Striking teachers win 20 percent raise
PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a plan Thursday to give striking teachers a 20 percent pay raise, ending their six-day walkout after a dramatic all-night legislative session and sending more than a million public school students back to the classroom.
Ducey’s signature awarded teachers a 9 percent raise in the fall and 5 percent in each of the next two years. Those increases are in addition to a 1 percent raise granted last year.
Teachers did not get everything they wanted, but they won substantial gains from reluctant lawmakers.
“The educators have solved the education crisis! They’ve changed the course of Arizona,” shouted Noah Karvelis of Arizona Educators United to several thousand cheering teachers. “The change happens with us!”
The Arizona walkout is part of a simmering national rebellion about low teacher pay. The movement started in West Virginia, where a strike resulted in a raise, and spread to Oklahoma, Kentucky and, most recently, Colorado.
Hours after Ducey acted, strike organizers called for an end to the walkout. Most schools stayed closed Thursday, except a handful that managed to reopen shortly after the pay raises passed. Some districts planned to reopen today, with others likely to resume classes next week.
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.
Ducey said the teachers earned a raise and praised the legislation as “a real win” for teachers and students. The pay increases will cost about $300 million for the coming year alone.
Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas said educators should now focus on a campaign for a November ballot measure that would seek more education funding from an income tax increase on the wealthiest taxpayers.
Teachers chant as they continued to protest Thursday at the Arizona state Capitol in Phoenix. After an all night legislative budget session, the state legislature passed the new education spending portion of the budget, which includes a 20 percent pay raise for teachers, and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed that part of the budget Thursday.