By Michael Taszarek
According to the National Education Association the average public school teacher in Arizona makes $45,506 per year, more than $10,000 less than the average American public school teacher salary of $57,420.
The average Arizona public school teacher salary was included in this year’s State of the State address, Gov. Doug Ducey made clear his intentions to raise teacher’s wages.
“It’s time for a raise for Arizona’s teachers,” Ducey said.
I was initially very excited about this announcement, as I thought that public school teachers were finally in for the raise they were deserving of. I was wrong.
Arizona public school teachers will get a raise in the coming years, but it will be miniscule. According to the governor’s most recent budget, Arizona teachers will get a 2 percent raise over the next five years.
This means that the average Arizona teacher will see a four tenths of a percent salary increase every year for the next five years, equal to $182.02 a year.
This is not the real raise that Arizona public school teachers deserve. Raising teacher salaries by $910.12 and calling it a raise on its own is unacceptable.
Arizona ranks 47th in the nation in teacher salaries. This is not attracting the best and brightest teachers to teach the vast majority of Arizona’s next generation.
To have the best teachers for the next generation of Arizona students we need to make teacher salaries in Arizona competitive, and a two percent salary increase over five years will most definitely not achieve that.
I understand that raising the salaries of Arizona teachers to the national average will not be cheap, with some estimates stating that it will cost the state over $600 million.
To cover the cost the state will either need to increase taxes or find the money elsewhere in the state’s budget. Finding money elsewhere in the budget would most likely entail cutting other state government programs and services.
But it is worth the price. Raising the statewide sales tax, for example, may be hardly noticeable, and it would be worth it for a better education for Arizona kids.
A higher salary for public school teachers will bring better teachers to our state, and having better teachers means a better education for Arizona public school students.
Better education for Arizona students means higher test scores, higher high school graduation rates, and more students will go to college.
The more students that go to college and get degrees, the more high paying job opportunities these students will have after graduation. More high paying jobs means a stronger economy for Arizona.
All of this begins with Arizona public teacher salaries being raised to at least the national average.
To my representatives in the Arizona State Government: Give Arizona public school teachers the real raise that they deserve.