When I first saw the video announcement for a walkout vote, my heart sank. The Governor’s proposal might not be everything we asked for, but it was a significant gesture. And we didn’t know the details yet. To me, it was bad form to conduct a walkout vote while the legislature was working out details on a major teacher pay raise proposal.
Let’s take a step back for a minute.
Throughout the movement, polls and surveys had been circulated to gauge opinion. For example, the “demands” had supposedly been formulated thanks to input from Facebook polls. The leaders of Red for Ed announced the demands at a rally at the state capitol on March 28th. I was there.
The thing is, none of us at the rally knew the demands beforehand. Not even the liaisons knew. They told us to show up at the Capitol to rally in support of demands we didn’t know yet.
Formal support for a walkout was already being tallied with a Google Docs survey. The goal was set at 30,000 supportive responses. Those numbers stood at around 23,000 before the walkout vote commenced.
Despite my personal feelings about Ducey’s pay raise proposal on April 12th, I could understand the leaders’ desire to get feedback from the movement. So I paid close attention and followed directions for how to conduct the vote on my campus.
As a liaison, it was my responsibility to communicate to my staff. Immediately, questions poured in.
We’re voting for a walkout? Walking out right now? How long will it last? What can the government do to prevent the walkout?
I had no answers. All over the Facebook pages, teachers and liaisons shared the exact same concerns. Nobody wanted to “strike” in terms of walking out indefinitely, but most people said they would be willing to walk out for a day or two, and potentially strike next year if it became absolutely necessary.
Up to this point, the Red for Ed leadership had been fairly responsive on these Facebook pages. They would clarify announcements, answer questions about actions, and interact with the rank and file.
During this crucial week … radio silence. Complete silence. No clarification, except to emphasize how bad Ducey’s proposal was, and why it was unacceptable, and why we should vote for a walkout.
Was the walkout for a day, or indefinitely? Was it for right now, or potentially next year?
No clarification, except for how to physically carry out the voting procedures. All it said on the ballot was:
[ ] Yes, I will participate in a walk out in support of Red for Ed demands
[ ] No, I will not participate in a walk out in support of Red for Ed demands
On the charter schools Facebook page, I did my best to explain, as I understood it, the significance of the vote. I wrote that “yes” vote to walk out would be a feeling of absolute rejection of Ducey’s proposal, even in its skeleton form. A “no” vote would signify that Ducey’s proposal is a good enough gesture to stay in class. I wrote that a “yes” vote would likely trigger a walkout this year, perhaps even the following week.
While carrying out the voting procedures on my campus, I was on the Facebook pages actively seeking clarification. So were many others. On the liaison page, people were practically begging the leaders for clarification.
On Tuesday night, after the first day of voting, someone on the liaison page posted a detailed plan, laying out a specific strategy: One day walkout this spring as a show of force, followed by a series of scheduled “walk-ins” and rallies to continue visibility and pressure.
The liaison asked in the post, “Can this be the plan we vote on?”
Liaisons rallied around this plan. The “likes” multiplied and positive comments accumulated rapidly.
That’s when Dylan Wegela, a leader of Red for Ed and the main administrator on the liaison page, finally started responding. We expressed our frustration with the vote. What the hell were we voting on? He reassured us that there was, in fact, a plan, but that there was “an element of trust” involved.
Q: We’re voting on a secret plan?
A: Well, the plan is continually changing, depending on circumstances.
Q: We’re voting on a secret plan that’s continually changing?
After being pressed, Dylan agreed to release an “explainer” about the vote, which was sent to the entire Red for Ed group on the second day of voting. Basically, it said that a “yes” vote would be a vote of confidence in leadership to decide the course of action.
- There’s no way to know how many people voted before this explainer was released. Most people on my campus voted the first day.
- They said the total number of votes was 57,000, with a final count of 78% supporting a walkout. But the vote was open to any and all school employees, of which there are over 100,000. Voter turnout was around 50% at best.
- Due to peer pressure and censorship within the movement, it’s probable that those who disagreed or felt alienated simply didn’t vote.
- It’s probable that a significant number of people, instead of voting no, wrote-in their preferred course of action.
On the third day of voting, news broke in the middle of the day that Red for Ed leaders had reserved the lawn of the state capitol for the following day, as well as for the entire next week. Back on the Facebook group, we were told that the reservations were made as a “precaution” in case the vote came back yes. No one voting knew about these preliminary plans.
It should also be noted that “walk-out training” had already been scheduled for Saturday, April 21st, at locations across the state, in case of a “potential” walkout. RSVP’s for this training were sent out on Wednesday, the second day of voting.
On Thursday, April 19th, the final day of voting, the Red for Ed leaders held a press conference at 9 pm.
I heard Joe Thomas say that educators “overwhelmingly support walking out of their schools.”
“This is undeniably, and clearly, a mandate for action.”
I heard Noah Karvelis say the walkout would start the following Thursday, and continue indefinitely.
“This is a mandate for action as I see it.”
This was Part 2 in my Red for Ed reflection series. Read Part 3.
To read Part 1, click here: A #RedforEd Reflection — Part 1
I discussed the vote and other issues with Red for Ed on the “Otters Talking Politics” podcast, recorded on April 28th. Listen to it here: RedforEd Teachers’ Strike w/ The Political Notebook
Also, during the walkout I was interviewed by “Vice News Tonight” for a segment on the political nature of the movement. Watch it here: Everything You Need to Know About the Arizona Teacher Walkout