With Arizona educators on the verge of a strike, Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday dismissed the #RedForEd movement as “political theater" and said teachers should "know the facts" about education spending.
His comments come as Arizona teachers are threatening to walk out of the classroom if the governor doesn't boost school funding and give Arizona teachers, who remain among the lowest paid in the country, a 20 percent pay raise.
[INFOGRAPHIC: How AZ teacher pay compares to other states]
Ducey said he's committed to passing his current budget proposal which adds $400 million to K-12 schools, including $34 million for a 1 percent pay raise for teachers.
Over the past month the grassroots group, Arizona Educators United, have held massive #RedForEd rallies at the Capitol to pressure Ducey and Republican lawmakers to cough up more money for schools.
One of the organization's leaders, Noah Karvelis, says the governor has ignored their requests for a meeting, telling the Associated Press that he sees no choice but to walk out.
The governor appeared uninterested in meeting with teachers associated with Karvelis's group, saying he will continue speaking with superintendents and other education administrators he called, "the decision makers."
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"I'm staying out of the political theater, OK, so we're working on the policy," Ducey said after he was asked about meeting with the teachers behind the #RedForEd protests.
"I said I'm supporting the teachers, I think you know the people that founded 'Redf or Ed,' when they kicked it off, they announced an endorsement of my opponent in the governor's race; I think that's political activity." the governor added.
[RAW VIDEO: 'I'm staying out of the political theater...']
Since starting, #RedForEd has partnered with the state largest teachers union, Arizona Education Association, that endorsed David Garcia, a Democrat running for governor.
The governor also defended his record on education during an appearance on "Good Morning Arizona."
"I think it’s important that our teachers know the facts on what's been put forward in K-12 education," he said. "Since I came into office in 2015 we've put $1.7 billion dollars into K-12 education nine percent of that has been available for teacher raises and teacher pay that goes into the paycheck or hiring new teachers."
Beth Simek, the president of the Arizona PTA, called the governor's remarks "disappointing" and said it's now likely teachers will strike.
Simek then took a shot at the governor's signature achievement in education, Proposition 123. This is the 2016 voter-approved ballot initiative that raises $3.5 billion dollars for schools by tapping the state land trust.
[REFRESH YOUR MEMORY: Gov. Ducey declares victory for Prop. 123 | Education funding in state budget hinges on Prop 123]
"Prop. 123 is not new money; it was to settle a lawsuit. He promised a next step, those next steps have been tax cuts, tax credits and more loopholes for corporations, not support for our teachers," she said.
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Teachers and allies rallied outside the KTAR studios Tuesday afternoon where Ducey has his regular radio address. Organizers with Arizona Educators United (AEU) said the governor's political remarks were a "slap in the face." The grassroots group has been vocal in the effort to get livable wages for teachers and support staff. AEU is not a union.
Organizer Noah Karvelis maintains AEU is non-partisan. With Ducey's refusal to meet with #RedforEd advocates, Karvelis says a strike is nearing.
"We're ready to act; we're ready to act soon here and so I think you can expect a date announcement potentially in the next couple days or so," says Karvelis. "We are going to do everything we can to get that out so people can organize around it and parents can get ready."Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.