Sunday, 22 April, 2018

Defiant no more, Arizona governor bends to teacher demands

Gov. Doug Ducey announces a plan to give teachers a 20 percent raise over the next three fiscal years Gov. Doug Ducey announces a plan to give teachers a 20 percent raise over the next three fiscal years
Faye Gross | 15 April, 2018, 00:15

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.

The proposal rolled out by the Republican governor Thursday doesn't increase funding for other school needs or provide raises for school staff as a grassroots teachers group demanded.

This week it told members to prepare for a possible walk-out that would close schools.

Earlier on Thursday, House Speaker J.D. Mesnard rolled out a proposal to boost teacher pay by 6 percent next year and 24 percent over the next six years.

In addition to a 20 percent pay bump, Arizona teachers also demanded a permanent raise structure, a $1 billion boost to put education funding at pre-recession levels and no more tax cuts until per pupil spending matches the national average. He also said he would restore $1 billion in school funding that has been cut since the recession. However, the proposal does it by redirecting cash already committed or planned for school districts in coming years, so school districts would feel the squeeze.

Joe Thomas, the president of the Arizona Educators Association, described thta proposal as a "shell game" that will force schools to make do with outdated equipment and school facilities.

"I think his proposal is clearly an attempt to divide us".

Harris is one of a handful of teachers who started Arizona Educators United in early March.

Ducey, who is up for reelection this year, had previously refused to meet with teacher organizers from the #RedForEd movement, telling a local radio show: "What I don't want to do is get into these political operatives' political circus".

On Thursday, Gov. Doug Ducey announced a plan for a nine-percent raise to teacher pay by next school year, and a net 20-percent raise by 2020.

Teachers in Oklahoma have been on strike for almost two weeks after turning down their governor and legislature's promise of raises.

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About 30% of classified staff are being paid minimum wage, Buckley said, making it potentially hard for the district to retain them.

Arizona teachers make $48,372 a year on average, among the lowest in the country.

"My school is fine but other schools aren't", he said.

She said the governor is meeting the grassroots activists halfway.

But the union rep for the district of 64,000 students is still skeptical.

"We have a lot of support staff, it's not just the teachers", she said.

"There's a part of me that suspects, what's the catch?"

"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.

"I am confident that the Governor and the Legislature will reach a positive outcome for teachers and Arizonans". That money was already committed to teacher pay.

Thomas said that Ducey's proposal reminded him of when he would give assignments to his students, and a student would turn in an assignment clearly hoping to just get a grade that is good enough to pass.

"This proposal does both of those things, so we hope they will consider that as they weigh the necessity of walking out to be heard", Joraanstad said.

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