Determined Arizona teachers continue protests on third day of walkouts

Apr 30, 2018, 9:38 AM | Updated: 2:34 pm

(KTAR Photo/Jim Cross)...

(KTAR Photo/Jim Cross)

(KTAR Photo/Jim Cross)

PHOENIX — Thousands of educators and their supporters again descended upon the Arizona Capitol on Monday, determined to keep pressure on lawmakers, despite assurances from Gov. Doug Ducey that a deal to improve teacher pay and funding was imminent.

Red-clad protesters started arriving at the Capitol before 6 a.m. for the third consecutive school day of rallies. Most public schools around the state remained closed because of staffing shortages.

Delia Lyding, a teacher in the Kyrene School District, was one of the early-arriving protesters.

“I’m optimistic that we have legislators with their eyes open to the big problem and who are willing to stand up to those opposed to funding education,” Lyding said.

“I’m not optimistic that they will come to a resolution that we can agree on. We’ve got teachers who are willing to stay the course.”

Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Educators Association, was among the speakers who addressed the crowd. The Arizona Department of Public Safety estimated the turnout to be 7,000 to 10,000.

Thomas repeated a call for competitive salaries, technology that isn’t failing or out of date, repairs for buildings and smaller class sizes.

“Now it comes down to the hard work of being a citizen, an active, engaged citizen,” Thomas said from the stage. “And so you’ve got to tell your story. The story of your students. The story of this movement.

“Because the governor wants everybody to think that all he needs to do to solve this is give you a little bit more money and send you back into the same working conditions.”

Thomas asked teachers to stay at the Capitol after the rally and meet in groups with their legislators.

On Friday, Ducey and GOP legislative leaders said they’d reached a budget agreement to increase teacher wages by 20 percent by 2020 without raising taxes. The deal also called for restoring school funding to pre-recession levels.

Thomas wasn’t convinced by Ducey’s announcement.

“We have to be here today, we have to see what this budget is,” he said. “The governor’s got it hidden in a folder up on the ninth floor.”

Legislative leaders vowed Friday to work through the weekend to finalize the details of the budget so it could be introduced this week, perhaps as soon as Monday.

Earlier Friday, during a rally that drew an estimated 4,000 protesters to the Capitol, Thomas had called for demonstrations to continue after the weekend.

That came after an estimated 50,000 protesters flooded downtown Phoenix on Thursday on the first day of the statewide walkouts.

KTAR 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Determined Arizona teachers continue protests on third day of walkouts