We need more of this – in Arizona


The national RedForEd teacher revolt against red state legislatures began in West Virginia and spread to Kentucky, Colorado, Oklahoma and Arizona.

Oklahoma has been the reddest of red states for years, but that is changing. Vote against teacher pay comes back to bite six more Oklahoma Republicans:

Six more Oklahoma state House Republicans lost their primary run-offs on Tuesday after having voted against raising taxes to give teachers their first raise in a decade. That’s after two others were defeated in June primaries. In fact:

Of the 19 House Republicans who voted against the tax hike, eight have now been defeated. Seven others decided not to run. Only four have advanced to the general election.

On top of that, two Democratic teachers flipped Oklahoma legislature seats from red to blue in 2017, and both Democratic and Republican teachers have won primaries this year—including a school administrator who won one of Tuesday’s run-offs, defeating a six-year incumbent who voted against the teacher pay increase.

Once again we see that public education funding and teacher pay are bipartisan issues among voters even if elected Republicans don’t get that.

In Arizona, this accountability for a governor and GOP legislature who have for years underfunded public education, including teacher pay, will have to come in the November general election.

Arizona’s education leaders were duped by Governor Doug Ducey’s Prop. 123 to settle their successful lawsuit against the state for inflation adjusted school funding. They agreed to dismiss their lawsuit in exchange for about 70 cents on the dollar, through increasing annual distributions of the state land trust permanent funds to public education.

After the RedForEd teacher walkout earlier this year, Gov. Ducey and the GOP legislature agreed to a plan for a 20 percent pay increase for teachers by 2020:

Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday boosted his proposal for teacher raises next year to 9 percent, up from 1 percent he initially proposed in January.

Coupled with 5 percent raises the following two years — and the 1 percent raise given last year — Ducey said his proposal would give teachers a “net pay increase” of 20 percent by 2020.

Teachers demanded a 20 percent raise next year and restoration of about $1 billion in overall school funding that was cut during the recession. The governor’s plan doesn’t fully meet their demands.

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The National Education Association is among the groups that tracks teacher pay. According to its 2017 data, the national average salary is $58,950. Arizona pay currently ranks 45th lowest in the nation, according to their data.

Adding the 9 percent raise would put Arizona in the middle of the pack among states.

While teachers got a small bump in pay, the governor and GOP legislature did nothing to restore cuts to public education over the past decade or to address future needs.

As a result, the RedForEd movement filed a citizens initiative for InvestInEd that would have taxed high income earners at a higher rate to raise tax revenues for public education. Despite collecting enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, on Wednesday the Arizona Supreme Court blocked the initiative from going to the ballot. Supreme Court bars tax on rich ballot measure from vote. So, no new tax revenues to fund public education.

And, oh by the way, there is still a $2 billion lawsuit by school districts against the state for capital funding that they have been shorted over the past decade. Arizona educators file $2 billion lawsuit against Ducey, lawmakers. The lawsuit has been on the back burner since February after Gov. Ducey and the GOP legislature offered to restore some public education funding in this year’s budget, but the amount fell well short of what is owed and does not address future capital needs of school districts. As far as I know, this lawsuit is still out there in the ether.

It is clear that Republican leaders will do as little as possible to fund public education because Gov. Ducey and GOP legislators have promised not to raise taxes for any reason.

Education leaders have been too willing to accept crumbs off the table out of fear of getting nothing with a governor and GOP legislature who would defy a court order to provide the education funding the court orders the school districts are owed.

Education leaders in the past have endorsed Republican legislators on the theory that these Republicans will be in positions of power and they need to curry favor with them, once again, to get crumbs off the table out of fear of getting nothing. This defensive posture is self-defeating, and it must stop.

There has to be a day of reckoning. It’s time to hold these Republicans accountable.

The education associations have to target those Republicans who have consistently voted against public education funding for defeat. They need to be endorsing a Democratic takeover of the Arizona legislature for the first time since 1966 (yes, you read that right).  Democrats are educators allies in raising sufficient tax revenues to properly fund public education and to give teachers raises in a sustainable manner.

It’s time for a change.

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