Hundreds of thousands of Arizona schoolchildren can go back to class now that the Legislature has passed an education funding deal, ending a six-day walkout that shuttered classrooms around the state. Strike organizers called for an end to the walkout Thursday after a dramatic all-night legislative session resulted in a 20% pay raise by 2020. Some districts plan to reopen Friday, while others will resume classes next week. "We will return to our schools, classrooms, and students knowing that we have achieved something truly historic," said a joint statement issued by Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas and National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia.
The education funding plan approved by lawmakers was immediately signed by Gov. Doug Ducey, awarding teachers a 9% raise in the fall and 5% in each of the next two years. Those increases, which are in addition to a 1% raise granted last year, will cost about $300 million for the coming year alone. Ducey praised the legislation as "a real win" for both teachers and students. The Arizona walkout is part of a bubbling national uprising over low teacher pay and funding. The movement started in West Virginia, where a strike resulted in a raise, and spread to Oklahoma, Kentucky and, most recently, Colorado. (Some public schools are hiring foreign teachers willing to work for low wages.)