As teachers throughout the state prepared to gather at the Capitol as part of a walkout to protest low education funding and demand a pay raise, Gov. Doug Ducey exhorted Arizonans to get involved by telling their legislators to vote for his proposal to raise their pay by 20 percent over two years.
Before sitting down with 3TV's Scott Pasmore and Olivia Fierro to discuss the divisive issue Thursday morning, Ducey took to social media in an effort to get the votes he needs to pass his plan.
"Without a doubt, teachers are some of the biggest difference-makers in the lives of Arizona children. They need to be respected, and rewarded, for the work they do -- and Arizona can do better on this front," he tweeted. "We’ve all been listening -- but now, it’s time to act. My number one focus right now is passing a 20% pay raise for Arizona teachers. This raise is earned, and it is deserved.
"To parents, I understand the pain & pressure caused by today’s strike," he continued. "I'm working to get this 20% raise passed. Call/email your legislator & tell them to vote 'yes' on a 20% pay raise for teachers [http://azleg.gov ]. We need teachers teaching, and students learning."Click here if you know your legislators (House and Senate directory)
(Type Ctrl-F to search the page.)Click here to find your legislative district
(Once you know your district, go to the House and Senate directory.)[WATCH: Ducey on "Good Morning Arizona"]
Two weeks ago, the governor unveiled his plan to boost teacher pay by 20 percent but has struggled to scrounge up enough support at the Legislature.
His plan includes a 9 percent pay increase this year with a total increase of 20 percent by 2020.
[RAW VIDEO: Gov. Ducey announces plan to increase teacher pay 20% by 2020]Ducey was vague about where the cash would come from, only saying a growing economy and lower spending in other areas unexpectedly freed up $274 million this year. As recently as Tuesday, he said he was sticking with his plan to give teachers just a 1 percent raise in the coming year.
Before announcing his plan, Ducey had refused to meet with teachers, calling their protests "political theater."
The grassroots #RedForEd movement continued to pick up steam, culminating in a vote to walk out.
Arizona teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation, with elementary instructors earning a median 2017 wage of $43,280 and high school teachers $46,470, the 3rd and 6th lowest in the nation, respectively, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Adjusted for local cost of living, federal figures show elementary teachers actually rank 49th in earnings and high school teachers 48th.
[INFOGRAPHIC: How AZ teacher pay compares to other states]
[SPECIAL SECTION: Schools in crisis]
[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona politics]
Shortly after Ducey made his pitch to voters to shore up support for his pay raise plan, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas spoke with Cameron Ridle, imploring teachers to return to their classrooms. She also said their walkout is illegal, something she explained to Arizona's Family earlier in the week.
The Arizona Democratic Party places blame for the walkout squarely on Ducey's shoulders.
"Governor Doug Ducey ran on education in 2014, but he’s turned out to be the anti-education governor making policies and decisions that harm Arizona’s schools and children. Our education system is almost beyond repair, and the only choice teachers have is to walkout [sic] on the poor performance and empty promises of Gov. Ducey," Felecia Rotellini, the Arizona Democratic Party chairwoman, said in a statement released about an hour after Ducey's 3TV interview. "The Arizona Democratic Party remains one-hundred percent behind our students, teachers, and schools. It’s time for bold action that gets results."
"The Party will make sure Ducey’s dereliction of duty to Arizona’s schools and condescending comments toward our teachers will haunt him even after the walkout ends," the statement continues. "This issue will define Gov. Ducey throughout the entire 2018 election year."
While the walkout has seen relatively widespread support among Arizona's teachers, it's far from unanimous. More than 20 percent of those who voted oppose the action.?
"I would rather that we had a chance to let them go ahead and not do what they said they were going to do and then strike after that, rather than having him make the promise that he made, striking right afterward, and then have him and the Legislature twist it and say, ‘See what we offered? And now you’re doing this,’" Ives Machiz, a teacher at Scottsdale's Arcadia High School, said.?
The Associated Press contributed to this story.Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app
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