Red for Ed launches final push for signatures ahead of November ballot

PHOENIX - It's coming down to the wire, as all signatures to get an issue on the November ballot are due by Thursday. 

Arizona teachers, fueled by the Red for Ed movement, have been out in full force in communities throughout the state, rallying to get those signatures.

FULL COVERAGE: Teacher walkouts, Red for Ed movement in Arizona

On the Fourth of July holiday, several offices were set up throughout the Valley for teachers to drop off their petitions.

At the Arizona Education Association headquarters in downtown Phoenix, the atmosphere was festive, as teachers showed up to drop off signatures.

Those with the campaign, along with AEA staffers, worked to count and verify signatures all day. Teachers have been asked to drop off their signatures by 9 p.m. Wednesday, as they will all be turned in to the Secretary of State's office Thursday morning.

Irene Skousen, a teacher from the Pendergast School District, said her district had worked hard to gather thousands of signatures.

"The mood is excited, energetic. We're just hoping to get this done," said Skousen.

April Hutson, a teacher from the Glendale School District, also showed up to drop off her signatures. She is a first-year teacher, and said she was inspired to act after seeing what so many of her peers are dealing with inside their classrooms.

"We have so many teachers who have been working without a pay raise for years. They are taking money out of their own pockets, having to pretty much support their kids on their own," said Pendergast.

School librarian Rhonda Olsen called the Red for Ed movement inspiring, uplifting and emotional. She said seeing the number of people who showed up at the state capitol gave her goose bumps. 

Olsen was spending her holiday working, to improve the quality of education for children in her community.

"Every day I see the faces of these children, the families who invest in us to educate their children every day, to care for their children every day. We need to be there for them," said Olsen.

Mary Spangenberg, a teacher from the Cartwright Elementary School District, said it was time to put a stable source of funding in place in Arizona, as she had seen so many of her peers leaving the profession for better opportunities. The mass exodus had led to a teacher shortage in Arizona, which in turn led to overcrowded classrooms.

"I've been everywhere to collect signatures. You name it -- the grocery stores, public libraries, the Diamondbacks games, Rattlers games. It is tireless work, some days we were out there for 12 to 13 hours," said Spangenberg.

The initiative would impose an income tax on the 1% of wealthy Arizona residents. Individuals making over $250,000, and couples making over $500,000 would feel the impact. Not everyone was on board the initiative.

Wednesday's efforts will help put the initiative on the November ballot, and voters will get to decide. AEA staff said they were cautiously optimistic they had the required number of signatures to get this on the ballot. They needed 151,000 signatures, so they made it a goal to get in more than 200,000.

Education leaders planned to hold a press conference outside the state capitol Thursday morning around 9 a.m. to announce the results of this effort.

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