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Arizona teachers get pay raises for new school year

(Creative Commons)

PHOENIX — As the new school year gets underway, teachers are seeing more money in their paychecks.

Teachers in the Mesa Unified School District got 5% pay raises this school year after getting 10% raises last year.

Shaun Holmes, the district’s associate superintendent of human and capital resources, said it’s helping with recruitment but added teacher vacancies remain.

“We actually still currently have about 100 vacancies that we’re looking to fill, and I would say about half of those are in the area of special education,” he said.

The school district also has openings for math and science teachers.

Holmes said it’s difficult to find teachers “when wages are comparably lower” than in other states.

A recent report by the National Education Association found teachers on average make $49,892 a year. That’s below the national teacher salary of $61,782.

The report also ranked Arizona 45th in the country for average teacher salaries, an improvement of one spot from last year.

This comes after the approval of Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan to give teachers a 20% pay raise by the year 2020. As part of the plan, many teachers got a 10% pay raise last school year.

Like in Mesa, teachers in the Chandler and Queen Creek unified school districts got 10% raises last year and are getting 5% raises this year.

“They deserve it,” said Terry Locke, director of community relations for Chandler Unified School District. “They’re highly educated. They have an important task of educating our young people.”

Locke added teacher pay raises are important for parents as well as for the business sector, which he said want to have “strong educational programs in place not only to serve the students of their employees but also provide the future workforce.”

In Queen Creek, the school district’s associate superintendent of business and operations Matt Strom said with markets booming, districts like his are having to compete for teachers.

“Teachers can leave our industry and go to any other industry and probably make pretty competitive wages,” he said. “So we have to be able to not only offer them the altruistic nature of education in that the good they’re doing is worth a lot to society as a whole, but we also have to offer them competitive wages.”

Last week, Ducey’s office highlighted school districts that have gone “above and beyond” the commitment to give teachers a 20% pay raise by the year 2020.

His office noted the Florence Unified School District is giving teacher pay increases of 5% for the coming school year, bringing total raises over the last two years to 18%. That has helped the district’s teacher retention rate increase from 80% to 89%, according to Ducey’s office.

Other school districts also highlighted by the governor’s office include the Yuma Union High School District, which has given teachers a 22% pay raise, and the Kingman Unified School District, which has given teachers a 17% pay raise.

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