PHOENIX (AP/KSAZ) - Thousands of Arizona teachers and their supporters are marching toward the state Capitol to demand more education funding in a historic statewide strike that's shut down schools.
Crowds in red shirts filled the streets from the starting point at downtown Phoenix's baseball park Thursday and broke into chants of "Red for Ed" as they marched en masse.
>>Full coverage: fox10phoenix.com/redfored
Phoenix Police estimate over 50,000 people took part in the march to the Arizona state Capitol, in an effort to demand a 20% raise for teachers, about $1 billion to return school funding to pre-Great Recession levels and increased pay for support staff, among other things.
The march in Phoenix had a positive vibe, along with a clear message: that the walkout is for real, until demands are met.
"We want a sustainable, reasonable plan that gives funding back to our classrooms," said one participant.
"All of us want a quick resolution," sand another participant. "Every single person would rather be in their classroom right now, so quick is best, but a quick resolution that actually solves the problems."
Arizona Education Association president Joe Thomas said that the march to the Capitol is necessary after attempts at outreach have been ignored. There's no end date for the walkout and he said educators may have to consider a ballot initiative for education funding if lawmakers do not come up with a plan on their own.
"How it ends is up to the governor and up to those legislative leaders," Thomas said. "If they're courageous, if they have the political capital to come down and speak with us, we all get a win."
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has laid out a plan for a 20 percent teacher pay raise by 2020, but organizers of the so-called #RedforEd movement say his plan relies on rosy revenue projections and doesn't address the other issues.
Without a doubt, teachers are some of the biggest difference-makers in the lives of Arizona children. They need to be respected, and rewarded, for the work they do -- and Arizona can do better on this front. 1/3— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) April 26, 2018
We’ve all been listening -- but now, it’s time to act. My number one focus right now is passing a 20% pay raise for Arizona teachers. This raise is earned, and it is deserved. 2/3— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) April 26, 2018
To parents, I understand the pain & pressure caused by today’s strike. I'm working to get this 20% raise passed. Call/email your legislator & tell them to vote “yes” on a 20% pay raise for teachers [https://t.co/3WZKtPfGEy]. We need teachers teaching, and students learning. 3/3— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) April 26, 2018
Districts around the state have said they will close as a result of the walkout. More than 840,000 Arizona students are expected to be out of school on Thursday, according to an analysis from the Arizona Republic that tallied up at least 100 school districts and charter schools are closing. The state Department of Education said the state has more than 200 districts and more than 1.1 million school children.
In Colorado, more than 10,000 teachers are expected to demonstrate in Denver as part of a burgeoning teacher uprising. About half of the student population will have shuttered schools as a result, with teachers using personal leave time to take off.
The walkouts are the climax of an uprising that began weeks ago with the grass-roots #RedforEd movement that spread from West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky.
Colorado lawmakers from both parties have agreed to give schools their largest budget increase since the Great Recession. But teachers say that the state has a long way to go to make up for ground lost during the recession and before that due to the state's strict tax and spending limits.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.