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Arizona educators end historic strike: An analysis of Ducey’s deceitful deal

Analysis by Jim Byrne |
May 5, 2018
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Tucson, AZ - The nation’s largest labor action came to a close Thursday, May 3 when Arizona’s #RedForEd movement ended its six-day walkout. A week after some 75,000 educators and allies flooded the capitol in Phoenix, the decision to return to schools came as Republican Governor Doug Ducey signed the education portion of the state budget. In that budget is a proposed 10% raise for teachers this coming school year. As local and national news outlets circulate the story that Governor Ducey gave Arizona educators a 20% raise, we must take a closer look at the deal and seek truth from the facts.

Viewing “Double-talk Ducey’s” deal as a true 20% raise is as rosy as his Koch Brothers-funded staff’s economic projections for funding the deal. It is simply a bold-faced lie from Ducey and a shameful example of a monopoly-dominated media system that echoes the talking points from politicians. This corporate-controlled Republican legislature was not about to grant a true 20% raise into this year or any year’s budget.

In Arizona, a yearly state budget determines the funding sources and the plan for the monies to be spent on select programs. With Ducey’s deal, he chose to include the 10% in only this year’s budget and consciously selected to place two more years of 5% increases into future budgets. This is constitutionally impossible in Arizona as a governor cannot tell a future legislature its budget. The educators’ raises would have to be written in as legislation because budgets are a yearly decision made by the legislature and governor. Thus, the future 10% raise is a lie and will most likely result in another struggle from the educators’ movement.

Moreover, the raise is not going to be funded from new sources of revenue like corporate income tax or closing the $14 billion per year corporate tax exemption loopholes. Rather, the funding comes from Ducey’s rosy projections based on the first quarter of 2018 and the enrollment of people in certain programs like the state health care system, work opportunities for the developmentally disabled, and other important programs for working people on the margins. For many in #RedForEd, this deal feels like a punch in the stomach knowing that many of their students and their families could be negatively impacted if the funding dries up for the programs on which they survive.

It must be recognized that on the one hand, the success and power of the #RedForEd movement forced a nearly immovable Republican state government to pay its educators better, one the other, there’s more duplicity involved in this deal. As Lando Calrissian said in The Empire Strikes Back, “This deal is getting worse all the time” and that’s what it looks like when we examine the details of the so-called raise for this year. The 10% raise is specifically written for certified teachers who have a classroom roster, despite the demands of the movement to expand that definition to include certified staff whose roles are important but are not in the classroom. The #RedForEd movement also demanded a significant raise for classified or support staff.

What’s more, Ducey deviously designed this setup so that districts and staff are left to squabble with each other, not the governor, over how that raise is divided up. This means that for the movement to remain true to its demands, it is in a position to have to spread the funds from the 10% allocated for certified teachers with a roster to all public education employees. Therefore, this raise of 10% is washed out and lowers the actual amount as it spreads over more workers. You will not find that in any monopoly-controlled mainstream media report.

One more final detail about this deal reflects the spiteful use of state power from this rotten Republican legislature. They raised taxes by 9% on property owners in the Tucson Unified School District. They vengefully targeted this district that had one of the highest votes in favor of the walkout and also contains some of the poorest working-class neighborhoods in the state. “It reminds me of The Matrix: Reloaded when Morpheus says, ‘one Sentinel for every man, woman and child. That sounds exactly like the thinking of a machine to me,’” said educator J.J. Federico when talking about Ducey’s taxing of Tucson to pay for his budget.

Coming soon to Fightback! will be a deeper analysis of the movement, its opponents, and the lessons for other educators’ movements and broader organizing struggles.