Ducey budget proposal makes public school teacher pay raises permanent

Ben Giles//January 12, 2018

Ducey budget proposal makes public school teacher pay raises permanent

Ben Giles//January 12, 2018

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One year after claiming local school officials can’t be trusted, Gov. Doug Ducey now has faith that state monies are going to pay teachers higher salaries.

Ducey’s proposal, a part of his $10.1 billion budget for fiscal year 2019, would move an earmark for teacher pay hikes from a line item in last year’s budget to the base level funding formula for K-12 schools. Wary of the funding mechanism, which the governor and legislative Republicans said was necessary to hold school districts accountable for their spending, administrators opted to boost teacher pay with bonuses or stipends, not raises.

The proposal also makes good on Ducey’s promise from 2017 to give a 2 percent raise phased in over two years. A $34 million appropriation for the initial 1 percent would be boosted to $68 million for a full 2 percent this year.

Base level funding is a more permanent, reliable source of revenue for schools, according to Chuck Essigs, director of government relations for the Arizona Association of School Business Officials, while a line item funding mechanism is subject to the whims of future legislators who may not feel as strong about continuing to fund a 2 percent pay hike for teachers.

“That’s where permanent dollars go,” Essigs said. “There’s no guarantee on anything, but schools are more comfortable knowing that the additional funding goes into the base funding formula because that’s the way all permanent funding increases work.”

Ken Hicks, chief executive officer for the Peoria Unified School District, was one of many school administers who grappled with how to spend the line item for teacher pay last year. He advised schools in PUSD to give teachers a stipend.

“There was a lot of confusion. We were having to work with the auditor general, with (the Department of Education) verifying everything,” Hicks said. “Going into the base, and taking away some of that… I think is a great thing.”

Now teachers will see the raise spread out in each paycheck, rather than in one or two lump sums as a stipend. The change in the funding mechanism also ensures that teachers’ benefits are boosted by a raise, and means the raise is adjusted for inflation each year going forward, Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said.

“We want to make sure that not only are these dollars inflated, not only do they go into their paycheck, but that they impact their pension, their retirement and all other things. And by putting it in the base you guarantee that,” Scarpinato said.