June 28, 2018
Phoenix—Earlier this year, illegal teacher strikes throughout Arizona brought the education of thousands of children to a halt. While those school closures are now in the rearview mirror, the threat of a repeat still looms large in the Grand Canyon State—and in a new policy memo published today, the Goldwater Institute lays out the legal concerns surrounding these strikes and how the Arizona Board of Education can act to prevent future school closures.
While the strikes clearly had financial and educational repercussions for parents and teachers, the new Goldwater Institute memo explains that the legal ramifications of the strikes are also disturbing. As the memo explains, it is unlawful for public employees to strike—and because the Arizona Constitution guarantees the state’s kids a right to an education, school districts that participate in such strikes by shutting down schools are denying the constitutional right to an education to “those too young to pay taxes and who have no vote.” Both the Arizona Court of Appeals and the Arizona Attorney General have issued opinions agreeing with that perspective.
But when the illegal #RedForEd school closures occurred this past spring, Arizona school districts were all too accommodating, with some districts even choosing to remain closed when teachers wanted to return to work. As the Goldwater memo maintains, it is the responsibility of the State Board of Education to enforce the law. “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 State Board of Education was expected to discuss legal strategies for dealing with unlawful strikes at its June 25 meeting, but that item was removed from the agenda at the last moment. “We’re disappointed that this discussion was pulled,” said Sandefur. “The Board has both the power and the duty to ensure that there are no repeats of these illegal school closures, and we hope the Board will take up this important issue at a future meeting,” Sandefur said.
Read the full policy memo and recommendations here.
About the Goldwater Institute
The Goldwater Institute drives results by working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and strengthen the freedom guaranteed to all Americans in the constitutions of the United States and all 50 states. With the blessing of its namesake, the Goldwater Institute opened in 1988. Its early years focused on defending liberty in Barry Goldwater’s home state of Arizona. Today, the Goldwater Institute is a national leader for constitutionally limited government respected by the left and right for its adherence to principle and real world impact. No less a liberal icon than the New York Times calls the Goldwater Institute a “watchdog for conservative ideals” that plays an “outsize role” in American political life.