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AZ educators organize sickout amid highest rate of COVID-19

By Jim Byrne |
December 13, 2020
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Tucson, AZ - When the Chandler Unified School District governing board decided to stay with in-person instruction as Arizona continues to experience another spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths, some educators organized their resistance in the form of a sickout. Over 100 educators in CUSD called in sick on Friday, December 11 to express their opposition to the negligent board. The local union, Chandler Education Association (CEA) had issued a number of demands that include: educator representation on the district COVID committee, use of the more stringent county health metrics, and creating a COVID Task Force of educators, students, families, community and health professionals.

It is clear many educators are fed up with being overworked, underappreciated and routinely put at risk of being infected with COVID-19. As the local union said: "While the CEA executive board has not promoted a sickout due to the many different views that our members have on this complex issue, we are not at all surprised that a number of our educators are angry enough to demonstrate their frustration in this manner."

The Chandler School District is located in the East Valley of the Phoenix area and its state legislative district has long been dominated by reactionary politicians connected with the corporate lobbyist group ALEC.

It is important to note that Governor Doug Ducey, himself a member of ALEC, weaponized education funding in July when he decided to give 105% of funding for schools that offer in-person instruction. This meant schools that decided on remote learning faced budget concerns for staff and have felt pressure to return to the classroom and jeopardize lives. Also, in the fall when the election neared, Ducey urged the State Department of Health to change the COVID-19 benchmarks to again create the conditions to force schools to return to in-person. It comes as no surprise that as the biggest school districts in the state returned to in-person, COVID-19 cases rose, deaths of educators and others occurred, and many districts had to return to remote learning within a matter of weeks in order to stop the spread of the virus.

In 2018, the #RedForEd movement ignited Arizona educators into a massive strike that saw around 100,000 teachers and support staff win demands for better funding for public schools and pay increases for staff. “We are powerful when we are united, organized and building our union as our organization to fight and win the demands for our co-workers, our students, families and communities,” said CEA President Katie Nash.