Arizona teachers begin walk-out vote

- Arizona teachers began to vote Tuesday on whether to walk off the job in their push for more funding for education.

Arizona Educators United, a grass-roots group that's mobilized tens of thousands of teachers for weeks of protests, instructed teachers on how to hold a strike vote over three days. The group told teachers to hand out premade paper ballots to be filled out before and after school.

The vote on whether to walk out comes despite Republican Gov. Doug Ducey offering a 20 percent raise by 2020. Teachers say it doesn't address other needs, including raises for support staff and a return to pre-Great Recession school funding levels. The vote is meant to gauge interest in holding a strike.

Arizona teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation, and their demonstrations come as educators in Republican-dominant states have demanded higher pay. The movement started in West Virginia, where a strike garnered a raise, and spread to Oklahoma and Kentucky, where walkouts and sickouts were held.

Arizona's Republican-controlled statehouse gave a tepid response at first to state teachers' #RedforEd campaign, then the governor rolled out his plan for a raise.

Organizers said in a video posted to the Arizona Educators United Facebook page that most of the voting on a strike was expected to take place before school Wednesday, the same day of the week that educators have been holding walk-ins.

The Arizona Education Association, which represents about 20,000 teachers, has thrown its support behind Arizona Educators United, which cropped up as a grass-roots effort on social media. Association members will help with the voting process, according to the Facebook video.

Should teachers support a walkout, it's largely up to the districts how to handle it. The Arizona School Board Association has offered guidance to superintendents, school administrators and governing boards on preparing for teachers walking off the job.

It recently held a webinar advising school leaders about the legal considerations for walkouts or sickouts, including going over what staff legally can and cannot say to students about the #RedforEd movement.

An Arizona attorney general opinion from 1971 said there's no law banning a teacher strike but that a statewide strike would be illegal under common law and participants could lose their teaching credentials.

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