'This fight is for your child': Education leaders speak the evening before walkout

Posted: Updated:
Noah Karvelis speaks to the media on Wednesday. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Noah Karvelis speaks to the media on Wednesday. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

On the eve of Arizona's historic statewide teacher walkout, the head of the Arizona Education Association said teachers are "in it for the long haul" and the strike will continue until the legislature passes a budget that meets their demands.

"For 10 years we've waited for the legislature and the governor to restore funding. For 10 years we've waited for action and we've not seen anything," said AEA president Joe Thomas. "Tomorrow we will lift our voices in a way they cannot ignore."

Thomas and other leaders of the Red for Ed movement made their case for the final time Wednesday afternoon before thousands of teachers are expected to walk out Thursday to protest low education funding in the state. Dozens of school districts have already announced they will close.

"We can't continue to have our schools be underfunded," said Noah Karvelis, who helped organize Arizona Educators United, the grass-roots group that pushed the Red for Ed movement on social media. "Enough is enough. We can't take it anymore."

Karvelis said he expects the walkout to continue Friday and extend into next week.

"We haven't seen the answers we need," he said.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona schools in crisis]

Organizers reiterated that they want more than just teacher pay raises and want raises for all staff, as well as funding for public education back up to 2008 levels.

The educators blasted Gov. Doug Ducey and the state Legislature for not meeting their demands.

[RELATED: Q&A: How walkout by Arizona teachers is expected to play out]

"Parents have offered their encouragement and implored us to not to settle for an election year gimmick that does nothing to help their students," said Alexis Aguirre, a teacher at Osborn Public Schools.

Tens of thousands of teachers are expected to walk out and march in downtown Phoenix, from Chase Field to the state Capitol. Organizers urged parents and other supporters to join the downtown demonstration.

"This fight is for your child," said Thomas.

[RELATED: Arizona teachers vote to walk out on Thursday, April 26 over education funding]

Ducey released a plan earlier this month that he says would give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020 and promised to give more funding to education.

[READ MORE: Gov. Doug Ducey proposes teacher pay increase of 9% this year, 20% by 2020]

State Senate President Steve Yarbrough released a statement on Wednesday saying the Legislature is working to increase funding for support staff, school improvements and technology. But he doesn't support the strike.

[RELATED: 'Stay on the job!' AZ school superintendent urges teachers not to strike]

"It is unfortunate that many teachers are apparently preparing to strike, walking out on the students and forcing schools to close their doors. The children are the real victims of a strike," said Yarbrough. "While the schools close, the Legislature remains open, with leaders attempting to complete their task to bring the teachers significantly better pay."

Red for Ed organizers again called on lawmakers to meet with to discuss plans to fund teacher pay raises. Thomas said Gov. Ducey has ignored their requests.

He also said organizers may consider a funding initiative on the ballot if lawmakers don't pass a sufficient plan on their own.

Dozens of school districts have said they will close for at least Thursday, April 26 and Friday, April 27.

[RELATED: Arizona school districts release plans for teacher walkout]

No school district has said it would fire educators who strike or revoke teaching certificates.

Teachers in some districts have been advised to take personal leave time to participate.

Below is Yarbrough's full statement.

"Republicans in the State Senate are unified in committing to a 20% pay raise for our outstanding teachers. We also recognize the need for continuing to build on the education funding increases of recent years for support staff, school improvements and technology. We have been hard at work with House leadership and the Governor in finalizing a state budget that includes these priorities. We stand with our teachers and have a plan to bring them the raise they deserve.

It is unfortunate that many teachers are apparently preparing to strike, walking out on the students and forcing schools to close their doors. The children are the real victims of a strike.

While the schools close, the Legislature remains open, with leaders attempting to complete their task to bring the teachers significantly better pay. We hear their frustration. Our hope is that the teachers who choose to walk out on their children will return to their classrooms, so that students can learn and complete their school year."

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.