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Arizona #RedForEd Organizers Will Call Off Historic Strike If Budget Passes

Arizona teachers are slated to end up back in their classrooms by Thursday if the budget as written is passed. 

#RedForEd movement organizers leading the walkout announced Tuesday the promise of more money into public education is a step in the right direction.

"We have delivered a win in this session," Arizona Educators United organizer Noah Karvelis said. "The governor wasn't even going to extend [Proposition] 301. He was going to give us a two percent pay increase. That's ridiculous. And we have moved him further than anybody could have even imagined a month ago."

The Legislature agreed last month to extend the 0.6 percent sales tax created from Proposition 301 beyond 2020 when it was set to expire. 

Teachers began rallying for more pay and restorative funding in March, culminating in a rally on the Capitol. Then, organizers threatened to walk out of classrooms if their demands were not met. That included a 20 percent pay raise for all educators and staff, a billion dollars in funding restorations and no new tax cuts.

MORE: #RedForEd Strike: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

Gov. Doug Ducey came out with a proposal for a 20 percent pay raise by 2020 two weeks ago. Organizers and teachers initially rejected the plan, saying the details were unacceptable and unsustainable in a possibly changing economy. The budget plan details have since been hammered out in the state legislature and could be passed by Thursday, when teachers plan to go back to class. Those details include a 9 percent pay raise by next year, plus 5 percent raises in the next two consecutive years after. This was on top of a 1 percent raise already built into the budget originally proposed before the #RedForEd movement. The details do include tax cuts as well. 

AEU organizer Rebecca Garelli said while only one of the demands were met in the budget, educators have been mobilized and will continue to fight from their classrooms. 

“Our fight is not over. We have options. But it is time for us to get back to our students and back into our classrooms," Garelli said. "We need to continue to fight for the additional resources our students need.”

Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas said the plan is to go back to work while looking ahead at what options at the ballot box are available to make changes in state education funding. 

“We’re going to bring [teachers] to the election and bring the force there. We’re going to be on the ballot with the ballot initiative. We’re going to be supporting our bonds and overrides and we’re going to be supporting governing board members who support education," Thomas said. "That’s the long-term gain on this.”

The Arizona Center for Economic Progress announced a ballot initiative last Friday that would tax the top earners in Arizona to pay for school funding. The measure needs more than 150,000 signatures before it can be put on the ballot. 

Dozens of school districts have announced plans to re-open Thursday, including Peoria Unified and Deer Valley Unified school districts.

Casey Kuhn reports from KJZZ’s West Valley Bureau. She comes to Phoenix from the Midwest, where she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism.Kuhn got her start in radio reporting in college at the community public radio station, WFHB. She volunteered there as a reporter and worked her way up to host the half-hour, daily news show. After graduating, she became a multimedia reporter at Bloomington's NPR/PBS station WFIU/WTIU, where she reported for and produced a weekly statewide news television show.Since moving to the Southwest, she’s discovered a passion for reporting on rural issues, agriculture and the diverse people who make up her community.Kuhn was born and raised in Cincinnati, where her parents instilled in her a love of baseball, dogs and good German beer. You’ll most likely find her around the Valley with a glass of prosecco in one hand and a graphic novel in the other.She finds the most compelling stories come from KJZZ’s listeners.