TED SIMONS: COMING UP NEXT ON ARIZONA HORIZON, THE TEACHER WALKOUT IS OVER AS THE LEGISLATURE PASSES A BUDGET AND THE GOVERNOR SIGNS IT INTO LAW. ALSO TONIGHT, WE WILL SEE HOW ART IS BEING USED TO REVITALIZE DOWNTOWN MESA. THOSE STORIES AND MORE, NEXT, ON ARIZONA HORIZON.
PROMO: "ARIZONA HORIZON" IS MADE POSSIBLE BY THE SUPPORT OF ARIZONA HIGHWAYS MAGAZINE. ESCAPE, EXPLORE, EXPERIENCE, AND BY CONTRIBUTIONS BY THE FRIENDS OF EIGHT, MEMBERS OF YOUR ARIZONA PBS STATION. THANK YOU.
TED SIMONS: GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO ARIZONA HORIZON. I AM TED SIMONS. THE TEACHER WALKOUT IN ARIZONA IS OVER. THIS AFTER THE LEGISLATURE APPROVED A BUDGET THAT INCLUDES TEACHER PAY RAISES. THE HOUSE AND SENATE PASSED THE BUDGET DEALING WITH EDUCATION EARLY THIS MORNING AFTER 13-HOURS OF DEBATE. THE GOVERNOR THEN SIGNED THE BILL INTO LAW AT A LITTLE PAST 6:00 THIS MORNING.
GOV. DOUG DUCEY: THIS IS A REAL WIN FOR OUR TEACHERS, KIDS, AND EDUCATORS IN THE CLASSROOM. WE ARE GRATEFUL FOR YOUR HELP GETTING THIS OVER THE FINISH LINE. WE ARE EXCITED THAT IT IS A BI-PARTISAN BILL. IT IS TIME TO DO THIS. IT'S A GOOD WAY TO START THE DAY.
TED SIMONS: AND WITH THAT, LEADERS OF THE TEACHER PROTEST CALLED FOR AN END TO THE SIX-DAY WALKOUT. AS FOR THE BUDGET, IT PROVIDES FOR A 9-PERCENT TEACHER PAY RAISE NEXT YEAR THAT WORKS OUT TO 19-PERCENT BY 20-20. THE BUDGET PLAN PROVIDES 100-MILLION DOLLARS TO RESTORE PAST CUTS IN SOFT CAPITAL, THAT NUMBER IS THE START OF A 371-MILLION DOLLAR RESTORATION OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS FOR COMPUTERS, TEXT-BOOKS AND MINOR SCHOOL REPAIRS, AND CAN ALSO BE USED TO SUPPORT SCHOOL "STAFF" PAY INCREASES AND THE EDUCATION BUDGET INCLUDES REVENUE FROM A NEW VEHICLE REGISTRATION FEE. HERE NOW TO TELL US MORE ABOUT THE MARATHON LEGISLATIVE SESSION THAT RESULTED IN A STATE BUDGET, IS CASEY KUHN OF KJZZ RADIO, WHO HAS BEEN COVERING THE PROCEEDINGS. GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE. THANKS FOR JOINING US. IT HAS BEEN A LONG WEEK FOR YOU GUYS.
CASEY KUHN: VERY LONG. DAYS, NIGHTS -- I WENT TO BED LATE AND GOT UP EARLY TO SEE DUCEY SIGN THE BUDGET.
TED SIMONS: DESCRIBE THE ATMOSPHERE. GIVE US AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT IT WAS LIKE ALL WEEK LONG.
CASEY KUHN: IT WAS VIBRANT, RED, A SEA OF CRIMSON ON THE CAPITOL LAWN, SOMETHING I HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE. THE WORDS UNPRECEDENTED, HISTORIC. IT HAS BEEN AN EXCITING TIME, NOT EXCITING AND HAPPY AND JOYFUL, MORE EXCITING AND HOPEFUL TOWARD CHANGE, NOT SOMETHING THAT WE ARE OUT HERE.
TED SIMONS: A NEW VOICE IS BEING HEARD. A NEW POLITICAL GROUP IS BEING FORMED. WHEN YOU ARE DOWN THERE, AND BETWEEN WHAT YOU HEARD FROM REPORTS OVERNIGHT, DID IT SOUND AS THOUGH THE TEACHERS KNEW SOMETHING WAS GOING HERE?
CASEY KUHN: IT IS SOMETHING THEY HAVE NOT BEEN DOING FOR TEN YEARS. TEACHERS ARE FINALLY REALIZING THEY HAVE A POLITICAL VOICE. EN MASSE, THEY CAN BE HEARD TOGETHER AS ONE. I HAD A LOT OF SOURCES THERE OVERNIGHT, IN THE GALLERY WATCHING. THEY WANTED TO BE SURE WHAT LAWMAKERS WERE GOING TO DO WOULD HAPPEN. THEY WERE NAPPING ON THE GROUND IN SLEEPING BAGS OVERNIGHT. THERE IN THE MORNING -- THE TEACHERS WERE THERE FOR THE LONG HAUL. REPORTERS, SOME OF THEM FROM THE CAPITOL, THERE WERE THERE AS WELL.
