A red sea of Arizona’s public school teachers and their supporters marched on the state Capitol in Phoenix Monday, voicing their dissatisfaction over pay and educational funding. The first teacher walkout in the state’s history began on Thursday, and Monday night, organizers announced the walkout would enter a fourth day.
“We will be back at the Capitol tomorrow to continue to fight for our students and state,” said Noah Karvelis, a teacher and #RedforEd movement and Arizona Educators United organizer and spokesman.
The Arizona Educator’s Association tweeted that 50,000 educators participated in the rally on Monday.
Arizona Educators United wants a 20% raise for teachers by next school year and yearly raises after that until Arizona’s teacher salaries reach the national average. The group also wants Arizona to restore education funding to 2008 levels, while Gov. Doug Ducey has offered to restore $371 million in cuts over five years.
Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan, which he calls “20×2020” raises teacher pay by 20% over two years.
Ducey tweeted “Arizona’s economy is thriving. We have the revenue to give our teachers a 20% pay increase, and restore recession-era cuts to K-12. Let’s get this done. #20×2020”
“We have a press release and a tweet from the Governor, but we don’t have details on 20×2020,” Karvelis said.
“They could have passed a budget that funds our schools by now. They could have worked over the weekend to get it done. But they didn’t.” Karvelis said in a letter sent to supporters Monday that was cosigned by Joseph H. Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association.
On the floor of the state House, Minority Leader, Rep. Rebecca Rios called Ducey’s budget a “shell game.”
“The reality is, you cannot make up a billion [dollar] deficit by using the same amount of income that we have,” Rios said.
“It’s really important at the moment because of the info coming out of the governor’s office the way it is being put forward is that a deal has been struck which makes it seem like two sides met, that’s not the case,” Jonathan Perrone, who was at the rally, told CNN affiliate KTVK.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten joined the rally in Phoenix Monday.
“We have to come together to solve the funding issue — @dougducey needs to talk to teachers and work with Republicans and Democrats to come up with real solutions,” she tweeted.
“Over 50,000 citizens showing up here tells me its time for this change to happen,” Lisa Wyatt, a parent, told CNN affiliate KTVK.
“To ask us just to trust is hard because when you look at history, it’s hard to trust,” said third grade teacher Gwen Cordiak. “To ask us to go back to the classroom, when most people haven’t even seen the bill… we’ve been talking to lawmakers that haven’t seen bill yet… we’re not going on blind faith.”
Many school districts throughout the state were closed Monday due to the walkout and have announced they will remain closed Tuesday — including the two largest school districts in the state, Mesa Public Schools and the Tucson Unified School District.
Another large school district, Sunnyside Unified School District announced it will remain closed at least through Friday.
“We don’t want to be out of school another day,” Karvelis and Thomas said in their letter. “We would rather be back in our classrooms, teaching our students, and finishing the year strong.