After staging one of the largest teacher strikes in U.S. history, Arizona educators have secured a 20 percent pay rise over the next three years.
For five days straight, tens of thousands of Arizona teachers amassed in Phoenix and the capitol building demanding better pay and more school resources in a state where teachers make US$10,000 less than the national average.
The 20 percent wage hike was finally agreed in the early hours of Thursday by state legislators and Governor Doug Ducey as part of a larger US$10.4 billion state spending bill.
Teachers will receive a 9 percent raise starting with the next school year, and a 5 percent increase per year for the next two years – about US$600 million in total.
"Arizona teachers have earned a raise, and this plan delivers," the governor said in a statement. In addition to the raise, the budget also allocates US$100 million in 'flexible dollars' to give wage hikes to counselors and other support staff not included in the teacher pay increase.
This year’s Arizona budget also includes US$371 million to be delivered over the next five years in an effort to make up for the state's US$1.1 billion in education cuts since the 2008 recession.
This amount was agreed after the majority Republican Congress dismissed attempts by Democrats to reach the US$1 billion mark and to budget for teacher and counselor hiring to provide better attention to students.
Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, told ABC News: "The budget is a significant investment, but it falls far short" of what the Red For Ed movement was initially asking.
Thomas, in a joint statement with the National Education Association, nonetheless acknowledged teachers are returning to school "knowing that we have achieved something truly historic."
Local media reports that the state's 57,000 schools will be back in session by Monday.
As teachers continued to protest Thursday in Phoenix, Thomas said educators will focus on the November elections and a referendum meant to increase income taxes on the state's wealthiest in order to fund public education.