US teachers end Arizona walkout after winning pay raise

Thousands of Arizona teachers march through downtown Phoenix on their way to the State Capitol as part of a rally for on April 26, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona
AFP

Los Angeles (AFP) – Arizona teachers ended their five-day walkout Thursday after lawmakers approved a 20-percent pay raise, in the latest protest by US educators over public school funding.  

“Signed. Teacher raises are on the way,” tweeted Republican Governor Doug Ducey, who had advocated for the increase in response to demonstrators’ demands. 

Ducey posted a video of him ratifying a budget bill passed during the night by the Southwestern state’s Republican-controlled legislature. 

“This is a big win for Arizona students, teachers and for public education.” he added, with the hashtag #20×2020 to signify that the increase would be 20 percent by 2020. 

The Arizona Education Association (AEU), which organized the demonstrations that brought 850,000 teachers to the streets since last Thursday, tweeted that “the education budget has been passed and signed.” 

The organization called for an “end to the walkout.” 

The state’s Democratic lawmakers, however, expressed skepticism over whether the promised pay raises would be possible without additional sources of revenue.

“If school boards use part of this money for support staff, then there’s not enough to give teachers the promised 20-percent raise,” state House Democrats said in a statement.  

In addition to teachers’ salary increases, the AEU also asked for a review of cuts to the education budget over the past decade. 

Arizona is, along with Oklahoma, one of the states where education funding has suffered the most in recent years (with a $1 billion cut since 2008, according to the AEU). 

The Southwestern state is near the bottom of the 50-state salary range for teachers, who average $47,660 a year there — $12,000 less than the national average, according to a study by the National Education Association. 

With state governments the primary sources of public education funding in the US, teachers in several Republican-dominated states have recently protested for more funding after years of cuts. 

In Oklahoma, teachers recently earned an average pay increase of $6,000 a year, but still staged a two-week strike that won them even more concessions. 

In West Virginia, a teacher protest resulted in a five-percent salary hike, while protests in Kentucky also resulted in additional school funding. 

Massive strikes also took place in Colorado last week. And, a new movement is developing in North Carolina, where a teacher walkout is scheduled for May 16. 

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