The Arizona Senate has passed legislation approving a budget plan that provides significant raises for school teachers who have been on strike for six days.
The measure, which was signed by Governor Doug Ducey just before dawn, will see teachers receive 9 percent raises in the fall, along with additional 5 percent raises in school years 2019 and 2020. This, in addition to a 1 percent raise approved last year, means Arizona teachers will see a cumulative 20 percent raise in their salaries between fiscal years 2018 and 2021. It is estimated that the plan would cost around $300 million this coming year alone.
The organizers of the strike had called for the resumption of classes on Thursday if the budget plan passed and was signed by the governor. As the process dragged through the night, however, many of the state’s larger school districts announced that their school will remain closed. Many striking teachers remained on State Legislature grounds through the night, with many holding a candlelight vigil in the State Capitol courtyard, and others occupying the House and Senate galleries during the debates.
In the wake of the passage of the new budget plan, the Phoenix-based Scottsdale school district, one of the largest in the state, announced that their schools would resume operation on Friday. It is expected that other districts will follow suit.
Arizona teachers, among the lowest paid in the country, began striking on April 26 after a vote saw nearly 45,000 teachers endorse the action. Demands included salary raises for teachers, a return to pre-Great Recession education funding statewide, a decrease of student-teacher ratio and raises for support staff such as guidance counselors. Since the start of the year, many similar actions had played out in many states such as West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Colorado.