New teacher protests erupt in Arizona, Colorado

The latests protests follow massive demonstrations by teachers in Oklahoma, who secured an average pay raise of $6,000 after 10 days of protests

Los Angeles (AFP) – Scores of teachers in the western US states of Arizona and Colorado turned out Thursday to demand salary and budget increases, in the latest in a wave of similar efforts across the country.

US media reported class was cancelled for 1.4 million schoolchildren as tens of thousands of teachers went on strike.

Social media images showed hundreds of teachers wearing red t-shirts as part of the “Red for Ed” movement, launched by grass-roots group Arizona Educators United to highlight the lack of funding and basic supplies in schools.

Arizona’s Republican governor Doug Ducey appealed to Congress in a statement for a “deserved” 20 percent pay raise for the state’s teachers.

“Without a doubt, teachers are some of the biggest difference-makers in the lives of Arizona children. They need to be respected, and rewarded, for the work they do — and Arizona can do better on this front,” he said.

Like Oklahoma, Arizona is a state where the education budget has been stripped to the bone in recent years — with cuts totaling $1 million since 2008, according to Arizona Educators United.

As for teachers’ salaries, Arizona is at the bottom of the ladder — with the average $47,660 salary coming in at $12,000 lower than the national average, according to a study by the National Education Association.

Meanwhile in Colorado, teachers take home slightly more, earning $53,768 per year.

Teachers in Oklahoma secured an average pay raise of $6,000 after 10 days of protests — but only a portion of their funding demands were met. The demonstrators had been spurred into action by a previous strike in West Virginia that resulted in a five percent salary increase.

The strikes have mainly taken place in Republican states where education has suffered at the hands of promised tax cuts, particularly since the 2008 financial crisis. Only Colorado is the exception.

In the US, states and local authorities fund education, with the federal government only chipping in with subsidies for disabled children, for example.