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Arizona teachers to vote for potential walkout this week

Teachers at Humphrey Elementary school participate in a state-wide walk-in prior to classes Wednesday, April 11, 2018, in Chandler, Ariz. Arizona teachers are demanding a 20 percent pay raise and more than $1 billion in new education funding. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — Teachers across Arizona will participate in a vote this week to determine whether they should hold a walkout in the near future.

Leadership from both Arizona Educators United, the organization behind the #RedForEd movement, and Arizona Education Association announced over the weekend that they would be holding a vote starting on Tuesday.

The vote would last through Thursday. Community organizers would then hold meetings Saturday to “move through the next steps to get the community on our side,” Joe Thomas, the president of the Arizona Education Association, said in a video on Sunday.

Educators have been calling on Gov. Doug Ducey and other lawmakers to increase their pay by 20 percent, increase the pay of school staff and improve their schools’ conditions. Ducey announced his proposal last week, which would give teachers a 20 percent pay raise over the next two years.

Thomas emphasized that the proposal still needed to be passed by the legislature and included in the budget for the pay raises to go into effect.

“Don’t believe anything unless they put it in the budget. That’s the only money that’s secure,” he said.

“A legislature that says they’re going to give us a five percent raise in a budget a year away, they might as well promise every kindergarten teacher a pony.”

The average teacher pay in Arizona is $48,723, according to Ducey. Teachers have said that they use a portion of their pay to purchase items for their students and classrooms.

If the Legislature passes the increase, Ducey said teachers will see their pay increase to an average of $52,725 by the upcoming school year and $58,130 by 2020.

Ducey’s plan would also pledge $371 million in district assistance to provide flexible funding for schools to use on various improvement projects.

But Arizona educators have questioned the proposal, saying it does not meet all of their demands and that there is no sustainable revenue source to fund the proposed raises.

“As teachers, we know what students need and if we want to be serious about student’s success, then we need to be serious about the solutions to these issues,” Noah Karvelis, a music teacher from Tolleson and Arizona Educators United organizer, said in a video on Sunday.

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