Educators stage 'walk-ins' in fight for pay hike as red state teacher revolts roll on

Instead of walking out, Arizona teachers stage "walk-ins" in fight for pay hike.

Instead of walking out of class, Arizona teachers staged "walk-ins" in their fight for a pay hike.

In a twist on red state teacher demonstrations that have been sweeping the country, thousands of teachers across Arizona gathered outside their respective schools in an effort to rally in support of community residents in their ongoing attempt to win better wages.

Before classes started today, teachers, many wearing T-shirts reading "#RedForEd," greeted parents and students with signs reading, "Don't Shortchange Education" and "Help me Help Them." Just before school started, the educators, among the lowest paid in the nation, entered their classrooms, many arm-in-arm with students, and got down to the business of reading, writing and arithmetic.

The demonstration came a week after more than 2,500 Arizona teachers held a rally at the state capitol in Phoenix to demand Gov. Doug Ducey and the state's Republican-dominated legislature increase education funding and boost their pay by 20 percent.

Arizona public school educators, who earn $47,218 a year on average, rank 42nd in the nation for teacher pay, according to a 2017 report by the National Education Association.

"What makes me even more disappointed is that our legislature doesn't seem to care that we're at the bottom. They seem to be OK with that," Beth Symek, president of the Arizona Parent Teacher Association, told ABC affiliate KNXV in Phoenix.

The Arizona teachers are planning a larger protest next week, union officials said.

Ducey and the Arizona legislature have offered the teachers a 1 percent pay hike. Ducey has noted that the state already gave teachers a 4.3 percent raise from 2016 to 2017.

The "walk-in" demonstrations came as Oklahoma public school teachers continued a classroom walkout for the fourth day. Thousands of teachers have swarmed the state capitol in Oklahoma City this week to demand more funding for education resources and higher pay for support staff.

The Oklahoma protest comes after Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation last week granting teachers annual pay raises averaging $6,100, the largest in state history. Oklahoma teachers had been making an average of $45,276 a year, among the lowest wages for educators in the country, according to the National Education Association report.

While teachers in Oklahoma say they appreciate the pay raise, they are upset that state lawmakers shortchanged their students by slating $50 million for education programs and supplies. Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said the union had asked that teachers' pay be raised by $10,000 annually and that funding for education be boosted by $200 million over the next three years.

Fallin has demanded the teachers go back to work, but the teachers have said they will continue their walkout until their demands are met.

Earlier this week, teachers in Kentucky staged a huge rally at their state capitol in Frankfort. The Kentucky teachers say they're upset over their state legislature's decision last week to overhaul their pension plan without any say from them.

The bill, which is awaiting the governor's signature, would create a hybrid pension plan for new hires and limit the number of accrued sick days veteran teachers can put toward retirement. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has indicated he supports the bill but has yet to sign it.

The Republican-dominated Kentucky legislature says the pension reform bill was crafted to help the state cover a $41 billion shortfall in pension costs over the next 30 years. But teachers' union officials said the pension overhaul would only generate $300 million in savings over the next three decades.

The red state teacher revolt started about a month ago in West Virginia, where educators won a 5 percent pay raise after going on strike for nine days.