Teachers’ Strikes in Arizona/Colorado

arizTEACHERS WALK OUT IN ARIZONA, COLORADO: “Thousands of teachers in Arizona and Colorado walked out of their classrooms on Thursday to demand more funding for public schools, the latest surge of a teacher protest movement that has already swept through three states and is spreading quickly to others,” Simon Romero and Julie Turkewitz report in the New York Times.

“Widespread teacher protests have in recent months upended daily routines in the conservative-leaning states West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky,” the Times reports. “But the sight of public workers protesting en masse in the Arizona capital, one of the largest Republican strongholds in the country, and demanding tax increases for more school funding, spoke to the enduring strength of the movement and signaled shifts in political winds ahead of this year’s midterm elections.”

“Educators in both states want more classroom resources and have received offers either for increased school funding or pay, but they say the money isn’t guaranteed and the efforts don’t go far enough,” Melissa Daniels and Anita Snow write in the Associated Press. “Most of Arizona’s public schools will be closed the rest of the week, and about half of all Colorado students will see their schools shuttered over the two days as teachers take up the Arizona movement’s #RedforEd mantle.” More from the Times here and the AP here.

See also: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/27/opinion/teachers-arizona-walkout.html

In these states, teaches do not necessarily have a right to strike- the famous Right to Work States.

By Ed Kilgore

Colorado’s teacher action is not, the Colorado Education Association (the state’s NEA affiliate union) makes clear, any sort of formal strike; under the state’s decentralized teacher employment system, a strike could lead to serious legal consequences for those deemed to be in violation of their contracts.

But that could change with provocations from hostile Republican legislators, two of whom have introduced legislation imposing sanctions and even jail time for teachers who strike or try to organize a strike.

The political environment in Colorado is fundamentally different from those in the previous states — West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona — with major teacher protests and strikes this year. Unlike those states, Colorado has a Democratic governor, and Democrats also control the lower chamber of the state legislature. But like those states, Colorado has underfunded education in recent years, and teacher pay has lagged behind the national average. Democrats may be in a position to broker a deal between teachers and Republicans, but it’s a tricky situation, particularly given lame-duck governor John Hickenlooper’s efforts to deal with a solvency problemin the state’s teacher retirement fund in ways that are making teachers nervous.

Another complication is created by Colorado’s infamous TABOR (Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights) constitutional provision, which requires that state revenue surpluses be rebated to taxpayers. That makes it extremely difficult for even the friendliest-to-education state government to play fiscal catch-up and restore past cuts. Giving Colorado teachers what they want could well require a ballot initiativeto get around TABOR.

 

 

 

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