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Arizona schools chief says teacher raises approved by lawmakers is not enough

(AP Photo)
LISTEN: Diane Douglas, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction

PHOENIX — Arizona schools chief Diane Douglas advocated for increased teachers’ wages on Friday, saying the one percent approved by state lawmakers is not enough.

During an interview with KTAR 92.3 FM’s Mac and Gaydos, Douglas called the increase a “good start” and said she appreciated the efforts to get the wages up higher, but insisted it is not enough.

“If we want great talent for our kids, we need to do better,” Douglas said.

Under the budget approved by Arizona lawmakers on Friday, teachers in the state would see a pay raise of about $1,000, not enough to significantly raise teacher pay, which is among the lowest in the nation and has contributed to a major teacher shortage.

But Douglas proposed a plan in April that would give Arizona teachers an average raise of about $5,000 under the expansion of Proposition 301, a voter-approved sixth-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase.

“Our teachers are here everyday,” Douglas said. “We need to sustain [funding] for them that is dedicated specifically to teachers.”

During an offhand comment toward Gov. Doug Ducey, who has repeatedly said he will not raise taxes, Douglas said the state needs new money in order to give teachers a good raise.

Douglas said the language of the legislation would ensure that four-tenths of a percent would go directly to teachers, addressing the state’s ongoing problem of promising money to teachers then taking it away.

“This raise could put food on the table for a year, that’s the type of help people need,” Douglas said. “We want to have the most talented people we can in the classroom for our children.”

In a recent study from Arizona State University, the state’s teacher shortage has been fueled by a low pay and increased administrative duties. The study also found that 42 percent of Arizona public school teachers hired in 2013 left the profession within three years.

Douglas said in order to get and retain the best teachers, the state needs to “recognize” that teachers are doing the “most important job in the state” and address their biggest concern: Low pay.

“There have been a lot of [issues] heard as I travel the state, but money is the No. 1 issue that people bring up,” Douglas said. “No matter where they are in the state, north, south, conservative, liberal. They said pay teachers more.”

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