Arizona teachers hope to return to class Thursday, ending walkout

Teachers in Arizona plan to end their historic statewide strike as early as Thursday.

Noah Karvelis, one of the organizers of Arizona Educators United, said the movement - and the strike that began this past Thursday- already has scored several key victories.

Gabriel Trujillo, superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District, the second-largest in the state, said he doesn't support the walkout because it takes teachers out of classrooms.

Phoenix teacher Rebecca Garelli, left, an Arizona Educators United member, is applauded after her announcement from protest organizers that teachers intend to go back to work as the statewide teachers strike enters a fourth day at the Arizona Capitol, Tuesday, May 1, 2018, in Phoenix.

As the teachers were marching on the Capitol, where Phoenix police estimated more than 50,000 people were present April 26, the education leaders questioned the governor and Legislature who adjourned until (April 30).

Teachers didn't get everything they wanted, but believe they made major inroads.

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.

Heather Fuentes, an administrative assistant in the Paradise Valley School District, gave an update on the walkout to about 80 parents and community members at a park.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed part of a state budget plan that provides more than $300 million in raises for numerous state's striking teachers.

The Senate was expected to begin floor debate on the budget at 8 p.m., and the House expected similar timing.

Most notably missing from what lawmakers are set to vote on today, at least from the perspective of the educators, is their demand that funding be restored to 2008 levels. And a top Republican lawmaker gave teachers credit for keeping the pressure on.

"We've been so involved in just getting to the point right now that we haven't had a second to even catch our breath and think about that right now, " he said. "Our track record of delivering that promise has not always been flawless, so I don't think they wasted their time". It would also restore $371 million of cut funding to pay for supplies, repairs, and some support staff salaries over the next five years.

In a tweet Wednesday, Ducey said he is ready to sign the bill. From its beginnings in West Virginia, it spread to Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona and most recently Colorado.

Teachers who had hoped to go back to work Thursday essentially extended their strike by a day to ensure they could continue pressuring the Legislature.

"We've got enough built in minutes to cover some time", said COCSD Superintendent Steve King.

He said the Republican-controlled Legislature agreed last month to extend the 0.6-cent sales tax for education beyond its 2020 expiration date.

"We are not slowing down, but there is a certain amount of paperwork and staff work that is going on behind the scenes", Mesnard said before calling the recess. Thomas said he's confident that educators and their supporters will remain mobilized.

The most obvious is an extra $2 million for "Freedom Schools" at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona that are backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, who support Ducey and are trying to add conservative political and economic schools at universities nationwide.

  • Kara Saunders