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  • Participants take part in a march in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., April 30, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media.

    Participants take part in a march in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., April 30, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. | Photo: Reuters

Published 1 May 2018

Arizona ranks 50th in the nation for elementary teacher salaries and 49th for high school teacher salaries.

Hundreds of schools in Arizona were shuttered for the fourth day of teacher walkouts in the U.S. state, demanding better pay and school funding. 

RELATED:
Majority of US Approves of Teacher Strikes as Arizona Educators Plan Protest for Third Day

According to Reuters, the state lawmakers are hashing out a budget package. The state-wide walkout has impacted nearly 840,000 students. 

"We need you to keep on red alert," kindergarten teacher and strike organizer Kelley Wendland Fisher said in a Facebook video. "We need for you to be the eyes and ears. We need you to be down there making sure that they know that we are watching and listening to everything that’s happening."

Under the banner Red for Ed, a sea of hundreds of teachers in red t-shirts, gathered outside the State Capitol, with slogans like, "Straight Outta Funding," "Walking Out For Our Students," and more to pressure the government.

Photo: Courtesy of Muaz Jamal Mussa

The unprecedented wave of labor activism by teachers across the United States was fueled by demands that states reverse constraints on salaries and funding imposed when tax revenues ran short during the 18-month recession which ended in June 2009. 

Arizona ranks 50th in the nation for elementary teacher salaries and 49th for high school teacher salaries. Oklahoma ranked 50th for high school teachers, according to a January report published by the Arizona School Boards Association. 

According to a 2016 poll, Arizona voters across all sections named education as the state's top priority, with 77 percent of the state's taxpayers want to pay more for public schools. 

The move comes after the Arizona governor, Doug Ducey, proposed to give teachers a 20 percent raise, which the teachers outrightly rejected after it was revealed that the funding would be squeezed from cutting other state programs. 

Photo: Courtesy of Muaz Jamal Mussa

The teachers' unions have proposed a 2.5 percent tax on financial and legal services, which would bring about US$2.5bn a year. The union intends to spend the amount generated on restoring full state funding for educational programs as well as reversing cuts to special education, arts, and dual language programs, the Guardian reported.   

Noah Karvelis, a music teacher and organizer of the grassroots Arizona Educators United, said the teachers are seeing some progress over some of their demands. 

"We’ll be down there today fighting so we can get the best deal for our students as possible," Karvelis said in a phone interview, Reuters reported.  

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