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State senator: Arizona teacher leaders are playing politics

(Facebook Photo/John Kavanagh)
LISTEN: Arizona State Senator John Kavanagh

PHOENIX — State Sen. John Kavanagh suggested that leaders of the Arizona teacher protests were playing politics, and he expressed frustration about the planned walkouts during a contentious interview Tuesday on KTAR 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos.

“They made an outrageous request, and I think because politics is a big part of what they are doing, they wanted to not have a deal so that they could beat up on Republicans and advance these Democrats in the elections, and I guess the governor totally threw them for a loop when he said OK to the pay raise,” said Kavanagh, the senate president pro tempore.

He continued: “They decided to throw more demands in, which they made sure were totally unreachable, like us doing the billion dollars in restorations this year and giving pay raises to everybody else in the schools.”

Kavanagh said the votes are there in the state legislature to approve Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposal to increase teacher salaries by 20 percent by 2020.

However, he explained it was a complicated process that can’t be achieved overnight, even with teachers poised to walk out Thursday.

“I think we’re at least a week away,” he said, “but it could be a lot longer if we don’t get agreements.”

Teachers weren’t satisfied with Ducey’s proposal and voted last week in favor a walkout.

Kavanagh, who represents District 23, said the money simply does not exist to meet all the teachers’ demands.

“We can’t push the economy any faster,” he said. “We’re doing the best that we can, and we can’t manufacture $1.5 billion overnight.”

Kavanagh, whose district includes Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and Fountain Hills, said teachers were “asking the unattainable” with their demands beyond the proposed 20 percent pay raise.

“So are we in a rush to do the unattainable?” he said. “No, we’re going to do the budget the right way and look at the little money we have and dole it out properly to the other great wants and needs that are being deprived because of this overgenerous ask by the teachers.”

He went on to say any ire about the walkouts should be directed at teachers, not lawmakers.

“You should be upset at them for abandoning kids when they’ve been promised 20 in ’20 and it looks like a good deal,” he said.

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