’s demands for a 20 percent pay raise and other increases in education spending aren’t met.
He said the group is “Absolutely willing” to stage walkouts.
“But before we commit to that larger action, we need to know what numbers we have and what districts are participating in our actions. We can't do a statewide walk-out with 200 schools participating. We absolutely must have widespread support throughout the state,” he wrote on Facebook.