Last April Arizona educators united to rally for increased salaries and education funding.
It began with small demonstrations but grew into a statewide movement called Red For Ed.
They made demands-- 20% teacher raise, better pay for support staff and increased school funding.
Governor Doug Ducey offered them a proposal-- 20% pay raise by 2020 and increased school funding.
Red For Ed didn’t like it. They voted to walkout forcing schools to close for six days.
They protested at the state Capitol every day until lawmakers were forced to pass a budget.
The budget ensures that districts will receive enough funding a 20% teacher raise over the next three years and increases other funding for schools.
The walkout ended and teachers and students went back to school.
Yet the movement was far from over and quickly became very publicly political.
Red For Ed supporters collected signatures to get the Invest In Education Act on the November ballot.
Schools are back in session but for how long?
Red For Ed wants the Invest In Education proposition passed.
And they are willing to walkout again to prove their point!
A rumored walkout may occur again in October prior to the General Election. No one knows for sure.
The Red For Ed movement began as educators united to demand salary raises and increased education funding following a walkout effort in West Virginia. Arizona Educators United (AEU) is the union group behind Red For Ed. On March 14 hundreds of Red For Ed supporters staged a demonstration at the state Capitol in opposition of SB 1467, legislation that would expand Arizona's Empowerment Scholarship Account program saying it shortchanged public education by steering millions in tax dollars for alternative education services such as private schools and homeschooling. On March 28 hundreds of Red For Ed supporters march again at the state Capitol demanding a 20% pay raise and the restoration of education funding to previous years levels. Several other demonstrations were held in school districts throughout the Valley, many of which did not disrupt school operations.
Several schools and educators held organized walk-ins where they gathered outside their schools wearing red shirts, chanted and carried protest signs to demand higher salaries and more school funding. This included a statewide walk-in on April 11 two days after AEU announced they were planning for a walkout. Red For Ed announced their demands and sent a letter to Governor Ducey's office requesting a meeting to negotiate these demands. The Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) held a webinar titled "Walk Outs and Sick Outs: A Guide For School Leaders" to train school administrators on Red For Ed efforts and lawful ways they could support them. One of the lawyers who conducted the training asserted “there really are no penalties from a state perspective for striking…. If there were penalties it would likely be from a school board or governing board and would be an employment related action and not a civil penalty governed by state law.”
AEU announced that its members voted in favor of a walkout. Of the more than 57,000 votes tallied, 78% of Arizona school employees were in favor of a walkout according to AEU. The process included paper ballots being distributed to site liaisons at schools and local education association representatives. Teachers used a secure box to collect the paper ballots which asked if educators would support a walkout to achieve their demands. Ballots did not ask educators their names, but they did ask if they were a member of AEU, AEA (Arizona Education Association), both, or neither. All school employees were eligible to vote, teachers and support staff alike. The walkout was announced to begin on Thursday, April 26 and would include walk-ins at schools the three days prior. AEU also announced that 38 school boards have shared their support of Red For Ed, Gilbert is on that list. The Gilbert School Board issued a resolution saying that they “support our educators as they advocate for meaningful pay raises for public school employees and increased funding for public education in ways that are lawful and do not disrupt the educational mission of our district.”
Arizona schools held walk-in demonstrations for three straight days ahead of their planned walkout date. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas urged teachers not to walk out. The day before the walkout, the Arizona Department of Education issued a guidance memo to schools covering issues that would need to be considered for the walkout including school finance, health and nutrition, special education and assessments.
The walkout began as more than 30 school districts and several charter schools shut down and more than 50,000 educators rallied at the state Capitol. The Gilbert School District shut down all of its schools “due to concerns about having sufficient personnel to ensure the safety of our students and staff.” Some Gilbert charter schools also close for the walkout. Every day was a waiting game as the walkout continued and parents scrambled to make alternate arrangements for their kids. On May 1, Governor Ducey issued a letter to parents, teachers and school leaders that they were close to passing a budget on investment in K-12 education.
Lawmakers worked through the night and passed a budget at 5:30 a.m. on May 3 after 13 hours of debate. The budget called for a 20% boost in teacher pay over the next three years and a significant increase in flexible dollars to Arizona schools for support staff, new textbooks, upgraded technology and infrastructure. The salary raise included a 9 percent raise for the fall and 5 percent in each of the next two years — increases that come in addition to a 1% raise granted last year. AEU announced that the walkout had ended but their efforts continue as they plan to focus on a campaign for a November ballot measure that would seek more education funding from an income tax increase on the wealthiest taxpayers titled the Invest In Education Act. On Friday May 4 schools were back in session.
The Governing Board approved a 9% salary increase for teachers and a 5% salary increase for all other staff for the 2018/19 school year. The funds will come from a 2.12% raise already accounted for in the 2018-2019 budget, money transferred from the District Additional Assistance (DAA) to cover the staff raises of 5% as well as other funds to cover the community education, food service and grant funded position salary increases for 2018/19 school year. Find out what teacher pay raises were statewide.
District policy and Arizona statute ARS 15-341.01 states that the school year shall not be less than 180 instructional days but could also be an equivalent number of instructional minutes based on a different number of days of instruction approved by the school district governing board. With the six-day school closure, the school year would not meet the 180-day requirement but would meet the equivalent number of minutes. The board suspended the 180-day policy so they did not need to add six additional days of school to the end of the year for students.
To ensure that employees fulfilled their contractual obligations, the board added six additional days to the work calendar for employees. The board also voted to allow employees to convert six medical days to personal days so they could use them to avoid having to make up the extra time. The decision could be seen as a way to accommodate employees so they didn’t have to make up the days. Some may also suggest that doing so was a financial decision of the district to let employees use the time now without the need to hire subs as opposed to having to pay it out in the upcoming school year.
No. Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas called the planned teacher walkout illegal and warned teachers that they would be taking a risk by walking off the job. After the walkout she urged the Arizona Board of Education to add a discussion item to a June meeting agenda on if the board had the authority to discipline teachers who participated in the walkout. News of the agenda item went public and educators spoke out loudly against their disapproval for consideration of any type of punishment. Walkout opposition groups such as Purple For Parents expressed concern that teachers did not fulfill their contractual obligations and should face some consequences for their actions. The June meeting was shaping up to be a public showdown for both sides of the argument. The board announced that they would not discuss the issue and would table it for a later consideration after more legal review. On June 26 Governor Ducey said “there's nothing to be accomplished by bringing up teachers on charges of unprofessional conduct and potentially suspending or taking away their certificates.” He was “focused on moving forward and putting the divisive strike and controversy about wages in the rear view mirror.” No corrective actions were ever formally imposed on any teachers or staff that participated in the walkout or on districts that shut down schools.
How many employees intended to call in sick or requested personal time for the walkout last April? Records were never publicly released by the district so we will never know. The district proactively shut down schools in advance due to insufficient staffing and safety concerns. If the district receives advance notice of an intended walkout they can require employees to provide proper notice of any leave of absence. After the last walkout the governing board voted to allow employees to convert medical days to personal days to avoid having to make up the time. School administrators need to set the ground rules in advance and communicate to employees that in the event of a walkout, all district policies in relation to sick or personal leave will be strictly enforced and no exceptions will be made.
School administrators need to enforce the district’s sick policies. These policies state that “when the use of earned paid sick time is foreseeable, the employee shall make a good faith effort to provide notice of the need for such time to the district in advance of the use of the earned paid sick time and shall make a reasonable effort to schedule the use of earned paid sick time in a manner that does not unduly disrupt the operations of the district.” All employees are required to report their absence in advance and the notice times vary depending on if they require a substitute or not. Teachers who will not be returning after a day of absence are also required to notify the school the day prior. Any employee who can be shown to have willfully violated or misused the district's sick policy or misrepresented any statement or condition can be subject to discipline, which may include reprimand, suspension, and/or dismissal.
Employers can require documentation from employees who are sick three or more consecutive days. This is permitted in the district sick time policy as well as in Proposition 206. District policy also can require an employee who is sick three or more days to submit to medical or psychiatric fitness for duty examination by a physician or psychiatrist selected by and paid for by the district to determine whether return to duty is appropriate. Employees absent for six or more consecutive work days are required to provide a physician’s release. The district needs to actively enforce these regulations for any employee who uses a sick leave of three or more days.
Employees who want to take personal time must request it at least five days in advance. Employers are not required to grant personal time requests and can manage staff levels by not granting any personal leave requests that would bring staff levels down enough to force the school to close. Keep in mind that employees only receive two personal days at the beginning of the year so most don’t even have the capacity to use more than two days for any walkout effort. The district enforces blackout dates in which employees cannot use personal time which currently includes the first five and last five days of the year and state mandated testing days. The district and governing board have the authority to create additional blackout dates in the event of a walkout. Such action could easily be justified to avoid undue disruption of district operations and a potential safety risk for students.
If there is not sufficient staff to manage the student population at schools it is understandably a safety concern. Yet rather than closing schools, the district should consider alternative arrangements to keep the schools open. Arrangements could include notifying parents that the affected school day(s) would be optional for students. Schools could also arrange for alternative staff or consolidate classrooms or school sites to better handle staffing and security concerns. The district needs to make every effort possible to keep the schools open because closing them is just the easy way out and shows support for the walkout. Teachers should have the opportunity to fulfill their contractual obligations without being forced to be part of any walkout. If given the choice and knowing policies will be enforced, the participation number may be less than expected.
In the event of a walkout or sickout on an election day (August 28 or November 6), the district is not required to grant any personal leave requests. State statute ARS 16-402 already provides employees with rights for leave in order to vote. It states that workers must get three hours off between work and non-work time to vote. Time off is not required if employees have three consecutive hours available while polls are open at beginning or end of their shift. Arizona polls are open from 6 am to 7 pm so unless employees are required to work after 4 pm leave time should not have to be granted. If time off is required, then schools can enforce the statute which requires employees to give at least one day notice before the election if they need to request time off to vote. Protesting or volunteering at a polling place do not qualify under the voting leave time policy.
Let your school district know that you will not support another walkout. Send an email to your school board now to make your voice heard.
If districts elect to close schools again, public information rights can be exercised. You have a right to know why they chose to close schools, what data they evaluated to make that decision, and which employees participated in any walkout/sickout effort. Every right under the Freedom of Information Act will be exercised to make this information public.
If another walkout is imminent, we will reach out to the community to let people know in advance. Find out what you can do to urge districts not to close schools and instead provide options for parents, teachers and students. Be sure to be on our email list (sign up on the bottom of this page).
If schools close for another walkout or sickout effort, the districts and the Arizona Department of Education will be urged to explore any disciplinary actions they have available to them. There may also be legal actions that parents, teachers and community members may take.
Last April parents scrambled to find alternative arrangements for their children when schools closed. In the event it happens again, you should have a backup plan in place. Ideas may include identifying someone who can watch your children, talk with your employer if time off work may be needed, etc. Some districts also have community programs that provide before and after school care that may still be offered during a walkout.
In Arizona parents have school choice and ultimately decide where their kids go to school. In the event of another walkout, lists will be provided of what schools did not close and/or have strict walkout policies in place. Parents can decide if a school change is in the best interest of their children.
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