Arizona teachers call funding offer low, yet say deal can end walkout

Arizona teachers call funding offer low, yet say deal can end walkout

Meanwhile, the Arizona Legislature is meeting Wednesday to try to pass a budget plan in the midst of teacher protests outside.

Teachers have been on a statewide strike that could extend into Thursday even if lawmakers pass the budget.

The Senate was expected to begin floor debate on the budget at 8 p.m., and the House expected similar timing.

AEU leaders told the media that they didn't get everything they wanted but promised to keep fighting.

Conservative groups have threatened to sue school districts over what it calls an "illegal strike" by public employees who are not allowed to strike under Arizona law.

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He was among thousands of #RedforEd movement educators at the Capitol on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, red-clad teachers packed the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee room in the state Capitol in Phoenix and registered to address lawmakers regarding budget negotiations on education funding.

The development was the latest since the organization announced on Tuesday that educators would return to school on Thursday if the Arizona Legislature could pass a proposed budget.

Teachers walked out last week hoping they could demand more funding from Gov. Doug Ducey and Republican lawmakers. And a top Republican lawmaker gave teachers credit for keeping the pressure on.

The group had said they would call off the almost week-old strike if the budget passed. "Our track record of delivering that promise has not always been flawless, so I don't think they wasted their time".

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Marana schools will remain closed until the walkout ends. The Republican Governors Association is already running ads touting Ducey as providing major new school funding "without raising taxes". The deal includes a 20 percent pay raise for teachers by 2020 and $371 million in school funding in the next five years.

The protest in Arizona is modeled on a nine-day demonstration in West Virginia, which resulted in a 4 percent raise there, and other actions by educators in Kentucky and Oklahoma.

But Arizona's schools closures likely affected the most students, more than 800,000, and the first day of the strike saw a crowd estimated at 50,000 march to the state Capitol. Arizona Educators United organizer Noah Karvelis said it was up to teachers and their districts whether they want to stay closed. "I didn't put him in, but I for sure will make sure he gets out, because this is ridiculous", Barrett said.

"We have options, but it is time for us to get back to our students and back to our classrooms", elementary school teacher and AEU organizer Rebecca Garelli said at a news conference. School funding has not increased in the state since cuts were made during the Great Recession.

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