AZ teachers increase protests and rallies; threat of strike looming

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Arizona teachers aren't ready to walk out of the classroom yet, but they are taking one step closer to going on strike.

A number of rallies, protests, and walk-ins are planned on campuses across the state.

Lisa Robbins is like a lot of Arizona moms keeping a close eye on what's going on, because she knows that if teachers go on strike, parents will either have to stay home from work or find a place to take their kids.

"They would have to scramble to get care, and they probably don't have the means to pay for that kind of childcare all day, for days and days," said Robbins.

But just how likely is it that Arizona teachers would walk out of the classroom in their fight for higher pay?

[RELATED: AZ teachers wear red in push for pay raise; future strike a possibility]

Dawn Penich-Thacker with Save our Schools said it's a very real possibility, if state lawmakers ignore their demands for a pay raise.

Arizona currently ranks near the bottom nationwide when it comes to teacher salaries.

[INFOGRAPHICS: Average teacher salaries nationwide | Average teacher salaries in Arizona]

[SPECIAL SECTION: Schools in crisis]

"If it comes to it, I know there are folks who are ready to go down the path to a strike," said Penich-Thacker. "But again, teachers don't want to do that. Teachers love the classroom and want to be there. We would rather put all that energy and time and brain power into finding a solution, not stopping the system in its tracks."

Last week, the group Arizona Educators United held a rally at the state Capitol, where organizers demanded a 20-percent pay hike.

[RELATED: Arizona teachers demand 20 percent raises during statewide protests]

That's a figure AZ Senate President Steve Yarbrough (R - Chandler) said is unrealistic, considering the Governor is proposing a one-percent teacher pay raise.

Yarbrough does not think a strike is a good idea.

"They shouldn't walk out because they have contracts and it would be the wrong thing to do," said Yarbrough. "Going out and leaving students not learning; that's not a good idea."

Penich-Thacker said that they are looking to determine if enough teachers would support a strike and if there is enough support from the public.

If it comes to it, I know there are folks who are ready to go down the path to a strike. But again, teachers don't want to do that. Teachers love the classroom and want to be there. We would rather put all that energy and time and brain power into finding a solution, not stopping the system in its tracks.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Arizona teachers to lay out salary demands at state capitol]

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Jason Barry
Jason Barry has been reporting in the Valley since 1997.

Click to learn more about Jason.

Jason Barry

Jason Barry has been reporting in the Valley since 1997.

He is a nine-time Rocky Mountain Emmy Award winner who is best known for his weekly Dirty Dining reports, which highlight local restaurants with major health code violations.

Jason was born in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Miami.

An avid sports fan, Jason follows the Diamondbacks, Cardinals and Suns with his wife, Karen, and son, Joshua.

His favorite stories to cover are the station’s Pay it Forward segments, which reward members of the community with $500 for going ‘above and beyond’ the call of duty to help others.

Jason, started his career at WBTW-TV in Florence, SC before moving to WALA-TV in Mobile, AL, was named the Associated Press Reporter of the Year in 2002.

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