Thousands of teachers marched on the Arizona capitol of Phoenix, leaving classes canceled and school buses not running for six days.
The “Red for Ed” movement began last month with calls for public education supporters to wear red on designated days and participate in public walk-ins. Gov. Doug Ducey proposed raises adding up to 20 percent by 2020, but the union countered with more demands. Those demands are: raises for support staff such as bus drivers, additional classroom funding and a return to pre-Recession funding levels.
School bus repair was also an issue, a local CBS news outlet reported. Its research on five years’ worth of bus inspection records concluded that a lack of funds was resulting in school buses with old or damaged parts being kept in regular use.
Union leaders called for a walkout beginning April 26. According to their reports, up to 50,000 people marched on the state capitol. Some stayed overnight. Mark Simons, executive director of the Arizona Education Association, said he believed some school bus drivers participated, though he did not provide any details.
The budget, which was passed by the state legislature on Thursday, includes the 20 percent raise by 2020 and more than $1 billion added to educational spending, which Gov. Ducey said could be used in part for support staff raises.
Most classes resumed by May 4, including at Flagstaff United, located north of Phoenix. The district said it would “remain closed until the Walk-Out ends or a level of FUSD staff return to work to guarantee safe operations of the school district.”
However, Karin Eberhard, associate director of communications and public relations, said that Flagstaff transportation employees reported to work during the strike and continued to perform assigned duties, except on one built-in snow day that was used.
District administration at Creighton School District issued a statement expressing support for the teachers and staff striking for increased pay. A spokeswoman said that there were opportunities given for hourly staff to work, but she did not know if transportation staff took advantage of them.
In a rare exception, enough teachers and staff showed up to work at Chino Unified School District #51 that the district was able to stay open throughout the entire walkout, only letting out early one day.
Some districts like Peoria Unified and Phoenix #1 made full school days out of Wednesdays that were previously scheduled as shortened days. Payson Unified initially announced two Saturday school days, but then said it had found another solution for making up instruction time.
The union-related Labor’s Community Service Agency said it is accepting donations that will then be used to offset financial hardships suffered by hourly workers who lost pay due to school closures caused by the walkout. Simons confirmed this funding is geared toward classified or hourly workers including school bus drivers.
“It really is intended for classified because what we’re finding is most of the classified, if they didn’t work and the school isn’t planning on making up those days, they’re going to be out those wages,” Simons explained.