PHOENIX — The president of the Arizona Education Association said Tuesday he was unaware of any teacher who had received a $10,000 raise, despite Gov. Doug Ducey claiming the opposite.
“It was surprising to me to hear that there are teachers out there that have received a $10,000 raise as the governor has claimed,” Joe Thomas told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes. “I have not met one.”
Ducey told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos on Monday that teachers had thanked him for giving them $10,000 raises. Thomas, whose group represents about 40 percent of the state’s teachers, said that number didn’t seem right.
“Simple math shows that it just isn’t possible to have that as a real salary increase across Arizona,” he said. “We have about 50,000 teachers. If you give everybody a $10,000 raise it would require a $500 million investment.”
Thomas said he understood that Ducey, who has championed education since taking office, had a political point to prove but that Ducey knows schools need more funding.
“The governor is also well aware that my association, the school board association and others that have their ear to the ground and a strong finger on the pulse of what’s going on in our schools have a $2 billion lawsuit for capital funding that has not happened in our schools.
“For him to laugh off and say, ‘Well, they’re saying it’s going for other needs,’ he’s well aware that there are other needs the state has been negligent on funding,” Thomas said.
Thomas said he thought Ducey may have been using little programs here and there to one day hit that five-figure salary increase, but he hasn’t gotten there yet and could maybe do more.
“I would love to see the governor champion that in his State of the State (address),” he said. “I think it would help impact the No. 1 crisis we have in education right now.”
Thomas said Ducey could be the governor who makes teacher salaries in Arizona competitive with other nearby states if he makes the issue a priority.
“We have teachers leaving to go to Utah and you get almost a $10,000 raise … We need to compete for our quality talent in our state and for quality talent from other states,” he said.
However, Thomas said he wasn’t holding his breath, at least for the upcoming legislative sessions.
“I would love for every teacher in the state to line up and shake the hand of the governor after he gave them all a $10,000 raise, but we all know that’s probably not likely in the upcoming session,” he said.
“What we’re going to hear between now and then are lots of carefully constructed statements and arguments about how this teacher got this raise and this teacher got this bonus, but that’s not going to stop the teacher crisis.”
The state had designated $513 million for education funding, but Ducey said he was unsure exactly where the money went and planned to develop better accountability measures.
“I would like to see them all go to teacher pay, but principals and superintendents tell me that there’s other needs that they have, some of them are more urgent, but I want to keep the focus on teacher pay,” he said.