When the final school bells rang on Wednesday, thousands of teachers across the state dropped out of work with no idea how long the strike would last, or under what circumstances they would return to their students.
Leaders of Arizona Educators United, the grassroots group that drives more funding for education, has not committed to how long the strike will last and what realistic solution could bring it to an end, saying that those decisions should come from the own teachers and that the organization is taking it day by day.
Gob. Doug Ducey has ignored the group's demands to meet him. Lawmakers have shown no real effort to approve the more than $ 1 billion in new revenue that educators demand to put education funds back to pre-recession levels.
Ducey sticks to its 20×2020 plan, which would provide a 9% year, with the promise of an additional 10 percent over the next two years.
His office is pushing cautious Republican lawmakers to approve the teacher salary increase that many Republican lawmakers consider based on unsustainable and promising income projections. The governor even courted the cautious Democrats, who argue that the plan does not do enough to solve Arizona's educational funding problems.
"This is a more aggressive plan than anything else presented by someone, and it's doable," said Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato.
But leaders of the Arizona Educators United #RedForEd movement have rejected the governor's proposal, saying that while it would be a blessing for teachers, it will not solve the myriad of other problems schools face: crumbling buildings, old textbooks and old computers, and support staff that earn minimum wage.
The strike will continue with or without Ducey's increase, they say.
"For Ducey to assume that people will simply be content with what they want, the offer is reckless, just as their plan is unwise," said Derek Harris, a professor at the Dietz K-8 school in Tucson and the local leader. of Arizona Educators United.
A budget bill, with or without the increase, has not yet been submitted to the Capitol. Thursday marks the 109th day of the legislative session, which is supposed to end after 100 days at most. In an election year, legislators usually try to close before that.
The school is coming to an end, with most classes scheduled to leave in five weeks. And although many school districts say they have enough days in their school year to withstand a two-day strike, any extension of the strike will cause schools to prolong their year and postpone summer vacations.
Which leaves teachers, legislators and students and parents with a persistent question: how and when will the strike end?
There are four obvious paths to a resolution, although only one would result in a win for #RedForEd.
When the #RedForEd movement announced its strike last Thursday night, Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, which has been working closely with Arizona Educators United, said schools need minus $ 1 billion that has been reduced in the last decade.
Thomas said there are enough votes in the Legislature to approve a tax increase, but when asked where the money will come from, he pointed out to lawmakers.
"The simple answer is that it's your job to find the money, we give them that power as elected officials," he said.
Most Republican lawmakers do not support raising taxes or reducing tax cuts, this year to supplement funding for education.
A proposal by Republican Rep. Noel Campbell of Prescott will increase the sales tax by 1 cent for three years.
Even if lawmakers approved a tax increase, Ducey will not sign it as law. The governor promised never to raise taxes, and Scarpinato confirmed that he had not changed his mind.
"Why would we raise taxes when we have more income than spending?" Scarpinato said.
But Thomas is resisting I hope, saying with enough pressure, that things can change.
"If someone in January told me we would have an extension of Proposition 301 passed legislatively, there would be $ 100 million in additional district aid in each budget that is being discussed, and there would be $ 300 million in the table for increases of teachers, I would have laughed, "he said.
Sending the question of a 1 cent sales tax increase to voters through a legislative referendum would prevent a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber of the Legislature. But lawmakers on both sides are great, if not totally disdainful, of that plan.
Republicans point out that Arizona already has one of the highest sales tax rates in the country. The Democrats argue that the state's dependency on sales tax regresses the poor and establishes an unreliable source of funding that flows and flows with the economy.
Republican lawmakers and Ducey hope that after the budget ink runs out that includes significant increases for teachers this year, teachers and the public will see that they are making a real investment in education, the movement will fail and the teachers will go back to work.
Republican Rep. Paul Boyer of Phoenix, chairman of the House Education Committee and a charter school teacher, argued that teachers will begin to lose public support for their cause if the public sees them as complaining about a increase that most working families can only dream of.
And he noticed that after the legislators approve a budget, they are going to suspend the year.
"So, are you going to come here and protest while nobody is around? I think you could," he said.
Scarpinato said the governor's budget, which includes $ 100 million this year for additional district assistance and chartering, is a historic investment in K-12 education that shows the governor has listened to the demands of the public. and is taking funds for education seriously.
"This is the plan that we have before us at this time, the budget process is coming to an end, and this legislative session is coming to an end, so now is the time to act on this plan, which is the best plan that exists, "he said.
Your boss expressed it in clearer terms when talking with Howard Fischer of the Arizona Capitol Service.
"If we move a 20 percent increase for teachers and there is a strike in progress, that does not make sense," Ducey said.
Harris said that the fizzling movement has always been a possibility, especially after Ducey's offer.
"When the changes in the landscape, you change tactics," he said.
Movement leaders and union supporters have said for a long time that a citizens' initiative – the process by which citizens collect signatures to propose a law on the ballot – is on the table.
But they have played their cards very close to the chest and have refused to discuss what that initiative would look like, and if it is already on paper, ready to go. They have maintained that the Legislature created the problem, and it is up to the legislators to solve it.
Thomas, the president of AEA, said he had not heard someone write a specific initiative, but that people were considering the initiative. process in general, if the Legislature does not act.
The difficulty, he said, is being solved with the sources of financing that he will use, and what he will finance.
An initiative would have the advantage of being essentially set in stone, while a law created by the Legislature can always be amended by the Legislature, he said.
But time is running out. An initiative for the November ballot would need a minimum of 150,642 valid signatures from Arizona registered voters before the July 5 deadline to qualify for the ballot. To be safe from legal challenges, the initiative will need a cushion of approximately 30 percent, or approximately 200,000 signatures.
Harris said that Arizona Educators United is waiting to see what teachers decide to do after Thursday's and Friday's retreat before discussing "next steps."
There are indications that there is an initiative on the horizon. Arizona Educators United published a training manual for leaders that included a timeline that indicated there was a tentative plan in May and June to gather signatures for an electoral initiative to increase educational revenue