“When school employees come together through Association work, they are demonstrating their intent to create better public schools. The members of the Arizona Education Association lead from the values of fairness, equity, and respect. That leadership creates better opportunities for students.”
In May 2016, Joe was elected the 89th President of the Arizona Education Association. In the 19 years prior to becoming AEA President, Thomas has been a public school teacher, most recently teaching US Government at Skyline High School in Mesa. Thomas believes a free public education system is essential to the prosperity of our society.
“When we invest in public schools, we are reaffirming the belief that all of us are better when all of us are better.”
Thomas was a key leader of the Red for Ed movement in Arizona in 2018 and saw his role as encouraging educators to find their voice and realize their collective power. Thomas remains inspired by the courageous steps AEA members and the community took during the walkout and march to the capitol. The sea of red shirts filling the capitol grounds is a powerful memory Joe will never forget.
Thomas was also instrumental in leading the Invest in Ed initiative to overcome the many challenges opponents threw in its path. The voters passed the Invest in Ed Act during the 2020 election, securing nearly one billion dollars in new, permanent, voter-protected funding for Arizona’s public schools on an annual basis. Joe takes great pride knowing that during the COVID-19 pandemic AEA members were still able to help gather the critical signatures needed to put Invest in Ed on the ballot and help with voter outreach during the campaign to ensure Invest in Ed’s passage.
Thomas received his bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Sciences and Arts of Oklahoma in 1995 and his Master’s in Adult Education and Distance Learning from the University of Phoenix. Thomas was born and raised in rural Oklahoma. He and his wife Valerie, a teacher in the Higley Unified School District, have three children.