Teachers may stay out again Thursday as work continues on budget

- Leaders of an Arizona teachers strike are telling educators to stay out of school again Thursday and come to the state Capitol because the Legislature still hasn't begun debating a budget bill that would give them big raises.

Arizona Educators United organizers Dylan Wegela and Rebecca Garelli told members on a Facebook Live video Wednesday afternoon that they need to keep the pressure on lawmakers. The group had said they would call off the nearly week-old strike if the budget passed.

Many schools plan to re-open Thursday, and it remains unclear if the developments at the Capitol will change that.

Majority Republican leaders in House and Senate have been working to fine-tune the budget deal all day and expect debate to start debate Wednesday evening with votes to follow.

On Wednesday, teachers were back at the state Capitol. Red-clad teachers in the #RedforEd movement gathered Wednesday on the mall between the House and Senate buildings a day before their historic walkout for education funding is set to end.

The big question on Wednesday, however, is when will the budget be passed. The funding bill has been moving through committees all afternoon, and a vote could come Wednesday night.

Teachers walked out last week hoping they could demand more funding from Gov. Doug Ducey and Republican lawmakers.

The spending plan doesn't meet the teachers' demands for $1 billion in new education funding, but it does provide salary increases and other additional education funding.

When the plan started moving through the legislature, they said they'd go back to school and figure out new ways to keep the momentum going. News of a possible end to the teacher walkout came late Tuesday afternoon.

On Wednesday, some #RedforED backers sported a new sticker that reads "NO New Vouchers" with the hashtag "#LetAZVote", as word spread that an amendment might slip into the education that will allow children to qualify for vouchers, without attending public school first.

"That voucher bill was on our Committee of the Whole calendar, and then mysteriously, it was taken off," said State Rep. Rebecca Rios (D-Phoenix). "But the fact of the matter is, I'm sure at some point they said, 'oh my god, how do we push through more vouchers when we have a gallery full of teachers?' But the fact of the matter is, I think they will wait until the final days or hours, two or three in the morning, and that thing can come back."

State House Speaker JD Mesnard says he can't exactly say what will end up being in the bill.

"As it is right now, we amendments that are being drafted and finalized, and I don't exactly know how to respond to that," said Mesnard. "There will be at least 31 votes in my chamber when we get to having the budget on the board."

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to the report

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