Hundreds of red-shirted educators jammed into Capitol hearings rooms and marched around the Legislature Wednesday to protest what they call dismal pay and conditions for their students.

The protesters included dozens of teachers from nine schools in west Phoenix and Glendale who called in sick in the first job action teachers have called since organizing earlier this month. The move left Pendergast Elementary School District parents scrambling as the schools were closed with little notice and hundreds of students missed a day of school.

“They deserve more, so I’m here to try to fight for them and to try to fight for all these hundreds of teachers out here who want at least a doable living,” said Kayla Wilson, a 5th grade teacher at Pendergast Elementary with three years on the job who makes about $35,000 a year and owes more than $40,000 in student loans. “My dad told me this morning, because I asked him for advice, he told me ‘how am I supposed to teach my kids to fight for what’s right if I’m too scared to do it myself.’ So that’s why I’m here.”