Classes have been canceled at many schools in Arizona for the third straight day as a statewide teacher strike continues.
The Arizona Daily Star reports that the walkout by teachers has affected some 850,000 Arizona schoolchildren.
Teachers remain off the job because of dissatisfaction with the pay hike proposed by Gov. Doug Ducey. Educators and supporters were staging another rally at the state Capitol in Phoenix.
The Goldwater Institute, an organization that litigates over conservative causes, contends that the strike is illegal and has threatened to sue.
“Public school teachers in Arizona have no legal right to strike, and their contracts require that they report to work as they agreed,” says Timothy Sandefur, an attorney for the institute.
But Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, argues that there is no constitutional violation. The teachers union has sent a letter to Attorney General Mark Brnovich challenging Sandefur’s claims that teachers are acting illegally.
It also seeks to debunk a parallel argument by state schools chief Diane Douglas that the teachers have abandoned their jobs, meaning their teaching certificates can be suspended or revoked by the state Board of Education.
Jarrett Haskovec, the union's general counsel, says it is up to each school district and not Douglas or the state board to determine if a teacher has effectively resigned.
But the bigger issue is the question of whether teachers are “on strike.” There is some legal precedent to suggest public employee strikes are illegal.
But Haskovec says the walkout doesn't qualify as a strike, which he says are job actions taken by workers to compel an action by their employers.
“Instead, teachers are engaging in a walkout as a form of protest and as petitioning activity,” he wrote to Brnovich. “Teachers are not seeking concessions from school districts, but rather are seeking to create public awareness of the dire condition of public-school funding and to demand action and a remedy from the state Legislature and the governor.”
Gov. Ducey has urged teachers to return to the classroom, but he does not support resolving the issue in court.
“We are interested in solutions, not lawsuits,” spokesman Daniel Scarpinato says.