Teachers, Ducey and Politics

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Wednesday, teachers "Walked In" all over the state. They gathered outside their schools before class, then walked into the building together. Lots of teachers. We'll have to wait for the news coverage and Facebook posts to know how many. The walk-in is in preparation for a possible walkout. Not a strike, not yet. A walkout. A show of solidarity. Maybe a prelude to a strike, maybe not.

The one near-strike I participated in was way back in the 1970s in a district outside of Portland, Oregon. I remember sitting in the band room after school with the rest of the faculty as the school's union leaders discussed our options with us. Unannounced, the principal walked through the door. "If any of you plan to go on strike," he said, looking around the room, "I want you to come to my office and tell me first."

His words set off a mild rumbling of fear inside my 20-something body. But when he opened his mouth to continue, one of the union leaders, a mild mannered older teacher, interrupted him. "We are holding a union meeting," the teacher said quietly but firmly. "It's after school hours, so we're on our own time. You are not allowed in here. I ask that you leave, now." The principal stood still for a few moments, then turned and left. If we weren't absolutely united before, we were when the door closed behind him.

The district settled with the teachers the next day, so the strike was averted. Otherwise, we were more than ready to walk. [This story isn't a knock on principals or administrators in general, by the way, many of whom are very supportive of their staff. It's just this one guy and this one situation I'm talking about.]

That near-strike moment came to mind as I listened to the way our "education governor" has responded to teacher activism. Ducey's tactic, like my principal back then, is divide and conquer.

Arizona Educators United's Noah Karvelis, spokesperson for the #RedforEd movement, and Arizona Education Association's president Joe Thomas want to sit down with Ducey. Ducey says he won't meet with them. “Why would I want to sit down with someone who wants to play politics?” said the state's top politician who has been running for reelection since the day he took office four years ago.

In a Tuesday radio interview, Ducey stayed on message. “I’m going to work with teachers, and I’m going to work with decision makers.”

He's going to work with teachers, Ducey said. Does that include Karvelis or Thomas? “Why would I want to sit down with someone who just wants to play games?" Ducey asked. "I want to sit down with teachers, I want to sit down with superintendents and principals."

Teachers. Not their spokesperson or the head of their union. Ducey is drawing a clear distinction. He'll sit down with a handful of Arizona's 50,000 teachers. Maybe he'll even meet with some #RedforEd folks and talk afterwards about how they had a good, purposeful conversation. He wants to deal with teachers as separate individuals, not a united force.

Here's his ultimate divide-and-conquer statement in the radio interview. According to Ducey, it's me and the teachers—who, after all, just want to be in their classrooms with their kids — working together to raise salaries. The evil people leading this movement are playing political games. They're the enemy.
"What I’ve heard from teachers is they don’t want to walk out, they want to solve this problem. The people who are playing politics, they want to walk out. Teachers don’t want to walk out, teachers want to see more money in their paychecks."
If you want to understand how Ducey cooks the funding books when he talks to the media to make himself sound like a big education spender who just wants to pay teachers the money they deserve, Howard Fischer goes through it here, piece by piece, revealing the truth behind Ducey's distortions.

Fischer doesn't call Ducey a liar exactly. As a reporter, that's not part of his job. I'm not a reporter, so I'll do it. Ducey is a liar.

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