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Arizona teachers continue what started in West Virginia

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Arizona teachers continue what started in West Virginia
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee has been talking with the leaders of the Arizona Education Association in the days leading up to Thursday’s walkout by thousands of teachers in that state.

“They’re seeing more and more dollars escaping going to charter schools and education savings accounts they are draining public schools and teachers there have had enough,” Lee said Thursday during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”

Lee has been in conversations with teacher leaders in several states since the nine-day West Virginia strike. He spoke at a rally in Oklahoma and has been on the phone this week with Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas.

Arizona teachers haven’t had a raise in 10 years. Gov. Doug Ducey has promised to increase pay for teachers by 20 percent by 2020 but educators want tax cuts reversed and money put into public education.

In his talks with teacher leaders, Lee said his comments have focused on communication.

“Anytime you go through an action you have things that you would do differently if you go back. One of the pieces that I continue to tell them is that you make sure your communication is out there quickly and you open up those lines of communication,” Lee said.

Thousands of Arizona teachers marched to the state capitol in Phoenix. They had red t-shirts on that read ‘Red for Ed.’

Lee said one key to the success of the West Virginia strike was that it kept growing day after day.

“The enthusiasm never waned. The numbers just continued to grow at the capitol and all of that led to the success that we had,” he said.

West Virginia teachers and school service personnel got a pay raise and promises to fix their health insurance program.

Since the West Virginia strike, teachers have walked out in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona and Colorado. Lee said they definitely started something.

“It’s a concentration of understanding that educators have one of the most important positions in our society and we have to make sure we are getting the quality people in the system and they stay in education and that includes increasing pay and public funding,” Lee said.