Arizona teachers have voted to walk off the job to demand increased school funding, marking a key step toward a first-ever statewide strike that builds on a movement for higher pay in other Republican-dominant states. A grassroots group and the state's largest teacher membership group said Thursday that teachers will walk out April 26, the AP reports. Arizona jumped into a movement for higher teacher pay that started in West Virginia, where a strike garnered a raise, and spread to Oklahoma, Kentucky, and most recently Colorado. Thursday's vote followed weeks of protests in Arizona and an offer from Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to give teachers a 20% raise by 2020.
"The worst possible thing we could do is not take action right now," says Noah Karvelis, an organizer for Arizona Educators United. The historic vote was announced at a press conference at the Arizona Education Association headquarters. Around 78% of the 57,000 teachers voted in favor of the walkout, according to Joe Thomas, president of Arizona Education Association. "This is undeniably, clearly, a mandate for action," Thomas says. Arizona House Democratic Leader Rebecca Rios released a statement supporting the planned teacher walkout. "The women and men who work so hard to educate our children at our neighborhood public schools have earned a meaningful and sustainable pay increase," she said. (This Arizona teacher posted her salary online to prove a point.)