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Budget earmarks pay raise for Arizona teachers, likely ending strike

By Sommer Brokaw
Budget earmarks pay raise for Arizona teachers, likely ending strike
Since Gov. Ducey signed into law an education budget which will raise teacher pay 20 percent by 2020, Arizona teachers are expected to return to the classroom after striking to demand better pay since last Thursday. Photo courtesy Arizona Educators United/Twitter

May 3 (UPI) -- Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed an education budget into law Thursday that will increase teacher pay, likely ending a teacher strike in the state.

In addition to the pay raise, which will increase the average teacher's salary by 20 percent by 2020, the $1 billion budget package includes "flexible dollars" to update curriculum and classroom technology. It will also increase pay for other paraprofessional staff who support teachers, according to a release from Ducey's office.

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Arizona teachers went on strike last week, joining other national union #RedforEd protests to demand better pay. Teachers in Arizona are paid less than other workers on average.

"Arizona teachers have earned a raise, and this plan delivers," Ducey said in a release. "The impact our teachers have on the lives of Arizona kids cannot be overstated."

RELATED West Virginia teachers to continue strike after Senate passes lower pay raise

With the budget passed, teachers are expected to return to classes soon.

"When we started this movement, Arizona educators pledged to keep fighting for the schools their students deserve until the end, and we were true to our word," a joint statement from the Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas and National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García said. "We will return to our schools, classrooms, and students knowing that we have achieved something truly historic. We should take pride in what we have accomplished, and in the movement that we have created together."

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Arizona Rep. Anthony Kern said the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average salary for all Arizona workers at $48,160, and average salaries for teachers range from $43,670 to $48,050 -- with high school and elementary school teachers generally earning more than middle school teachers.

RELATED West Virginia teachers, governor agree on deal to end strike

Under the new law, average teacher pay will reach $52,725 by the upcoming school year and $58,130 by 2020.

Arizona's 2016-2017 average annual teacher salary was $47,403 prior to the new law. That amount was more than $10,000 below the national average of $58,950.

RELATED Teachers in Arizona, Colorado walk out for more school money

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