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Colorado, Arizona teachers walk out of classrooms to protest education funding
27 April 2018, 12:34 | Floyd Cook
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"We have a fight in front of us", Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, told teachers during a rally on Wednesday. "Tomorrow we will lift our voices in a way they can not ignore".
The #RedForEd movement calls for greater pay and more money to fix schools and update class materials. "Enough is enough. We can't take it anymore".
Nichole Soyka, an eighth grade reading teacher, said that she's been hit especially hard by the lack of funding because she's only in her second year of teaching and doesn't have access to the same resources that the veteran teachers in her district might have in their rooms.
"We haven't seen the answers we need", he said.
Colorado teachers are also asking for more school money, higher pay and protection for retirement benefits.
In a petition sponsored by Arizona Educators United that garnered over 27,000 signatures, educators in the state have addressed the other ways education cuts have hurt classrooms, calling for "updated textbooks, basic supplies, and technology".
"Our goal is to ensure that students have access to highly qualified and experienced teachers, that educators are compensated fairly, and to improve the educational environment in the state of Arizona", the group said on its walkout planning website.
Teachers and supporters rally outside the Colorado State Capitol building in Denver on Thursday morning, April 26, 2018.
Martinez said she was prepared to take her children back Friday and next week to the center, which offers activities that include arts and crafts and dodgeball.
Arizona Educators United has released a list of concrete demands, including a 20 percent pay raise for teachers and certified staff, a return of school funding to pre-recession levels, and a moratorium on tax cuts until the state's per-pupil spending meets the national average.
The state has not kept up with a constitutional mandate to increase school funding each year by at least the rate of inflation, the CEA says. But he doesn't support the strike.
The statewide average teacher salary for fiscal year 2017 was $48,372, according to data obtained from the Arizona Auditor General.
"I had a student in my homeroom ask me why they aren't good enough to have real books", Soyka said. "While the schools close, the Legislature remains open, with leaders attempting to complete their task to bring the teachers significantly better pay".
The walkouts have put tremendous pressure on lawmakers to raise taxes in states where Republican leaders are loath to do so. Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has laid out a plan for a 20 percent teacher pay raise by 2020. "We will not stop until we get this plan passed".
It's the first of two days of planned protests at the Capitol that led to several school districts to cancel classes on Thursday and Friday. She said she had a "wake-up call" for school funding when she learned about a teacher paying out of pocket for a field trip.
Below is Yarbrough's full statement. We also recognize the need for continuing to build on the education funding increases of recent years for support staff, school improvements and technology. The group says low pay and funding means working in Colorado's schools is less attractive to college graduates and prompts teachers to leave the profession early, leading to a shortage of qualified teachers. We hear their frustration. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas told teachers not to walk out.
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