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Arizona educators vote in favor of walkout, begins Thursday

(KTAR Photo/Jim Cross)

PHOENIX — The threat of a walkout by Arizona teachers moved one step closer to reality when educators voted in favor of a work stoppage in their pursuit of higher wages and better classroom conditions.

“Seventy-eight percent of the school employees in this state said yes,” Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association said during Thursday’s press conference.

A total of 57,000 teachers took part in the voting. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will be treated as walk-ins, while Thursday’s protest, on April 26, will be a walkout, a statewide first.

Voting began Tuesday and concluded Thursday. The results were made public the final night. It was organized by the Arizona Education Association and grassroots advocacy group Arizona Educators United, the driving force behind the Red For Ed movement.

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.

Last week, Ducey announced a proposal which would give teachers a 20 percent pay raise over the next two years. It would also pledge $371 million in funding for schools to use on improvement projects.

But the teachers weren’t buying it.

Educators questioned the proposal, saying it did not meet all of their demands and that there is no sustainable revenue source to fund the raises.

On Wednesday, while the vote was ongoing, teacher advocacy group Save Our Schools Arizona came out against Ducey’s plan. The organization cited sustainability issues with the funding for the initiative.

The Arizona Education Association, the state’s largest professional association for public school employees, already had said the proposal didn’t meet enough of the demands of the Red for Ed movement.

Teachers have been holding weekly “walk-ins” – statewide protests held before school – each of the past three Wednesdays.

But a walkout would turn up the pressure on Ducey and lawmakers to come up with a plan that appeases all parties.

School districts have been scrambling to come up with plans in the event a work stoppage would force schools to be closed.

Arizona Educators United has a GoFundMe page to raise funds for the Red For Ed movement and provide support to teachers during the walkout.

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