After Achieving 'Something Truly Historic,' Arizona Teachers Head Back to Classrooms With Sights on November Elections

An Arizona teacher holds up a sign in front of the State Capitol during a #RedforEd rally on April 26, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

After Achieving 'Something Truly Historic,' Arizona Teachers Head Back to Classrooms With Sights on November Elections

"The #RedforEd fight continues. And since lawmakers aren't getting the job done, we will."

A week after teachers walked out of public schools across Arizona, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed a budget bill that gives a 20 percent raise to teachers and $138 million more funding to schools, which led educators to end the strike but vow to keep fighting for demands that were unmet by the legislation.

"The budget is a significant investment, but it falls far short" of the movement's demands, Arizona Education Association (AEA) President Joe Thomas toldCBS News. He added that teachers should now support a November ballot measure to further increase education funding by taxing Arizona's wealthiest residents.

"I'm glad it passed and we'll get something because I'm a single mom of three kids, but it's not enough," Rebecca Wilson, a Phoenix-area teacher, told KTAR radio station.

Wilson was among those who stayed overnight at the State Capitol on Thursday as lawmakers reportedly spent 13 hours debating the bill, which passed around 5:30am and Ducey signed at 6:10am local time.

"The educators have solved the education crisis! They've changed the course of Arizona," Noah Karvelis of Arizona Educators United declared to thousands of cheering teachers, according to multiple news reports. "The change happens with us!"

In addition to teachers in Arizona, educators across West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Colorado have held walkouts and rallies in recent months to demand raises and greater investment in the public school system. The protests over the past week came as the world marked International Workers' Day, or May Day, on Tuesday.

Offering his congratulations to the Arizona teachers on Twitter, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said, "This is what happens when working people stand together."

"As in other states, the movement in Arizona arose organically, with teachers coordinating through Twitter hashtags and Facebook pages," the Washington Postnoted, outlining the deteriorating conditions that drove teachers to organize and strike:

Like other states that have seen teacher uprisings, Arizona's schools have lost a significant amount of state funding since the recession, when states were forced to cut budgets across the board. The state did little to restore funding to schools after the economy recovered. Arizona enacted a corporate tax cut that continued to deplete revenue.

When adjusted for inflation, Arizona cut total state per-pupil funding by 37 percent between 2008 and 2015, more than any other state, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That has led to relatively low teacher salaries, crumbling school buildings and the elimination of free full-day kindergarten in some districts. In 2016, Arizona ranked 43rd in average teacher salaries, according to a study by the National Education Association, the largest teachers union. Teacher shortages have led the state to waive education requirements for teaching candidates. In some cases, even people without college degrees can serve as substitutes.

While the budget bill signed Thursday grants teachers raises over the next few years and allocates millions of dollars toward funding education, Arizona teachers and movement leaders say this is only the beginning of their mission to improve schools statewide.

"We will return to our schools, classrooms, and students knowing that we have achieved something truly historic. We should take pride in what we have accomplished, and in the movement that we have created together," AEA's Thomas said in a statement.

Promising to publicize more details about the movement's future plans in the coming days, he added: "The #RedforEd fight continues. And since lawmakers aren't getting the job done, we will."

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