34 Democrats vote against 20% pay raise for Arizona teachers

PHOENIX — State legislators successfully passed a budget package Thursday morning that includes a 20 percent pay raise for teachers in Arizona — but not without opposition from 34 Democrats.

Republican Governor Doug Ducey announced a new plan three weeks ago to provide a 20 percent pay raise to teachers across the state by the 2020 school year. The plan — often abbreviated online as #20×2020 — called for an immediate 10 percent raise at the beginning of the 2018 school year, plus an additional five percent raise at the beginning of each of the next two school years.

The governor soon after hammered out the official budget agreement with Senate President Steve Yarbrough and House Speaker J.D. Mesnard.

After lengthy debate and an extensive amendment process that started Wednesday afternoon and continued into early Thursday morning, both chambers of the legislature passed their respective budget reconciliation packages with funding for K-12 education. The legislation was approved in the house by a vote of 33 to 26 and approved in the senate by a vote of 20 to 9.

House Democrats who voted against House Bill 2663 were: Lela Alston, Richard Andrade, Wenona Benally, Isela Blanc, Reginald Bolding, Kelli Butler, Mark Cardenas, Cesar Chavez, Ken Clark, Eric Descheenie, Kirsten Engel, Mitzi Epstein, Diego Espinoza, Charlene Fernandez, Randall Friese, Rosanna Gabaldon, Sally Ann Gonzalez, Daniel Hernandez, Ray Martinez, Tony Navarrete, Gerae Peten, Pamela Powers Hannley, Rebecca Rios, Macario Saldate, and Athena Salman.

Senate Democrats who voted against House Bill 2663 were: Olivia Cajero Bedford, Lupe Contreras, Katie Hobbs, Juan Mendez, Robert Meza, Catherine Miranda, Lisa Otondo, Jamescita Peshlakai, and Martin Quezada.

The Democrats’ votes — especially after the party tried to align itself with the labor union’s #RedForEd movement — risk putting the opposing lawmakers at odds with teachers across the state, who will benefit from the 10 percent portion of the pay raise in only three months. A recent poll found that more than 75 percent of voters approve the governor’s plan.

The Arizona Democratic Party and labor union-backed Democrat David Garcia both oppose pay raise plan. Hiral Tipirneni, the Democrat who lost the April 2018 congressional race in Arizona’s eighth congressional district, also opposes the plan, calling it “quick and dirty.”

But not all Democrats felt the same way.

Democratic State Senator Steve Farley, the assistant minority leader running against Governor Ducey in November, voted to approve the budget package.

“You have $405,719,100 — I did the math in there, I checked it with my Democratic staff — this year alone,” said Senator Farley. “Unbelievable. What a way to celebrate my last budget night.”

Republican State Senator Kate Brophy McGee celebrated the pay raise package as “the largest increase in K-12 education spending since the Great Recession.” Republican State Senator Sonny Borrelli pointed to the ‘no’ votes on the roll call screen — where ‘no’ votes are indicated in red lighting — and declared, referring to the union protests, “That is not ‘Red for Ed.’”

In a floor speech explaining his ‘yes’ vote, Republican State Representative Anthony Kern reminded teachers across the state that the 20 percent salary increase would not have happened if Democrats had their way obstructing its passage.

“I’ve heard a lot of talk,” said Representative Kern. “Talk is pretty cheap. It’s your vote that counts … If Republicans voted with the Democrats tonight, [teachers] would be walking away with $0.”

Republican House Speaker J.D. Mesnard agreed.

“[The pay raises] are real,” said Speaker Mesnard. “I don’t know how we can make anyone believe it until they start materializing in your paychecks. But it is real. And, when that happens, remember this day. Remember who voted for it and remember who voted against it.”

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Hiral Tipirneni opposes Governor Ducey’s 20% teacher pay raise plan

PHOENIX — Hiral Tipirneni admitted Sunday morning that she opposes Governor Doug Ducey’s plan to give a 20 percent pay raise to teachers in Arizona.

