Arizona raises teachers’ pay after strike shuts schools

Arizona lawmakers pulled an all-nighter to enact a budget Thursday that provides big raises for many of the state’s striking teachers, and Gov. Doug Ducey signed the teacher funding part while the House continued debating the rest of the state’s the $10.4-billion budget plan.

The Senate passed the teacher raise legislation just before dawn and the Republican governor immediately signed off on education funding that will give teachers a 9% raise in the fall and 5% in each of the coming two years. The raises will cost about $300 million in the coming year alone.

Striking teachers had held watch at the state Capitol all night, packing the House and Senate galleries and holding a candlelight vigil on the legislative courtyard.

Organizers of the unprecedented strike that shut down school for most of the state’s 1.1 million public school students had called for teachers to go back to class Thursday if the budget passed. But many large school districts ended up canceling classes for a sixth straight day as the lawmakers worked through the night Wednesday into Thursday.

The education funding package fell short of teachers’ demands for more overall school funding, a return to pre-recession funding levels, regular raises, competitive pay for support staff and no more tax cuts until per-pupil funding reaches the national average. Big education cuts over a decade have left Arizona teachers’ pay among the lowest in the country, as is overall school funding.

Ducey, a Republican, praised the teacher pay and education funding package.

He said in a statement that “Arizona teachers have earned a raise, and this plan delivers.”

The budget package also provides the state’s schools with a partial restoration of nearly $400 million in recession-era cuts, with a promise to restore the rest in five years. Other cuts remain in place.

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