Arizona teachers plan walk-ins demanding pay raise, additional education funding

Teachers participating in Red for Ed marched at the Arizona State Capitol chanting, “better pay, so we stay!” (Photo by Melina Zuniga/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Some Arizona classrooms will open their doors and hallways Tuesday night for walk-ins rather than walkouts to protest the lack of education funding in the state. More walk-ins are scheduled for Wednesday morning. Educators hope parents and other community members come to schools to show that Arizonans support their cause.

The walk-ins are being held days after educators rallied at the state Capitol as part of the Red for Ed movement.

Last month, West Virginia teachers, support staff and police officers won a 5 percent pay raise after teacher walkouts closed classrooms statewide for nine consecutive school days. Since then, educators in Arizona, Oklahoma and Kentucky also have hosted rallies or walkouts, demanding better pay and more education funding.

Oklahoma and Kentucky educators’ demands have yet to be met.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on March 29 signed a bill that increased average teacher pay by $6,000, added $50 million to education spending and granted a $1,250 average pay raise to educational support staff. Although they did receive a raise, teachers continued to rally at their state Capitol Tuesday because they say the raise isn’t enough.

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In Kentucky, educators called in sick to work Monday to protest the passage of a Senate bill that changed their pension plan so that: annual cost of living adjustments would remain at 1.5 percent; a limit would be placed on the number of sick days educators can count toward their retirement; and new hires would need to enter into a hybrid cash-balance plan meaning the value for each participant’s benefits would be determined by individual accounts.

In Arizona, teachers have demanded a 20 percent pay increase, the restoration of education funding to 2008 levels, competitive pay for support staff in schools, a permanent ladder for wage increases based on experience and a suspension of tax cuts until the state’s per-pupil funding reaches the national average. Leaders estimated Arizona spends $3,300 less per student.

Median salaries for Arizona teachers are about $47,000, according to a 2017 analysis by the ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy. Pay for high-school teachers ranks 49th in the U.S., slightly above elementary-school teachers, who rank 50th, the analysis from the Arizona State University institute shows.

Cronkite News reporter Chris McCrory contributed to this article.

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