Republic: WV strike inspires AZ teachers protest

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Arizona Republic reported that Arizona teachers and supporters flooded social media Wednesday with photos wearing red to school in protest of what many described as the state's lethargic response to a teacher crisis that's driven thousands of qualified educators out of the classroom.

While the effort appears to have galvanized thousands of teachers, the head of the state's teachers' union said he was unsure what will happen next.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and the Republican-led Legislature are currently in the midst of budget negotiations.

Teachers in West Virginia organized a nine-day strike across all 55 school districts that was settled Tuesday after the state's Legislature committed to boosting their pay by 5 percent.

Arizona and West Virginia are among the states that pay their teachers the least. The median pay for Arizona elementary teachers was $42,474 in 2016, ranking 50th nationally according to a report by the Arizona State University Morrison Institute for Public Policy.

Arizona's education system has yet to fully recover from the cost-cutting measures imposed following the recession.

Experts and educators have said low pay, stressful working conditions and perceived lack of respect for the teaching profession are the main causes of the state's current teacher landscape in which thousands of classroom positions either remain unfilled or staffed by people who are underqualified.

Organizers of Wednesday's teacher protest described the effort as the "first step" in mobilizing teachers for further action, though did not explicitly say they planned to strike.

In Arizona, teachers who participate in a statewide strike are at risk of losing their teaching credentials and jobs.

If a statewide teacher strike were to occur in Arizona, it would likely require greater mobilization efforts than West Virginia.

West Virginia consists of about 20,000 teachers in 55 school districts. Arizona is estimated to have about 60,000 active classroom teachers in more than 200 school districts and a public charter sector of 550 schools.

READ: Arizona teachers wear red, talk strike amid frustration over low wages