Arizona teachers want details of governor's plan

Gov. Doug Ducey announces a plan to give teachers a 20 percent raise over the next three fiscal years

Gov. Doug Ducey announces a plan to give teachers a 20 percent raise over the next three fiscal years

Teachers at Humphrey Elementary school participate in a state-wide walk-in prior to classes Wednesday, April 11, 2018, in Chandler, Ariz.

After weeks of protests by teachers, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey rolled out a proposal Thursday promising a net 20 percent raise by 2020.

Tucson teacher Derek Harris said Thursday evening that Ducey's plan to boost pay by 9 percent this year and 20 percent by 2020 is just a plan.

This year: The first 1 percent is real - it's already in teachers' pockets.

The proposal rolled out by the Republican governor Thursday doesn't increase funding for other school needs or provide raises for school staff as a grassroots teachers group demanded.

"It's unbelievable what a threatened teachers' strike in an election year can get the Republicans to do", Democratic representative Rebecca Rios said. At the same time, Arizona also has either cut or reduced income and corporate taxes, further squeezing education budgets. As such, Arizona's budgets are still exceptionally tight a decade after the recession. Arizona teachers are demanding a 20 percent pay raise and more than $1 billion in new education funding. Ducey's proposal didn't include more spending on those items.

Teachers who organized a grassroots effort that drew almost 45,000 members were cool to the announcement, saying they wanted details before reacting and lacked trust in the governor.

"To me right now, [Ducey's proposal] feels like this was essentially an attempt to stop whatever actions we may have been taking, instead of a legitimate groundwork for future investment in education and to fulfill our demands", Noah Karvelis, a music teacher and Arizona Educators United leader, said in a Facebook video on the Arizona Education Association page with other organizers on Thursday. "At this point there's not really anything to trust".

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Arizona educators were encouraged in part by successful teacher walkouts in West Virginia and Oklahoma.

Harris is one of a handful of teachers who started Arizona Educators United in early March.

As recently as Tuesday, a defiant Arizona governor said he was sticking with a 1 percent increase proposition.

"Today is a good day for teachers in Arizona", Ducey said to open a press briefing.

Teachers in Arizona have been protesting for more school funding and higher wages. Adjusted for local cost of living, federal figures show elementary teachers actually rank 49th in earnings and high school teachers 48th.

Ducey was vague about where the cash would come from, only saying a growing economy and lower spending in other areas unexpectedly freed up $274m this year that can be used to fund the raise. There are roughly 60,000 public school teachers in Arizona, and the estimates for increasing their salaries by 20 percent range from $680 million to $750 million.

"My school is fine but other schools aren't", he said.

According to an analysis by The Arizona Center for Economic Progress, a liberal think tank, roughly three of every five dollars in tax cuts under HB2528 will go to about 4,100 Arizonans making more than $500,000 a year. He obviously is a huge supporter of the economy.

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