Arizona teachers to end strike if plan passes

Arizona teachers vow they 'will be back at the Capitol' as walkout continues

The budget contains some items created to garner support from conservative Republicans, after the governor and GOP leaders bypassed minority Democrats to get the deal done.

But it does boost education funding by more than $300 million, said Noah Karvelis, a music teacher and organizer with Arizona Educators United - and much of that money wasn't involved in the spending plan until the movement started. It's still unclear whether they'll return to the classroom Thursday.

Leaders of an Arizona teachers strike are telling educators to stay out of school again Thursday and come to the state Capitol because the Legislature still hasn't begun debating a budget bill that would give them big raises.

"In the year 2000, in Texas, as a new teacher I got paid $5,000 more than I do now with nine years of experience", said Monica Mathis, a physical education teacher at Mountain View Preparatory School, who stood at the corner of state routes 89A and 260 on the afternoon of Friday, April 26, to protest. The deal includes a 20 percent pay raise for teachers by 2020 and $371 million in school funding in the next five years.

Teachers didn't get everything they wanted, but believe they made major inroads. Among their demands is a 20 percent pay raise for teachers and certified school staff, smaller class sizes, and efforts to bring teacher salaries in Arizona in line with the national average. He said he does support the objectives of the so-called #RedforEd movement, with his schools facing a host of funding needs.

The House was still debating the budget package Thursday morning but passage was assured.

But it's basically the same budget proposal that Republican Gov. Doug Ducey rolled out two weeks ago, which AEU found wasn't good enough at the time. And a top Republican lawmaker gave teachers credit for keeping the pressure on.

He said it was "goofy" to think that anyone was stalling the process. "Our track record of delivering that promise has not always been flawless, so I don't think they wasted their time".

The package provides the state's schools will a partial restoration of almost $400 million in recession-era cuts, with a promise to restore the rest in five years.

Outside the Capitol on Wednesday, the statewide #RedForEd walkout's fifth day, protesters chanted, "No bill, no school".

The Arizona Education Association who represents hundreds of thousands of teachers statewide said the fight doesn't end here. From its beginnings in West Virginia, it spread to Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona and most recently Colorado.

Conservative groups have threatened to sue school districts over what they call an illegal strike in a state where public employees are not allowed to walk off the job.

Sandy Morse, a high school history teacher, said they're disappointed with the outcome, but that this has galvanized teachers. "We would rather be back in our classrooms, teaching our students, and finishing the year strong".

When pressed on why the plan still had not been introduced as of (April 30), Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said drafting the bills for the plan could take longer, adding it should be released early in the week.

"What we said is, 'This may go another day".

The development was the latest since the organization announced on Tuesday that educators would return to school on Thursday if the Arizona Legislature could pass a proposed budget.

Educators had to change their tactics after budget approval appeared imminent, association president Joe Thomas said.

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