Teachers 'walk-in' for raises, school funding

Gov. Ducey proposing 9 percent pay raise this year 20 percent by 2020

On Thursday, after thousands of Oklahoma teachers flooded the capitol to demand more school funding for nearly two weeks, union leader Alicia Priest called for an end to the teacher walkout, conceding to reporters on Thursday night that the teachers' demands wouldn't be satisfied after seeing "no significant legislative movement" since the walkout began.

It was a surprising shift in tone from the governor, who has repeatedly rejected teachers' demands for a raise and school funding. Under the proposal, average teacher pay would go from about $49,000 a year to over $58,000 by the start of 2020.

Among other demands, the Red for Ed movement, started by the grassroots organization Arizona Educators United, is calling for a 20-percent raise for all teaching and certified staff, a return to 2008 school funding levels, smaller class sizes, and new resources and materials. Now Republican Doug Ducey has managed to scrape together the funds for what he claims is a 20% rise for teachers by 2020.

The demands include 20% teacher pay raises now, the restoration of about $1 billion in education funding cuts made during the Great Recession and competitive pay for classified employees, such as cafeteria workers, bus drivers and paraprofessionals.

Arizona educators were encouraged in part by successful teacher walkouts in West Virginia and Oklahoma.

"I think I've seen books from the '80s", she said.

"This has raised more questions for us than answers", said Noah Karvelis, one of the Arizona Educators United organizers.

Last year, Ducey signed a bill with more tax breaks for businesses as well as a 1 percent raise for teachers.

"Most of these teachers are not only here walking so that they can get a pay raise, but they really care about all of their students, looking out for their futures and making sure that the have all the tools necessary to achieve", he said.

Tucson teacher Derek Harris said Thursday evening that Ducey's plan to boost pay by 9 percent this year and 20 percent by 2020 is just a plan. The action came as the state's teachers were threatening a walkout over low pay.

About 30% of classified staff are being paid minimum wage, Buckley said, making it potentially hard for the district to retain them.

Arizona teachers were inspired by colleagues in West Virginia, who won a 5 percent pay increase after a nine-day strike.

"My school is fine but other schools aren't", he said.

"My hope is that the collective power of teachers across the state gave the governor some pause", he said. "He saw the #RedforEd movement; he heard what we had to say".

But the union rep for the district of 64,000 students is still skeptical.

"I'm supporting all teachers because we want to get paid more", Christian Rodriguez said as she marched toward Lincoln School, where she teaches second grade.

"There's a part of me that suspects, what's the catch?" "I would be happy to support those efforts in any way that I can", Douglas said in a statement.

Joraanstad said Ducey's proposal addresses two of the educators' five demands: teacher pay and restoring funding cuts made during the recession.

Ducey said the 9 percent raises, which will cost $274 million, are a "priority" in his budget proposal.

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