Arizona teachers plan more walk-ins as a Thursday strike looms.
'Red For Ed' Campaign Credited For Arizona Education Sales Tax Extension
The sea of "Red for Ed" supporters appears to have created a sea change for Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.
Going against his initial instinct, Ducey signed his name to legislation behind closed doors on Monday extending the state's .06 cent sales education tax until 2041.
It was not in his plans. In fact, he was planning to put the question to voters on a ballot after his re-election.
However, lawmakers on both parties, including Republicans with education experience, urged fellow lawmakers to pass the bill in both chambers and send it onto Ducey's desk.
Noah Karvelis, a music teacher and spokesman for the grassroots group Arizona Educators United which is behind the "Red for Ed" movement, admits signing Proposition 301 is important.
But he says more needs to happen to adequately support Arizona teachers.
"301 is a necessity. That's already in my paycheck. And I'm still taking home under $30,000," he said, then pointed out the disparity when it takes a college degree to be a teacher in most states. "That's absurd especially as I have over $30,000 in student loans."
Meanwhile, educators continued to coalesce under Karvalis' grassroots group Arizona Educators United, which has amassed more than 30,000 supporters under the "Red for Ed" campaign.
They spent Monday discussing future strategies and a possible strike.
"Our backs are against the wall. Change needs to happen. We don't want to go on strike. But if that's what it ultimately takes I think everybody here is prepared to essentially do that," said Karvalis.
Democrats warned the extension does nothing meaningful to lift teacher salaries from the bottom of national pay scale rankings. Several of them pointed out the extension amounts to an additional $18 a week per teacher, and that's before taxes.
In his education plan, Ducey has committed to restore $371 million to the "district additional assistance" account that pays for computers, books and school buses, a fund ignored by lawmakers over several years.
Nearly one-third of those missing funds can be attributed to cuts made by Gov. Ducey during his first year in office.