Governor Doug Ducey signed a new state budget Thursday morning that will increase funding to education, including a raise in teacher salaries. This also marks the end of the teacher walkout, meaning schools will re-open on Friday.
The budget includes a nine percent increase in teacher pay this year, and a 19 percent increase by 2020. It also provides $100 million to restore past cuts for computers, books and minor repairs. The budget introduces a a new vehicle registration fee to help fund it, but it will mostly be funded by excess revenue caused by a successful economy.
“I think teachers are realizing they do have a political voice en masse when they come together,” says Casey Kuhn, a reporter for KJZZ who has been covering the walkout since it began. “They can get their voices heard together as one. They wanted to be vigilant and make sure lawmakers heard what they were saying.”
Kuhn says it was a vibrant experience with the sea of red shirts flooding onto the capitol lawn. Likely, none of the lawmakers have seen anything like it before, she says: It made history. Kuhn says it was an exciting time not because people were happy, but because they were hopeful for change.
There was a strong sense of camaraderie among both teachers and reporters. Kuhn says that all the reporters would help each other out to make sure everything was not only being covered but being covered accurately.
“A lot of people who started this movement would say that social media was the deciding factor in getting teachers together,” Kuhn says. “There’s a countless number of Facebook groups. There’s all these different ways people are able to get together and share information.”
Kuhn says she did see some counter protesters, but not a lot. She saw a PurpleForParents movement starting online, but never saw any evidence of it during the rally.
As for the most memorable part of the rally, Kuhn says it was watching over 200 music teachers form a band to lift the spirits of their colleagues. As a self-described band nerd herself, she says it was a fun change to watch the teachers pick up the instruments and not the students.