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Speaker withholds teacher pay raise proposal from vote

Arizona schools won’t be forced to use some of their annual inflation aid for teacher raises.

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard opted Wednesday not to seek a vote on his proposal that would effectively set aside close to $39 million a year in state aid already going to schools that would have to be paid to existing teachers. Mesnard said he believes in the merits of the proposal but decided not to provoke a floor fight on the last day of the legislative session.

What Mesnard did not say is that his measure would have amended Proposition 301, which hiked the state sales tax by six-tenths of a cent and mandates annual increases in unrestricted state aid to schools to match inflation. And because that was approved by voters in 2000 at the ballot, he would have needed the votes of three-fourths of both the House and Senate, something he could not get.

Mesnard said he is annoyed at the public perception that the 1 percent pay hike lawmakers approved this year is the only way Arizona teachers are getting more money and that it is the only way Arizona is hoping to move itself from being near the bottom of salaries nationally.

He said that Proposition 301 was advertised to voters as a method of boosting teacher pay. But Mesnard said that some school districts are using their annual inflation dollars for other priorities, something he said is wrong.

The proposal had been opposed by the Arizona School Boards Association because it would have restricted the ability of locally elected boards to decide the highest priorities for the new dollars.

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