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Saturday, July 20, 2024 | Back issues
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Teachers Call Arizona Law Unconstitutional

PHOENIX (CN) - A teachers' union claims that Arizona illegally changed public school employment law during a special legislative session called to address the state budget. The 30,000-member Arizona Education Association claims that sections of House Bill 2011 unconstitutionally enacted "new statutory provisions and amended existing laws relating to public school teachers' employment" - items not related to the state budget.

The teachers' union claims in Maricopa County Court that the bill does not contain "legislation relating to a single subject, it does not have a sufficiently descriptive title, and it impairs existing contractual obligations."

The union claims the bill prohibits school districts from including compensation for "professional association activities" in employee contracts, and from providing employment retention priority for teachers with seniority or tenure.

The bill does not provide a definition of "professional association activities," forcing school districts to decide how to interpret the statute and putting them at risk violating it, the union says.

The bill also killed a requirement that school district employment contracts must be renewed between March 15 and May 15, and decreased from 30 to 10 days the notice required for "an intent to suspend [employees] for longer than 10 days or to dismiss."

Legislators also eliminated the prohibition "against reducing the salary of a tenured teacher except under a general salary reduction applied equitably to all tenured teachers," according to the complaint.

The bill became effective on Nov. 24, 2009. Many Arizona school districts "have amended, or are preparing to amend, school district policies to comply with the statutory changes affecting the employment of teachers."

The union filed a petition with the Arizona Supreme Court on Nov. 23, claiming that the Legislature failed "to comply with constitutional requirements for enacting legislature," but the court declined to accept jurisdiction.

Gov. Jan Brewer and Attorney General Terry Goddard are named as defendants.

The Arizona Education Association seeks declaratory judgment that sections of in H.B. 2011 are unconstitutional. It is represented by Keith Beauchamp and Roopali H. Desai with Coppersmith, Schermer and Brockelman.

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