Arizona approves big teacher raises, could end 5-day strike
PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona lawmakers pulled an all-nighter today to enact a budget that provides big raises for many of the state's striking teachers, potentially ending the five-day walkout that kept more than a million public school students out of the classroom.
The Senate passed the pay raises just before dawn, and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey immediately signed off on the plan to give teachers a 9 percent raise in the fall and 5 percent in each of the next two years. A 1 percent raise had already been approved, so the teachers will get a 20 percent overall increase over four years.
The striking teachers, who are among the lowest paid in the country, kept watch at the state Capitol all night, packing the House and Senate galleries during the debate and holding a candlelight vigil in a courtyard.
Organizers of the strike had called for classes to resume Thursday if the budget passed. But many large districts ended up canceling school for a sixth straight day as the lawmakers worked through the night.
One of the state's largest districts, in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, announced shortly after the budget passed that schools would reopen Friday. Other districts seemed likely to follow later in the day.
A decade of education cuts had sliced deeply into the Arizona schools.
The funding package fell short of demands for more overall school funding. Teachers sought a return to pre-recession funding levels, regular raises, competitive pay for support staff and a pledge not to adopt any tax cuts until per-pupil funding reaches the national average.
Ducey said in a statement that teachers had "earned a raise, and this plan delivers." The pay increases will cost about $300 million for the coming year alone.
Phoenix-area teacher Rebecca Wilson was among those who camped out in the Capitol overnight.
"I'm glad it passed and we'll get something because I'm a single mom of three kids, but it's not enough," she told Phoenix-area radio station KTAR.