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Arizona lawmakers reach education deal following two days of walkouts

Teachers rally outside the Capitol, Friday, April 27, 2018, in Phoenix, on their second day of walkouts. Teachers in Arizona and Colorado walked out of their classes over low salaries keeping hundreds of thousands of students out of school. It's the latest in a series of strikes across the nation over low teacher pay. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey announced Friday that lawmakers had reached a deal regarding teacher pay increases, after two days of walkouts at the Arizona Capitol.

Ducey said the deal included a 20 percent pay increase for teachers by 2020, a “permanent, ongoing, protected in the base formula,” an additional $100,000,000 for support staff over a five-year period and no tax increase.

“We went back to the capital, we worked with legislative leaders, reaching out to both sides of the aisle, we also sat down with teachers,” Ducey said on 12 News after the deal was announced.

“Basically it is a negotiation, we wanted to get this 20 percent pay increase for teachers by 2020, that was the commitment that was out there.”

Ducey said the money for the raises would come from the state’s “booming economy,” adding that the available funds in the state have been prioritized for the teachers and support staff.

“These teacher raises will be ongoing, so we have these dollars, we are making the commitment,” he said. “We are prioritizing these dollars for our teachers and for support staff inside the schools.”

Ducey said legislative leadership would work through the weekend to introduce a budget by early next week in the hopes of passing it “shortly thereafter.”

He added that he believes the budget could be introduced as soon as Monday.

“I’m ready to sign it today but like any large deal, it not only includes the teacher pay increase, this is the entire state budget,” Ducey said. “This is child safety and public safety and everything the state will spend going forward.”

On Thursday, Ducey discussed his plan with 10 teachers from around the state who were attending the massive rally at the Capitol, including Mike Burrola of Centennial High School in Peoria.

Before the deal was finalized, Burrola told KTAR 92.3 FM’s Mac and Gaydos that he was willing to return to work if Ducey could pass his proposal.

“I can’t speak for everyone, I can only speak for me,” Burrola said. “The proposal I have is a good start. It’s a step in the right direction. If this does work, we should get back into the classroom.”

David Garcia, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, called Ducey’s proposal “an infeasible plan created in the face of election year vulnerability” in a statement Friday.

“Ducey’s plan gives no guarantees and any future raise is unlikely with Ducey still in office. His plan fundamentally leaves schools short of pre-recession levels and leaves out support staff, counselors, and crumbling schools,” part of the statement read.

“Ducey is using a fundamentally flawed plan to get him out of an election cycle crisis forced by one of the largest teacher walkouts in our nation’s history. Because Ducey is untrustworthy, I believe it’s time to go directly to the voters with real solutions.”

Joe Thomas, the president of the Arizona Educators Association, and Noah Karvelis, an organizer of Arizona Educators United, said in a press release they were displeased with the lack of details with the governor’s plan.

“We have no bill. We have no deal. The devil is in the details,” said Thomas and Karvelis. “We know that we have been down this road before. He makes promises that he can’t keep.

“We just can’t trust him.”

The announcement came hours after thousands of educators and supporters gathered at the Capitol building for the second day in a row in an effort to call on lawmakers to increase the pay for teachers and support staff and put more money toward better school conditions.

It also was announced shortly after a measure was filed with the Secretary of State’s office that would raise the income tax on high wage earners to fund public education.

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