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Arizona Teacher Strike to End, But Many Vow to Continue Fighting

Arizona-Teacher-Strike-600.jpg

The weeklong Arizona teacher strike was set to end with Gov. Doug Ducey's signature on a teacher pay raise plan Thursday—but teachers aren't declaring this a victory. 

Ducey signed the K-12 portion of the state budget plan early Thursday morning, after state legislators pulled an all-nighter to pass the plan. Teachers camped outside at the capitol, holding a candlelight vigil and singing "America the Beautiful" as the night went on. 

The plan provides a 20 percent boost in teacher pay over the next three years, including an average 9 percent bump for the coming fall. It also provides schools with a partial restoration of $371 million in recession-era budget cuts. 

Still, teachers are not satisifed with the budget deal. They had called for $1 billion in education funding, and were frustrated with the lack of assurance on raises for support personnel, among other issues. 

But organizers of Arizona Educators United—a grassroots, teacher-led group—said there was nothing else they could do. Legislators had already made up their minds, they said, and it was time to return to the classroom. 

The strike was expected to end on Thursday, but legislators weren't able to get the plan on the governor's desk on Wednesday. Some school districts that had planned to reopen Thursday had to cancel classes after teachers called out of work.

Now, some school districts are announcing they will reopen Friday, including the Scottsdale district outside of Phoenix. Other districts are expected to follow suit later in the day, according to local reports. 

Arizona marks the latest state where teachers have forced at least a partial victory through walkouts and activism. Teachers in West Virginia and Oklahoma both walked out of their classrooms in a push for higher pay earlier this spring. They both were out for nine days and received a pay increase from the legislature. Teachers in Kentucky and Colorado also walked out on several occasions to protest changes in their pension bills. 

This wave of teacher activism is unprecedented, experts say. 

Image: Teachers camp outside the capitol building during the night as the Arizona legislature debates a budget negotiated by majority Republicans and GOP Gov. Doug Ducey on May 3 in Phoenix. —Matt York/AP

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