Arizona Governor Announces Education Deal on Second Day of Walkouts

PHOENIX (CN) – Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced a plan Friday afternoon to fund his proposal to increase teacher pay by 20 percent as educators ended a second day of protesting low salaries and poor education funding in the state.

About 50,000 educators and supporters rallied outside the state capitol in Phoenix on Thursday, the first day of a planned walkout. Of 57,000 votes cast by educators earlier this month, 78 percent were in favor of a walkout.

A smaller crowd of about 4,000 protested outside of the state capitol Friday.

Ducey, with Senate President Steve Yarbrough and House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, said Republican lawmakers had reached an agreement to give teachers a 20 percent pay hike by 2020 and schools $100 million for support staff without raising taxes.

“Today, we are pleased to announce that this plan is a reality. Arizona is delivering on its commitment to our students and teachers,” the three said in a statement. “We are also restoring recession-era cuts to increase funding for schools and putting more money into the classroom – flexible dollars for superintendents to use for support staff pay increases, update antiquated curriculum and improve school infrastructure – without raising taxes.”

They hope to have a complete budget introduced Monday.

Organizers were not impressed with Ducey’s announcement.

In a joint statement, Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas and Noah Karvelis, an organizer with Arizona Educators United, said they have no agreement with legislators.

“We have a press release and a tweet from the governor. We have no bill. We have no deal. The devil is in the details,” the statement said. “We know that we have been down this road before. He makes promises that he can’t keep. We just can’t trust him.”

On April 12, Ducey first announced plans to give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020 but did not address concerns as to how the state would pay for the increased salaries. Ducey also failed to meet other demands from school organizers who sought improvements to schools and increased funding for support staff.

Arizona teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation.

Average pay for Arizona elementary school teachers is $40,860 per year, and $46,070 for secondary teachers.

A coalition of educators has also filed a ballot initiative to raise income taxes on the wealthiest of Arizonans to use the money for public schools.

Under the plan, state income tax would increase by 4.46 percent on Arizonans with a taxable income of at least $500,000 or households with $1 million or more. For those earning $250,000 or more, an increase of 3.46 percent would apply.

The walkout is scheduled to continue Monday, with the majority of large school districts across Arizona closed for the day. It’s unclear if teachers will return to schools by May 1.



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