Arizona teacher walkout ends with 20 percent pay increase

By Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Arizona's historic #RedForEd teacher walkout will stretch to a sixth school day, as Arizona Educators United organizers urged teachers to return to the Capitol Thursday amid unresolved budget discussions.

Arizona teaches are expected to return to school Friday, ending a six-day strike that shut down schools, after Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation that meets some of their demands.

After an all night legislative budget session the legislature passed the new education spending portion of the budget and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed that part of the budget.

The budget bill gives teachers a 9 percent pay raise next year, which, combined with a 1 percent raise already given, gets them halfway to the 20 percent hike they have called for.

"The hard work we've done with budgeting in the Legislature over the past few years helped put us in a position to provide funding for unprecedented pay raises for our outstanding teachers, without raising taxes".

In public statements and tweets throughout the walkout, Ducey had insisted that he and other lawmakers had come up with a satisfactory deal to address teachers' concerns, but teachers held their ground and maintained a presence of thousands outside the state capitol for more than a full class-week, insisting on more information about where the funding would come from.

"The #RedforEd fight continues", Mr. Thomas and National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said in a joint statement. Phoenix Union High School District spokesman Craig Pletenik said that it may reopen schools on Friday.

Though teachers did not see all their goals met in the bill, they made a decision to end the walkout.

"I think that's inherently wrong", Smith said.

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"I'm anxious about my students".

Friday, the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, Arizona's Biggest district, and Delta in the suburbs of Glendale and Scottsdale, meant to reopen.

"It's middle-schoolers, so it's a tough age".

Arizona is, along with Oklahoma, one of the states where education funding has suffered the most in recent years (with a $1 billion cut since 2008, according to the AEU).

But the Republicans who control both the House and Senate spurned proposals to enact several other demands by striking teachers, including giving raises to support staff, shrinking class size and adding money for more school counselors. The bill will also award an additional $200 million per year on state spending for schools. Other cuts remain in place.

Minority Democrats mainly voted against the budget plan, drawing criticism from Republicans.

"You can't set a house on fire, call 911 and claim to be a hero".

In a rare show of bipartisanship, the House shot down three amendments from Representative Kelly Townsend that appeared to target teachers who express political beliefs or who close down schools through walkouts.

"Not only is school not fun anymore, but it's scary", she said. But to fully realize their ambitions for their schools and students, the state's teachers are going to have replace their elected representatives with ones more sympathetic to their cause - and this November, they intend to do just that.

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