Arizona teachers to walk out in first-ever statewide strike

Arizona teachers to walk out in first-ever statewide strike
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Teachers in Arizona voted Thursday night to launch the state's first statewide teachers' strike next week, following successful similar efforts in other states such as West Virginia.

Seventy-eight percent of school employees voted in favor of the walkout, which will begin next Thursday after three "walk-ins" before classes begin on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

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The strike will be the first of its kind in Arizona to affect every school district in the state, according to The Associated Press. Teachers in the state are among the lowest-paid in the nation, with the average salary for a state teacher sitting at $48,372. Union organizers want to see that number raised by at least $10,000.

Arizona's Gov. Doug Ducey (R) reacted to the news in two tweets, cautioning teachers not to disrupt students' learning over raises that he says he is fighting to pass.

"No one wants to see teachers strike. If schools shut down, our kids are the ones who lose out. We have worked side by side with the education community to develop a sustainable plan to give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020," Ducey tweeted.

"I am committed to getting teachers this raise and am working to get this passed at the Legislature," he added. "We need teachers teaching, and kids learning."

The Arizona strike will follow similar efforts in Kentucky, Oklahoma and West Virginia, where teachers walked out earlier this year over similar concerns of low pay, inadequate school supplies and insufficient benefits.

"The worst possible thing we could do is not take action right now," Noah Karvelis, an organizer for Arizona Educators United, told ABC affiliate KNXV.

Many teachers in the state say Ducey's promise is not enough, and makes no mention of raises or benefits for other school employees besides teachers.

"He made no mention of education support professionals," said Vanessa Jimenez, vice president of the Phoenix Union Classified Employees Association.

"When I think of his proposal, it's an attempt to divide us," she added to the local news station. "We're not going to be divided."