Arizona teachers are reportedly set to end their strike and head back to classrooms tomorrow.
But, according to one of the main leaders of the effort, that will not signal an end to the teachers' union's efforts to raise taxes in the Grand Canyon state, or replace state officials they felt were insufficiently supportive of their demands. In fact, what we've seen in Arizona this past week may be just the beginning. From the Arizona Daily Star:
Unable to persuade Republican lawmakers to provide more cash for K-12 education, leaders of the #RedForEd movement told members late Tuesday to go back to work.
But not until Thursday. And not until lawmakers give final approval to the state budget and teacher-pay plan, now scheduled for Wednesday. [...]
That means it’s time for teachers to return to classes — and their students —and begin work on the rest of the agenda, he said. That includes supporting a ballot initiative to raise $690 million annually through a surcharge on the state’s highest wage earners in dedicated dollars for education, money that lawmakers could not take away the next time there’s a recession.
What also may be on the table, Karvelis said, is working to change the makeup of the Legislature and perhaps the Governor’s Office.
“We haven’t had a second to even catch our breath and think about that right now,” he said. “But I guarantee you, there are a lot of people walking around down here (at the Capitol) in red every single day, looking at themselves in the mirror and saying, ‘If they can’t get it done, I’ll get it done.’”
The Arizona Education Association (AEA), the union driving the movement, apparently is not satisfied with Gov. Doug Ducey having agreed to a roughly 9 percent pay increase for the next school year, coupled with 5 percent increases in each of the successive two years, despite the fact that that represents significant movement off of Ducey's original, less teacher-remunerating proposal.
Arizona's education wars will thus continue to wage into November, when Democrats will treat Arizona as a top priority, aiming to pick off Ducey and significant numbers of GOP legislators, but also whichever Republican is nominated to succeed retiring Sen. Jeff Flake.
The amount of coordination between Democrats and the AEA can be expected to run higher than many Arizonans might think, given coverage of the protest as "bi-partisan" or "non-partisan."
But some of those involved are just run-of-the-mill, stereotypical union boss types. IRS forms 990 for the AEA show that between the beginning of fiscal year 2011 and now, AEA head Joe Thomas has made more than $400,000 off of his union organizing.
Form 990s also show that 75 percent of the AEA's funds have gone to travel and compensation- presumably meaning a lot of those protesting have paid a lot of money in to achieve better negotiation, which apparently did not materialize. Instead, it looks like the AEA seized an opportunity opened up by successful teachers' strikes in West Virginia to make itself look like it was delivering value for its members.
Expect this to be a rough-and-tumble year in Arizona, with Ducey perhaps the new incarnation of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Of course, that could backfire for the teachers' union and Democrats- former Walker operatives will happily tell anyone willing to listen that several points' worth of Walker support in the 2012 recall election emanated from parents who were angry about having to use vacation time or unpaid leave to stay at home with their kids while teachers protested in the capitol. How many Arizona parents will find themselves feeling the same way? And could the blowback be even greater, given that the timing of the walkout potentially impacts school graduations- something that has made it far more attention-grabbing, but also potentially far more disruptive for students?
Arizona could be one of the most interesting states to watch in November, with very high stakes for both parties. This is just an early hint of that. Stay tuned.