& # 39; It is not listening & # 39 ;: the teachers and the governor of Arizona at variance with the financing of the school



While thousands of teachers and supporters gathered at the Arizona Capitol to protest against inadequate funding of public schools for a second day Friday, Governor Doug Ducey again skipped the opportunity to address them.

On the other hand, the public relations machine of the Republican governor The day before, Ducey promoted his plan to increase the salary of teachers by 20 percent by 2020, talking point by point of discussion.

The scene was very different on Friday in Denver, where several thousand Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper greeted the teachers assembled for the second day to protest the low funds for education. He said he would work for the state to pay for all of the approximately $ 1 billion borrowed from education during the recession.

"We'll see you, we'll listen to you," said Hickenlooper, who wore a red plaid shirt and spoke for less than five minutes. "We are working with you, not just today."

However, Hickenlooper offered no financing beyond what was proposed for next year. Some teachers shouted "We want more", while others applauded his promise.

Ducey, seeking re-election this year, never showed up to address the 50,000 educators and supporters on Thursday or the thousands at the Capitol on Friday. . He has called the leaders of the grassroots group that organized the strike with the Arizona Education Association for political reasons.

"He's not listening," said Kelly Grant, a professor at Mesa. "There are five demands, there has been from the beginning, so we just want someone to sit down with our people, make an effort, they are not making an effort."

Ducey has refused to meet with strike leaders, instead inviting a handful of selected educators to meetings. Just two weeks ago, I ignored the demands of teachers who started protesting in early March, after educators in West Virginia went on strike and won big raises. The educators from Oklahoma and Kentucky followed. [19659010] In a surprise move on April 12, Ducey tried to sideline the protests by announcing that he had found a way to increase teachers' salaries by 9 percent this year, followed by increases of 5 percent in 2019 and 2020. It also has an increase of 1 percent it gave last year to reach 20 percent t figure. That would cost about $ 650 million per year by 2020 in a state that has consistently cut taxes as the governor moves to cut the government and enact more tax cuts.

On Friday afternoon, Ducey's office announced that it had reached an agreement on a state budget with the majority of the Republican leaders of the House and the Senate. The agreement gives the 20 percent increase for 2020 and an extra $ 100 million for school districts that the governor proposed in January as a start to restore cuts to the recession era. But the plan does not address other demands of striking educators.

Teachers like Grant who have organized a grassroots movement never before seen in the state are not bowing down. They want not only the 20 percent increase, but a better salary for support staff, annual teacher increases, a restoration of school funds to the 2008 levels and new tax cuts until the state funding per student reaches the national average.

Carrie Deahl, an English teacher in the Phoenix Union High School District, said she was disappointed that the governor and the Legislature did not meet with the organizers of the #RedforEd movement.

"The governor can not even leave his office and have a conversation with us, and yet he says he is the governor of education," he said. "They are contradictory messages that you send to the public and to the country about who you really are and what your priorities are".

Arizona teachers are among the least paid in the nation. Schools that educate the vast majority of the state's 1.1 million public school students closed on Thursday and Friday when teachers dropped out of work.

The president of the Arizona Education Association, Joe Thomas, told educators on Friday that they might need to return on Monday to keep up the pressure on lawmakers and Ducey.

He also told them that there could be an effort to go to the ballot to obtain a new "dedicated funding stream" to help restore $ 1 billion if K-12 education cuts out the persistence of the Great Recession. The leaders of the Arizona Educators United base group planned to survey the members over the weekend about continuing the strike. Some school districts in the Phoenix area said Friday they will close on Monday.

An independent group of education finance advocates presented a plan to increase income taxes for high-wage workers. That could be presented to Arizona voters this fall, and the organizers of the #RedforEd movement say they are polling their supporters to see if they would support the plan.

In Colorado, some classes were canceled for the second day on Friday. Teachers fear that changes in the state's pension system will further hurt their income. They also resent the financing of education that is behind the national average. While lawmakers are working on changes to the pension system, any increase in taxes to fund education must be approved by voters.

Associated Press journalists Melissa Daniels in Phoenix and Colleen Slevin in Denver contributed to this report.


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