Arizona House moves to hike teacher pay, governor may follow

Gov. Ducey proposing 9 percent pay raise this year 20 percent by 2020

"To try to dangle that in front of teachers saying we're promising you a 24 percent pay raise I think is pretty disingenuous", she said.

Governor Doug Ducey has announced a plan to give Arizona teachers a 20 percent pay increase by 2020.

The Republican governor's announcement came after more than a month of protests at the state Capitol and at schools across Arizona that were fueled in part by successful teacher walkouts in West Virginia and Oklahoma.

And by the fall of 2020, the figure would hit $58,130. But it would mean that Arizona would no longer be at or near the bottom, where it is now. However, the governor says he won't increase taxes and says the 20 percent increase teachers are demanding is not likely to happen.

About half of that amount is paid to teachers and certificated staff, she said.

Under the proposal, average teacher pay would go to over $58,000 by the start of 2020.

For the moment, the key groups involved are adopting a wait and see attitude.

The demonstrations were organized under the umbrella of Arizona Educators United, a grassroots group that mobilized teachers and supporters across the state through their #RedforEd campaign.

"We're definitely trending in the right direction", he said. "He can promise all he wants". "We need to make a deal here, we need to get our 20 percent".

"People are waking up to the ramifications of dismal funding", Altringer said.

"They're our teammates, " he said.

"We want you to know that the Red for Ed movement is fighting for you, not against you".

Ducey changed his tone after Arizona Educators United threatened a walkout and said a strike date could be set soon.

"The budget process is coming to a close", Ducey said. Thomas said. "That's the real question". The strike ended after state officials vowed to raise teacher pay five percent.

Others also are keeping watch for details.

"We're all unified in that if this plays out the way that it's being said today then this is a major step forward", said Dawn Penich-Thacker, a spokeswoman for Save Our Schools Arizona. "This investment will be in addition to the $371 million in district additional assistance which will provide flexible funding for Arizona schools' most pressing needs - fixing school infrastructure, modernizing curriculum, school buses and updating classroom technologies".

What is clear is that the governor has sharply changed his position.

Many schools across Phoenix and the the state had already started holding walk-ins in recent weeks.

The developments come after Arizona teachers and others held "walk-ins" at more than 1,000 schools Wednesday to draw attention to their demands. That also was created to show that, like counterparts in West Virginia and Oklahoma, they would consider a strike.

Prior to the announcement, Tuscon teacher and Arizona Educators United organizer Derek Harris told teachers "that we need to be sure that this is not just a pay [increase] for teachers".

"Teachers have really, really helped me get over a lot of things", she said.

"(Ducey) met with school districts, had a big press conference where all these superintendents from school districts stood behind him, and he said, 'I'm restoring those cuts, '" Essigs said.

"It's wonderful what a threatened teachers' strike in an election year can get the Republicans to do", Democratic representative Rebecca Rios said.

The governor's plan comes on the heels of House Speaker J.D. Mesnard crafting his own proposal for a 20 percent pay hike for teachers.

That, according to school officials, is a non-starter.

But many teachers and education professionals said Ducey's plan lacked specifics and left out several of their demands.

"We can do this and do it in a responsible, sustainable way", Ducey said.

Mesnard, who was at Ducey's press conference, was noncommittal in his response.

"We all share the same priority, " he said. "We're not going to be divided".

That, in turn, comes down to how Ducey, who had until recently insisted he was putting as much as he could into education, says he has suddenly found new cash.

But the governor also said some of the priorities he laid out at his State of the State speech in January also are being thrown overboard. That proposal has a $15 million pricetag.

But so far Gov. Doug Ducey and the Republican-controlled Legislature haven't budged to the group's demands. He has also said he would cancel some of the planned spending in his budget and use savings from government efficiencies.

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