Published: Sat, April 14, 2018
Economy | By Shawn Conner

Arizona teachers want details of governor's plan

Arizona teachers want details of governor's plan

By Thursday, Republican Doug Ducey was able to scrape at 274 million by the coffers of your state and provide a 20 per cent commission increase by 20 20. He's following that with 5 percent more each in the 2019 and 2020 school years.

"It's unbelievable what a threatened teachers strike in an election year can get the Republicans to do", Democratic Rep. Rebecca Rios said.

Elementary teachers earned a median wage of $43,280 in 2017 and high school teachers earned $46,470, ranking 3rd and 6th lowest in the nation, respectively, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"As a result of Arizona's thriving economy and a record population of seven million plus residents", Ducey said. As such, Arizona's budgets are still exceptionally tight a decade after the recession.

Ducey was vague about where the cash would come from, only saying a growing economy and lower spending in other areas unexpectedly freed up $274m this year that can be used to fund the raise.

Prior to the announcement, Tuscon teacher and Arizona Educators United organizer Derek Harris told teachers "that we need to be sure that this is not just a pay [increase] for teachers". Harris says at this point, "there's not really anything to trust".

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Arizona educators were encouraged in part by successful teacher walkouts in West Virginia and Oklahoma.

Most crucial will be the reaction of Arizona Educators United, the newly formed loose-knit group of more than 40,000 teachers and support staff which has been behind the demonstrations that have aroused public support and put the pressure on the governor.

Teachers wearing red shirts and holding signs are gathering outside Arizona schools to show solidarity in their demand for higher salaries.

The press conference comes after a month of protests by teachers, administrators, students, parents and members of the community during the #RedforEd campaign.

Also at risk could be Ducey's plan to spend more money on law enforcement to go after those who drive the wrong way on freeways.

"The governor did not fully explain how we will pay for this and what other government services will be impacted, so we need to see the details", Rios said.

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Arizona teachers who are threatening job actions unless they see a 20 percent pay raise and boost in overall school funding could get an increase under a new proposal in the state House.

The governor's plan comes on the heels of House Speaker J.D. Mesnard crafting his own proposal for a 20 percent pay hike for teachers.

A top school business official said Mesnard's plan would harm schools more than it would help teachers. But he already proposed $100 million in his budget plan as a start to restoring almost $400 million cuts made earlier in the decade - including $117 million he cut in 2015.

"We want our children to have the best education possible and we can't without the means of having the money and the supplies", said Miriam Mabante, an assistant speech therapist at NUSD who joined the action on Grand Avenue.

The Governor also said the percent increase won't be "a shell game", stating the investment is in addition to the $371 million in district additional assistance to provide flexible funding for schools.

Her son, Lincoln second-grader Mathew Yepiz, said he joined the walk-in "to make teaching great again".

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But the governor also said some of the priorities he laid out at his State of the State speech in January also are being thrown overboard.

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