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Thousands of Arizona teachers join statewide walk-in to push for increased education funding

But Gov. Doug Ducey (R) says the teachers are playing "political games."

Scenes from Wednesday's walk-in in Tucson, Arizona. (Credit: Nikki Lee, Twitter)
Scenes from Wednesday's walk-in in Tucson, Arizona. (Credit: Nikki Lee, Twitter)

Thousands of teachers in Arizona participated in a state-wide “walk-in” Wednesday to call for increased education funding and teacher salary raises.

Teachers and students alike wore red and held #RedforEd signs as part of a grassroots movement to sway Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) and state lawmakers to consider five key demands, according to The Arizona Republic:

  • Restore education funding to what it was in 2008, with approximately $1 billion in new funding
  • Increase teacher salaries by 20 percent
  • Offer competitive pay for all educational support staff
  • Implement a permanent salary structure
  • Block new tax cuts until Arizona’s per-pupil funding is on par with the national average

Arizona is the latest state where teachers have rallied for more education funding, joining Oklahoma, Kentucky, and West Virginia in recent months. As ThinkProgress reporter Casey Quinlan previously reported, in many of these states, school funding is far below what it was before the Great Recession of 2008.

According to a March 2018 Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) report, Arizona and Oklahoma both cut taxes before the Great Recession and continued to do so afterward, which “squeezed state general fund dollars — the amount available to lawmakers to fund schools and other state priorities.” This squeeze has contributed to making Arizona schools the second-least adequately funded in the country. As The Arizona Republic reported, the state spent only $7,489 per pupil in 2015, a 34 percent difference from the national average of $11,392.

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The CBPP goes on to report that while most states eventually restored education funding after 2008, Arizona and Oklahoma have lagged behind. To make matters worse, the state faces major teacher shortages, largely due to low pay and minimal educational resources.

The walk-ins follow Tuesday’s teacher protests outside a Phoenix radio station, where about 300 teachers marched on the sidewalk while Gov. Ducey was on the air inside the studio. During his interview, Ducey said, according to The Arizona Republic, that he already increased teacher salaries and suggested that teachers weren’t paying attention because they were being swayed by a “political movement.”

Ducey also said that he was not interested in meeting with protesters from the #RedForEd movement.

“What I don’t want to do is get into these political operatives’ political circus,” he said on air, according to The Arizona Republic. “Why would I sit down with someone who wants to play games?”

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“This is not a political circus,” Lise Spangenthal, a teacher in the Tempe Elementary School District, told The Arizona Republic. “This is a bipartisan movement that is trying to get things settled for our kids, who deserve way better than what they’re getting right now.”

In a post in the group’s private Facebook page on Monday, organizers with the Arizona Educators United expressed their intention to plan a long-term walkout throughout the state.