school-bus

It is no less than the Heritage Foundation that has commented on the wave of protests by school administrators and strikes by teachers across the country demanding more money this year.

Educational institutions in at least five states were simply closed down.

The foundation said there were a couple of lessons to be learned, such as it is school officials who decide where and how the money is spent – and it cited an Arizona proposal for a 20 percent raise by the 2020 school year.

While the governor, Doug Ducey, signed the plan, the Tucson School District officials already announced they would be using additional money the way they wanted – not necessarily the way they’re told to.

A second lesson is that calls for higher taxes don’t end when the strikes are over.

And a third lesson, Heritage explains, is that “school closures put student learning on hold and send parents scrambling to adjust.”

But now there is at least one answer being proposed: Not allowing “illegal” teacher strikes.

It comes in a Policy Memo from the Goldwater Institute to members of the Arizona State Board of Education.

Those closures are unlawful, the memo explains, because “employees of the government have no right to strike except where authorized by statute.”

The argument presented is this: The state constitution guarantees a right to education, and the legislature is responsible for that obligation.

“Once it has [provided the system], by establishing, regulating, and funding a school system, then the system it has established must be complied with. People may disagree with the policies and laws the legislature enacts, and may want more funding for schools than the legislaturs has provided, but the proper recourse is then to petition the legislature, engage in political protests, and vote one’s conscience – not the violate the laws…” the memo explains.

Sure, public employees have First Amendment rights to express opinions.

“They have no right, however, to strike, violate their contractual obligations, disable the state’s school system, and engage in political activities on the taxpayer’s dime,” the report said.

In Arizona, where the institute is located, the Arizona Education Association this year claimed “school employees have the right to strike because there is no law forbidding it. This is incorrect. Public school employees, like all government employees, presumptively have no right to strike unless such a right is given to them by statute.”

The report continues, “Teachers are ultimately employed by the state, their pay is received from the state, their pensions are part of the Arizona State Retirement System, and they discharge duties established by state law. The state board has authority to ‘supervise and control the certification of persons engaged in instructional work.'”

Public school managers actually aggravated the problem, the report said.

“Employees in some districts (for example, Chandler) voted to return to work, but district officials chose to keep districts closed anyway. Other districts chose to facilitate and encourage the unlawful strike in others ways. In Tempe, for example, district officials changed their leave policies to enable teachers to remain away from work more easily.”

The Institute report said the state also has laws making it illegal to interfere with or disrupt an educational institution, and it already is illegal to use school resources for political purposes “or for school employees to pressure subordinates to engage in a political act.”

“We received numerous reports of school employees violating this statute, including conducting campaign efforts on school time and with school resources,” the report continued.

It recommends some statutory adjustments to make it easier to keep schools open, and suggests that prosecutors investigate illegal activities being used by strikers.

The institute explained that both the Arizona Court of Appeals and the state attorney general have agreed with the concept of the crackdown.

“The #RedForEd school shutdowns were blatantly illegal, and the state Board of Education has the power to discipline those public school employees who have engaged in illegal conduct,” said Goldwater Institute Vice President for Litigation Timothy Sandefur, who authored the memo. “The board ought to take action to prevent unlawful activity that jeopardizes students’ education.”

The organization is hoping the state board will discuss the proposals the report contains.

 

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