Arizona business leaders are concerned about the teacher shortage, which they believe is made significantly worse by Arizona’s low teacher pay compared to the rest of the country, said Dick Foreman, president and chief executive officer of Arizona Business & Education Coalition.
“I can’t imagine any business CEO would think that a salary raise of $185 a year would change the teacher shortage in any meaningful way,” said Dana Wolfe Naimark, president and chief executive officer of Children’s Action Alliance. “We believe Arizona will make more progress by investing all the identified funds in teacher salaries, plus taking a pause in our 25+ straight years of tax cuts. It’s time to make teachers a top priority so that they can help students succeed.”
The letter from AZ Schools Now that Christine Porter Marsh and Michelle Doherty hand-delivered to the governor asks for $134 million to be invested in permanent teacher salary increases. That includes the $95 million in the Governor’s new K-12 funding budget proposal, $24 million set aside two years ago for achievement districts, $12 million from freezing corporate private school tax credits and $3 million from delaying this year’s tax cut.
“The corporate private school tax credit, ironically, has been growing at a rate of 20 percent per year, even as public school inflation adjustments have not even reached the voter approved 2 percent level in several years,” Foreman said. “The very modest corporate tax cuts, as well, are off the business radar as meaningful or even helpful to most if not all ABEC business members. To cobble together enough funds to get a raise of even a modest 3 to 4 percent requires that we stop the hemorrhaging of the state general fund and put what few dollars are available to give teachers a real raise.”
Infographic by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews
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AZ Schools Now is a coalition of volunteers, teachers, parents, school board members, education leaders and advocates, who came together to support the next step in increasing public education funding after voter approval of Prop. 123. Its partners include the Arizona Business and Education Coalition, Arizona Education Association, Arizona Education Network, Arizona School Boards Association, Arizona PTA, Arizona School Administrators Association, Children’s Action Alliance, Arizona Center for Economic Progress, Support Our Schools Arizona, and Valley Interfaith Project.
AZ Schools Now said Gov. Ducey’s plan to provide a 0.4 percent teacher salary increase and help low-income students is a step in the right direction, but does not begin to make up for the cuts to K-12 education in the past 10 years.
“While Governor Ducey’s proposal invests $95 million in new funds in public education, his budget also includes $52 million in cuts to district and charter public schools – budget cuts that were previously enacted and are still phasing in,” Naimark said. “As a result, the net increase to public education is only $38.33 per student. Arizonans expect more. It’s time for our elected leaders to get to work identifying a long term plan for new and sustainable resources for teachers, updated classroom textbooks and technology, and safe school buses and buildings.”
Gov. Ducey said in an interview with Capitol Media Services that he’s trying to address low teacher pay and provide extra help for low-income students “in a thoughtful, positive way,” and that if the Legislature pares his proposal things might be worse.
“I also hear a lot of discussion about people who think maybe we don’t have the money or we’re spending too much (on new education spending),” Gov. Ducey said in the Capitol Media Services article.
“Tinkering around the edges will not solve Arizona’s teacher shortage,” said Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association. “Arizona ranks near the bottom in teacher pay. Raising salaries by 0.4 percent does not meaningfully address this crisis or help the thousands of students left without a qualified teacher in the classroom.”
The AZ Schools Now proposal would provide a larger raise for Arizona K-12 teachers.
“It is impossible to solve our current teacher shortage within the existing revenue structure, but raising teacher salaries by 4 percent instead of 0.4 percent makes a strong statement to educators that lawmakers are willing to move in the right direction,” said Dr. Timothy Ogle, executive director of the Arizona School Boards Association.
Naimark said Children’s Action Alliance supports Gov. Ducey goals to address working conditions causing the growing teacher shortage and to provide support for students in families with few economic resources, but his budget spreads funding over so many initiatives that it won’t move the needle on the state’s educational goals.
It’s time to identify substantial new resources for public schools that address both critical needs in the classroom and school structures, Foreman said.
“Proposition 301 will soon lapse and the time to begin addressing possible options for its renewal or reform should be a priority,” Foreman said.
“Arizonans are ready to turn the page on short-term funding proposals that result in one crisis after another,” said Jen Darland, regional leader of Arizona Parent Network and Support Our Schools AZ. “We are calling on the Governor and legislature to convene stakeholder meetings this session to discuss long-term funding solutions that include new revenue sources and an update of Prop. 301.”
-Originally published by Lisa Irish, AZ ED News, 1/23/2017