Striking Arizona teachers return to work after 6-day walkout

Public school educators across Arizona ended a six-day strike and returned to work Friday after Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill the day prior meeting some of the educators’ demands.

A first in Arizona history, the strike ended after a marathon legislative session in which produced a budget to meet some of educators’ demands.

A hotly-contested debate, its topics included penalizing schools districts which closed, class size and raising revenue for further increases to the state’s education budget.

Over 850,000 students had been effected by the strike in over 1,000 schools.

In a prepared statement announcing he had signed a $10.4 billion state budget bill, Ducey touted the pay raise for educators, $100 million in “flexible dollars” for educational needs and an additional $371 million in public school funding over the next five years.

“Arizona teachers have earned a raise, and this plan delivers,” Ducey said.

Prior to striking on April 26, the Arizona Educators United and the Arizona Education Association, two unions representing Grand Canyon State teachers, had been calling for a 20 percent pay raise for classroom teachers and staff.

Educators had also been demanding sharp increases in education funding, or a return to pre-2008 funding levels.

However, the final funding bill provided pay increases to teachers only, with a nine percent increase beginning in the fall of 2018 and an additional five percent increase over the next two years.

“One month ago, the governor said he would only provide $65.4 million for a 2 percent raise”, said a teacher and union organizer. “(Dulcey’s) 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.”

Despite the victory and the return to work, both educators and the unions which represent them vowed to press on in the 2018 elections to demand further concessions from state legislators.

 

[Tucson.com] [The Hill] [Photo courtesy AP/Ross D. Franklin via The Mercury News]