NewsArizona News


Arizona teacher walkout: Teachers march in 1st-ever statewide strike

Protests underway on day of AZ teacher walkout
Posted at 7:45 AM, Apr 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-27 01:47:17-04

Demonstrators are expected to pack the sidewalks of the Arizona Capitol once again Friday morning for the second day of a statewide teacher walkout.

FULL COVERAGE: Teacher walkout in Arizona

Heat in the mid-90s sent many educators and their supporters home Thursday after they marched 2 miles to the Capitol and listened to brief speeches.

Phoenix police said their estimates indicate more than 50,000 people participated in the Capitol event. The Arizona Education Association estimated that 75,000 people participated in the rally.

According to information released Thursday night by the AEA, #RedforEd leaders and supporters were planning to be back at the Capitol on Friday morning beginning at 9 a.m.

Speeches are expected to begin at 9 a.m. and the rally is supposed to end at 11 a.m.

Thursday's rally was cut short because of heat, so AEA leaders are urging people to bring lots of water, dress comfortably and wear sunscreen Friday.

Still, teachers and supporters braved the heat and will again on Friday to try to get their message across.

"We're all suffering a little bit," explains Michael LeBlanc, a teacher at Boulder Creek High School. "My kids are missing school, too. I've brought them with me here today. But in the long-term, if we have better funding for the children, if we don't have teachers leaving the state, it will be positive for everyone and that is what we want." 

Hannah Sharp, who came to support the #RedForEd movement, says her mom has worked as a support aide for more than 20 years in Phoenix schools. As an hourly worker, she'll miss out on pay during the walkout. 

"She supports the movement, but she's between a rock and a hard place," Sharp explains. "She's working paycheck to paycheck and it's about to be summertime." 

Waving signs and red balloons, tens of thousands of teachers and their supporters headed through downtown Phoenix on Thursday to demand a 20 percent raise for teachers, about $1 billion to return school funding to pre-Great Recession levels and increased pay for support staff, among other things.

Widespread protests also were underway in Colorado, where some schools have shut down.

Teachers in both states want more resources in the classroom and have received offers either for increased funding or raises. But teachers say the efforts aren't enough, with Arizona educators launching the first-ever statewide strike to press lawmakers to meet their demands.

FULL COVERAGE: Teacher walkout in Arizona

The crowd in downtown Phoenix began its 2-mile trek to the Capitol, with demonstrators carrying signs saying, "Money for Schools" and "Make Schools Great Again."

The walkouts in two states are the climax of an uprising that spread from West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky. A grass-roots movement known as #RedforEd began weeks ago with protests in Arizona, and Colorado teachers later took up the fight.

In Arizona, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has offered teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020 and said he has no plans to meet with striking teachers and or address their other demands. 

The leader of the state's largest teacher membership group said Thursday that Ducey's unwillingness to meet with organizers makes him believe they "will be out for a while."

Joe Thomas of the Arizona Education Association has said the walkout has no end date, and educators may have to consider a ballot initiative for education funding if lawmakers do not come up with their own plan.

In a separate interview, Ducey said that he's "not ignoring anyone" but is focused on meeting with lawmakers to push his plan, which has raised concerns about how it would be funded.

Teachers and some lawmakers say the proposal relies on rosy revenue projections. A key legislative leader says a budget deal that could provide money for teachers is likely still at least several days away.

School districts across Arizona announced closures before Thursday, including the state's largest -- Phoenix, Mesa and Tucson. The walkout has led makeshift day care centers to open for parents who have no place to leave their children when they go to work.

Addie Martinez dropped off her 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter at a Phoenix Salvation Army that has opened a child care center before she rushed to her job as a medical assistant. The facility has room for up to 100 kids and will provide breakfast, lunch and snacks for $25 per child.

Martinez said she supports the teachers despite the inconvenience because "they are educating our future." She said she was prepared to take her children back Friday and next week to the center, which offers activities that include arts and crafts and dodgeball.

More than 840,000 Arizona students were expected to be out of school Thursday, according to an analysis from the Arizona Republic that tallied up at least 100 school districts and charter schools that are closing. The state Department of Education said the state has more than 200 districts and more than 1.1 million schoolchildren.