Arizona teachers latest to stage walkout for better pay
Arizona teachers and education advocates march at the Arizona Capitol protesting low teacher pay and school funding in Phoenix. Ross D. Franklin/AP

Arizona teachers say they will walk off their jobs in public schools across the state on Thursday to demand better pay and more education funding, which is expected to leave students sitting home for at least a day and possibly longer.

Organizers said the job action would send a message to state political leaders about their dissatisfaction and capitalize on the momentum from similar protests by their colleagues in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky.

In Colorado, meanwhile, public school teachers announced a two-day walkout for Thursday and Friday, when they plan a march to the state capitol in Denver.

“I think our students understand that we need a change and enough is enough,” Noah Karvelis, a music teacher and leader of the grassroots Arizona Educators United said at a Wednesday press conference. “We simply can’t take it any longer.”

Teachers can no longer let their schools go wanting for money and lose educators because of poor salaries in Arizona, which has continually ranked near the bottom in pay, Karvelis said.

The Arizona job action comes after teachers and other school employees voted overwhelming to support a walkout following weeks of protests at local schools, rallying their efforts under the banner #RedforEd, a reference to their red shirts and education profession.

Teachers are embroiled in a pitched stand-off with Arizona Republican Governor Doug Ducey, who has proposed a 20 percent pay hike for teachers by 2020. Another $371 million was planned over the next five years for school infrastructure, curriculum, school buses and technology.

But the teacher’s group, along with the Arizona Education Association, have called the governor’s proposal insufficient and questioned his ability to fund the plan.

“We agree with teachers,” Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said. “They need better pay and we are fighting on their side to get a budget that raises teacher salaries 20 percent and restores recession-era cuts. We will not stop until we get this plan passed.”

The vast number of the state’s more than 200 public school districts attended by roughly 1.1 million students have canceled classes for Thursday and Friday.

 Parents have been forced to line up daycare and other ways to accommodate the shuttering of schools.

The planned walkout in Colorado is forcing the state’s two largest school districts, in Denver and neighboring Jefferson County, to cancel classes. The teachers’ union said it anticipates between 10 and 15 thousand teachers to descend on the capitol over the two days.

Additional reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Michael Perry