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Bergner: With the state and teachers trading haymakers, who will fall first?

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When a spokesperson for Arizona Educators United stood at the podium last week and announced to the world that 78 percent of Arizona’s teachers voted for a walkout, the first thought that came to my mind was:

“This just got serious.”

Thousands of interested viewers tuned into local news station broadcasts and Facebook Live the evening of April 19 to witness the landmark announcement, and for the first time, it feels real. More than 57,000 Arizona teachers and administrators voted, with basically four out of five teachers in the profession saying enough is enough.

West Virginia did it. Oklahoma did it. And in four days, Arizona may join the ranks of a mob armed with pencils, text books and calculators instead of pitchforks and torches declaring it’s time for a change.

So how did this all get started?

A Facebook page was started. It’s credo? A call for all Arizona educators to stand up for not only themselves, but more importantly, their students. People who work in the profession are fed up with the circumstances they are being forced fed to navigate through, and that showed when thousands across the state quickly joined the movement.

Teachers pushed for a 20 percent raise and to restore per-pupil funding, among other things.

Eventually, Gov. Doug Ducey slightly gave in to their demands, offering a 20 percent raise over the next three years, but pulled the political string and didn’t exactly reveal how the state would cover the pay increases.

Later, a former attorney general chimed in and said it was basically illegal for teachers to walk out of their classrooms and strike. It was suggested that the loss of jobs and a potential revoked certifications were on the line.

Well, that story may have stirred the hornets’ nest to the point of no return. And when you corner someone, most people fight back, and they fight dirty. So for nearly 80 percent of teachers to say effectively, “We’re done with this nonsense, bring it,” wasn’t surprising.

So what about all the teachers and administrators who don’t want to walk out in fear of losing a job? What about the lunch lady, or the custodian who works on an hourly wage? Teachers and administrators are on salary, but the latter are not. How do they recover that pay?

If teachers walk out locally, I’ve been told the 180-day school calendar will be extended, meaning they’ll be required to stay into the summer to wrap up classroom activity, lessons and finals.

Another side to this strike, supposedly coming Thursday, April 26, is what about all the kids who now have to stay home? If two parents work, that means one of them will have to stay home to watch their children. Not everyone has teenagers who can likely watch themselves.

The state could effectively shut down. Imagine that.

In the end, both sides have not pulled punches. They’ve traded blows. Effective blows. I guess we’ll all have to wait and see what happens next.

Brian M. Bergner Jr. is sports editor for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @SportsWriter52, or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Email [email protected] or call 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.

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