Ducey makes an offer, teachers still discuss a walkout

TUCSON, Ariz. - Governor Doug Ducey announced plans to boost teacher pay twenty percent by 2020 but leaders of the #RedforEd movement say they’re skeptical of Ducey’s plan and want to know more.

“I said I’m on the side of the teachers and I’ve been listening and we've been working,” Ducey said during a late afternoon press conference Thursday.

Ducey’s plan includes a nine percent boost in funding this year, which, coupled with a one percent raise already coming, makes for a ten percent raise before the start of the 2018-19 school year. Then a five percent raise each year for two years after that. The plan includes money to account for inflation.

“By the beginning of the 2020 school year the projected average teacher salary will be $58,103,” Ducey said.

Vail Superintendent Calvin Baker, who was one of more than a dozen superintendents who met with Ducey in Phoenix Tuesday, calls it a substantial increase and said he commended the Governor for it.

“We communicated to the governor the very real angst that existed and the very real frustration and the need to do something substantive,” Baker said.

Ducey says his plan keeps plans for $371 million in funding place for districts to spend on items like books, buses, maintenance, and other expenses.

During the meeting, superintendents told the governor any money for teacher salaries should not come from cuts to other education funding according to Baker.  

“In other words, please don't take that capital money and direct it toward teacher salaries because it’s going to leave us with lots of capital problems.”

Noah Kavelis, a leader in the Arizona Educators United group, says he and others are skeptical of Ducey’s plan and discussions about a walkout will continue while details emerge. Jason Freed, Tucson Education Association President, expressed similar apprehension about Ducey's plan.

Ducey’s offer came as both sides appeared to be digging in. Educators were gathering strength as more and more district boards passed resolutions in support of teachers.

Sunnyside Unified School District Board President Buck Crouch said he believes his board would adopt a resolution in support of teachers at its next board meeting.

“I think the governor and legislature have to take control of this and they have to give adequate funding for us to pay our teachers a living wage so they don’t have to work multiple jobs,” Crouch said.

He and Baker both said they hope a deal can stave off a walk out. However, some districts are planning for a walkout, just in case.

“This morning we met with all of our principals and administrators and worked on plans,” Baker said.

Ducey says the money for these raises will come from increasing state revenues and falling operating costs. He also says he'll roll back other proposals he's made for the budget. Ducey said legislators would work through the weekend on the new proposal.

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