PHOENIX – After six days of educators holding demonstrations at the state capital, the governor, and state law makers finally passed the education budget ending the historic statewide teacher walk out, enabling schools to reopen last week.
Educators voted to walk out on April 26 despite Governor Doug Ducey’s 20 percent pay raise offer because the deal did not meet many of their demands, which included increasing per-pupil funding, raises for support staff and a long-term solution to funding Arizona’s public education system.
The Arizona Education Association (AEA), and Arizona Educators United (AEU), which are leading the grassroots Red for Ed movement in the state, announced last week that teachers would return to classrooms only if lawmakers passed the education budget with the funding promised by the governor.
On May 3, around 1 a.m. the state legislature passed the education budget that not only gave teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020, but also increased flexible dollars for schools to use on support staff, textbooks, technology and infrastructure. The plan included $371 million to restore recession-era cuts that will be phased-in over five years.
However, the plan falls short of teachers demands for restoring school funding to pre-recession levels, regular raises and a pledge not to adopt any tax cuts until per-pupil monies reaches the national average.
“When we started this movement, Arizona educators pledged to keep fighting for the schools their students deserve until the end, and we were true to our word,” according to a statement released by the AEA on May 3. “We will return to our schools, classrooms, and students knowing that we have achieved something truly historic.”
The AEA and AEU said they will turn to a ballot measure next November to secure the rest of the funding that was not included in the budget plan passed last week.
“We should take pride in what we have accomplished, and in the movement that we have created together,” the AEA statement continued.
While education advocates may have their sights set on elections next November, many parents, students and teachers are left wondering what happens now that the walkouts are over.
Each school district is now left to determine how the lost learning time will be made up for students, which could delay report cards, the last day of school and potentially graduation dates.
Most districts are announcing their revised school year calendars by posting it on their websites and social media pages. Parents should contact administrators or school’s directly for the most up to date information.
Cave Creek Unified School District, which reopened its schools on April 30, earlier than most districts in the Valley, has already announced its revised school calendar.
Thursday May 24 will be a half day, May 25 will be a full day, May 28 is Memorial Day and observed by CCUSD schools, and May 29 will be the last full day for all students and staff. Graduation will still occur on May 24.
Deer Valley Unified District schools reopened for a full-day of instruction on May 4. Their revised school year schedule will be updated this week, and they will send emails updating parents once it’s approved.
“The recent events are unprecedented and unique. We do not have history to guide us; however, we have laws and policies that we must follow,” stated a letter to DVUSD parent sent out on May 3. “We have contacted our attorney to provide advice in the steps we will need to take to finish our school year within the expectations of the law.”
Governor Doug Ducey signed the funding bill making it a law early on the morning of May 3.
“This is a real win for our teachers, for our kids, for our educators in the classroom, and we’re grateful for your help in getting this over the finish line,” said Governor Ducey in a video filmed in his office before signing the bill. “It’s a good way to start the day.”