Oklahoma teachers will likely return to the classroom Friday after the state's largest teachers' union, the Oklahoma Education Association, called off a nine-day-old strike on Thursday, saying the walkout had gone as far as it could. Union president Alicia Priest called the strike "a victory for teachers," even though it fell short of their goals, adding that "we got here by electing the wrong people to office" and "we have the opportunity to make our voices heard at the ballot box." In Arizona, meanwhile, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) worked to avoid a strike starting Friday by offering teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020, starting with a 9 percent hike starting next fall.
Ducey, who had refused to even meet with teachers as recently as Tuesday, calling their actions a "political circus," said Thursday he was "impressed" after listening to teachers and found $274 million to cover the cost of the initial raise without raising taxes, though he did not provide any details. "It's amazing what a threatened teachers strike in an election year can get the Republicans to do," state Rep. Rebecca Rios (D) said. "I'm impressed." On Wednesday, parents, teachers, and students held walk-ins at more than 1,000 Arizona schools.
Some of the organizers of the #RedForEd protests — which seek immediate 20 percent raises for teachers, competitive salaried for classified employees, and restoring $1 billion in Great Recession education cuts — were less impressed. In a video, they said they needed more details on where the funding would come from and how Ducey would push it through the state legislature, and said they plan to push forward with Friday's walkout.
In Oklahoma, the Republican legislature and governor raised taxes on tobacco, gas, and oil production to offer teachers an average raise of $6,000 and a $1,250 raise for classified staff. Teachers had sought $10,000 raises, via revenue from reinstating a capital gains tax. A teachers' strike in West Virginia ended with a $2,000 raise earlier in March.