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Arizona lawmakers struggle to fund teacher raises amid statewide walkout

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
LISTEN: Steve Farley, Democratic Arizona State Senator

PHOENIX — As educators and supporters across Arizona prepare to walk out of their classrooms on Thursday, state lawmakers were still struggling to come to a long-term, sustainable solution that would give money for teacher raises and better classroom conditions.

Arizona state Sen. Steve Farley, a Democrat who represented District 28, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac and Gaydos that lawmakers do not have the votes to pass Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposal to raise teacher pay by 20 percent over the next two years, despite differing statements from Republican state Sen. John Kavanagh.

“I’ve seen 12 years of votes during my time in Legislature,” Farley said. “If they had the votes, they would go to the floor and it’s done in three days.

“We didn’t see any budget there today, they don’t have the votes.”

Senate President Steve Yarbrough said in a statement Wednesday that lawmakers were “attempting to complete their task to bring the teachers significantly better pay.”

Ducey introduced a plan earlier this month that, if approved by the Legislature, would increase teacher pay by 20 percent over the next two years, as well as provide $371 million in district assistance for schools to use on various improvement projects.

But the proposal did not receive praise from educators across the board: Members of the teacher advocacy group Arizona Educators United said it did not meet their demands and did not include funding for support staff.

Farley himself also expressed concern over Ducey’s proposal, calling the plan “talking points” and saying there was no revenue source to sustain the raises past November.

But the Democratic lawmaker stressed the need for politicians to come together and create a bipartisan budget that would solve those problems and address teachers’ needs.

“We need to put politics aside and solve this problem.”

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