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Week in Review: Illegal Teacher Strike Leaves over 800,000 Kids Hanging

April 28, 2018

April 28, 2018

Arizona teachers marched in the streets of Phoenix this week demanding higher pay—despite just getting a raise—all while classrooms sat empty and over 800,000 kids were stuck at home, not receiving an education.

Though the protest is being billed as a “walkout,” the truth is that it’s an illegal strike. Yesterday, the Goldwater Institute sent a letter to school district superintendents across the state informing them that they’re in violation of the law and that they risk legal action by parents and students.

In a new video and article, Goldwater Institute Vice President for Litigation Timothy Sandefur explains why those districts are in violation of the law, why the teacher strike is illegal, and what must be done:


The Arizona Constitution gives Arizona kids a right to an education. Unfortunately, teachers across the state this week engaged in an illegal strike, refusing to report to work and discharge their contractual obligation to teach. School districts went along with this, shutting schools down without bothering to try to find substitutes. One school district even changed its employment policy at a meeting on Sunday evening so that teachers could call in “sick” without a doctor’s note.

Public school teachers in Arizona have no legal right to strike, and their contracts require that they report for work as they agreed. Breaking those contracts isn’t just illegal—it’s also “unprofessional conduct” under Arizona’s education laws. As we explain in a letter that we’ve sent to school districts yesterday, the unlawful strike also violates several other state laws—exposing offending school districts and officials to substantial legal liability.

The disruption this illegal strike has caused is hard to measure. Not only does it violate the teachers’ constitutional duty—and contractual obligation—to teach, but it interferes with the plans of hundreds of thousands of students and their parents, who have been forced to make arrangements for being out of school. It’s being said that some schools will add extra days on to the end of the school year calendar to make up for these unlawful closures—which not only disrupts vacation plans that parents have made but may even delay Advanced Placement testing and graduation and could interfere with the ability of students to leave for religious missions overseas (since they must have diplomas before they can go).

As Goldwater Institute’s Matt Simon explained the other day, teachers in Arizona just got a substantial pay increase. But they’re demanding more—and they’re willing to break the law to get it. Whatever one thinks about education funding in the state—and there are certainly things that need to be improved—one thing ought to be clear: the teachers who are entrusted with setting a good example for Arizona’s youth should not assume that they’re above the law, and that they can break the employment contracts that they signed, on the grounds that the ends justify the means.

Liberty in the News

Nebraska became the 40th state to adopt the Right to Try, protecting the right of terminally ill patients to try promising new treatments that are being safely used in clinical trials but are not yet widely available. However, we’re still waiting for Congress to act.

Arizona is the latest state to stand up for the freedom of speech on college campuses. On Wednesday, Governor Doug Ducey signed a new law designed to protect free speech for all individuals, based on the Goldwater Institute’s model.

Want to know how we can combat the administrative state and the excessive regulatory rulemaking that is limiting our liberty? David French of the National Review says that America should look to the newest reform in Arizona, drafted and passed with the help of the Goldwater Institute.



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