The Fiscal Year 2018 budget approved by the Arizona State Legislature and Governor provides teachers with 2 percent salary growth over two years. This means that next year, teacher salaries will increase by an average of just $900.
Superintendent Diane Douglas is making a counteroffer to the people of Arizona, five C’s worthy of our hard-working educators. She proposes that voters permanently extend and expand Proposition 301 to a full 1 percent in order to give teachers a 10.7 percent immediate increase and exceed that $5,000 goal within three years at 11.3 percent. (Read the breakdown.)
Five C’s for $5,000
$5,000 will buy consistency in our teaching force by reducing teacher turnover. Fully 22 percent of new teachers in Arizona leave the profession after their first year. That number grows to 42 percent by year three. When teachers of any tenure are asked why they are leaving the profession, low pay is the top cited reason for exit. More than one-third of Arizona teachers have been in the classroom for four years or less.
$5,000 will buy commitment. As important as teacher retention is, schools cannot begin to deal with that issue until they surmount the recruitment hurdle. Many Arizona schools struggle to even fill out their rosters each fall, to the point that more than two thousand positions were still vacant in November 2016. $5,000 will go a long way to attracting teachers, especially in rural areas.
$5,000 will help Arizona attract and keep qualified teachers by increasing the state’s competitiveness. In 2016, Arizona ranked dead last in the nation for K-12 teacher pay (adjusting for cost of living). Our newest teachers make on average 9 percent less than their counterparts in the rest of the country. The disparity grows worse as experience increases, with veteran teachers making from 26 (in Phoenix) to 43 (in Tucson) percent less than the national average for their peers.
$5,000 will make a teaching career more viable. While almost all teachers choose a career in education for altruistic reasons, they overwhelmingly leave for practical ones that could be mitigated by better pay. The proposed salary boost will not only contribute to teacher retention, but help correct the decline in real wages and career-pay plateau that can discourage the most experienced teachers from staying in the profession.
$5,000 cannot buy the passion required to teach effectively. Nor can $5,000 buy enough hours in the day for all that is required of our teachers. But maybe, just maybe, $5,000 will show our teachers that the community they serve actually appreciates all that they do.
$5,000 will not fix all of Arizona’s education issues. It won’t even fix the recruitment and retention challenge. What it can do is make our teachers’ lives better, which can only lead to better outcomes for Arizona students. If children are our future, our future lies in the hands of our teachers and those teachers deserve a raise!