Governor Doug Ducey announced a proposal to raise teacher salaries this year and build on that each year until teacher pay is 20 percent more by school year 2020 during a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Capitol. While there is support for the proposal, education advocacy groups also have some concerns.
“Today, I’m proposing we boost our proposed teacher pay increase to nine percent this year,” Ducey said. “Combined with what we did last year and with our commitment over the next two years, this will result in net pay increase of 20 percent by the beginning of school year 2020.”
That’s much more than the 1.06 percent raise proposed in the governor’s budget in early January. That 1.06 percent increase totaled about $34 million and would have been the second part of the two percent raise proposed in the previous year’s budget.
“Our teachers are what makes the difference in the classroom,” said Steve Watson, Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools after the conference. “We need the best teachers in there and this is how we’re going to get them and keep them.”
But there are concerns that not all the people crucial to student learning are being included and that priorities could change after the election.
“When I heard the news from Doug Ducey today and his proposal, my heart sank because he made no mention of education support professionals,” said Vanessa Jimenez, vice president of Phoenix Union High School’s classified employees association, in a Facebook video. “So that saddens me because everyone knows that is takes a village to raise our students, and that village includes teachers and classified staff. So when I think of his proposal, it’s clearly an attempt to divide us, and we’re not going to be divided. We are in this together.”
Dylan Wegela, who teaches in Cartwright Elementary School District and is a co-organizer of Arizona Educators United, said “Our questions should be where is this money coming from? It’s essential that we’re not going to take this money from somewhere else in the budget that’s going to hurt our students in the long run.”
“It’s important to note that this is not legislation yet, this proposal here is full of various promises that happen over a long period of time,” Wegela said. “In 2020, we have an election cycle. We don’t know who’s going to be in power then. So my question to you is do you trust the governor and the legislators to make sure that these promises are made and is that enough.”
Video by Brooke Razo/Arizona School Boards Association: Gov. Ducey’s Teacher Pay Raise Proposal
Earlier on Thursday, Arizona House Speaker J.D. Mesnard had outlined a plan to boost teacher pay by 6 percent next school year, with annual increases that could lead to a 23 percent increase after five years from redirecting planned increases in school funding directly to teacher pay, according to a Fox 10 News Phoenix story.
— Dennis Welch (@dennis_welch) April 12, 2018
What the plan looks like
At the press conference, Ducey outlined how his proposal would work.
“Last year’s budget combined with this year’s budget will result in a 10 percent increase in teacher pay in the base, ongoing, inflated,” Ducey said. “Next year’s budget will include another five percent increase. The year after that will include another five percent. That combined with the pay increase provided last year, means by the beginning of the 2020 school year every Arizona teacher will have received a cumulative raise of 20 percent.”
The proposal adds the teacher salary increase to base-level funding, which makes it part of the formula that receives required annual inflation increases, said Dr. Chuck Essigs, director of governmental relations for Arizona Association of School Business Officials.
“This provision for school districts will require $240 million of additional state funding,” Essigs said.
Dr. Anabel Aportela, director of research for Arizona Association of School Business Officials and Arizona School Boards Association estimates that the increased funding for teacher salary increases and the $95 million reduction in the District Additional Assistance cut will provide over $300 per pupil of additional funding to school districts next year.
Ducey’s complete K-12 funding proposal now includes the following:
- $105 M for statutorily required inflation adjustment (1.77%).
- $34 M for a 1% FY 2018 teacher pay increase in the base level, adjusted for inflation.
- $274 M for additional 9% teacher pay increase in the base level.
- $100 M appropriation to district additional assistance (DAA), to partially restore DAA formula cuts.
This appears to be a significant plan that aligns with the Arizona School Boards Association’s goals to protect inflation funding from redirection, maintaining flexibility for districts, as agreed in the settlement in Cave Creek v. Ducey and Prop. 123 as well as provide new money for teacher pay, in the base level, where it will be distributed on a per-student basis (not a convoluted calculation based on prior year service, annual salary, etc.), and increased by inflation annually, said Dr. Tim Ogle, executive director of Arizona School Boards Association. The proposal also preserves a separate appropriation for DAA, not pitting teacher pay against capital funding.
