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Arizona teacher strike could end with call for tax increase for schools

Plans for an education ballot initiative are well underway, 12 News has learned.

A statewide teacher walkout could end as soon as this weekend, with a call by education leaders for a fall vote on raising taxes to help fund Arizona schools, according to several people familiar with the plans.

This timetable could change after Thursday’s planned march by school employees from Chase Field to a rally at the Capitol.

READ: What you need to know ahead of Thursday's Arizona teacher walkout

“A lot of things could happen,” Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas said via text message.

Union leaders, including the president of the National Education Association, are briefing the media Wednesday afternoon on plans for the walkout, which starts Thursday.

One protest organizer has described the walkout as open-ended.

Elected officials are putting pressure on teachers with threats of losing their teaching certificates and a possible class-action lawsuit.

Plans for an education ballot initiative are well underway, 12 News has learned.

Arizona educators received an online survey overnight Tuesday asking for their opinions on raising the income tax on high wage earners or boosting the state sales tax, with the proceeds going toward education.

Education groups would have to gather at least 151,000 petition signatures by early July to get a tax initiative on the November ballot.

The online survey was sent by the NEA and its sibling, the Arizona Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union.

Education groups have already done polling on raising the income tax on high-wage earners. People briefed on the polling say it gets more than 60 percent support.

A Republican lawmaker has already proposed a temporary 1-cent sales tax to pay for schools.

Thursday’s strike by teachers and school support staff is the first in Arizona in 40 years.

Schools across the state, including the 10 largest school districts, say they will close for the duration of the strike.

LIST: Here's what school districts plan to do during the walkouts Thursday

Meantime, Gov. Doug Ducey is still trying to round up support for his plan to increase teacher pay by 20 percent over the next three years. Ducey is counting largely on revenue growth to pay for the raises.

WATCH: Teachers lay out reasons why they support or reject Ducey's plan

The raises would have to be approved by the Legislature in each of the next four years.

A poll released Wednesday by Phoenix-based Data Orbital shows 70 percent of Arizona voters approve of the plan, while 16 percent disapprove.

Educators in the #RedForEd movement, the umbrella for the school-funding protests, says Ducey’s plan is both unsustainable, because there’s no dedicated funding source, and insufficient to meet schools’ needs.

They want a 20-percent raise this year; restoration of $1 billion in cuts to education since the Great Recession; pay raises for all support staff, including guidance counselors, teacher’s aides and bus drivers; and an end to corporate tax cuts.

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