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Arizona teachers wake to raises, rally at Capitol as walkout comes to end

(KTAR Photo/Kathy Cline)

PHOENIX — Arizona teachers once again crowded onto the state Capitol grounds Thursday, but their mood was more jubilant than other visits, after Gov. Doug Ducey signed a budget bill at dawn to provide school funding and raises.

The Senate and House passed the measure and Ducey tweeted out at 6:09 a.m. when his signature made it a law.

Teachers had said they would return to work if the education proposal passed.

A few hours after Ducey signed the legislation, Arizona Educators United, the group behind the the Red for Ed movement, tweeted that the walkout was over.

Many educators and supporters had been at the Capitol the night before for a vigil as the bill was debated. Some were there overnight.

Funding will create a 10 percent raise next year and 20 percent by 2020.

“We must continue fighting for our five demands. … We won the first battle, but now we must win the war,” Arizona Educators United spokesman Noah Karvelis told an enthusiastic crowd.

Exactly a week ago, 50,000 protesters marched through downtown Phoenix on the first day of the walkout.

The budget was passed on the sixth day educators had been out of their schools, but they had been protesting class conditions and low pay for weeks.

They held weekly walk-ins before school, wore red T-shirts in a show of unity and displayed signs urging lawmakers to help them make schools better.

“I asked you to paint your cars and it worked!” education activist Rebecca Garelli said, referring to RedforEd slogans teachers and supporters handpainted onto their vehicles windows.

“… it is time to get back to our students and back to our classrooms,” she said.

School districts that remained closed started announcing plans to reopen Friday.

“We’re grateful for the raise but we wanted students taken care of as well,” Cathy Field, who teaches in Phoenix’s Cartwright District, said after the budget had passed.

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