Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, up for re-election this fall, says he believes protesting teachers there care more about hiking up the state’s taxes than they do about teacher pay.
Shortly after a group of teachers and their supporters gathered enough signatures last week to place on this fall’s ballot a measure that would, if passed, increase the income tax on the state’s top earners, Ducey said in a speech Saturday that teachers’ true agenda has now been exposed.
“For the activists, for the government union, it was never about teacher pay,” he said, according to the Arizona Republic. “What it was truly about is what will likely be on the ballot this November, which is a tax increase.”
Ducey has said that tax increases would hurt the state’s economy, which has been slow to recover from the Great Recession. In response to a widespread teacher walkout, Ducey and the state’s legislature provided teachers in Arizona with a 20 percent raise by 2020. Teachers demanded, in addition to that 20 percent pay raise, a $1 billion infusion into the state’s public schools, step increases, and a prohibition on tax cuts until the state’s $7,500 average per pupil spending matches the nation’s $11,400 average per pupil spending.
Backers of the income tax ballot measure predict it would provide $690 million annually for the state’s public schools.
Ducey’s comment are among the latest efforts by Republican politicians to fend off a surge of political activism among public school supporters ahead of this fall’s midterm elections, especially in states where there were statewide strikes this spring. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin in Oklahoma has accused teachers in her state of being greedy and insatiable and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, said that state’s teacher strikes were going to cause children to ingest poison and be sexually molested, comments he later apologized for.
More than 100 teachers have filed to run for offices in states including Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arizona and Democrats have framed themselves as the party that will rescue financially struggling public schools from the grip of fiscally conservative Republicans, who fully control more than half the nation’s statehouses.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.