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Arizona teachers group challenges idea that walkout is an illegal strike

PHOENIX — In a letter to the state attorney general, the Arizona Education Association challenged Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas’ assertion that the statewide teacher walkout is an illegal strike.

Jarret Haskovec, general counsel for the AEA, wrote to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich on Friday to make the case that teachers participating in the walkout are not subject to disciplinary action by the State Board of Education.

“Simply put,” the letter said, “it is up to the employer school district to determine … if a teacher has effectively resigned his or her employment due to job abandonment.

“It is emphatically not the province of the Superintendent or members of the public who may disagree with the goals of the ‘#redfored’ movement or with the walkout to decide whether a given teacher has resigned due to participation in the walkout.”

Before the walkout, which began last Thursday, Douglas warned teachers that they would be taking a risk by not showing up for work.

“It is illegal to strike in Arizona, and by every definition I’ve read, this is a strike,” Douglas told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes last week.

“To resign your position — and one can arguably say walking out on a strike could be resigning your position under the law — that is an actionable, unprofessional action on the part of a teacher. So that can be … anything from a letter of censure to a suspension to a revocation.”

On Friday, the Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix-based conservative think tank, sent a letter to the state’s public school superintendents that also called the walkout “an illegal strike.”

“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,” said the letter, which was signed by Goldwater Institute Vice President for Litigation Timothy Sandefur.

Haskovec’s letter argued that the teachers are well within their rights.

“Among such rights are the right to express their points of view on matters of public concern and to petition the government,” he wrote.

The walkout extended to its third day Monday despite assurances from Gov. Doug Ducey that a deal with the state Legislature to improve teacher pay and funding had been reached.

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