Governor Ducey recently announced the plan, which will provide a 20 percent pay increase to teachers across to state by the 2020 school year. That includes an immediate 10 percent salary increase at the beginning of the Fall 2018 school year and an additional five percent for each of the two school years after that.

Tipirneni, a Democrat running for the open seat in Arizona’s eighth congressional district, made the admission that she opposes it during an appearance on KSAZ’s “Newsmaker Sunday.”

When asked about Governor Ducey’s plan and whether he should “be given a chance” to solve the issue of teacher pay, the Democrat responded that she was aware of the “recent effort by our governor to propose salary raises” but dismissed the idea as too “quick and dirty.”

“I don’t think you can throw this sort of quick and dirty solution at it and think it’s going to fly,” Tipirneni said.

(Click Here To Watch The Exchange.)

The Arizona Democratic Party, Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Garcia, and the union boss backing them said that they oppose the plan as well, a decision that was mocked in the press as a knee-jerk display of partisanship. The union has long pushed for a statewide teacher strike, and, despite teachers receiving a 20 percent pay increase, the union said that it will move forward with a strike regardless.

Families did not react well to the walk-out that closed several schools last month. One parent complained that “it takes away from the kids” and that her son would suffer from “the repercussion” of the decision. A grandmother who looked after her grandchildren agreed, saying, “It bothers me a lot.”

The plan, currently being debated in the state legislature, has garnered significant support from education advocates and business organizations across the state. The Governor’s Office created a new page on its website touting support from teachers, superintendents, and other school officials, too.

Debbie Lesko, a former state senator and the Republican running against Tipirneni in the U.S. House race, called Governor Ducey’s 20 percent pay raise plan “a fair proposal,” adding: “I really hope the teachers don’t walk out because that’s going to hurt the students.”

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Union-led teacher walk-out falls flat as parents scramble for options: “It bothers me a lot”

PHOENIX — Families across Arizona were forced to scramble for day-care and babysitting options this week as a union-led teacher walk-out suddenly became reality.

Parents in Glendale received an unexpected automated robo-call from Pendergast Elementary School District late Tuesday evening informing them that their children’s school might be closed because of a union-led walk-out. It was discovered that teachers were planning to “call in sick” as a way to protest education funding issues.

Not the next month or the next week — the very next day.

“If some teachers choose to participate in this event,” the voicemail warned, “our school will be understaffed and we will be unable to properly supervise all students safely.”

Thousands of families’ schedules were no longer doable, and parents were forced to scramble for last-minute daycare and babysitting options for their kids or work alternatives for themselves.

The Arizona Education Association union — already under fire for unnecessarily politicizing grassroots education events — has been egging on a teachers strike for weeks. But the protest fell flat for those families whose lives it negatively affected.

“It bothers me a lot,” one grandmother told KTVK on Wednesday. “You know, there’s a lot of kids that would have to go — either their parents would have to call in sick or they would have to go to a day-care, which would cost the parents money.”

(Click Here To Watch The Segment.)

One student’s mother told the TV station that she’s worried the strike could end up lasting even longer.

“What about tomorrow?” she asked. “What about next week? What about if this happens again and for how long? That’s what’s concerning.”

Another parent wondered aloud to KSAZ how the strike would affect her child, who, as a result, is getting one less day of schooling.

“I think that the teachers do need help, but I do feel like it takes away from the kids, you know?” she said. “From a mother that has a child who struggles, you know, I feel like now my son gets a little bit of the repercussion.”

(Click Here To Watch The Segment.)

Former Governor Jan Brewer weighed-in on the walk-out, too, largely taking the same position as the parents.

Asked her thoughts on the issue during a radio appearance, Brewer responded that she didn’t believe public employees should strike. She also criticized the last-minute nature of the demonstration.

“[W]hat they did last night by notifying all the parents by robo-calls that they’re going to close down their schools — when people go to work and they don’t have places where their kids can go — it sets a very poor example for their students,” Brewer said.

(Click Here To Listen To The Interview.)

