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Ducey unveils plan to attract more teachers to Arizona in State of the State address

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey unveiled a new plan to attract more teachers to Arizona during his annual State of the State address on Monday.

During his education-heavy speech, Ducey said Arizona schools are improving through the hard work of both students and teachers, but it’s the latter who will benefit most under his new plan.

“I want the teachers of our state to know you make the difference,” he said. “I value your work, and it’s time we return the favor.”

Just days prior to Ducey’s speech, a study said more than 2,000 teaching positions were open in Arizona. Ducey said he hopes his plan will make a healthy dent in that number.

Under the new plan, Arizona teachers will receive a raise and the state budget will include a “permanent, lasting salary increase” that will go further than overrides, district budget increases or Proposition 123 funds. The pay hike will not cause an increase in taxes.

“This is an investment by the state of Arizona in recognizing and rewarding the work of our teachers in a way that is fair, permanent and fiscally responsible,” Ducey said.

Ducey asked the state’s three universities to team up and form an Arizona teaching academy, where people can learn to become teachers without the fear of student loan debt and have a guaranteed job waiting.

He also called for a $1,000 signing bonus for teachers willing to work in a low-income school and removing the state’s teacher certification process. Instead, Ducey wants school boards, superintendents and school boards to be in charge of hiring.

“Let’s lift this burden from our teachers, attract new quality individuals into the classroom,” he said.

Ducey also said his budget, scheduled to be released Friday, will demand an increase in public school spending each year he is in office and plans to shift “the bulk” of extra money to schools when it’s available.

His budget will also send money to schools with the lowest incomes to expand full-day kindergarten and establish high-speed internet connections at rural and tribal schools.

Ducey also said he wants to offer a per-pupil boost for excelling schools and several other ideas, though he did not expand.

“We have a plan to prioritize K-12 education in a serious and thoughtful way and we’ve only just begun,” he said.