Educators gathered at the state Capitol on Tuesday for the third day in a row to press lawmakers for more resources in the education sector. The rally is part of a general strike that has spread from West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky since February.
“We need you to keep on red alert,” said kindergarten teacher Kelley Wendland Fisher, an organizer with Arizona Educators United. “We need for you to be the eyes and ears, we need you to be down there making sure that they know that we are watching and listening to everything that’s happening.”
Teachers condemn years of budget austerity while the government pushes to fund private charter schools with public funds. Organizers said protests will continue indefinitely until lawmakers act effectively to change the current status, Presstv reported.
"Now it comes down to the hard work of being a citizen, an active, engaged citizen," Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, told the striking teachers from a stage in front of the Capitol. "And so you've got to tell your story. The story of your students. The story of this movement."
Arizona’s strike has kept the vast majority of around 1.1 million school children out of classrooms since teachers walked off the job last Thursday.
Last week, Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey, announced a deal with legislative leaders to raise teachers’ pay 20 percent by 2020. The deal would also include $371 million in new funding over the next five years for improvements in school infrastructure, new school buses and upgrades to technology and curriculum.
Public educators in Arizona rank 46th in the U.S. in teacher pay, earning about $12,000 less than the national average of $59,660, according to a 2018 report by the National Education Association (NEA).
According to the NEA report, Arizona spends about $4,500 less than the national per-student average of about $12,000, ranking 48th.