The Latest: Arizona teachers gather at ballpark before march

The Latest: Arizona teachers gather at ballpark before march
The Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) — The Latest on teacher protests in Arizona and Colorado (all times local):

10:40 a.m.

Thousands of teachers in red shirts are descending on Phoenix’s baseball park, where they will gather before marching to the Arizona Capitol to demand more education funding.

Many carried #RedforEd signs Thursday or those saying, “Fund our future” and “Ducey, you’re out of your element,” referring to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

The leader of the state’s largest teacher membership group said the goal of the march and rally is to get lawmakers and the governor to restore funding to pre-recession levels, a boost of about $1 billion.

Joe Thomas of the Arizona Education Association said Ducey could help solve the issue but is playing politics.

Ducey is asking parents to push lawmakers to approve his plan for 20 percent teacher raises by 2020. Teachers say his plan doesn’t help support staff or provide needed resources for classrooms.

He says he has no plans to meet with striking teachers and or address their other demands.

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10:40 a.m.

A key Arizona legislative leader says a budget deal that could provide money for teachers is likely still at least several days away and a statewide strike won’t spur immediate action.

Republican Sen. John Kavanagh said Thursday that Gov. Doug Ducey’s 20 percent teacher raise by 2020 is a given in the budget plan but there are still issues about how it will be structured.

The chairman of the Senate appropriation committee also says about a dozen other budget issues such as aid to rural counties and boosting funding for disability providers still need to be decided.

Kavanagh says he’ll tell striking teachers who plan to flood the Capitol on Thursday that the raise is on the table but other budget issues exist, too.

The Republican governor says he has no plans to meet with striking teachers and isn’t planning to address their other demands.

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9:24 a.m.

At least 20 children with no school Thursday because of an Arizona teacher walkout played in the game room and gym of a Salvation Army community center at a special day camp in Phoenix.

Addie Martinez dropped off her 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter before rushing off to her job as a medical assistant.

Despite the inconvenience, Martinez supports the teachers because “they are educating our future.”

Martinez says the kids are nervous and excited to spend the day at the rec center. She expects to take them there Friday and next week.

The facility is prepared to host up to 100 kids and provide breakfast, lunch and snacks at $25 per child.

Activities include arts and crafts and dodgeball.

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9:09 a.m.

Hundreds of Colorado teachers are marching around the state Capitol in Denver.

They are repeating chants like “Education is our right” and “We’re not gonna take it anymore,” and drawing honks from passing cars.

Backers of an initiative to raise taxes to fund schools are in the crowd collecting signatures to put it on November’s ballot.

Colorado lawmakers can’t raise taxes on their own so no immediate increases for schools or teachers are expected.

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9:07 a.m.

The leader of an Arizona teachers union says he doesn’t expect any early end to the unprecedented teacher walkout that started Thursday.

Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas told Phoenix television station KTVK that Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s unwillingness to meet with leaders of the teachers group causes him to believe they “will be out for a while.”

The union is allied with the grassroots teachers group that called Thursday’s statewide walkout.

Ducey told the station during a separate interview that he’s “not ignoring anyone” but is focused on meeting with state legislators to push his plan for a 20 percent pay raise by 2020.

Thomas and other teachers say Ducey’s plan is too narrow and doesn’t include enough of a general increase in education funding.

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8:35 a.m.

Hundreds of Colorado teachers are rallying outside the state Capitol in Denver, on Thursday morning as they seek more school funding.

The rally is the first part of a two-day protest expected to draw over 10,000 teachers to the Capitol.

Many are wearing red as part of the #RedforEd Campaign. Some were holding signs, such as “Straight Outta Funding.” Another read “Standing Room Only” with faces of kids crowded onto it.

Passers-by blew their car horns.

The actions come as lawmakers have agreed to give schools their largest budget increase since the recession. But teachers say that the state has a long way to go to make up for lost ground.

Teachers in Arizona are also protesting Thursday, forcing many schools to close.

The rallies follow recent teacher protests in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky.

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8:05 a.m.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is asking parents to push state legislators to approve his plan for a 20 percent teacher pay raise by 2020.

Ducey’s plea Thursday comes as public school teachers begin an unprecedented walkout that has closed numerous schools, including some of the state’s largest.

Many majority Republicans in the Legislature question where the money might come from, while organizers of the walkout say the plan relies on rosy revenue projections and doesn’t address their other issues.

The Republican governor released a statement asking parents to call their legislators to tell them to vote “yes” on his plan, which hasn’t yet been formally proposed in legislation in the state House or Senate.

Ducey’s statement says teachers need to be respected and rewarded for their work and that “Arizona can do better on this front.”

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7:03 a.m.

An unprecedented statewide job walkout by Arizona teachers is underway, with many districts across the state closing public schools.

Large districts that are closing schools because teachers are off the job to protest for increased education funding include Phoenix Union High School District and Mesa and Tucson unified school districts.

Tens of thousands of teachers and supporters are expected to participate in a midday march to the state Capitol in Phoenix where a rally will be held near legislative buildings.

It’s not known how long the walkout will last.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has laid out a plan for a 20 percent teacher pay raise by 2020, but organizers of the so-called #RedforEd movement are pushing for $1 billion in new education funding and other demands.

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6:46 a.m.

Preparations are underway in Phoenix for a large rally of teachers participating in an unprecedented statewide job walkout to march to the Arizona state Capitol where a rally will be held.

Crews are at the Capitol erecting an outdoor stage for the midday rally Thursday during which teachers and their supporters will demand increase education funding.

The event will take place near legislative buildings where state lawmakers will be in session.

The rally will be preceded by a march from downtown Phoenix. The grass-roots group organizing the job action estimates that between 30,000 and 50,000 teachers and their supporters will participate.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has laid out a plan for a 20 percent teacher pay raise by 2020, but organizers of the so-called #RedforEd movement are pushing for $1 billion in new education funding and other demands.

6:37 a.m.

Over 10,000 Colorado teachers are expected to rally in Denver on Thursday and Friday for more school funding, cancelling classes for over half of the state’s students.

The teachers are using personal time to demonstrate and no large scale strike is planned like those seen in other states recently.

The actions come as lawmakers have agreed to give schools their largest budget increase since the recession. But teachers say that the state has a long way to go to make up for lost ground.

Since lawmakers don’t have the power to raise taxes without asking voters, they’re not expecting an immediate fix. The teachers’ union is backing a ballot initiative to raise taxes on people earning more than $150,000 a year and corporations.

They’re also watching changes made to the state’s pension system.

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11:20 p.m.

Tens of thousands of teachers will descend on the Arizona state Capitol for an unprecedented job action that will close schools for a majority of the state’s public school students, part of an educator uprising that’s now bubbled up in Colorado.

Around 30,000 to 50,000 teachers and their supporters are expected to march through downtown Phoenix and demand increased education funding. Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has laid out a plan for a 20 percent teacher pay raise by 2020. But organizers of the so-called #RedforEd movement are pushing for $1 billion in new education funding and other demands.

In Colorado, more than 10,000 teachers are expected to demonstrate in Denver. About half of the student population will have shuttered schools as a result.

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