CASEY KUHN: YES, THEY WERE. I WAS THANKFUL FOR THEM. ONE GOT A TWO-HOUR NAP. SHE IS BACK WORKING AGAIN. IT IS A COMRADERY FOR TEACHERS AND SUPPORTERS ARE BOLSTERING THEIR SPIRITS. WE ARE ALSO IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL. WE WANT EVERYTHING REPORTED ACCURATELY.
TED SIMONS: A LOT OF IT CAME BY WAY OF TWITTER, BOOTS ON THE GROUND AND THOSE THERE. THERE WAS A LOT OF INFORMATION FLYING AROUND THE LAST 24 HOURS.
CASEY KUHN: YOU SAW THE GOVERNOR SIGN THE BUDGET ON TWITTER. A LOT OF PEOPLE SAY SOCIAL MEDIA WAS THE DECIDING FACTOR. THERE ARE COUNTLESS NUMBERS OF FACEBOOK GROUPS. IF YOU ARE A MUSIC TEACHER, A SCHOOL STAFF, COUNSELOR, THERE ARE ALL THESE WAYS PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO GET TOGETHER AND SHARE HOW SCHOOLS WILL CLOSE. THERE IS A PARENT SECTION. IT IS NOT ALL POSITIVE. PEOPLE ARE SAYING, WAIT A SECOND, THIS IS AFFECTING MY KIDS AND ME. THIS IS HARD. THERE IS A BIG DISCUSSION. IT IS INTERESTING TO SEE THAT COMMENTARY.
TED SIMONS: DID YOU SEE A LOT OF COUNTER PROTESTERS?
CASEY KUHN: I WOULD NOT SAY A LOT. THERE IS A MOVEMENT CALLED PURPLE FOR PARENTS. I HAVE NOT SEEN THAT PHYSICALLY, JUST ONLINE. THERE WERE PEOPLE OUT THERE THAT YOU SEE AT A LOT OF RALLIES AND PROTESTS THAT WANT TO HAVE A SECOND VOICE. I TALKED TO A CHARTER TEACHER ORIGINALLY ONBOARD FOR THIS. HE CAME OUT IN A YELLOW SHIRT. HE SAID HE WOULD LIKE TO HAVE A MORE CRITICAL CONVERSATION ABOUT HOW THE WORK IS GOING.
TED SIMONS: FROM ALL YOUR DAYS WORKING DOWN THERE. THE MOST MEMORABLE THING YOU WILL TAKE WITH YOU FROM THIS STORY.
CASEY KUHN: I WAS A BAND NERD. THERE WAS A 200 PERSON MUSIC TEACHER BAND. IT WAS THE MOST MEMORABLE BECAUSE IT WAS IN THE BACKGROUND, KEPT TEACHER'S SPIRITS UP. IT WAS SOMETHING WE ALWAYS HEARD AND EXCITING.
TED SIMONS: IT WAS FUN TO WATCH, BAND TEACHERS ARE OUT THERE PERFORMING. FINALLY THEY ARE THE ONES ON STAGE, HUH?
CASEY KUHN: EXACTLY. THEY CAME OUT TO FORM AN AMAZING BAND AND JOIN THEIR COLLEAGUES OUT THERE.
TED SIMONS: LAST QUESTION, DID IT SEEM TO YOU AS THOUGH LAWMAKERS GOT IT? THIS IS A LOT OF MONEY FOR EDUCATION THAT PREVIOUS LEGISLATURES DID NOT TOUCH. THEY PASSED IT. DO THEY GET IT?
CASEY KUHN: YOU HAVE TO ASK THEM. TEACHERS WOULD SAY -- THEY ARE HEARING THEIR VOICES. THEY ARE MAKING DECISIONS THAT WILL AFFECT THEM IN WAYS THEY HAVE NOT BEFORE. THEY ARE PUTTING THE MONEY BACK INTO SCHOOLS THE WAY THEY HAD BEFORE. DO THEY GET IT, YOU HAVE TO ASK THEM, BUT THEY ARE LISTENING.
TED SIMONS: YOUR IMPRESSION IS THAT THEY ARE LISTENING.
CASEY KUHN: I THINK SO.
TED SIMONS: CASEY, GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE.
CASEY KUHN: THANK YOU.
TED SIMONS: LATER ON ARIZONA HORIZON, HOW ART IS BEING USED TO DEVELOP DOWNTOWN MESA. TRUST ME THAT IS COMING UP.
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.