Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed a portion of the budget bill that helps fund teacher raises on Thursday morning, after House lawmakers debated the bill into the early morning hours. Teachers watched the session all of Wednesday night and camped out outside the Capitol building.
Teachers will get an average raise of 9 percent and then 5 percent for the next two years. Teachers also won $400 million in education funding to partially make up for recession-era cuts, according to the Associated Press. Although the raises were lower than what teachers wanted, they are an improvement over the 1 percent raises Ducey originally proposed.
— Kim Tobin (@KimABC15) May 3, 2018
Thursday is the sixth day teachers have been out of school. Although teachers said they would end the walkout on Wednesday if the budget passed, the session stretched into the night and morning, which meant many large school districts closed school on Thursday.
Striking teachers’ demands had included a 20 percent raise, no new tax cuts until per pupil funding reaches the national average, competitive pay for educational support staff, and restoration of education funding to 2008 levels. Lawmakers have slashed education funding in the state since the Great Recession. State funding per student fell by 36.6 percent between 2008 and 2015, more than any other state. Teachers have also left the state for smaller class sizes and higher salaries.
On Thursday, House Democrats voted against the K-12 budget bill, which addressed teachers’ pay, because they said it didn’t go far enough to fund schools and pay raises, according to the Arizona Republic. Teachers watching the session reportedly approved of their vote by making jazz hands.
In a Facebook video on the Arizona Educators United page, which belongs to organizers of the walkout, kindergarten teacher Kelley Fisher assured teachers they were voting to support teachers.
“Their voting no has nothing to do with not wanting to give us a raise,” she said. “It has everything to do with this budget not taking care of our students.”
There are hundreds of #Red4Ed folks outside #azleg. The overflow rooms are full. On a typical budget night, this mall would be mostly empty, save for some lobbyists. @azcentral pic.twitter.com/64ZiWQET4N
— Rachel Leingang (@rachelleingang) May 3, 2018
During the session, state Senator Steve Farley (D) said he had never seen so many people in the gallery during the early morning hours of budget debate in the 12 years he has spent in the statehouse, according to Arizona Republic. To keep lawmakers accountable, teachers took photos of the vote count screen revealing how many lawmakers voted to increase funding for private prisons or voting against expanding the definition of a teacher.
Democrats offered a number of amendments that were supported by teachers, such as limiting classroom size to 25 students and setting a maximum student-to-counselor ratio. Another amendment widened the definition of a teacher to include librarians and counselors. All of the Democrats’ amendments failed.
Republicans offered amendments in response to the walkouts, which included an amendment from Rep. Kelly Townsend, which would have prohibited teachers in public schools from talking about or showing their political views during classroom time, and fined those who did. She also proposed an amendment to make it illegal to close schools with the exception of natural disasters and other dangers, according to the Arizona Republic. Both amendments failed.
Although Arizona Educated United, the coalition of teachers who have been organizing the walkouts, said the walkout would end after the budget passes, Phoenix New Times reports some teachers had reservations about that decision. Teachers told the publication that leaders caved into pressure from parents and other stakeholders too soon and that there wasn’t a vote similar to the one held to decide whether to walk out of classrooms.