Beth Lewis — chair of the anti-school choice group Save Our Schools Arizona — cheered-on the walk-out but admitted on the radio that she did not participate because she was “in Tempe,” located about 15 minutes from the Arizona State Capitol.

The strike came only two weeks after Democratic House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios warned that a teacher strike would be “a frightening prospect” and said that, “no,” she did not support one.

Senate Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley, also a Democrat, responded during the same interview that it was “hard to tell” if a strike might even be counterproductive.

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Randi Weingarten, head of teachers union backing Steve Farley, deleted pro-Ducey tweet

PHOENIX — Randi Weingarten, the president of a teachers union backing State Senator Steve Farley’s gubernatorial bid, quietly deleted a tweet praising Republican Governor Doug Ducey.

Farley, a Democrat, announced in a fundraising email Monday that he had officially received an endorsement from the Arizona branch of Weingarten’s union.

“Exciting news!” the campaign wrote in an email to supporters. “American Federation of Teachers Arizona has endorsed Steve for governor.”

Weingarten has longstanding ties to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The union endorsed Clinton’s presidential bid in July 2015, calling her “the champion of working families need in the White House.” The endorsement, only three months after Clinton announced her candidacy, drew criticism from supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders, who dismissed the support as rushed and political.

Farley cited his own endorsement as proof that “we won’t improve K-12 education until we get rid of Doug Ducey.” What the Democratic state senator failed to mention, though, is that Weingarten applauded the governor’s education strategy.

In January 2017, when Governor Ducey announced a new plan for the state of Arizona to restore recession-era funding cuts to education, Weingarten immediately praised the plan social media.

“Good news for Arizona!” she tweeted. “Gov. Doug Ducey just said he plans to add $100 million in new K-12 education funding this year as a down-payment on the full restoration of a school capital funding formula that was slashed during the Great Recession.”

However, Weingarten quietly deleted the tweet, which no longer appears online. The Farley Report obtained a screenshot of that now-deleted tweet. The tweet can be seen above.

When asked last week if he would support a teachers strike, Farley responded that it was “hard to tell” if such an act would be counterproductive but added: “If the teachers are leaning in this direction and we’re not getting any action when it comes to the legislature, then we should support where the teachers are going.”

Farley recently lost the endorsement of another teachers union, the Arizona Education Association, to his Democratic primary opponent David Garcia. Garcia was roundly criticized for announcing the endorsement in the middle of an unrelated grassroots effort organized by teachers. The Arizona State University professor was called-out on the radio for having “trampled on” the effort by turning it into a campaign event without their knowledge.

“Since I came into the Governor’s Office three years ago in 2015, we have $1.7 billion additional dollars,” Governor Ducey said on KTAR radio this week. “Our per-pupil spending is up 10 percent in the state of Arizona, and the amount of dollars available for teacher pay — that’s both raises and new teachers — is plus-9 percent since 2015.”

A version of this article appears at The Farley Report.

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David Garcia slammed for politicizing grassroots event organized by teachers

PHOENIX — David Garcia’s gubernatorial campaign was slammed on the radio Wednesday for its role in politicizing a grassroots effort focused on teachers.

Garcia, a Democrat, won an endorsement from the Arizona Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, this week over his primary opponent, State Senator Steve Farley. However, Garcia’s campaign and the union were criticized for announcing the endorsement at a press conference in the middle an unrelated demonstration that had been spontaneously organized by teachers.

The grassroots event — called “Red For Ed,” meaning “education” — was intended to give educators a platform to discuss public policies affecting their classrooms.

During a call-in appearance afterward on KTAR (92.3 FM), radio hosts Mac & Gaydos told Garcia that they thought “making it political” by injecting his campaign distracted from educators who were trying to share their message.

“Did you feel like you were, you know, you being endorsed by the teachers union trampled on ‘Red For Ed’ Day?” the host asked. “‘Cause I think it did.”

(Click Here To Listen To The Exchange.)

Garcia responded that this was “the very first time I’ve heard this (criticism) all day,” adding that “today is not about my campaign.”

The radio hosts quickly cut in.

