Building on the example of the historic statewide strike in West Virginia, Arizona teachers returned to school on Friday, ending their own six-day walkout. After working through Wednesday night while teachers kept an all-night vigil, state lawmakers passed a bill at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday that gives teachers a 20% raise by 2020 and invests an additional $138 million in schools, according to the Washington Post.
The concessions made by the Republican-led legislature still fell short of the teachers’ demands. They wanted an immediate 20% raise and for funding cuts made over the past decade to be fully restored. As the Post notes, since the recession, Arizona’s education system has been slashed year after year:
When adjusted for inflation, Arizona cut total state per-pupil funding by 37 percent between 2008 and 2015, more than any other state, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That has led to relatively low teacher salaries, crumbling school buildings and the elimination of free full-day kindergarten in some districts.
But the Arizona walkout once again shows the power of organized labor. Just last month, Governor Doug Ducey seemed unwilling to negotiate on the 1% pay raise for teachers that was included in his budget proposal. Now teachers will get a 9% raise this fall and a 5% boost each of the following two years.
While many teachers remain unhappy with the deal that brought the strike to a close, they are determined to keep fighting in the future. As one middle school teacher put it to the Associated Press: “We here in Arizona have banded together as educators, we’ve set up a grass-roots movement with 1,700 schools involved, 1,700 liaisons, and if we’re ever called to come back we will come back together and we’ll come back stronger.”