Before the school day begins, Arizona teachers plan to be outside in red shirts to show solidarity and demand higher salaries.
Called “walk-ins,” the demonstrations are “to raise awareness of educational issues and to demonstrate unity among the educational professionals and community while allowing for education to continue,” according to Arizona Educators United, the group behind the event.
While the #RedForEd April 11 event is set to take place before the school day starts, Arizona Educators United told its members to prepare for a possible walk-out in the near future that could close schools if the legislature doesn’t act on their demands.
Here’s a look at what supporters are demanding and what Arizona lawmakers have already said about it.
What are Arizona teachers demanding?
Those involved with Arizona Educators United are asking the state for a 20 percent pay increase, a freeze on corporate tax cuts until per-pupil spending reaches the national average, a permanent raise structure and increased pay for support professionals.
The national average starting teacher salary for the 2016 school year was $38,617, according to the National Education Association. In comparison, the average starting salary for teachers in Arizona was $34,068 that same year.
Noah Karvelis, a co-founder of the group, said aside from teacher raises, the Arizona Educators United is also asking for better resources for students.
“Our teachers are part of it, but we’re having kids learning in abysmal situations – no paper towels in the classrooms, no textbooks in the classroom, no chairs or not enough chairs for kids,” Karvelis told The Associated Press. “We’re essentially throwing away a whole generation of Arizonans and their futures, and that’s unacceptable.”
Karvelis is a music teacher at Tres Rios Service Academy in Tolleson, Arizona, according to the Arizona Republic.
The demands also include reducing class sizes to 23 students per teacher.
Why a ‘walk-in’?
While organizers haven’t left out the possibility of a strike in the future, teachers told the Arizona Republic that this form of demonstration is more positive as opposed to missing time with students.
“As educators and people who love children, we would much rather walk in than walk out,” Shannon Moxley, a sixth-grade teacher at Tarwater Elementary, told the newspaper. “We'd rather be in our classrooms teaching.”
What has the governor said?
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey told KPHO-TV that while he is “supporting the teachers,” he is also “staying out of the political theater.”
Ducey has stuck by his proposal for a 1 percent increase this year, while pledging that other fund hikes will come later. He has also said he refuses to meet with the #RedForEd organizers.
As the Arizona Capitol Times reported, when Ducey took office, the state’s per student funding was already low at $4,154; it is now $4,720. During the 2011-2012 school year, before he took office, it sank to as low as $3,814, according to the Capitol Times.
Is this just in Arizona?
Teachers nationwide have staged walk-outs and protests in recent months to demand higher salaries and other resources.
Educators in West Virginia went on strike for two weeks earlier this year, while those in Kentucky and Oklahoma protested at state capitols – some for days on end.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.