Arizona Republican lawmaker proposes $10,000 teacher pay raise

Feb 27, 2023, 4:35 AM | Updated: 8:10 am
(AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)...
(AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)
(AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

PHOENIX — An Arizona Republican lawmaker is looking to solve the state’s ongoing teacher shortage with a $10,000 pay raise, but opponents worry this approach is not sustainable.

State Rep. Matt Gress, R-Phoenix, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show last week he believes not enough money is getting into teachers’ pockets.

He wants to change that with HB 2800. His bill would phase in a $10,000 raise for teachers by 2025 through the “Pay Teachers First Fund.”

“This plan would put 100% of those dollars into the classroom,” Gress said.

This comes as the latest survey by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association (ASPAA) shows the state’s K-12 public schools continue struggling to retain and hire new teachers.

According to the survey of 194 school districts and charter schools that participated, 25% of teacher positions remained open in January.

“The latest data is certainly worrisome,” ASPAA President Alexis Wilson said.

She added her group is “very concerned” to see there has been very little progress made since her group started tracking teacher vacancies seven years ago, despite recent teacher pay raises.

Wilson said while she thinks raising teacher pay is one of the best ways to attract and retain teachers, she doesn’t support HB 2800.

Her concerns stem from the bill coming with a $700 million price tag that lawmakers would have to approve every year. Otherwise, the pay raises for teachers disappear.

“I think anything that the Legislature is trying to do to increase salaries has to be sustainable,” Wilson said.

Other opponents worry the bill leaves out pay raises for support staff, including bus drivers, nurses and librarians. They also worry the additional funding would push schools over the Aggregate Expenditure Limit, which caps how much school districts can spend every year.

Gress pushed back against the opposition, saying his bill offers “a plan that I think moves the bar in a significant direction on teacher pay.”

HB 2800 passed out of the House Appropriations Committee last week mostly along party lines, with one Democratic lawmaker joining Republicans in support of the bill.

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Arizona Republican lawmaker proposes $10,000 teacher pay raise