In Arizona, school’s out — at least for now.
Thousands of teachers are seeing red Thursday as they descend upon the state Capitol to demand additional school funding and more money for teacher and staff salaries.
The #RedForEd walkouts will leave some 840,000 Arizona students out of school on Thursday, according to The Associated Press. The state Department of Education said it has more than 200 school districts and more than 1.1 million students.
The average starting teacher salary in Arizona for the 2016-2017 school year was $34,068, according to statistics from the National Education Association . In comparison, the national starting teacher salary for that same year was $38,617.
Read on for a look at what educators are demanding and what the governor has already done.
Why are teachers walking out?
Organized by the Arizona Education Association and Arizona Educators United, red-clad Arizona teachers are walking out Thursday in order to demand a raise for teachers and support staff as well as an increase in school funding. About 30,000 to 50,000 educators and their supporters are expected to rally in Phoenix at the state Capitol.
NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, who traveled to Arizona for the walkout, told James News that teachers, particularly in states like Arizona, have been the “glue” that holds schools together as they have to use their own resources at times to buy school supplies or fund field trips.
“All of these educators, mostly women, have picked up the slack,” Garcia said. “We’ve done whatever it takes and now they’re starting to think, ‘Maybe we’ve made a mistake. I should have made some noise about why I don’t have the money to buy what my kids need.’”
“All we’re asking from [state lawmakers] is a real plan. What are you going to do to reverse this decade slide and race to the bottom? What is the real revenue you’re going to raise to do the right thing,” she said.
How long will it last?
Garcia said organizers haven’t set a timeline because “we have no idea what’s going to happen.”
“What we desperately want is for the governor to respect our leaders and sit down with our folks and say, ‘here’s a real plan,’” she said. “What we want to do is make sure people understand that this is a manmade crisis. This was not an act of God.”
However, Garcia said educators across the state have worked with churches, food pantries and advocacy groups to make sure students have access to food and parents have daycare options while schools are closed.
“A lot of students live in very, very poor situations, and they rely on a school meal to get by,” she said. “We’re already thinking about what we can do to protect our students while we’re fighting for them as well.”
What is the governor’s response?
Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, has laid out a plan for a 20 percent teacher pay raise by 2020 and has said he doesn’t understand exactly why teachers are still planning a walkout.
“I don’t know why the leaders would say that they’re going to strike when we are delivering for the teachers on what we believe they deserve,” Ducey reportedly told KFYI-FM . “Whatever the leaders in that movement are doing, I don’t think they’re really representing the teachers that are there for their kids every day, that are there for their parents.”
“I don’t know why the leaders would say that they’re going to strike when we are delivering for the teachers on what we believe they deserve.”– Gov. Doug Ducey
The governor’s plan would give a 9 percent pay raise to teachers in 2019 on top of 1 percent raise already given. It also gives 5 percent increases in both 2020 and 2021.
Matthew Simone, with the conservative Goldwater Institute, suggested that teachers direct their anger at school boards instead of the state legislature, KTVK-TV reported .
“There should be more of a lens put on the school district governing boards right now as they’re making decisions to close, and no one’s talking about their budgets,” he said.
Where else have teachers striked?
While teachers in Arizona are marching to the state Capitol Thursday, more than 10,000 teachers in Colorado are expected to demonstrate in Denver as part of this burgeoning teacher uprise. About half the student population will have shuttered schools as a result, with teachers using personal leave time to take off.
Massive teacher walkouts and demonstrations have already occurred in Oklahoma and Kentucky . In West Virginia, teachers went on strike for two weeks until Republican Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill that included a 5 percent pay increase.
Arizona teachers also staged a “walk-in” earlier this year to express their demands. This demonstration occurred before school started, letting teachers be in the classroom by the time school started.