PHOENIX — It is no secret that Arizona is and has been one of the worst states in the nation for education.
After Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey approved a state budget in March that cut nearly $100 million worth of funding from public universities and kept K-12 funding at a minimum, it was clear that Arizona legislators would not make education a priority anytime soon, despite the massive public protests to push for change.
In a recent report from WalletHub, Arizona ranked dead last in the nation — including Washington D.C. — for public school spending per student, as well as No. 49 for pupil-to-student ratio, No. 49 for median annual teacher salary and No. 48 in the website’s school systems ranking.
Arizona only ranked above North Carolina and West Virginia in an overall ranking of all categories.
In fact, out of all seven categories included in the report, Arizona’s highest ranking came at No. 41 for an average starting teacher salary.
Arizona also ranked No. 42 for job opportunity for teachers, No. 51 for academic and work environment and No. 45 in the 10-year change in teacher salaries.
Jill Gonzalez with WalletHub said there are about 23 students per teacher in Arizona public schools, which makes meeting the strict grade requirements difficult while tackling a large workload and making little pay.
“While that’s a lot of students, almost the largest in the country in terms of this ratio, at the same time teachers in Arizona are making one of the worst compensations,” she said. “The average starting salary is just around $31,000 a year; That’s in the bottom 10.”
Gonzalez said the income growth potential for teachers to be nearly impossible in Arizona, especially when the median annual teacher’s salary nationwide is $50,000 a year. In addition, the state only spends about $8,000 per student per year, when she said the average is closer to $12,000.
Ever since the national No Child Left Behind Act was passed in 2001, Gonzalez said teachers are held to very high standards with very little pay.
“Their compensation does not keep up with inflation at all and yet they’re supposed to be having these kids pump out amazing test scores year-after-year,” she said. “We found that’s just not happening.”
KTAR News’s Jeremy Foster also contributed to this report.