Arizona Teachers Say They'll Go Back To School If Budget Is Passed

Arizona Teachers Say They'll Go Back To School If Budget Is Passed
#RedForEd walkout now on teacher-by-teacher basis; all KUSD schools open Thursday
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04 May, 2018

The teachers' strikes in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arizona have been described by some as a "red-state revolt". But it became clear by midday Wednesday lawmakers were having trouble putting the final touches on the $10.4 billion budget. "Just take your money and get back to work because my kids want to go back to school".

Major Arizona school districts in metro Phoenix and Tucson were still closed for the day on Thursday following Gov. Ducey's signing of budget legislation providing more than $300 million in raises for numerous state's striking teachers.

"We are not slowing down, but there is a certain amount of paperwork and staff work that is going on behind the scenes", Mesnard said before calling the recess.

"They more they know, the more at ease they feel about what's going on", she said.

That, in turn, put the issue directly in the hands of school officials to decide, based on feedback from their staff, whether they thought there would be enough showing up to schedule classes or open the buildings. The deal includes a 20 percent pay raise for teachers by 2020 and $371 million in school funding in the next five years.

"There's people that absolutely want to see this thing all the way through, " he said.

Teachers didn't get everything they wanted, but believe they made major inroads.

"Teachers can return knowing that the legislature heard their concerns and delivered the pay increase they deserve", Yarbrough said in a statement.

Rebecca Garelli, another Arizona Educators United Organizer, said she was proud of "the powerful movement we have created".

"We need everybody here at the Capitol until this budget is passed", Dylan Wegela, an organizer, told members in a video message on the group's Facebook page.

Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said there were some last minute tweaks to the spending plan that has already been approved by the Appropriations Committee that he chairs.

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Besides providing more than $4.5 billion for K-12 education, the budget envisions spending about $1.8 billion for the state's Medicaid program, $1.1 billion for prisons, $725 million for public universities, about $630 million on social services and $388 million for the child safety department. There was a lot of uncertainty among teachers and parents as they waited to enter.

In essence, the money is being handed out on a bulk basis.

Thursday was also a disappointing moment for numerous demonstrating teachers.

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said the delay is not on goal.

He said it was "goofy" to think that anyone was stalling the process. "The war is not over but we've won an important battle to move the legislature this far".

The state House also recessed without voting on the budget.

Rep. Mitzi Epstein, a Democrat, tried and failed to win support for an amendment that would mandate a 250:1 ratio for students to school counselors.

One would set the maximum class size at no more than 25 students.

More significant, Ducey has agreed to an average 9 percent pay hike for teachers for the coming school year, with a 5 percent increase the following year and an identical increase the year after that.

One Republican lawmaker upset about the strike proposed amendments to make it illegal for teachers to espouse political beliefs at work, to require the attorney general to investigate schools that allow political activity and to bar schools from closing during a walkout.


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