“But if it’s not about your campaign, why do it today on ‘Red For Ed’ Day?” they responded. “It is about your campaign, I think.”

Garcia tried to reiterate that the event wasn’t about his campaign but ended up coming full-circle.

“I am proud that the AZEA (Arizona Education Association) has endorsed my campaign,” the candidate concluded.

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Rebecca Rios: Union-led teacher strike “a frightening prospect”

PHOENIX — Democratic state legislators Rebecca Rios and Steve Farley were pressed Wednesday evening about the likelihood of a union-led teachers strike in Arizona and how they would respond if it happened.

Representative Rios, who represents the state’s 27th legislative district in Maricopa County, and Senator Farley, who represents the state’s 9th legislative district in Pima County, offered markedly different answers on Wednesday’s “Arizona Horizon.”

“It’s a frightening prospect,” Rios said on KAET, when asked about her thoughts on the issue. “But I think, if we keep pushing this issue, kicking the can down the road and not paying teachers a livable wage, we’re going to be faced with that.”

(Click Here To Watch The Video.)

The house minority leader cited a recent claim by Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, that the union has received an increased number of inquiries about the topic of a strike.

Ted Simons, the host of “Arizona Horizon,” referred to the recent strike in West Virginia — and, apparently sensing Rios’s hesitation to offer her full-throated support for such a demonstration, asked for clarification: “So not necessarily supporting a teachers strike?”

“No,” she said. “I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Simons posed a similar question to Farley several times.

When asked if a teachers strike would be counter-productive in the current political environment in Arizona, Farley responded that it was “hard to tell.” However, the state senator implied that he might throw his support behind such a demonstration if it were to happen.

(Click Here To Watch The Video.)

“I asked Representative Rios, but I ask you again,” Simons asked, “Would you support a strike?”

“If the teachers are leaning in this direction and we’re not getting any action when it comes to the legislature,” Farley said, “then we should support where the teachers are going.”

The teachers union endorsed Professor David Garcia — Farley’s Democratic opponent in the gubernatorial primary race — earlier that day.

A version of this article appears at The Farley Report.

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Steve Farley loses teachers union endorsement to David Garcia

PHOENIX — In another blow to State Senator Steve Farley’s gubernatorial campaign, Arizona’s largest teachers union on Wednesday endorsed his Democratic primary opponent, David Garcia, for the state’s top office.

The endorsement from the Arizona Education Association occurred during an unrelated outdoor demonstrated called “Red For Ed” — the latter word standing for “education” — which was organized by teachers. The effort urged educators to show up wearing the color red and to advocate for public policies affecting their classrooms.

Garcia and the teachers union scheduled a press conference in the area, with most attendees also dressed in red.

“We believe that we have found someone that will step into the role as governor and turn this state around, who will address the teaching crisis head-on, who has ideas of ways to bring in the resources for teachers to be successful and will reverse the trend and end the status quo of mediocrity in our schools,” said Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association. “And that person is David Garcia.”

Garcia, wearing a red tie, spoke after Thomas.

“I am not running to be an education governor,” the candidate told the crowd. “When we win, we will elect an educator, a teacher, as governor.”

Garcia and Farley have been locked in a better primary race for the Democratic nomination.

Garcia, a professor at Arizona State University, recently won the endorsement of People for the American Way Action Fund, a liberal political group with ties to a secretive network of top donors to the Democratic Party called the Democracy Alliance. The professor accepted the endorsement on Arizona Statehood Day when he traveled to Washington, D.C.

However, Farley significantly out-fundraised his opponent in the most recent campaign-finance filing period. The state senator raised $513,000 for his gubernatorial run, while Garcia raised less than $300,000 — and reported having already spent more than two-thirds of that amount.

Garcia recently cited a poll characterizing Republican Governor Doug Ducey as politically “vulnerable” during the 2018 midterm elections, but the firm behind the poll was revealed to have long-standing ties to the Democratic Party, raising the question of whether the data was tainted by bias or partisanship.

A version of this article first appeared at The Farley Report.

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