Following an all-night session in the Arizona legislature, Gov. Doug Ducey has signed a bill that will pay for an average 19 percent salary increase for teachers within three years.
The Arizona Daily Star reports that approval of the pay hike came Thursday morning after several hours of debate in which the Republican majority in the legislature rejected several attempts by Democrats to add more money for public education to the state budget.
"Arizona teachers have earned a raise, and this plan delivers,” Ducey said in a prepared statement.
After the governor signed the legislation, Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas and National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García issued a joint statement:
“When we started this movement, Arizona educators pledged to keep fighting for the schools their students deserve until the end, and we were true to our word," they said. "We will return to our schools, classrooms, and students knowing that we have achieved something truly historic. We should take pride in what we have accomplished, and in the movement that we have created together."
Teachers returned to their classrooms Friday, The Arizona Republic says. The statewide teacher walkout resulted in six lost instructional days and affected the majority of Arizona's 1.1 million public school students.
Some teachers prepared to start their first day back by talking about the walkout with their students and answering questions about the unexpected break.
The legislation approved Thursday also provides $100 million in school funding that can be used for a variety of needs, including raises for employees not included in the teacher pay package.
Republicans who control both the House and Senate spurned proposals to enact several other demands by striking teachers, including giving raises to support staff, shrinking class size and adding money for more school counselors.
Several hundred teachers watched in the state capitol galleries, and more stood vigil outside singing "America the Beautiful” and "Amazing Grace."
"The people down here, a lot of them, don't listen to our voices,” says Noah Karvelis. He is one of the organizers of Arizona Educators United, the group that crafted the #RedForEd movement that, along with the Arizona Education Association.
"They don't respond,” Karvelis says. "If they did, we'd have $1.1 billion for education in this budget.”
The legislative session started with Gov. Doug Ducey offering teachers just a 1 percent salary increase, insisting that's all the state could afford. But massive demonstrations and some Republican lawmakers crafting their own plans led to Ducey jumping out front last month, saying he found sufficient funds, largely from future economic growth, to finance the pay hike.