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Teachers meet at Arizona Capitol on second day of walkout, prep for a third

(KTAR Photo/Jim Cross)

PHOENIX — Teachers in Arizona stayed away from their classrooms for a second straight day, gathering at the state Capitol on Friday to continue protesting low pay and unacceptable school conditions.

Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas announced plans for a third day of walkouts Monday.

“Who’s with me?” Thomas shouted to the crowd of teachers and supporters at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza.

About 1,000 had showed up a half-hour before the start of the 9 a.m. demonstration. In all, the Arizona Department of Public Safety estimated the crowd reached 4,000.

Participation dropped dramatically from the previous day, when an estimated 50,000 Red for Ed marchers swarmed downtown Phoenix streets.

That wall of walkers made its way from Chase Field at Third and Jefferson streets to the Capitol grounds at 17th Avenue and Washington Street in temperatures that were near 100 degrees and it could be that hot again.

Organizers decided no march was necessary for the second day, instead telling protesters to meet at the Capitol.

Thomas said the easy part of the fight was “what we’re doing now. … Because if we go out for a ballot initiative, you’re going to have take a sheet of paper and get a lot of signatures on it. … And you’re going to have do it in this heat and you’re going to have do it on the weekends.

“So we have to push them as hard as we can to listen to us Monday. … We can do this!”

Arizona House leadership was at the Capitol negotiating the budget Gov. Doug Ducey proposed for the education package.

Although no floor activity was scheduled, if a budget was agreed to, legislators could reconvene “at any time,” spokesman Matthew Specht said.

Ducey met with a group of educators and legislators on Walkout Day One.

His proposed plan to increase teacher pay by 20 percent by 2020 has met with disapproval from educators and legislators alike.

Teachers responded by voting to walk out a week after Ducey announced his plan.

Many who voted in favor of walking out questioned where the funding would come from and how long it would last.

With teachers not returning to class, dozens of school districts will keep their campuses closed Monday.

Chandler Unified had originally notified teachers and parents schools would be open to start next week.

District officials had to change the plan when the number of reported absences would have left the sites understaffed.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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