Arizona schools shut as teachers wait for deal on pay raise

Striking Teachers Draw Criticism as More than 1000 Arizona Schools Remain Closed

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.

Thursday morning's signing came as the state House continued to debate other parts of the $10.4 billion spending plan but after the Senate concluded work on the plan.

"It bothers me a lot, but we'll be back in November and we'll be doing a lot of work between now and then getting the people in who will support education and will stop these tax cuts, and we will have the money", said Sarah Barrett, an early childhood special education teacher in Mesa, who said her school doesn't have the money to fix its air conditioning.

The teachers' strikes in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arizona have been described by some as a "red-state revolt".

Conservative groups such as Phoenix's Goldwater Institute think-tank have threatened to sue school districts over what it calls an "illegal strike" by public employees who are not allowed to strike under Arizona law.

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.

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

"I think it's gonna pass", said Mesnard. When asked whether educators who support #RedForEd are slowing down based on the schools moving to reopen, Karvelis said that teachers will keep fighting.

"The war is not over but we've won an important battle, to move the legislature this far", Noah Karvelis, a union organizer and music teacher, said at a news conference.

"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.

That means the strike will have lasted five days when schools reopen. The Republican Governors Association is already running ads touting Ducey as providing major new school funding "without raising taxes".

"We have a press release and a tweet from the Governor, but we don't have details on 20x2020", Karvelis said.

The walkout launched Thursday, shutting down most public schools.

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

Red-clad teachers in the #RedforEd movement gathered Wednesday on the mall between the House and Senate buildings a day before their historic walkout for education funding is set to end.

Teachers have demanded states reverse education spending cuts imposed since tax revenues ran short during the U.S. recession that ended in 2009.

But it does provide salary increases and other additional education funding.

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.

Arizona House Republican Whip Kelly Townsend said earlier on Wednesday that lawmakers were working fervently to pass the budget but it would take time to go through amendments.

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