Walkout is over, teachers and students go back to school

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Pima was hit the hardest locally with the walkout but still only had two early release days as its teachers returned to work Tuesday. On Thursday, walkout organizers told teachers to return to class and that the walkout was finished after the Arizona Legislature agreed on a new budget and Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation granting a 19-percent teacher raise to take place over the next three years.

Teacher walkout over as Ducey grants raise and Legislature approves a new budget

By Jon Johnson

jonjohnsonnews@gmail.com

PHOENIX – The unprecedented (for Arizona) teacher walkout that affected more than 800,000 students statewide is over, according to organizers.

The #RedforEd movement had teachers walk out of classes last Thursday in a move to pressure lawmakers to devote more funding and resources to schools. With Governor Doug Ducey signing legislation granting teachers an average 19 percent pay increase over the following three years and the Arizona Legislature approving a new budget, the movement has told teachers to return to the classroom.

Hundreds of teachers had maintained a vigil at the Capitol as Democratic lawmakers failed to convince their Republican counterparts to provide increased funds for public education.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: A Red for Ed sign adorns Pima Elementary School. The walkout by Arizona teachers affected more than 800,000 students.

All of the school districts in Graham and Greenlee counties weathered the storm of missing teachers and continued to stay open during the strike while most schools in Pima and Maricopa counties were closed. The Pima School District in Graham County was the hardest hit locally, with roughly half of its teachers missing two days, in which the district implemented its early release schedule and found other ways to accommodate the students. For instance, since there were only a handful of sixth-grade students at the school Thursday, April 26, they were allowed to accompany the fifth-grade class on a previously scheduled field trip to Eastern Arizona College’s Discovery Park. Pima teachers returned to work Tuesday, as did those in the Vail School District just east of Tucson.

While the budget plan does not restore school funding to 2008 levels as sought, nor does it put limits on class sizes of 25 students per class, proponents say the movement shows how an organized walkout could be effective for change. In addition to the 19 percent raise, Ducey also approved $100 million in what he deemed as “flexible dollars” that schools can use in various ways, including increased pay for support staff who are not eligible for the teacher increase.

“Arizona teachers have earned a raise, and this plan delivers,” Ducey said.

The Gila Herald will update this article with local teacher reaction when possible.   

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