Arizona teachers at Capitol ahead of budget vote

Arizona Education Association

Arizona Education Association

The Arizona protests were part of a national teacher uprising that began in West Virginia and spread to other Republican-controlled states, including Kentucky and Oklahoma.

In a video on the Arizona Educators United Facebook page, another set of organizers rallied teachers to head to the Capitol until the budget was passed.

Sparked from nationwide demonstrations, the walkout began late April with almost 110 districts and charter schools comprised of 852,000 students closed, making it the largest teacher walkout in recent USA history.

The group had said they would call off the almost week-old strike if the budget passed.

Arizona teachers have pledged to end a strike and return to work if the legislature approves a proposed budget deal between the governor and state lawmakers to raise their pay, despite saying the spending measure does not go far enough.

The plan moving through the Republican-led Legislature gives teachers a 10 percent raise next year and starts restoring some of the almost $400 million in cuts to a fund that pays for supplies, repairs and some support staff salaries.

Catalina Foothills schools will be closed Thursday.

An Arizona House committee has approved the final bill in a budget package, setting the stage for the full House to debate the spending plan that awards striking teachers a big raise but falls short of meeting other demands.

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In a tweet Wednesday, Ducey said he is ready to sign the bill. Now, the movement will pivot to longer-term efforts, such as a ballot initiative to create an increased funding stream and electing lawmakers who support public education funding.

Wednesday marked the fifth day of the strike that has led to schools closures affecting the majority of the state's 1.1 million school children.

The Senate was expected to begin floor debate on the budget at 8 p.m., and the House expected similar timing.

On Wednesday, teachers were back at the state Capitol.

"We have options, but it is time for us to get back to our students and back to our classrooms", elementary school teacher and AEU organizer Rebecca Garelli said at a news conference. Red-clad teachers and their supporters have jammed streets around the state Capitol in Phoenix to voice dissatisfaction over pay and educational funding. This, however, did not satisfy the teacher's demands for improved education funding, contending that the proposal would not be viable without tax measures.

The group also wants Arizona to restore education funding to 2008 levels, while Ducey has offered to restore $371 million in cuts over five years.

Lawmakers did tweak it with changes to the rosy economic projections Ducey relied on to make funding more sustainable.

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