Arizona teachers could see 9 percent pay raise by start of school year

(Source: Raycom Media)
(Source: Raycom Media)
Updated: Apr. 12, 2018 at 4:57 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Arizona teachers, among the lowest paid in the country, may be in for a huge pay raise.

Teachers in the state make an average of $48,000, well below the national mark of $58,353.

On Thursday, April 12, Gov. Doug Ducey and House Speaker J.D. Mesnard released details of separate proposals to get our state's educators closer to that national average.

You can see details of Ducey's plan HERE.

Claiming low pay, inadequate student learning tools and limited funding, teacher-led protests have emerged in several states.

Following successful protests in West Virginia earlier this year, educators in Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona have followed suit.

Arizona teachers have been threatening job actions unless they see a 20 percent pay raise and boost in overall school funding.

Thursday's developments come after weeks of protests at the Capitol and at schools across Arizona fueled by teacher pay successes in West Virginia and Oklahoma.

Mesnard outlined a plan to boost teacher pay by 6 percent in the coming school year, with annual increases that could lead to a 23 percent jump after five years.

Mesnard's plan would be paid for by redirecting increases in school funding.

The speaker said he hopes this will appease teachers who've threatened to strike if they didn't get an immediate 20 percent raise.

"We're going to make sure teacher pay is our number one priority. There's no doubt about it; this plan would make sure that teachers get raises," Mesnard said.

However, the speaker's plan didn't address all of the demands made by teachers, who have staged "walk-ins" and "sick-outs" across the state as part of the #RedForEd movement.

Beyond teacher pay, #RedForEd wants state leaders to increase overall K-12 spending as per-pupil funding remains less than it was 10 years ago.

Mesnard's plan takes money away from capital improvements -- like new books, buses, building maintenance -- to fund teacher salaries.

Joe Thomas, the president of the Arizona Educators Association, described thta proposal as a "shell game" that will force schools to make do with outdated equipment and school facilities.

"This will pit teachers against air conditioners and that's a false choice for students," Thomas said.

Ducey said teachers would see a 9 percent raise to $52,175 by the start of the school year this fall. The educators would then get 5 percent increases in each of the next two years.

The raises would be for teachers only, not school staff.

"Education is our top priority in Arizona," Ducey said. "Our teachers are the biggest difference-makers in the lives of Arizona's children. They deserve to be rewarded for their hard work."

Below is a news release from Ducey:

Governor Doug Ducey today announced that he is continuing investments in Arizona's education system by increasing teacher salaries 20 percent by the beginning of the 2020 school year. This initiative is in addition to his plan to fully restore recession-era cuts over the next five years — all without raising taxes while maintaining Arizona's balanced budget.

To start, the governor's FY2019 teacher pay increase will be boosted to nine percent. This in combination with the pay increase in FY2018 will result in a total 10 percent increase for FY2019, effective at the start of the 2018 school year this fall. Additional 5 percent increases will be made the next two years to achieve a net 20 percent increase by the 2020 school year.

This plan builds on the governor's proposal to invest $371 million in District Additional Assistance and Charter Additional Assistance, phased-in over the next five years. An initial investment of $100 million will be made in FY2019. These dollars provide flexibility to school districts for investment in resources including fixing school infrastructure, modernizing curriculum, school buses and updating classroom technologies.

"Arizona teachers are the biggest difference-makers in the lives of Arizona's children, and we need to reward them for their hard work —  this plan does that through a 20 percent pay increase by school year 2020," said Governor Ducey. "We are also making significant investments in Arizona classrooms in a responsible and sustainable way. We will never stop our commitment to improving Arizona's public education system because when it comes to our kids, we must never stop working for them."

Expect More Arizona released the following statement.

"The Governor's teacher pay proposal is a good step forward and would propel Arizona closer to meeting our shared goal of being at the national median for teacher pay by 2022. As we consider his plan, we still need a long-term funding solution that supports the entire education continuum and ensures safe learning environments and access to 21st century resources for educators and students across the state," said Christine M. Thompson, president & CEO, Expect More Arizona. "Expect More Arizona is eager to continue working together, across party lines, to find long-term funding solutions that support the success of every student, every step of the way – regardless of background, income or zip code."

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