"It took money where it was going to go in a pot where they could pretty much do what they want with it... and instead put hundreds of millions of dollars into something called the classroom site fund, which is dedicated to teacher pay".
On Tuesday, Ducey defended his school funding plan, which includes a 1 percent teacher raise, and has been touting his promise of $100 million in funding for districts this year as a start to restoring almost $400 million in cuts.
The Republican governor's announcement came after more than a month of protests at the state Capitol and at schools across Arizona that were followed by a strike threat early this week. And he says teachers also want to know if other school professionals will get raises.
Thomas said that Ducey's proposal reminded him of when he would give assignments to his students, and a student would turn in an assignment clearly hoping to just get a grade that is good enough to pass.
"As a result of Arizona's thriving economy and a record population of seven million plus residents", Ducey said. 'There so many more of us that need it than just classroom teachers'. Last year, Ducey signed a bill with more tax breaks for businesses as well as a 1 percent raise for teachers.
The proposal would still leave K-12 school districts with a $400 million budget hole for capital expenses in five years, said Chuck Essigs, a lobbyist for the Arizona Association of School Business Officials.
"We're all unified in that if this plays out the way that it's being said today then this is a major step forward", said Dawn Penich-Thacker, a spokeswoman for Save Our Schools Arizona. Oklahoma's two largest school districts have been closed for almost two weeks because of a teacher strike and Kentucky educators called in sick to protest pension reform.
He said he wants to see actual legislation and how the governor will pay for it.
"Are we going to trust legislators with this plan that kind of came out of nowhere, that they say that they're going to work on all weekend long?"
The teacher-led rebellion over funding reductions and wages propagate into Arizona, Kentucky and Oklahoma. Adjusted for local cost of living, federal figures show elementary teachers actually rank 49th in earnings and high school teachers 48th.
The average teacher pay in Arizona is $48,723, according to Ducey.
Ducey, who had refused to even meet with teachers as recently as Tuesday, calling their actions a "political circus", said Thursday he was "impressed" after listening to teachers and found $274 million to cover the cost of the initial raise without raising taxes, though he did not provide any details.
Stephanie Perry, a 36-year-old single mother of two and a special education teacher at Tuscano Elementary School in Phoenix said she makes $36,000 annually and lives with her parents. As such, Arizona's budgets are still exceptionally tight a decade after the recession.
"I'm hopeful it represents a shared commitment to moving public education to the top of priorities for our state", he said.
At Sedona Red Rock High School and Junior High, current and former teachers, staff and parents walked up State Route 89A from Dry Creek Road to their school - a little more than a mile uphill.
Earlier on Thursday, House Speaker J.D. Mesnard rolled out a proposal to boost teacher pay by 6 percent next year and 24 percent over the next six years, CBS Phoenix affiliate KPHO reports.
A growing economy is boosting state revenues and cutting caseloads in social services agencies, freeing up cash for teacher raises, Ducey said.
The governor said he also can find cash through "strategic efficiencies" in state government.
Mesnard stood with Ducey as his fellow Republican rolled out his plan, and later said his proposal was meant to show more teacher pay was possible.
"I feel like we can only move up from here", said Laurie Altringer, a teacher and the AEU liaison at Big Park.