“I’m thrilled that he’s putting the teacher pay increase in the base, that he’s seeing that come in for a number of years. and that he’s still continuing to honor his committment to district additional assistance,” said Dr. Heather Cruz, assistant superintendent for Litchfield Elementary School District at the press conference.
Noah Karvelis, a teacher in the Littleton Elementary School District and co-organizer of Arizona Educators United said, “This has raised more questions for us than answers. We don’t know the details, we don’t know the funding sources.”
“Today, the average teacher pay in Arizona is $48,723. If we pass this plan, it will increase to a projected $52,725 by the new school year this fall,” Ducey said. “By the beginning of the 2020 school year, the projected average teacher salary will be $58,130.”
Video by Brooke Razo/Arizona School Boards Association: Reactions to the Governor’s Teacher Pay Raise Proposal
Dawn Penich-Thacker, communications director for Save our Schools Arizona, said “When we heard that it was going to be a nine percent teacher raise in the budget, permanent, without touching district additional assistance, still getting inflation costs added on, then we said that is a strong enough proposal that we are willing to listen and make sure that you see it through.”
Penich-Thacker said she asked Ducey if any amount of that would go toward vouchers, Student Tuition Organizations or Empowerment Scholarship Accounts and the answer was absolutely not. Also Penich-Thacker said and that there was absolutely not deal made to drop our fight against vouchers, ESAs and STOs, because “any size investment into schools and teacher pay doesn’t matter if we’re siphoning it out to defunding schemes like ESAs and vouchers.”
But Save Our Schools Arizona withdrew it’s support for the governor’s proposal on Wednesday, April 18, citing concerns about sustainable funding for the teacher pay increase proposal, according to a KTAR News 92.3 FM story.
“It is now clear the existing proposal is not sustainable or comprehensice as a means of increasing educator pay and re-investing in Arizona’s classrooms and schools. Save Our Schools Arizona hopes the Governor, Legislature, education groups and the grassroots community will immediately collaborate on better ways to invest in Arizona’s starving public education system,” stated Save Our Schools Arizona.
— SOSArizona (@arizona_sos) April 18, 2018
Also on Wednesday, Arizona PTA withdrew its initial support of the governor’s plan with Beth Simek, president, saying the proposal cannot “finance the raises and also restore capital funding for schools without cutting other needed programs,” according to an Arizona Capitol Media article.
“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,” said Christine M. Thompson, president & CEO, Expect More Arizona. “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.”
Dr. Paul Tighe, superintendent of Saddle Mountain Unified School District in Tonopah, said, “It’s good news. I”m very pleased to see the governor’s committment to education, and hopefully, his budget proposal gets through the legislature and is adopted.”
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas said, “I have long been an advocate that Arizona teachers receive substantial salary increases. I’m pleased to see leadership at the Capitol focusing so intently on this incredibly important issue. I am confident that the Governor and the Legislature will reach a positive outcome for teachers and Arizonans. I would be happy to support those efforts in any way that I can.”
Announcement a day after state-wide walk-ins
The governor’s proposal comes one day after teachers across Arizona held walk-ins at schools around the state seeking community support for their calls for bringing per-pupil funding to pre-recession levels and increasing teacher pay.
“The message today is that I’ve been listening, and I’ve been impressed, but the winners today are the teachers in the state of Arizona,” Ducey said.
The walk-ins were organized by Arizona Educators United as part of the wear #RedForEd movement to provide information and seek community and student support for their efforts to encourage lawmakers to raise per-pupil education funding to what it was before the recession and raise teachers’ salaries by 20 percent to be competitive with neighboring states.
After the governor’s press conference, Catherine Barrett from Carl Hayden High School said, “So yesterday you acted, and today the governor reacted. We did this and it’s encouraging the governor is recognizing the importance of this issue and because of us.”
