PHOENIX (AP) — The Latest on a protest to demand higher teacher pay in Arizona:
Teachers in Arizona are demanding a 20 percent salary increase and other hikes in education funding during a day of action at the state Capitol.
The demands were unveiled Wednesday in front of a crowd of thousands of teachers and their supporters. Demands also include competitive pay for education support professionals, and a permanent salary structure with annual raises.
Teachers are also demanding the state restore education funding to 2008 levels. Pre-recession funding was $1 billion higher than current figures, according to education funding advocates at AZ Schools Now.
Another demand is a freeze on all tax cuts until per-pupil spending catches up to national levels. A state audit from March 2017 shows that per-pupil spending here averaged $9,136, compared to a national average of almost $12,500.
Thousands of Arizona teachers are beginning to descend on the state Capitol demanding higher pay after weeks of mobilization.
Wednesday’s “teach-in” drew protesters toting handmade signs, like one that said “How can we get students ahead if we leave teachers behind?” Many donned stickers that said “I don’t want to strike, but I will.”
Most wore red, the signature color of the #RedforEd campaign that’s sprouted up in the state following a strike in West Virginia that wound up securing a pay raise.
Adjusted for local cost of living, federal figures show elementary teachers in Arizona rank 50th in earnings nationally and high school teachers rank 49th. National Education Association data shows Arizona teachers are paid around $47,000 annually, compared to a national average of around $58,000.
Arizona teachers and education advocates are planning a day of action across the state to highlight low teacher pay and school funding.
The grassroots group Arizona Educators United and a group called Save Our Schools Arizona that forced a vote on a school voucher expansion plan events in Phoenix, Tucson and seven other cities Wednesday.
The main event is at the state Capitol in Phoenix. The educators group plans to lay out its demands for teacher pay increases and boosts to other school funding.
Arizona Educators United has held Capitol protests since early March. A sickout last week by Pendergast Elementary School District teachers shuttered most schools in the west Phoenix and Glendale district.
Arizona teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation.