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Upset Valley teachers want 20 percent boost in pay

Joe Thomas, president of Arizona Education Association (KTAR News photo/Kathy Cline)

Pay teachers want 20 percent raises too.

That message was brought to the forefront as Arizona Education Association leadership held a Friday press conference to voice concerns after hearing other state employees received substantial bumps in pay.

Instead, Arizona’s teachers received a one percent raise, a one-time pay increase that was approved by the legislature earlier this year.

“The governor said [teachers] needed to accept four-tenths of a percent raise – that’s all we were going to be able to get,” said Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association. “To see him hand out 10, 15, 20-percent raises for his inner circle? It’s outrageous. It’s demeaning. And, it shows a lack of leadership and decisiveness on the part of the governor.”

Amy Ball, a Phoenix kindergarten teacher, said the one percent pay raise is the equivalent to about $400.

That’s not going far for any of her colleagues, she said – particularly one woman, who is a single mother of two sons. The woman has 14 years of teaching experience.

“She confided to me she adds water to her milk, each week, to make it last longer,” Ball said. “She’s constantly stressed that something will happen to her car, or to her home, or one of her kids. She’s already pulled her purse strings so tightly, she doesn’t know how she could possibly cut her budget any more.

“She could go to New Mexico, be closer to family, and make significantly more.”

The local education association said the average starting salary for elementary teachers in New Mexico is $58,090. In California, the union said, it’s $74,270.

“We have had years of neglect by politicians like Gov. Ducey who have created a huge gap in teacher pay,” says AEA Vice President Marisol Garcia. “So much neglect, that even with a 20-percent pay increase of teacher salaries, their salaries would be barely competitive with surrounding states and still well below the national average.”

According to Payscale, the average salary for an elementary school teacher in Phoenix is $38,650.

Thomas said teachers want action now.

“We demand that the governor match those raises with our teachers right now,” he said. “End the teaching crisis! Let’s have a 20-percent raise in this year’s budget.”

At first, Thomas said the state has the money to fund such a raise.

However, he later said Arizona taxpayers would have to pay more – and corporate tax cuts may have to be reduced.

“We have to find a revenue stream,” he said. “And, we need to be talking to the voters to see where is it they’re willing to take resources – and revenue streams – that they know are going to go into the classroom.”

As to how and why local school boards are distributing the teacher raise pay money, “I think that’s really good for a reporter to dig into, and have an in-depth investigation.”

A spokesman for Gov. Ducey said the state employee raises were based on merit and in many cases increased responsibility.

“Under Gov. Ducey’s leadership, state government has been reduced in size by nearly 1,000 employees. So has the Governor’s Office, which has 10 less staffers than before he took office and has not had a budget increase since 2008,” Patrick Ptak said. “In most cases, raises were given through promotion with expanded roles and responsibilities using existing dollars.

“When it comes to new dollars, those are going to K-12 education — including $68 million ongoing for a permanent pay raise for all teachers. [Friday’s] press conference is a completely partisan exercise by a partisan group, based on flawed data and misinformation. The governor will continue to fight for higher teacher pay in any way he can.”

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