Arizona governor signs bill to boost teachers' wages amid strike

Arizona governor signs bill to boost teachers' wages amid strike

The Arizona Republic reports that as of this writing, more than a dozen districts had announced they would be canceling classes Thursday.

Heather Fuentes, an administrative assistant in the Paradise Valley School District, gave an update on the walkout to about 80 parents and community members at a park.

The governor and state legislators struck a budget deal to get teachers some of those demands.

"The writing is on the wall, they're going to ignore the students and teachers and plight of the schools, and they're going to put through the budget they want", he said. Gonzalez spoke of horror stories from teachers in some of the larger school districts in the state - leaky roofs, long-term substitute teachers and high teacher-to-student ratios.

Arizona teachers pledged to end an historic, week-long walkout as soon as Thursday if the Republican-controlled legislature approves a budget giving a 20 percent pay rise, although teachers also said the spending package did not go far enough.

"It made me more supportive than ever, because the teachers there are really worse off than we are", said Rhonda Gonzalez, a second-grade teacher at Dr. Daniel Bright Elementary School. Some returned to the Capitol on Thursday as lawmakers continued debating the rest of the state's $10.4 billion budget plan.

Many schools plan to re-open Thursday, and it remains unclear if the developments at the Capitol will change that.

"We need to have everybody here at the Capitol until the budget is passed", AEU organizer Dylan Wegela said.

In a tweet Wednesday, Ducey said he is ready to sign the bill.

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But despite promising to end the strike, teachers have suggested that their fight is not over. But Democratic Rep. Randall Friese read Noah Karvelis' remarks where he praised striking teachers for getting big wins in the budget.

"But they didn't." Karvelis said in a letter sent to supporters that was cosigned by Joseph H. Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association.

The announcement Tuesday afternoon came, after another protest at the grounds of the State Capitol Tuesday.

They also fault Ducey and Republicans for the plan not providing dollars for support staff. Ducey said the $100 million he is restoring in additional district assistance comes with sufficient flexibility for school districts to use some - or all - of that for those employees.

"I think that they had a promise from us that we were going to do something", House Majority Leader John Allen said. The offer set for debate and likely passage by late Wednesday was announced two weeks before teachers walked out last Thursday, and remains substantially unchanged. Now, the movement will pivot to longer-term efforts, like a ballot initiative to create an increased funding stream and electing lawmakers who support public education funding.

Organizers said the walkout was a success due to the 150,000 people that hit the streets during the four days in downtown Phoenix and increased amount of money promised for education.

When the plan started moving through the legislature, they said they'd go back to school and figure out new ways to keep the momentum going.

As the teachers were marching on the Capitol, where Phoenix police estimated more than 50,000 people were present April 26, the education leaders questioned the governor and Legislature who adjourned until (April 30).

Organizers of the #RedforEd movement said they plan to return to their classrooms on Thursday, providing the budget is approved.

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