Supporters of increased pay for teachers took to the rocky shores of the state Capitol on Tuesday to demand a 4 percent pay raise.
In a “boat parade” — ranging from rubber rafts to cardboard cutouts of a row boat —about 60 people marched around the plaza between the House and Senate, ridiculing the 0.4 percent annual pay raise Ducey proposed in January and rebuffing the 2 percent lawmakers are offering over the next two years.
The parade was inspired by a comment that House Majority Leader John Allen made during an education debate last week. When Democrats complained that teachers have to hold down part-time jobs to make ends meet, Allen, R-Scottsdale, rose in defense of part-time jobs.
He later clarified his remarks to say he wasn’t talking about teachers specifically, and noted not everyone who works a part-time job is “borderline poverty.” He suggested they could be looking for extra earnings to better their situation, or to save up for a car or even a boat.
Arizona ranked 50th in the nation
But at Tuesday’s rally, 2017 Arizona Teacher of the Year Michelle Doherty said teachers are taking second jobs to supplement their low pay. The median teacher salary is $40,768, according to figures from the Morrison Institute at Arizona State University, ranking the Grand Canyon State 50th in the nation.
“It’s not something we do just because we want boats, we want cars, we want a second home,” Doherty said of part-time jobs. “That was my favorite: a second home.”
She invited lawmakers to join with them in pushing for a 4 percent pay increase.
“Why don’t they get in these boats we have and row with us?” she asked.
Some of the participants took a stash of plastic toy boats up to Ducey’s office, offering to trade them in for higher pay.
“We said these are the boats teachers can afford on their salaries,” said Josselyn Berry, executive director of ProgressNow Arizona, a liberal advocacy group.
For its part, Ducey’s office said it was not aware that any boats were delivered.
The House and Senate will hold hearings Wednesday on the budget bills, which include the 2 percent raise over two years.
-Originally published by Mary Jo Pitzl, AZ Central on 5/2/17 at 8:45 pm