Before Ducey’s press conference, #RedForEd organizers sent a video message to members of the Arizona Educators United Facebook group in which Derek Harris, a Tucson teacher and an Arizona Educators United organizer, said “we need to be sure that this is not just a pay (increase) for teachers,” according to an article in The Arizona Republic.
“We don’t know if this will cover incredible people who are vital to our schools like Vanessa. Will they be included in these raises? What’s the definition of a teacher here?,” Karvelis said. “We have a lot of questions that need to be answered so we’re going to sort those things out and we’re going to be looking at what these pieces actually involve.”
The group’s five demands made during their rally at the Capitol on March 28 also called for competitive pay for all education support professionals, a salary plan that provides an annual raise, and a halt to tax cuts until Arizona’s per-pupil funding reaches the national average.
“To me, right now, it feels like this was essentially an attempt to stop whatever actions we may have been taking instead of a legitimate groundwork for future investment in education and to fulfill our demands,” Karvelis said. “He took a shot at one demand here and he missed that and we have four others that he hasn’t even touched upon yet.”
Joe Thomas, a social studies teacher from Mesa and president of the Arizona Education Association, said, “This doesn’t address all the demands that Arizona Educators United has put out. This doesn’t meet what #RedForEd stands for.”
Teachers voted in Arizona schools this week to determine if they would walk-out, results are expected to be announced by Arizona Educators United and the Arizona Education Association at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 19.
When asked how much of this proposal was in response to the strong turnout at the walk-ins around the state, Ducey said, “This teacher pay is something we’ve been talking about for some time. Through the school safety meetings that we had with teachers and superintendents, teacher pay came up in those discussions as well, but I have been paying attention to what’s going on out across the state.”
Where the money will come from
Ducey said the money for teachers’ pay raises will come from increased revenue from Arizona’s growing economy, government efficiencies, caseload savings and the rollback of some other priorities mentioned in his earlier budget proposal.
“We can do this and do it in a responsible and sustainable way,” Ducey said. “In the days ahead, I will be working with legislative leadership on passing a final budget.”
Ducey said this proposal leaves “more dollars are available to invest into two of Arizona’s most important priorities – Arizona’s teachers and Arizona’s classrooms.”
“We need to decide was this hastily put together press conference – this set of goals without really any details on how we’re going to get there – is that good enough?” Thomas said.
Ducey said he and legislators would be working on the budget through the weekend.
Thomas said he and Karvelis asked the governor “to sit down with us and let’s talk about real, long-term solutions that the public can trust,” but the governor did not meet with them.
“Are we going to trust legislators with this plan that came out of nowhere that they say they’re going to work on all weekend long?” Thomas asked.
After the press conference, Rep. Heather Carter said, “Today is a great day for education in Arizona. As you saw many of us stood side by side with the governor as we rolled out a plan to make sure our teachers receive a raise next year. This is in addition to dollars that were already introduced at the beginning of this year that restores some important funding for our schools, that included money for textbooks, technology, desks and building repair. So as far as I am concerned this is a win-win for students in Arizona.”
“I’m a retired school teacher. I taught for 31 years. I was a career and technical education teacher. I still teach one class a day,” said Rep. Douglas Coleman. “I truly believe that this proposal moves the needle as far as teacher pay goes. I’m excited about it. I appreciate the governor and his staff working on this. I think they realized what a priority teacher pay is for the State of Arizona. I appreciate the teachers who work so hard not only in the classroom but to raise awareness about what the lack of funding has done to their profession and to their students. So with that I think it’s a day to celebrate.”
Rep. Michelle Udall said “We’ve been needing to do something significant with teacher pay, but also to provide for facility updates, and textbooks and all the other needs of the classroom so I am thrilled we are addressing both with this proposal.”
When asked what happens to teacher pay raises if the economy tanks, Ducey said “Our committment in this budget proposal is to our teachers. Our economy has been growing, we have surplus revenues and we’re going to put these toward teacher pay. That will be the committment. We’ll have to make other adjustments.”