Arizona Schools Chief Diane Douglas Threatens Teachers Over Strike, Says It's 'Not Legal'

Diane Douglas, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, beat Garcia by 16,034 votes in 2014.
Diane Douglas, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, beat Garcia by 16,034 votes in 2014. Arizona Department of Education
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas is urging teachers not to walk out, threatening that they might face consequences.

"A walkout is a nice term for it. It is a strike, plain and simple," Douglas told 3TV/CBS5 on Monday. "And in Arizona, it is not legal for teachers to strike."

Douglas suggested that the state Department of Education will investigate teachers who walk out, and could refer teachers to the State Board of Education, which could give teachers a letter of censure or strip them of their teacher's certificate.

"If parents or citizens file a complaint with the Department, we have an investigations unit," Douglas said. "And I've assured the Board this morning, we will investigate anything that comes."

The Professional Practices Advisory Committee within the State Board of Education is a seven-member panel which adjudicates complaints filed against certified teachers related to "immoral or unprofessional conduct."

And while Douglas supports raising teacher pay, she has said that the #RedForEd protests "politicize" campuses. She criticized the school districts that have issued letters of support of the #RedForEd movement, questioning "how a governing board can support an unlawful action legitimately."

Republican operatives and state lawmakers have hit similar themes while stoking backlash to the strike. They claim that the Arizona Educators United vote was a rigged process, and argue that the teachers' strike is a ploy led by Democratic political operatives to damage Ducey in an election year.

Douglas also disputed that teachers need a significant raise beyond the governor's three-year proposal.

"A 20 percent increase is a very significant increase," Douglas said. "I don't even remember the last time state employees received a pay increase. And I think if you look at the corporate world, most might look at 1 percent, 2 percent, 3 percent."

In an email, Douglas spokesperson Stefan Swiat said that the Department of Education "has already received verbal complaints and calls from citizens who intend to formally complain."

People can file a complaint against multiple teachers if they name them all in the complaint, Swiat said.

A 1971 opinion from the Arizona attorney general said that common law prohibits strikes by public employees, including teachers. According to the office of Attorney General Mark Brnovich, the state's top law enforcement official has not been asked to provide a new legal opinion.

"We have provided confidential legal advice to government agency clients related to various aspects or consequences of a potential teacher strike that we are not at liberty to disclose," Brnovich spokesperson Ryan Anderson wrote in an email.
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Joseph Flaherty is a staff writer at New Times. Originally from Wisconsin, he is a graduate of Middlebury College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Contact: Joseph Flaherty