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Award-winning Arizona teacher to leave profession due to low pay

(Pixabay.com Photo)
LISTEN: Mallory Heath, Teacher in the Chandler Unified School District

PHOENIX – An award-winning Arizona teacher has announced she would not be returning to the state’s education system next year, citing low funding for education as a major factor for her decision.

A recipient of the 2017 Developing Leader Award from The Arizona English Teacher’s Association, Mallory Heath is in her sixth and final year of teaching at Basha High School in Chandler.

Heath told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos Friday that she will not return to the profession at the conclusion of the school year.

“I actually had gone into this year of teaching knowing that more than likely it was going to be my last year,” Heath said. “I can do the math and I know what trajectory I am on. It has been a really slow grieving process that has come to fruition.”

Heath said her decision was due to financial struggles.

She makes a base salary of $41,000 per year, but after taxes and other amounts aimed towards retirement, she ends up taking home closer to $28,000.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a 20-year extension of Proposition 301 on Monday, which will provide more than $500 million annually for primary and secondary public education.

With that, an additional $64 million will be used for debt service to education in 2021.

The renewal of the tax gave Arizona educators a one percent raise, but Heath and other teachers across the state say it isn’t enough.

Teachers have asked Ducey for a 20 percent pay boost and regular annual raises, a demand he hasn’t committed to.

But while educators have made it clear what they are looking for out of the governor, Heath said the pay increase is a “bargaining chip.”

“You come to the table wanting a compromise so you start high,” she said. “I think Ducey has made it apparent that he is not the governor who is going to turn education around.”

Similar to Heath, Flagstaff High School’s Jeff Taylor told the Arizona Daily Sun that he would be leaving the state next year due to its lack of funding for education.

Taylor was named the Coconino Teacher of the Year in 2014 and is the chair of the AP Academy at Flagstaff.

In an open letter to the Sun, Taylor said he had reached the point where it isn’t worth him trying to live and work as a teacher in the state.

“People need to understand the struggle that teachers are experiencing in states like Arizona,” he said. “The low pay and lack of respect for teachers is driving current teachers out of the state for other jobs out of the profession entirely.”

Taylor, who has 12 years of experience and a master’s degree, said he plans to take a year off and then move to Oregon, where teachers with similar experience to his make about $65,000 per year.

He currently makes $45,000.

“I’ve really enjoyed the classes I’ve taught here,” he said. “I’ve really grown professionally and I had a supportive administration and district. I don’t have any regrets, I love Flagstaff as a community.

“It’s why I moved here, but it’s time to move on.”

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