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As thousands descend on Arizona Capitol, organizers look ahead

(KTAR Photo/Jessica Suerth)

PHOENIX — More than 50,000 educators, supporters and students gathered at the Arizona Capitol on Thursday, in what was the first day of what could potentially be a long-term walkout.

But while the participants marched from Chase Field to the Capitol in an effort to get lawmakers to raise their pay and dedicate more money to bettering classroom conditions, the people behind the rally were already looking ahead to what was to come.

Noah Karvelis, a music teacher from Tolleson and one of the main organizers with Arizona Educators United, the group behind the Red for Ed movement, said the organization was taking the future of the movement one day at a time.

“I mean, you look around — there’s a ton of energy right now, there’s a ton of support all across the community,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM. 

“What we’re going to do is we’re going to listen to educators and [the] people who are here — that’s the power of this movement is listening to the voices of the educators, so that’s exactly what we’re going to continue to do.”

Karvelis and the other Red for Ed organizers have rallied educators and supporters to gather at the Capitol again on Friday, hoping to make more progress in their call for action.

Several lawmakers, including Gov. Doug Ducey, have proposed options for raising teacher pay.

Ducey introduced his “20×2020” plan earlier this month, which would increase teacher funding by 20 percent in the next two years. In addition, it would put forth $371 million in district assistance for schools to use on improvement projects.

However, many educators have expressed concerns with this plan, saying it does not meet their requirements and that there is no viable funding option to keep the proposal operating past November.

A week after Ducey proposed his plan, 78 percent of the 57,000 teachers who voted opted to walk out of their jobs in what was a historic move for the state.

But the Arizona Legislature dismissed for the weekend on Thursday afternoon and will not return until Monday.

Even though the group will not have an audience on Friday, Karvelis remained optimistic.

“I think we’re going to see a huge crowd tomorrow,” he said.

“What we’re going to do is we’re going to come and we’re going to say, ‘What do we do next?'”

When asked whether he thought the noise the group made on Thursday — both figuratively and literally, as several participants were banging drums and chanting through the square — contributed to the early dismissal, Karvelis was not quick to jump to conclusions.

“We can only speculate,” he said.

“I think you look around and you think it had something to do with it, right? But you can only speculate, I don’t know what was happening in there today.”

But Derek Harris, another organizer with Arizona Educators United, told KTAR News 92.3 FM that the group hopes to keep the energy behind the movement strong in order to bring change.

“There’s a lot of options on the table right now,” Harris said.

“We’re trying to get people mobilized so [lawmakers] will pay attention to us, because right now they’re running away.”

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