Arizona educators could return to class soon if lawmakers pass budget

May 1, 2018, 5:26 PM | Updated: 8:10 pm
Teacher Noah Karvelis, right, speaks during a news conference prior to protest organizers announcin...

Teacher Noah Karvelis, right, speaks during a news conference prior to protest organizers announcing their intention to go back to work as the statewide teachers strike enters a fourth day at the Arizona Capitol, Tuesday, May 1, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — A teacher walkout that stretched into two weeks could soon come to an end if the Arizona Legislature can pass a proposed budget, the organizers behind the #RedForEd movement announced Tuesday.

“Our fight is not over. We have options. But it is time for us to get back to our students and back into our classrooms. We need to continue the fight for the additional resources our teachers need,” said Rebecca Garelli, an elementary school teacher from the Alhambra School District and one of the organizers.

“If the lawmakers do their job and get the budget passed by Thursday, we commit to return to our classrooms then.”

The announcement was the first time educators committed to returning to class since the walkouts kicked off on April 26.

But Noah Karvelis, a music teacher from Tolleson and one of the main organizers with Arizona Educators United, the group behind the movement, said the budget proposed by lawmakers still did not do enough for educators or students.

“The #RedforEd movement created the largest increase in school funding since the recession, but it’s still not enough,” he said.

“This budget does not go far enough to meet our students’ needs. It still falls short of our five demands and there is much more that needs to be done to get to 2008 levels of school funding.”

The budget would help fund 10 percent raises for educators next year and make the first payment toward restoring nearly $400 million slashed from school building and maintenance budgets following the Great Recession.

It would also dedicate nearly $273 million for a 9 percent teacher raise and would restore $100 million as part of a plan to return the payments to pre-recession levels in five years.

However, Karvelis acknowledged that the movement made serious progress regarding funding discussions.

“Before this movement started, lawmakers wouldn’t renew Prop 301. After we announced the walkout, they renewed it,” Karvelis said Tuesday.

“One month ago, the governor said he would only provide $65.4 million for a 2 percent raise, and we’ve moved that amount to $306 million.”

“The war is not over, but we’ve won an important battle to move the legislature this far,” he later told reporters during a question-and-answer session.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Arizona educators could return to class soon if lawmakers pass budget