TUCSON, Ariz. - The battle for higher pay for teachers continues in Southern Arizona, as teachers at one east side elementary school prepare for a "walk-in" demonstration on Wednesday morning before class.
"To take that moment together it really gives us a lot of strength," exceptional education assistant Teresa Leonard said. She works at TUSD's Gale Elementary School.
So does Susan Williams, who teaches 2nd and 3rd grade students.
"We are there to inform community and parents, and students, about why we're organizing," Williams said. "We will have flyers, and information to pass out, and we're just really looking for community support for our movement."
They are rallying to voice their concerns about a variety of reasons, but their number one message is, teachers need raises.
"Teachers haven't gotten a significant raise in quite some time," Williams said. "We have so many empty classrooms across the state, because people don't want to go into the profession anymore. We don't get paid a livable wage."
The average teacher salary in the United States is $58,950; in Arizona, the average salary is $47,403, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Williams makes more than $5,000 less than the average salary for a teacher in Arizona.
"I've been working for 20 years. I still only make $41,000," she said. "We have so many empty classrooms across the state, because people don't want to go into the profession anymore. We don't get paid a livable wage."
Both Leonard and Williams feel this creates a serious problem that could affect the future. If fewer people get into the profession, it will take a toll on the next generation of students, and in the long run, society.
"You're creating the next generation. The teachers in elementary school are where we start," Leonard said. "These are going to be our free thinkers, mathematicians, philosophers, our politicians. It's worth investing in their future."
Governor Doug Ducey is sticking with his plan to give teachers a 1% raise, plus anything school districts can get out of $100 million in extra cash he's putting in his current budget proposal, according to the Associated Press.