'I hear them loud and clear' AZ House Speaker says lawmakers working to meet teacher demands

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Arizona House Speaker JD Mesnard speaks about building a state budget to meet teacher demands for more school funding and better pay. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Arizona House Speaker JD Mesnard speaks about building a state budget to meet teacher demands for more school funding and better pay. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Arizona House Speaker J.D. Mesnard said the Arizona Legislature will be working through the weekend to make Gov. Doug Ducey's teacher pay plan a reality and to meet the teachers' demands.  

As thousands rallied for better teacher pay and more school funding outside the Capitol on Thursday, lawmakers issued an adjournment for both the House and the Senate, meaning they were not on the floor. 

[READ MORE: 50,000 AZ teachers & supporters march, rally in historic strike]

Mesnard says that does not mean that they have stopped working. 

"We're hard at work right now, we will be today and through the weekend, whatever it takes so that we can get to a resolution on the budget and make 20 percent by 2020 a reality," Mesnard told Arizona's Family Friday morning. 

Mesnard said both the Arizona House and Senate are working to make a complete budget for the entire state. Because of the school crisis, their goal is to come to a resolution by Monday.

[RELATED: Governor to Arizonans: Tell your legislators to vote for proposed teacher pay raise]

"So we're trying to put a whole budget together, of which this [teacher pay] is the biggest piece and actually I think we have a lot of agreement on this. Everyone around here is talking about 20 percent by 2020, I'm confident that's going to occur...but we have...to put an entire state budget together," Mesnard said.

Mesnard said lawmakers are working to meet the teachers' demands, which are not just to raise their pay, but to increase school funding. 

"We're going to invest hundreds of millions of dollars of additional resources above and beyond inflation that goes to supplies and other areas that are critical to education," Mesnard said.

[READ MORE: Diane Douglas asking teachers to return to the classroom amid walkouts]

Teachers have been asking lawmakers to bring funding back to 2008 levels, which was the height of funding for education in Arizona. Mesnard said lawmakers are working toward that goal.

"It's going to be $1.5 billion or more investment over the coming years. That is massive. That'll put us back in the vicinity of where we were in 2008 which was the height of the height, it's what folks have been asking for," Mesnard said. "So it's a huge accomplishment...I hear them loud and clear."

Mesnard said he is hopeful that lawmakers will come to a resolution soon, so the budget can be drafted and voted on by both the House and the Senate. If a resolution is reached Friday, it is a possibility that the budget could be voted on by Monday. 

Meanwhile, teachers and leaders of the Red For Ed movement have announced that they will continue their walkouts and rallies on Monday and most school districts will remain closed.

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

[READ MORE: Where to take your child during teacher walkouts]

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