What would it cost to meet Arizona teachers' demands?
Noah Karvelis and Dylan Wegela, both teachers and leaders in Arizona Educators United, list their demands during a #RedForEd rally at the Arizona state Capitol. David Wallace/azcentral.com
Organizers with Arizona Educators United, the grassroots group that started the state's #RedForEd movement, announced a list of demands of Gov. Doug Ducey and the Legislature before thousands of educators and supporters at a rally Wednesday at the Capitol.
The top demand: 20 percent raises for the state's teachers.
But there are also demands for more money for students.
What would it take for Arizona to meet teachers' demands for more pay and funding for schools? Here's how it would break down:
What educators are demanding: 20 percent raises for Arizona teachers.
What it would take: The total price tag for such a raise is unclear.
State officials have estimated a 1 percent pay hike for teachers costs about $34 million. That means a 20 percent raise, by similar calculations, could cost the state about $680 million.
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The median pay for Arizona elementary teachers is $42,474, when adjusted for cost of living. A 20 percent increase would amount to $8,495, for a total of $50,969.
Thousands of #RedForEd Arizona teachers rally for more education funding at the state Capitol in Phoenix on March 28, 2018. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral.com
That increase would still place an Arizona elementary teacher who makes the median salary below the national median of $55,800, as well as below pay medians for neighboring state such as New Mexico ($59,047) and Utah ($54,814).
Here are some additional examples of what such a raise would mean for teachers:
- A new teacher in Mesa Public Schools, the state's largest school district, who makes the base salary of $38,500: An increase of $7,700, for a new salary of $46,200.
- An Arizona high-school teacher who earns the state's median of $47,890: A $9,578 increase for a new total of $57,468.
- A teacher in the Pendergast Elementary School District — where nine schools closed down for a day this month as a result of a sick-out — who is making the entry-level salary of $36,712: A $7,342 pay increase that would elevate the salary to $44,054.
Restoring cuts from recession
What educators are demanding: Restore education funding to 2008 levels.
What it would take: The state would need to reinvest nearly $1 billion more annually to bring state education funding levels back to where they were a decade ago.
Arizona spends $924 less per student in inflation-adjusted dollars today than it did in 2008, according to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.
In 2008, the state spent $5,081 per student. Currently, that figure is $4,157, according to the budget committee.
Raise education spending to national average
What educators are demanding: Halting any new tax cuts until the state's per-pupil funding spending reaches the national average.
What it would take: A specific figure is unclear, but this is by far the most ambitious demand from teachers in terms of amount.
It would likely cost the state several billion dollars to fulfill.
TEACHERS: We want to hear from you
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2015 figures, the most recent available, Arizona spent $7,489 per pupil, compared with the national average of $11,392. That is a difference of about 34 percent.
The state estimates Arizona has about 1.1 million K-12 public school students.
Based on the federal data, The Arizona Republic calculated it would cost Arizona nearly $3.7 billion every year to match the national average in per-pupil spending.
Teachers are also demanding competitive pay for all education support professionals, such as teachers' aides and paraprofessionals, though they did not specify dollar figures Wednesday.
Lindsay Breon, a physical-education teacher at Washington Elementary School in Phoenix, shares her feelings at the #RedForEd rally at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix on March 28, 2018. David Wallace/azcentral.com
Permanent salary structure
Another ask from teachers is a "permanent" step-and-lane salary structure in which teachers are guaranteed annual raises and steady advancement in wages.
Organizers did not offer details of this, so the cost to the state is unclear.
READ MORE ABOUT #REDFORED MOVEMENT:
- Teachers hold #RedforEd rally at Capitol after sick-out at 9 West Valley schools
- Hundreds of Chandler teachers march in solidarity with #RedForEd
- Robb: This should be #RedforEd's next move (hint: it's not a teacher strike)
The governor and Legislature, currently in budget discussions, are weighing a $400 million education funding proposal by Ducey that includes about $34 million for the second half of a promised 2 percent teacher pay increase.
The first half was instituted last year.
The governor's budget proposal also includes $100 million for capital costs. About 30 percent of the $400 million figure is funding for inflation and growth that the state is required to fund.
The Day of Action for Education took place at the State Capitol in Phoenix on March 28, 2018. Hundreds of teachers, their family members and supporters gathered to encourage lawmakers to increase teacher salaries. Tom Tingle/azcentral.com
Reach the reporter at Ricardo.Cano@gannett.com and 602-444-8236. Follow him on Twitter: @Ricardo_Cano1
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