Thousands of teachers and supporters in Arizona and Colorado gathered for a second day to pressure lawmakers for higher salaries and more funds to an unprecedented extent that has closed many schools in both states. (April 27)
PHOENIX – To combat the situation, thousands of Arizona teachers met early Friday at the state Capitol for a second day of meetings while educators at Colorado had almost perfect weather in Denver for an afternoon protest.
The temperature reached 99 degrees at 3 p. m. MST in Phoenix. To overcome a different kind of heat, legislators in the House of Representatives and the Senate dominated by Republicans rose early this week, allowing legislators to get away from the protesters.
"I'm disappointed they're leaving, I'm disappointed they do not have a conversation," said Barbara Skinner, an instructional specialist in the Mesa suburb of Phoenix. "We want people to know that this is not something that just happened. a week ago, years in development. "
The crowds were estimated at around one-tenth of the 50,000 participants on Thursday.
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Both states are concerned about their salaries: the salary The average teacher in Arizona is $ 47,403 and the 44th among the states. Colorado teachers average $ 51,808, the 31st in the nation; What they really want is respect and financial support for their classrooms.  "I've had enough of not having enough," said Martha Petty, who teaches media studies at Harris Bilingual Elementary School in Fort Collins, Colo., And has taught for 32 years. "I still love children and I still want to make it great, so, Colorado, make it great."
Since 2009, Colorado lawmakers have reduced the amount of money they allocated to help rural schools, those that serve large populations of At this time, that lack of funds is $ 822 million per year, $ 6,600 million in total over the past decade, said Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association.
Colorado lawmakers donate They do not have the power to raise taxes without asking voters. Therefore, the teachers' union supports an initiative to increase taxes for people earning more than $ 150,000 a year and corporations
"When I do not have to work a second job, I can devote more time to planning" Said Sarah Buck, Adams 12 Five Stars Schools teacher in Denver's Thornton suburb, "Most of my income goes to supplies for my children."
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For the past two days, Colorado teachers have used personal days to make their trip to the Capitol and have heard messages of support from Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper.
"We'll see you, we'll hear you," said Hickenlooper, who was wearing a red plaid shirt in support of the #RedForEd movement. "We are working with you, not just today."
A teacher in Colorado protests on April 27, 2018, at the state Capitol in Denver. (Photo: Kelly Ragan, The (Fort Collins) Coloradoan)
In contrast, participating Arizona teachers voted to retire and rely on the support of school districts, parents and other contributors to express their point.  Arizona teachers want an increase of 20% but they also have four other demands, including increases for support staff, annual teacher increases, a restoration of $ 1 billion in state money for education that has been cut from the Recession and no new tax cuts until the state the money per student reaches the national average. Student expenditures for 2017 in Arizona were $ 7,501; the national average was $ 11,642, according to a report by the National Education Association published earlier this month.
"To keep my teaching job, I had to reduce the size of my house so I could continue teaching". said Irene Vasquez, 56, a professor of mathematics in the suburb of Phoenix, Peoria. "I've never had a part-time job, but you do what you do because you love it."
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, seeking re-election this year, announced Friday afternoon that he had reached an agreement with the Republican leaders of the Legislature that includes a 20% increase for teachers by 2020. But Your plan does not work and address the other demands of educators.
Ducey made his announcement after the teachers had left the Capitol for that day and the Republican did not speak with the teachers any day. Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, said state teachers will leave for the third consecutive day on Monday.
"I think we have to come back on Monday because they closed the store and they ran away yesterday, and we have to show them that they can not run away from our students," Thomas said. There is no specific end in sight.
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The Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank in Arizona, announced that it had sent letters to state public schools warning that parents and students can sue if they do not resume classes immediately, saying that students have a constitutional right to education and teachers are legally bound to fulfill their contracts as government employees.
A coalition of progressive groups presented documents on Friday to begin the process of an election initiative in Arizona that would raise the income tax rate 3.46% in individuals earning more than $ 250,000 or in households earning more than $ 500,000 . It would also increase individual rates 4.46% for people who earn more than $ 500,000.
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The initiative would designate 60% of their money for teacher salaries and 40% for autonomous school operating and maintenance expenses if the organizers get enough signatures to qualify for the Ballot. November. It would also allow money to cover full-day kindergarten and increase the salaries of student support staff and require that boards of directors receive input from teachers and staff on how to spend the funds.
Arizona #RedforEd organizers have demanded the restoration of state education money to 2008 levels. Arizona spends $ 924 less per dollar student on inflation today than in 2008, according to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee of Arizona.
Contributor: Kelly Ragan, Sady Swanson, The (Fort Collins) Colorado; Allison Sylte, KUSA-TV, Denver; Ricardo Cano, Ryan Randazzo, Richard Ruelas, Catherine Reagor, Alexis Egeland, Lauren Castle and Megan Janetsky, The Arizona Republic. Follow Dustin Gardiner on Twitter: @dustingardiner
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