The Latest: Arizona teachers hold vigil as lawmakers debate

The Latest: Arizona teachers hold vigil as lawmakers debate
The Associated Press

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

10 p.m.

Hundreds of Arizona educators lit candles and sang hymns under the lights of the Capitol complex as lawmakers debated a state budget plan that hikes teacher pay but doesn’t address other school funding demands.

Educators in red shirts cheered and jeered Wednesday night inside the legislative chambers where lawmakers were in the early stages of debating a Republican-backed $10.4 billion spending plan.

Teachers have been on a statewide strike that could extend into Thursday even if lawmakers pass the budget.

Arizona Educators United organizer Noah Karvelis said it was up to teachers and their districts whether they want to stay closed. When many teachers began to call in absences for Thursday, some districts had to close.

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4:40 p.m.

Some Arizona school districts will stay closed during a statewide walkout by teachers.

Teachers say they’ll continue their job action and rally at the state Capitol as the state Legislature moves to pass a budget bill that would give them big raises.

They’re also pushing lawmakers for other considerations such as a 10 percent raise for support staff.

The Peoria Unified School District said it would close Thursday after it previously said it would re-open.

The Glendale Union High School District and Phoenix Elementary School District #1, also announced they would close Thursday.

Some districts re-opened this week after determining they had enough staff to provide a safe learning environment.

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4 p.m.

Leaders of an Arizona teachers strike are telling educators to stay out of school again Thursday and come to the state Capitol because the Legislature still hasn’t begun debating a budget bill that would give them big raises.

Arizona Educators United organizers Dylan Wegela and Rebecca Garelli told members on a Facebook Live video Wednesday afternoon that they need to keep the pressure on lawmakers. The group had said they would call off the nearly week-old strike if the budget passed.

Many schools plan to re-open Thursday, and it remains unclear if the developments at the Capitol will change that.

Majority Republican leaders in House and Senate have been working to fine-tune the budget deal all day and expect debate to start debate Wednesday evening with votes to follow.

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3:40 p.m.

An Arizona House committee has approved the final bill in a budget package, setting the stage for the full House to debate the spending plan that awards striking teachers a big raise but falls short of meeting other demands.

The bill was approved Wednesday afternoon with support only from majority Republicans.

A key leader of the grassroots #RedforEd movement that called the strike over low teacher pay wasn’t allowed to address the appropriations committee. But Democratic Rep. Randall Friese read Noah Karvelis’ remarks where he praised striking teachers for getting big wins in the budget.

The letter said the movement “created the largest increase in school funding since the recession, but it’s still not enough.”

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1:50 p.m.

Thousands of striking Arizona teachers are marching around the state Capitol complex as they await debate on a state budget that gives them big raises but falls short of meeting other demands.

Wednesday marked the fifth day of the strike that has led to schools closures affecting the majority of the state’s 1.1 million schoolchildren.

The grassroots group that called the strike says teachers will go back to their classrooms Thursday if the budget passes. But the Republican-controlled House and Senate hadn’t started its budget debate, although leaders still hoped to act on the $10.4 billion budget package late Wednesday.

Avondale middle school teacher Scott Gebbie says he hopes to be back in class Thursday but will keep striking if there is no movement on the budget.

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7:10 a.m.

Arizona teachers are back at the state Capitol where the state Legislature is expected to pass a new budget to fund teacher raises.

Red-clad teachers in the #RedforEd movement gathered Wednesday on the mall between the House and Senate buildings a day before their historic walkout for education funding is set to end.

The spending plan doesn’t meet the teachers’ demands for $1 billion in new education funding.

But it does provide salary increases and other additional education funding.

Teachers walked out last week hoping they could demand more funding from Gov. Doug Ducey and Republican lawmakers.

When the plan started moving through the legislature, they said they’d go back to school and figure out new ways to keep the momentum going.

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11:25 p.m.

Arizona teachers say they will rally for one last day at the state Capitol for before ending their historic walkout for education funding.

Teachers in the #RedforEd movement said they’ll return to class on Thursday after the state Legislature is expected to pass a budget on Wednesday.

The spending plan doesn’t meet the teachers’ demands for $1 billion in new education funding. But it does provide salary increases and other additional education funding.

Teachers walked out last week hoping they could demand more funding from Gov. Doug Ducey and Republican lawmakers.

When the plan started moving through the legislature, they said they’d go back to school and figure out new ways to keep the momentum going.

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