Arizona Passes New Education Funding to End Teachers' Strike

by Lawrence Cooper May 4, 2018, 10:04
Arizona Passes New Education Funding to End Teachers' Strike

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey proposed the plan to raise salaries, which passed the state Legislature before coming to his desk for him to sign.

Most school districts had cited uncertainty about when the week-old teacher walkout over pay and education funding would end when they announced Wednesday that their schools would remain closed Thursday. Republican governor Doug Ducey tried to preempt a walkout by offering the teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020, last month.

The Senate approved the raises just before dawn as hundreds of red-shirted teachers followed the proceedings from the lobby, many sitting on the cold stone floor.

The grassroots group that called the strike says teachers will go back to their classrooms Thursday if the budget passes.

The Arizona Legislature has approved a spending package that includes an education funding and teacher pay bill.

The Senate was expected to begin floor debate on the budget at 8 p.m., and the House expected similar timing. Many teachers, he acknowledged, were hoping for more money for their classrooms. Like her colleagues, Representative Lela Alston explained her vote by saying that she was voting no "with a heavy heart".

Meanwhile, Clark County teachers are hoping for change after educators in Arizona got wages increased following a long battle. "His first offer was going to sweep funding from universities and public services that would impact our students, and now we've forced the Governor to create more sustainable revenue sources without cutting funding from those services", Arizona Educators United organizer and Littleton music teacher Noah Karvelis told Buzzfeed News.

Republicans like Representative T.J. Shope, however, said that the proposal is solid. The coalition of activists, teachers and parents want to increase to 8 percent taxes on individuals earning more than $250,000 or households bringing in more than $500,000 and increase taxes to 9 percent on individuals earning more than $500,000 and households earning more than $1 million.

"Their voting no has nothing to do with not wanting to give us a raise", she said.

"If school boards use part of this money for support staff, then there's not enough to give teachers the promised 20-percent raise", state House Democrats said in a statement.

New Zealand's looming teacher shortage forced the Government to set up a $9.5million emergency fund late previous year to recruit foreign teachers.

Lawmakers rejected a series of Democratic amendments to the budget. "If they did, we'd have $1.1 billion for education in this budget".

Before voting down these proposals - which were sponsored by Representatives Kelli Butler, Mitzi Epstein, and Randall Friese, respectively - Republican legislators raised the specter of unfunded mandates and overreach into the purview of school districts.

There also was no GOP support for the proposal by Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley, to limit class size to no more than 25 students. And she lashed out at teachers who were in the gallery - teachers presumably on strike - who were watching the debate.

And some states have continued to cut taxes and education spending.

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