Thousands of teachers in Arizona will walk out again Monday after a two-day strike didn’t get Arizona lawmakers to act on their demands. Close to 50,000 teachers and supporters in 100-degree heat rallied outside the Capitol in Phoenix, Arizona for a second day on Friday fighting for higher wages and more education funding.
“I think we have to come back Monday because they closed shop and ran away from us yesterday, and we have to show them that they don’t get to run away from our students,” Joe Thomas, Arizona Education Association President, said at a rally outside the Capitol on Friday. “And if they (state lawmakers) don’t listen, if they continue to ignore us, if they are that tone-deaf, then I think we have to take a ballot initiative out and we got to do this ourselves.”
In support of the #RedForEd movement, teachers in Arizona are asking for a 20 percent raise, an increase in school funding – restoring it to pre-recession levels – and higher wages for support staff.
Teachers’ salaries are well below the national average in Arizona with the average teacher making $48,372 last year, while less experienced teachers made far less, The New York Times reported.
Arizona governor, Doug Ducey, proposed a 20 percent pay increase by 2020, but refused to meet with striking teachers, or address any of their additional demands, NBC News reported. Gov. Ducey went on to suggested citizens do their part and contact their legislators and urge them to approve his pay plan. But many teachers and lawmakers doubt Gov. Ducey can achieve the teachers’ raises without increasing taxes, which he proposed.
In a formal statement on Thursday, Gov. Ducey said:
“Without a doubt, teachers are some of the biggest difference-makers in the lives of Arizona children. They need to be respected, and rewarded, for the work they do — and Arizona can do better on this front.”
But with no formal budget proposal in place, Arizona teachers voted on Thursday to go on strike after their demands weren’t met and they are set to walkout again on Monday in an attempt to pressure the state legislature.
As thousands wore red adorned with signs and marched en masse to the Capitol, Arizona’s historic statewide walkout is the latest demonstration to take place since West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky’s protests took the country by storm.
“This isn’t just a political issue, but a moral issue as well,” Patience Sharp, 43, a writing teacher at a public middle school in Phoenix, said.