Teaching Profession

‘Today Will Forever Be Remembered': Teacher Walkouts Have Begun in Arizona and Colorado

By Madeline Will — April 26, 2018 2 min read
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A sea of red-clad teachers stormed both the Arizona and Colorado state capitols today. The teacher walkouts will continue on Friday.

An estimated 1.4 million public school students in both states missed classes on Thursday, according to news reports.

Thousands of Arizona teachers joined the state’s first-ever statewide strike, causing more than 30 school districts to cancel classes. Educators there are calling for $1 billion in school funding, which would include a 20 percent teacher pay raise. They marched from the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball stadium to the capitol.

Arizona’s is the third statewide teacher work stoppage since February—part of an unprecedented and growing movement among U.S. educators.

See also: I’m an Arizona Teacher. This Is Why I’m Walking Out Today (Opinion)

Teachers in Colorado aren’t technically on strike—but thousands are demonstrating at the state capitol Thursday and Friday to call for more education funding. Some hosted a “grade-in,” in which they sat on the statehouse floor, grading student papers to show how much work they do outside the classroom, according to the Associated Press.

Educators in both states wore red shirts—the hashtag-turned-movement #RedforEd has become a rallying cry for public education across the country.

In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey has already proposed a plan to increase teacher salaries by 9 percent for the 2018-19 school year and an additional 5 percent in each of the following two years. Teachers have said they don’t trust that his plan is financially sustainable or that it will garner enough legislative support to pass.

But Ducey told a local news organization Capitol Media Services that he won’t be offering teachers anything more than that. "[Their demand has] been delivered on,” he said. “And it’s time to move forward.”

State legislators have said they are working on a “massive teacher pay raise,” although it’s unclear if it will align with Ducey’s plan.

It’s tough to raise teacher pay, as my colleague Daarel Burnette reported in an Education Week story this week. Still, teachers in Oklahoma and West Virginia received pay bumps because of their walkouts, both of which lasted nine days. West Virginia teachers received a 5 percent pay increase, and Oklahoma teachers saw a $6,100 salary boost.

The successful walkouts there have energized teachers in states like Arizona and Colorado. Noah Karvelis, one of the grassroots organizers of the Arizona strike, tweeted that it has been “incredibly difficult” to walk out of his classroom and leave his students. But, he later tweeted, it was time to take a stand:

Image 1: Stephanie Rolf, center, a teacher in the Douglas County, Colo., school system, leads a cheer during a teacher rally on April 26 in Denver. —David Zalubowski/AP

Image 2: Special education teacher Charmaine Woods wipes away tears as she talks about not being at her teaching job due to the Arizona teacher strike on April 26. —Ross D. Franklin/AP

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.