Arizona teachers return to Capitol before walkout ends

Posted: Updated:
Teacher Noah Karvelis, right, speaks during a news conference prior to protest organizers announcing their intention to go back to work as the statewide teachers strike enters a fourth day at the Arizona Capitol. (Source: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Teacher Noah Karvelis, right, speaks during a news conference prior to protest organizers announcing their intention to go back to work as the statewide teachers strike enters a fourth day at the Arizona Capitol. (Source: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
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. (Source: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) 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. (Source: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Teacher protest organizers Joe Thomas, right, president of the Arizona Education Association, and Noah Karvelis, left, who helped organize Arizona Educators United, arrive at a news conference. (Source: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Teacher protest organizers Joe Thomas, right, president of the Arizona Education Association, and Noah Karvelis, left, who helped organize Arizona Educators United, arrive at a news conference. (Source: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Teacher Taylor Dutro listens as protest organizers announce Arizona teachers intentions to go back to work if lawmakers pass a school funding plan, during the fourth day of the statewide teachers’ strike. (Source: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Teacher Taylor Dutro listens as protest organizers announce Arizona teachers intentions to go back to work if lawmakers pass a school funding plan, during the fourth day of the statewide teachers’ strike. (Source: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Arizona teacher Aurelia Ionescu, front right, chants with other teachers as protest organizers announce their intention to go back to work as the state-wide teachers strike enters a fourth day. (Source: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona teacher Aurelia Ionescu, front right, chants with other teachers as protest organizers announce their intention to go back to work as the state-wide teachers strike enters a fourth day. (Source: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
PHOENIX (AP) -

Arizona educators have said they will gather in their red T-shirts at the state Capitol for a fifth and final day of a statewide walkout on Wednesday, when the Republican-controlled Legislature is expected to pass a budget that still doesn’t meet their demands.

Organizers of the #RedforEd movement said they plan to return to their classrooms on Thursday, providing the budget is approved. The funding plan includes a proposal to increase teacher salaries that was spearheaded by Gov. Doug Ducey and opposed by the so-called #RedforEd movement.

[READ MORE: Striking teachers commit to return to school Thursday if state budget is passed]

Once lawmakers began taking procedural steps to pass a budget in the past several days, educators had to change their tactics, said Arizona Education Association president Joe Thomas.

“The writing is on the wall, they’re going to ignore the students and teachers and plight of the schools, and they’re going to put through the budget they want,” he said.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona schools in crisis]

Now, the movement will pivot to longer-term efforts, like a ballot initiative to create an increased funding stream and electing lawmakers who support public education funding. Thomas said he’s confident that educators and their supporters will remain mobilized.

“We have so many people now that are paying attention to what’s going on, they will never turn away from this fight now,” he said. “They understand that there are people down here who do not care as much about students as they care.”

[RELATED: Arizona lawmakers move to pass raises for striking teachers]

The Republican-backed $10.4 billion budget doesn’t come near the $1 billion in new funding that the #RedforEd campaign demanded in order to see public education funding restored to pre-Great Recession levels. But it does boost education funding by more than $300 million, said Noah Karvelis, a music teacher and organizer with Arizona Educators United — and much of that money wasn’t involved in the spending plan until the movement started.

“A month ago, this governor was ignoring our voices,” he said.

Karvelis helped create Arizona Educators United with other teachers after a strike in West Virginia yielded a 5 percent pay raise.

Educators in Arizona voted in support of a statewide walkout after Ducey proposed his plan to gives teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020, a plan which includes a 9 percent raise in the coming year. They said it relied on fuzzy math, ignored the salaries of support staff and failed to address much-need classroom funding needs.

[RELATED: Gov. Doug Ducey releases open letter about education budget]

Ducey’s plan has support from a litany of education groups including the Arizona School Administrators Association, the Arizona School Boards Association, and the Arizona Charter Schools Association, as well as other business and education groups.

“This budget supports Arizona’s top priorities by improving the public education system and rewarding our teachers,” Ducey tweeted out on Tuesday in support of his plan.

[RAW VIDEO: Teacher walkout organizers announce they are returning to work]

The walkout began on Thursday, April 26 and closed a majority of school districts. Some smaller districts began to open their doors on Monday, while others announced they’d be closed for as long as the walkout continued.

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

While hundreds of thousands of students were left without a class to attend, churches, day camps and community organizations opened their doors to provide child care for working parents — some for free. Teachers also organized food drives for students who rely on free and reduced lunch.

Rebecca Garelli, another Arizona Educators United Organizer, said she was proud of “the powerful movement we have created.”

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

© 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.