Ducey: Potential exists for $10K raises for all Arizona teachers

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PHOENIX – As Arizona struggles to provide competitive salaries to public school teachers, Gov. Doug Ducey said Thursday he believes Arizona’s school districts should be able to potentially give all teachers a $10,000 raise after his budget proposal is passed.

Ducey said his projection stems from two infusions of money to schools made possible by Proposition 123 — $118 million in June 2016 and $300 million budget increase in September 2016 — along with Ducey’s budget proposal calling for $114 million of new money next year.

“If you take all of this money combined, there is the potential for a $10,000 raise for each of our teachers,” Ducey said. “Now our schools have needs in addition to that, but there are dollars there to see our teachers get raises. That’s left to our principals and superintendents to do it.”

A representative of The Arizona School Boards Association said Ducey’s projection does not take into consideration other costs school districts face.

“Principals and superintendents and governing boards all tell us the same thing,” said Chris Kotterman, ASBA Director of Governmental Relations. “They are strapped. They have building issues they need to take care of. They have health insurance costs going up. They have busses that need repairing. They get frustrated when they are told ‘Oh, they have plenty of money — they just need to apply it the right way’.”

Kotterman suggested school governing boards have little wiggle room to re-route dollars for teachers, even with the benefit of Prop 123 money. Kotterman said average district administrative costs in Arizona are 10 percent of overall budgets, which is lower than nearly every other state.

“We do appreciate the governor’s willingness to put new money into the education budget,” Kotterman said. “To suggest districts are just sitting on ten thousand dollars per teacher that they are just not willing to pay is, in our view, not an accurate statement.”

Ducey said more dollars are available than many people may realize.

“This money has not all been spent. The reports are coming out. The dollars are moving to schools and there’s going to be more when we pass this budget,” Ducey said.

Arizona remains near the bottom in per-pupil spending compared to other states. Prop 123 was passed last year to resolve a $1.6 billion lawsuit because the legislature did not fully cover inflation costs during the Great Recession.  Education advocates are asking Gov. Ducey to freeze the growth of “low-income” corporate private school tax credits and pause additional tax cuts in in order to boost school funding.

Ducey’s current budget proposal for schools calls for an automatic .4 percent raise for teachers in each of the next five years. The nonprofit AZ Schools Now, which represents business and education leaders, is asking Ducey to propose a 4 percent pay raise for teachers.

-Orignally published by Joe Dana on 12 News on 3/2/17 at 8:21 pm