Teacher group responds to Goldwater Institute letter to educators

Teacher group responds to Goldwater Institute letter to educators

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The American Federation of Teachers has responded to the Goldwater Institute's accusation that the teacher walkouts in Arizona are illegal.

The walkout began Thursday, March 26, with teachers fighting for better pay and school funding.

On April 27, the Goldwater Institute sent the following letter to all the superintendents in Arizona.


This week, your district unlawfully closed schools as part of a coordinated plan to allow public school employees to refuse to report for duty or to discharge their contractual obligations as district employees. Although dubbed a "walk-out," this action constitutes an illegal strike. This letter is to inform you and all district employees that these acts are unlawful. If the district does not reopen and employees do not return to their duties, parents and students will have a legal cause of action against them.

The Arizona Constitution provides that the state shall provide for "a general and uniform public school system." Ariz. Const. art. XI § 1. This provision guarantees all students the right to an education, Shofstall v. Hollins, 110 Ariz. 88 (1973), and imposes on the district the constitutional obligation to provide for that education as specified in the law and in the employment contracts to which these government employees have agreed. This unlawful strike—and the district's efforts to aid or encourage it—are therefore not only a breach of contract, but an intentional effort to deprive Arizona students of their constitutional rights.

On Monday, May 1, the American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten sent a letter to Arizona superintendents.

"If you are looking for a fair statement (as opposed to Goldwater's ideologically driven, misleading statement) on the question of whether there is a right to strike for teachers in Arizona, it is this: There is no statutory prohibition, the Arizona Supreme Court has not ruled on the issue, and the question has no definitive answer," Weingarten said.

Weingarten went on to tell superintendents "the Goldwater Institute, a right-wing ideological organization, was trying to scare you by citing misleading and irrelevant sections of the Arizona Revised Statutes that have little to no bearing on any action that you must take."

Below is a copy of the letter sent out.

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