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House leaders offer teacher pay raise plan

Republican House leadership is backing a plan to give teachers a 6-percent pay bump next year at the expense of Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposal to restore cuts to K-12 school capital funding.

Buffeted by protesting teachers, who have threatened to strike if the Legislature doesn’t provide a sizable increase in funding for Arizona public schools to bankroll salary hikes, Republican lawmakers see the proposal as a means of changing the narrative that state legislators have failed to provide teachers a decent wage.

The plan boasts of a cumulative 24-percent pay raise for teachers over six years. To do so, the Legislature would renege on a pledge made by Ducey to restore cuts made to public school monies used for capital expenses, like new school buses, textbooks and facility maintenance.

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler)

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler)

Legislators would bypass the decision makers in school districts to ensure that all available dollars go to teacher pay, House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said on KAET-TV’s Arizona Horizon Wednesday evening.

“That was one of the reasons we put out a proposal yesterday that essentially did just that,” Mesnard said. “It took money where it was going to go in a pot where they could pretty much do what they want with it… and instead put hundreds of millions of dollars into something called the classroom site fund, which is dedicated to teacher pay.”

Mesnard said the proposal addresses the gripes of protesting teachers, who have asked for an immediate 20-percent raise.

“We don’t set teacher pay. That’s a district decision. We’re in the resource business,” he said.

The proposal from GOP leaders misses the point protesters are trying to make, said Dana Naimark, president of Arizona Children’s Action Alliance. There isn’t enough funding available to address all the needs schools have, be it salaries, broken air conditioning systems or old textbooks.

“To try to dangle that in front of teachers saying we’re promising you a 24 percent pay raise I think is pretty disingenuous,” she said. “They’re just moving the shells around the table. The point is, we need more revenues to invest in schools.”

Flanked by local school officials, Ducey in January announced the budget proposal to immediately put $100 million for the coming school year back towards “district additional assistance,” and to continue to increase those funds over the next five years.

The offer came as a coalition of school groups and educators have sued the state for failing to meet constitutional obligations for capital needs. Ducey’s plan convinced some to back away from the lawsuit.

The proposal from GOP leaders takes that $100 million away in the upcoming school year and places it in a fund designated almost exclusively for teacher salaries.

Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, said the plan is popular among some legislative Republicans.

“There’s a narrative right now that the legislature dictates teacher salaries and how much money goes to teacher salaries. And you’re hearing people say that it is the legislature that does that. That is not the case,” he said.

But if that’s what people want to believe, Petersen said, “then maybe it is time for the legislature to do what people think is already the case and dictate salaries.”

Over the next five years, state budget analysts project the proposal would divert nearly $400 million from capital funds, as proposed by Ducey, to the classroom site fund, which primarily is used for teacher pay raises and merit pay increases.

That would kick start in 2018 with a $107 million appropriation to the fund, including the $100 million in capital funding Ducey proposed and another $7 million for schools that don’t receive state aid.

The GOP-led plan also accounts for the second year of a 2 percent pay raise, a two-year plan approved by the Legislature in 2017, and basic inflationary increases to K-12 funding — dollars that are controlled by law through funding formulas. But the plan assumes that, going forward, 48 percent of those inflationary budget increases would be used for teacher salaries.

Their proposal also accounts for a recent change to Proposition 301, the six-tenths of a cent sales tax extension approved by the Legislature weeks ago. That change would add another $64 million to the teacher pay, but not until 2021.

All told, budget analysts estimate the plan would boost teacher pay by $829.2 million by 2022, a 24 percent cumulative increase.

The proposal would still leave K-12 school districts with a $400 million budget hole for capital expenses in five years, said Chuck Essigs, a lobbyist for the Arizona Association of School Business Officials.

And it could threaten the governor’s efforts to settle a capital funding lawsuit.

“(Ducey) met with school districts, had a big press conference where all these superintendents from school districts stood behind him, and he said, ‘I’m restoring those cuts,’” Essigs said. “Obviously this is a slap in the face to him, because they’re taking what he had developed as a plan and got consensus and got agreement for and just throwing it out the window.”

2 comments

  1. My husband and I are both master level teachers with over 15 years of teaching experience. We need an increase in pay now; we are physically and mentally drained. We have received a minimal BASE salary increase over the past 10 years, we have been cutting back on expenses, living on credit cards and my family of 4 has 10 jobs so we can survive.

    -Today I found out I owe the feds $3000 for taxes; we live pay check to pay check and have the least amount of money taken out of pay so we can “get by” month to monte. As I have for the last 7 years, I will work a summer school position for $2000 for one month to help pay my taxes and tutor throughout the year. My husband will continue to coach sports before and after school and work his third job on the weekend and in the evening during the week.

    -I have had a broken tooth for the last 2 weeks and can’t afford to the dentist to get it fixed. I only get dental and vision insurance through the district every other year because it costs my family $200 a month and I can not afford it.

    -Last month, my son was hit by a drunk driver while delivering pizzas by an illegal immigrant who did not have insurance. My insurance company will not pay for my car because my car was being used for business and we did not have insurance for a business car. I just paid the car off in December and I have lost the only reliable car in my family. My son will now move home from his college because he does not have a car to get to and from a job.

    -We owe $35,000 in Parent Plus Loans to have both my kids attend college. We do not have additional money to pay for their tuition.

    – We moved out of our family home that we have owned for 19 years and are renting it out because we can not afford the mortgage. This summer we had the opportunity to move back in our home because the lease is up. Unfortunately, my family of 4 will be living in a 2 bedroom rental because we can not afford to move back into our home. We can not buy a house because our credit is shot and we have no money for a down payment.

    -My daughter attends a state university and is on partial academic scholarship. She works 30 hours a week, takes 18 units per semester to ensure she graduates in 4 years to avoid additional tuition and maintains a 3.5 GPA so she will not lose her scholarship. Because she is so run down from working and school, she caught a virus in her inner ear that she could not fight off and is now permanently deaf in her left year. I don’t even know how I will afford a hearing aide for her.

    -My son, who was hit in a drunk driver, was asked to get in the ambulance when hit. He told the police officer that he could not because our family did not have the money to pay for the ambulance bill. Our insurance is terrible, I pay $400 a month for medical insurance only and have a deductible of $2800 before my insurance kicks in. My credit is in terrible shape because I have $2000 in outstanding medical bills. We were informed by our school district, that next year our insurance will go up and so will our deductible.

    As a family, we are struggling physically and mentally. We are all so exhausted and run down. As I am writing I am crying my eyes out. But I have to pull myself together, because I have to drive myself, in a car that I am borrowing from my in-laws, to get my medication for sleeping/anxiety and then go tutor so I can have money to eat this weekend.

    ENOUGH IS ENOUGH ………….the lack of support from the State is effecting my family NOW. We need change NOW because we have been sacrificing way too long ARIZONA!!!!!!!!

  2. This is just one more story of hard working “salt and light” people that dedicate themselves to serve the children of Arizona. I know of so many other teaching families who do all the right things and are suffering. It is time for the legislators to do what is right for the people. We continue to speak, but are they listening. I will add this family to my prayer list. Thank you for loving and serving our state, teachers!

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