Arizona teachers protested at 1112 schools


Mesnard said the proposal addresses the gripes of protesting teachers, who have asked for an immediate 20-percent raise.

Teachers in Arizona are among the lowest-paid in the country, and lawmakers have cut education spending per studentmore than any other state since 2008 - by 36.5 percent.

In addition to the pay bump, Arizona educators were also seeking increased pay for support professionals, a permanent raise structure, and a freeze on corporate tax cuts until per-pupil spending reaches the national average. As such, Arizona's budgets are still exceptionally tight a decade after the recession.

The plan boasts of a cumulative 24-percent pay raise for teachers over six years.

The governor said he also can find cash through "strategic efficiencies" in state government.

Arizona educators were cool to Ducey's announcement, declaring they needed details before reacting. Harris says at this point, "there's not really anything to trust".

"We're 'Arizona Educators United, ' not 'Arizona Teachers United, ' " Harris said. Those teachers shocked their state's leaders by surrounding their capitols and demanding funding after years of cuts, setting off similar feelings in other Republican states.

This week it told members to prepare for a possible walk-out that would close schools.

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On Wednesday, Arizona teachers and others held "walk-ins" at more than 1,000 schools to draw attention to their demands.

The group has encouraged teachers and supporters to wear red to school on Wednesdays - the color to reflect their frustration.

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. Adjusted for local cost of living, federal figures show elementary teachers actually rank 49th in earnings and high school teachers 48th.

"It's important to note that this is not legislation; this proposal is full of various promises that happen over a long period of time", said Dylan Wegela, a seventh-grade teacher and one of the organizers of the Arizona Educators United grassroots coalition, in a video posted on the group's private Facebook group. But he already proposed $100 million in his budget plan as a start to restoring almost $400 million cuts made earlier in the decade - including $117 million he cut in 2015. "It feels like this war is an attempt to stop whatever actions we may have been taking instead of a legitimate groundwork for future investment in education".

A top school business official said Mesnard's plan would harm schools more than it would help teachers. Potentially more significant, he funds it not with using new money but largely by diverting funds from the "district additional assistance" account, money schools are counting on for other needs, such as computers, books and even school buses.

Her son, Lincoln second-grader Mathew Yepiz, said he joined the walk-in "to make teaching great again".

Karvelis says his group has put together a negotiating team ready to talk to state leaders about getting more funding and higher salaries.

But the governor also said some of the priorities he laid out at his State of the State speech in January also are being thrown overboard.