Governor Signs Education Funding Bill, Teachers to Return to Class

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Related: DVUSD Schools to Reopen Friday, May 4

UPDATED 12:46 p.m. — After a weeks-long saga of walk-ins and walkouts and at times acrimonious accusations between educators and lawmakers, Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation this morning to increase teacher salaries and other education funding, and leaders of the #RedForEd movement said they’ll return to class Friday.

The district has said that if the walkout lasted more than four days, which it has, that school would likely be extended beyond Memorial Day. State law requires a certain number of instructional days or hours to be achieved.

The education funding bill’s passage comes on the sixth day of a statewide walkout and the fifth day of missed school at Deer Valley Unified School District, leaving parents concerned about how makeup days will be handled.

House Bill 2663 calls for a 9 percent raise in the coming school year (in addition to a 1 percent raise already enacted) and 5 percent raises in each of the next two years. It also restores some of the funds cut from education since 2008, including money that districts can spend as they see best on such things as support staff salaries, textbooks, technology, equipment and infrastructure.

“Arizona teachers have earned a raise, and this plan delivers,” Ducey said in a statement. “The impact our teachers have on the lives of Arizona kids cannot be overstated. They work incredibly hard to make a difference for their students.” The statement added: “This budget was very much influenced and shaped by Arizona school leaders.”

After an overnight legislative session to get HB 2663 on the governor’s desk, several other bills related to the state budget remain to be finalized.

Now What?

Shortly after noon, #RedForEd leaders announced the walkout was over. 

The #RedForEd movement is led by two groups: Arizona Educators United (AEU) and Arizona Education Association (AEA). They say the new legislation falls $1 billion short of restoring recession-era education funding cuts, and other demands were not addressed.

“We will return to our schools, classrooms, and students knowing that we have achieved something truly historic,” the AEA said in a statement at 12:38 p.M. “We should take pride in what we have accomplished, and in the movement that we have created together.”

But the group made clear it is not satisfied:

“The #RedforEd fight continues,” AEA said. “And since lawmakers aren’t getting the job done, we will. Today, we will rally at the Capitol. And over the next few days we will provide additional details about next steps.”

AEU organizer Noah Karvelis spoke to supporters outside the Capitol mid-morning, saying one next step is for #RedForEd supporters to organize their voting efforts around getting education-friendly politicians elected to the statehouse in November.

“The change happens with us,” Karvelis said. “The fight happens with us. The passion, the power is with us. And now we continue. We go to the ballot. We get it done there. We restore our funding. And we fight for our kids.”

He added in a tweet this afternoon: “I can’t wait to go back to school and see my kids tomorrow.”

Around midnight, Kelley Wendland Fisher, a leader within AEU, said all the amendments to the bill sought by #RedForEd leaders had failed. Educators had sought, among other things, to cap class sizes at 25 students and to cap the student-to-counselor ratio at 250:1. Fisher said that legislators who planned to vote no on the bill were doing so because they did not believe it does enough for education.

“It does not do enough for our students, and it does not do enough for our colleagues,” Fisher said in a Facebook Live video at about 3 a.m.

Highlights of the Legislation

Ducey said the new law will restore $1 billion to education funding once fully implemented.

  • $644.1 million for teacher pay raises, which are “protected in the base of the budget and inflated” moving forward.
  • $371 million to fully restore recession-era cuts to Additional District/Charter Assistance, phased-in over five years.
  • $86 million in cash funding for the construction of new schools (three in Chandler, one in Tolleson Unified, one in Queen Creek).
  • $53 million for K-12 school building renewal.
  • $27 million in capital funding for Arizona’s universities: ASU, NAU, and UofA.
  • $8 million for resident student funding at Arizona’s universities.
  • $5.3 million for ADE’s Education Learning and Accountability System.
  • $3 million (plus $7 million in federal dollars) for behavioral and mental health specialists to enhance school safety.
  • $2 million for the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind to enhance the early childhood learning program.
  • $2 million for ASU’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership and UofA’s Center for the Philosophy of Freedom.
  • $1.8 million to fully fund the state formula for career and technical education (JTEDs).
  • $1 million to create a computer science professional development program.

“The budget does not compromise other essential state services to accommodate our teacher pay package,” the governor’s statement said. “In fact, it increases the state’s commitments to developmental disabilities, skilled nursing facilities, Medicaid, critical access hospitals, the arts, food banks and higher education.”

A host of other line items in the bill add funding to activities tangential to or unrelated to education, ranging from $10.7 million for a developmentally disabled program to $24 million to build a new National Guard Readiness Center in Tucson. [Full Details of the Bill]


Editor’s Note: See yesterday’s story for the latest information on DVUSD’s plans, which could include extending school beyond Memorial Day. North Phoenix News will continue coverage as we get reaction from #RedForEd leaders, their plans for next steps, and when DVUSD announces when school will reopen and how the makeup days will be handled.


Behind the Bill

Educators in the #RedForEd movement fought for more than the governor was originally willing to offer, and they have said in recent days that this bill’s passage would not mean the end of their longer-term efforts to increase school funding. Among their reasons:

  • Arizona ranks 49th in per-pupil education spending, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
  • The state has cut public school funding by $4.56 billion dollars since 2009, according to the Arizona School Boards Association.
  • In a 2017 survey, more than 70 percent of Arizona teachers said they spend hundreds of dollars of their own money each year on classroom supplies.
  • That same survey found teachers are burning out, as shrinking staffs and a teacher shortage have meant more work for those who remain.

“This is a real win for our teachers, for our kids,” the governor said as he signed the bill, characterizing it as a bipartisan effort.


 


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Robert Roy Britt
NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites Space.com and Live Science. He has written four novels. Email the author.
Robert Roy Britt on Email

Robert Roy Britt

NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites Space.com and Live Science. He has written four novels. Email the author.

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