Arizona Educators United will hold a vote on whether to walk out of classrooms across Arizona this week.
In a video posted at 9 p.m. on April 15, leaders of the Red for Ed movement said voting would begin on April 17 and end on April 19
That will include a “vote-in” on Wednesday, much like the walk-ins staged last week that was followed by Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposal to award teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020.
Less than 24 hours after the announcement, one AEU leader returned to Facebook to address conflicting messages that had already spread to its members.
Derek Harris said on video that liaisons at individual schools who are responsible for distributing paper ballots should not make their own ballots or hand out anything before the group issues its instructions.
Harris said he’s heard rumors about an AEU ballot and another from the Arizona Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, but said there would be just one from AEU focused on one question: Will you walk out?
He also advised members not to vote during their work hours, or contract time.
In addition to ballots, he said site liaisons will be provided with instructions on how to create a secure ballot box and count the votes after voting is closed on Thursday.
Harris said about 110,000 people participated in walk-ins on April 11.
Harris challenged members to double that number in the vote this week. The effort will culminate in community meetings on April 21 to rally support from the public.
“(Ducey’s) proposal falls short for us in a lot of different ways, and it’s problematic,” said organizer Noah Karvelis, pointing specifically to concerns that there may not be a sustainable source of funds through which the governor’s promise can be fulfilled in the years to come. “What that means is that these are empty promises.”
Karvelis said the proposal also does not do enough for students and support staff.
Competitive pay for all public education support staff and increased per pupil funding have also been among the group’s demands.
He added the raises will do nothing to add instruments to his classroom – Karvelis is a music teacher at Tres Rios Elementary School – and the other leaders added to a laundry list of needs not met by the governor’s plan: updated technology and curriculum, infrastructure repairs, bus drivers, speech and physical therapists, and reduced class sizes.
Dylan Wegela, another leader who spoke on the Facebook video, said, “I can’t walk back into my classroom without getting more for my students and this movement.”
The leaders put Arizona Educators United on “#RedAlert” this week as they watch the Legislature carefully for anything “funny.”
Early responses to the video indicated concern among members that a strike may come too late if the group waits another week to take action.