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Arizona lawmaker explains role in potential lawsuit over teacher walkout

(Facebook Photo/Kelly Townsend for Arizona State Representative)
LISTEN: Kelly Townsend, Arizona House of Representatives

PHOENIX – Arizona Rep. Kelly Townsend said she was consulting with attorneys for a potential class-action lawsuit by those who suffer financial or occupational harm because of the planned teacher walkout.

“I’m not looking to go find teachers to sue,” Townsend told KTAR 92.3 FM’s Bruce St James and Pamela Hughes on Wednesday. “I do support teachers, and I’m working really hard to find a funding source — a dedicated funding source — to help pay for their raise.

“I’m not out to get teachers. But I’m also here to protect people if they are harmed by this action.”

Townsend, who represents District 16 in the far East Valley, including part of Mesa, wouldn’t say who the defendants would be if a lawsuit were to be filed.

“I’m not filing a lawsuit,” she said. “I am funneling people that feel that they are going to be injured to the law firm, and the law firm will be the ones making the decision on who the defendants would be.”

The Republican lawmaker, who serves as majority whip in the state House, said two law firms were involved, but she wouldn’t name them unless they go ahead with a lawsuit.

Last week, Arizona’s teachers voted in favor of a work stoppage, which will begin Thursday.

While 78 percent of those who voted were in favor of the walkout, Townsend said she wants to protect the teachers who were against it but fear repercussions for missing work.

“I am for all the teachers,” she said. “We want to help them. I am a daughter of a teacher. But I am also here for the 22 percent that feel helpless.”

Townsend also said she wanted to protect parents who might suffer a financial loss if districts add days to the schedule to make up for the time schools are closed for the walkout. She used travel plans that already are paid for as an example.

Townsend said she wants to give teachers raises, but she was wary about rushing to approve Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposal for 20 percent teacher raises.

“I want to find them the money,” she said. “We are exploring that. We don’t want to say our deadline is tomorrow. Our deadline isn’t tomorrow. Our deadline is June 30, when the constitution says we have to have a budget.”

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