Here’s what you need to know about GOP plan to increase Arizona teacher pay

Nov 14, 2023, 11:01 AM | Updated: 11:03 am

Stock image of a teacher in front of a classroom. Arizona Republican lawmakers unveiled a plan Mond...

Arizona Republican lawmakers unveiled a plan Monday, Nov. 13, 2023, to increase teacher pay. (Pixabay Photo)

(Pixabay Photo)

PHOENIX — Arizona Republican lawmakers unveiled a plan Monday to increase teacher pay without raising taxes, but some education advocates are skeptical.

Under the proposal, voters would be asked in November 2024 to extend Proposition 123, with the proceeds dedicated solely to teacher pay. Prop 123, which is set to expire in 2025, increases public education funding using money from the State Land Fund.

Republicans say their plan would raise teacher pay by an average of 7% starting in November 2025, putting the average annual salary above $60,000, without increasing taxpayer burden.

Senate President Warren Petersen said during a press conference Monday the plan will cover eight to 10 years.

Public school advocacy group Save Our Schools Arizona is all for paying teachers more but questions the funding mechanism of the GOP plan, calling it “a shell game” that “steals from one pot to give to the other.”

Why is teacher pay an issue in Arizona?

Both sides agree that Arizona needs to increase teacher pay as educators flee to other states that offer better salaries.

One month into the current school year, nearly 30% of teacher positions in Arizona public and charter schools were unfilled, according to the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association (ASPAA).

In addition, more than half of the filled positions were teachers who don’t meet state standard certification requirements.

“The shortage of educators directly impacts the quality of education students receive. Larger class sizes, reduced individualized attention and limited extracurricular opportunities are just a few of the consequences students face as a result of this crisis,” ASPAA said after releasing its latest report in September.

What are the arguments for and against GOP teacher pay plan?

Petersen said the Republican proposal works because the State Land Fund is a reliable funding source.

“We believe we can continue this dedicated funding source long-term because the fund has already grown exponentially over the last eight years, even during tumultuous economic times,” he said in a press release.

Save Our Schools Arizona questions the sustainability given the fact that the state is facing a potential $400 million budget deficit that will likely require spending cuts.

“We are glad to work with lawmakers who are serious about raising new dollars to fund our teachers, but this sleight of hand is unacceptable,” the group said in a statement.

What does Supt. Tom Horne think about Republican proposal?

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, a Republican, called the plan “a step in the right direction” and said the numbers add up. But he also said more would need to be done to solve the state’s teacher retention crisis.

Horne told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Tuesday that Arizona is losing 40% of its teachers in their first four years and another 26% in the fifth through ninth years.

“We can’t replace teachers at that rate,” he said. “The surrounding states all pay more, and we lose good teachers to the surrounding states. We can’t afford to keep doing that, so we absolutely have to raise the salaries of our teachers.”

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Here’s what you need to know about GOP plan to increase Arizona teacher pay