Teacher walkout officially over after Gov. Ducey signed education bills

Posted: Updated:
(Source: Gov. Doug Ducey via Twitter) (Source: Gov. Doug Ducey via Twitter)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

"We will return to our schools." The teacher walkout is officially over.

In a Facebook video, Red for Ed organizers say now that Gov. Ducey has signed the education funding and teacher pay bill, they'll head back to class on Friday. 

"When we started this movement, Arizona educators pledged to keep fighting for the schools their students deserve until the end, and we were true to our word,"  Joe Thomas, the Arizona Education Association president, and Lily Eskelsen García, the National Education Association president, said in a joint statement. "We will return to our schools, classrooms, and students knowing that we have achieved something truly historic. We should take pride in what we have accomplished, and in the movement that we have created together." 

Arizona lawmakers worked through Wednesday night and into Thursday morning to pass an education funding and teacher pay bill.

Gov. Ducey signed the bill early Thursday morning.

Gov. Doug Ducey’s signature awarded teachers a 9 percent raise in the fall and 5 percent in each of the next two years. The 20 percent also includes a 1 percent raise granted last year.

Teachers did not get everything they wanted, but they won substantial gains from reluctant lawmakers.

[READ MORE: Arizona lawmakers begin budget debate]

“I want to commend the Legislature and the Governor for working hard, under difficult circumstances, to pass a budget that makes significant improvements for Arizona students and schools," Diane Douglas, Arizona's superintendent of public instruction, said in a statement.

The new legislation comes after six days of teacher walkouts and school closures and weeks of protesting in the #RedForEd movement. 

[RELATED: Dozens of 'walk-ins' planned at Phoenix-area schools]

“The educators have solved the education crisis! They’ve changed the course of Arizona” Noah Karvelis of Arizona Educators United shouted to several thousand cheering teachers. “The change happens with us!”

The Arizona walkout is part of a simmering national rebellion over low teacher pay. The movement started in West Virginia, where a strike resulted in a raise, and spread to Oklahoma, Kentucky and, most recently, Colorado.

Organizers of the strike had called for classes to resume Thursday if the budget passed. But many large districts canceled school for a sixth straight day while lawmakers worked through the night.

[READ MORE: Arizona teachers vow to end strike if funding plan passes]

One of those large districts, in Scottsdale, announced shortly after the budget passed that schools would reopen Friday. Other districts seemed likely to follow.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona Schools in Crisis]

The $10.4 billion budget plan for the entire state provides more than $300 million in raises for the state's striking teachers in the coming year alone. Ducey said in a video he tweeted that $100 million of that money will go specifically to support staff. 

Ducey said the teachers had earned a raise and praised the legislation as “a real win” for both teachers and students. 

"This is a real win for our teachers, for our kids, for our educators in the classroom and we're grateful for your help in getting this over the finish line," Ducey said. "We're excited that it's a bipartisan bill and it's time to do this."

Ducey released a statement Thursday morning saying the bill represents an increase of more than $1 billion in education spending when fully implemented. 

A decade of education cuts had sliced deeply into Arizona's schools.

[RELATED: Arizona teachers rally at Capitol as lawmakers negotiate]

The 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.

The package provides the state’s schools with a partial restoration of nearly $400 million in recession-era cuts, with a promise to restore the rest in five years. Other cuts remain in place.

“We recognize the issues being debated at the State Capitol are not easy," Eileen Sigmund, the Arizona Charter Schools Association president and CEO, said in a statement. Throughout this process, our No. 1 focus has been ensuring our teachers and students get the resources and support they need and deserve. Today, we are proud to support a budget plan that delivers.

Freeing up the extra money required cuts and maneuvers across several parts of the budgets, including raids on special funds like one that helps clean up pollution from leaking underground gasoline storage tanks.

Much of the added cash comes from an unexpected boost in revenue that appeared in the first quarter of the year because the economy has finally heated up. As of March 31, the state took in more than $330 million more than expected in tax revenue.

Statement: Joe Thomas, Arizona Education Association president and Lily Eskelsen García, National Education Association president 

“When we started this movement, Arizona educators pledged to keep fighting for the schools their students deserve until the end, and we were true to our word. We will return to our schools, classrooms, and students knowing that we have achieved something truly historic. We should take pride in what we have accomplished, and in the movement that we have created together. 

"We recognize that we weren’t alone in this fight. There are far too many supporters to single out, but we are grateful for the support of parents, students, and the communities for standing with the #RedForEd movement. We also appreciate lawmakers who stood with us. 

"The #RedforEd fight continues. And since lawmakers aren’t getting the job done, we will. Today, we will rally at the Capitol. And over the next few days we will provide additional details about next steps.” 

Statement: Diane Douglas, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction

“I want to commend the Legislature and the Governor for working hard, under difficult circumstances, to pass a budget that makes significant improvements for Arizona students and schools. Many goals outlined in my State of Education address were achieved.

“Prop 301 was extended in a bi-partisan fashion, avoiding a fiscal cliff. Teachers will see a twenty-percent (20%) pay increase over the next three years. There will also be a more than three-hundred and fifty million dollar ($ 350 Million)  increase to the additional assistance fund – that helps schools with facilities and raises for support staff. We also have ongoing IT finding [sic], that is needed to maintain our student information system. These were all important victories for our students and schools.

“Over the past several years, we have turned the large ship of Arizona Education in a better direction. Common Core standards have been replaced. Teachers and support staff will be getting meaningful raises. There will be more money for facilities. Most of our IT systems have been moved into the twenty-first century.

“Make no mistake, there is still much work to do. We are in the process of updating our Science and Social Science and History standards.  Our School Finance IT system is on an operating system that is antiquated and must be addressed. I am optimistic that those are challenges we can meet in the future. I feel we have made great strides towards the world class [sic] education system we want and that Arizona parents and students deserve.”

STATEMENT: Eileen Sigmund, Arizona Charter Schools Association president and CEO

“This is a great day for Arizona schools. The Arizona Charter Schools Association applauds this state budget deal that makes vital investments in Arizona’s public schools, students and teachers.
 
“Specifically, we are grateful for the inclusion of the Governor’s plan to give Arizona’s teachers a 20 percent pay increase by 2020, while making a commitment to fully restore most recession-era K-12 cuts over the next five years. This funding not only will help schools recruit and retain the best teachers – it also will provide hundreds of millions of new dollars to Arizona schools for critical needs like infrastructure, updated curriculum and technology, classroom supplies, school buses and more.
 
“We recognize the issues being debated at the State Capitol are not easy. Throughout this process, our No. 1 focus has been ensuring our teachers and students get the resources and support they need and deserve. Today, we are proud to support a budget plan that delivers.
 
“On behalf of the more than 550 charter schools educating over 185,000 across Arizona, we thank Governor Ducey, House Speaker Mesnard, Senate President Yarbrough and every legislator who stood with schools and educators to get this done.”

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