Image: AP

On Thursday, educators across Arizona are staging walkouts in protest of poor working conditions and low wages, adding to a national movement of teachers engaged in direct action and solidarity in the face of longstanding austerity conditions.

The Guardian reports that the walk out was planned after the teacher’s union rejected Governor Doug Ducey’s proposal of a 20 percent raises that would have been paid for with cuts to other state programs that are similarly hard up:

Seventy-eight percent of Arizona’s 57,000 teachers voted to strike. About 820,000 of Arizona’s 1.1 million public-school students will be affected by closures, according to an Arizona Republic analysis. [...]

The unions have instead proposed a 2.5% tax on financial and legal services that they estimate would generate $2.5 [billion] a year. The union hopes that that money could be spent on restoring full state funding for educational programs as well as reversing cuts to special education, arts and dual language programs.

The proposal, however, is being met with considerable resistance from the state’s wealthier suburbanites and its large population of retirees. But the teachers are steadfast:

Phoenix elementary school teacher Alexis Aguirre said she had had enough. Aguirre, who said she lives from paycheck to paycheck, said: “We have seen the dynamic of older white folks moving here in their retirement and having a culture shock in their community that is brown, that is immigrant. So they are coming into our community and they are telling us that we need to change that they don’t have kids and they aren’t going to fund schools.

“I pull out of the parking lot and [see] my students digging through trash cans with their parents looking for aluminum cans so they are living day-by-day and that’s what’s really hard about there being so few teachers of color in the classroom,” said Aguirre.

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Meanwhile, a campaign funded by billionaires rages on, trying to frame protesting teachers as anti-student.