Some Arizona school districts to reopen Friday

Some Arizona school districts to reopen Friday

Major Arizona school districts in metro Phoenix and Tucson were still closed for the day on Thursday following Gov. Ducey's signing of budget legislation providing more than $300 million in raises for numerous state's striking teachers. They stood together with their right hands over their hearts and sang "America the lovely".

Although the passage of the budget will herald in the end of the statewide teachers' strikes, many districts remained closed for a sixth day on Thursday amid uncertainty about when the walkout would end.

Our teachers do awesome work inside the classroom, and they have earned this raise.

Thomas said "the Red For Ed movement is here to stay" and they "we're not done bringing in resources".

Despite Ducey's optimism, however, Wisser and other Arizona educators said that the new budget falls far short of the changes they had advocated for most fervently.

"It's incredible that we sit here and we try to call ourselves a hero after we've set the house on fire", said state Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Phoenix.

Besides providing more than $4.5 billion for K-12 education, the budget envisions spending about $1.8 billion for the state's Medicaid program, $1.1 billion for prisons, $725 million for public universities, about $630 million on social services and $388 million for the child safety department.

The Arizona walkout is part of a simmering national rebellion over low teacher pay.

One of the state's largest districts, in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, announced shortly after the budget passed that schools would reopen Friday. "It's $405 million in fiscal '19 alone in new money, over and above inflation enrollment growth that can be used to start to patch the damages done by the cuts over the last 10 years".

Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas said educators should now focus on a campaign for a November ballot measure that would seek more education funding from an income tax increase on the wealthiest taxpayers.

But the Republicans who control both the House and Senate spurned proposals to enact several other demands by striking teachers, including giving raises to support staff, shrinking class size and adding money for more school counselors.

She said "many of the goals" in her State of Education address were "achieved", but added there was still "much work" that needs to be done. Teachers also won $400 million in education funding to partially make up for recession-era cuts, according to the Associated Press. State funding per student fell by 36.6 percent between 2008 and 2015, more than any other state.

Minority Democrats mainly voted against the budget plan, drawing criticism from Republicans. "You can't set a house on fire, call 911 and claim to be a hero. And that's what this body has done", Bolding said.

He said it was "goofy" to think that anyone was stalling the process.

In a rare show of bipartisanship, the House shot down three amendments from Representative Kelly Townsend that appeared to target teachers who express political beliefs or who close down schools through walkouts. Epstein said the bill could help prevent suicide and bullying and improve academic performance.

But Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, who sits on a school board, said these decisions should be left to local school boards.

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