educators Photo courtesy of Jeisenia Estrada

The Governor boasted boosting funds for teacher salaries, but educators aren’t seeing it.

After last week’s State of the State Address, Gov. Doug Ducey is facing criticism from local educators over his promise to give teachers a 20% raise by 2020. They claim recent financial reports contradict that promise.

“By the start of the new school year, teacher pay will be up 20%,” Ducey said during his address. “We’ve pumped $4.5 billion in new investments into Arizona schools.”

But financial records from the Arizona Auditor General tell a different story. According to annual reports, the average salary for a public school teacher in Arizona when Ducey first proposed a 20% raise was $49,278. The state’s Education Department reported an increase to $49,906 the following year – less than half of what the Governor proposed. That number dropped for teachers working in charter schools; they are paid $5,500 less annually than their public school counterparts.

For the 2019-2020 school year, the Arizona Department of Education’s projected budget puts the average salary for teachers currently at $50,375. In order for the 20% promise to become a reality, Ducey estimated that public and charter school teachers’ salaries would need to average out to $58,130 by the start of the next school year. 

The following responses are how some parents and educators throughout the state reacted to Ducey’s claim that he is keeping his promise to raise teacher salaries. Only their first names and school districts are being published to protect the respondents’ anonymity.

Kate, Tempe Union High School District

“He lied about paying teachers a 20% raise by 2020, and blocked legislation that would have helped our schools,” said Kate. “These people don’t care about our kids or public education. They want to destroy public education.”

Julie, Scottsdale Unified School District

“Taxes pay for so much: schools (poorly funded), roads (poorly maintained), schools (teachers/staff compensated at embarrassingly low rates), parks (homes for the homeless), schools (funding passed to local communities through bonds and overrides),” Julie said in a message. “Who told you taxes were a dirty word? With a growing state population and shrinking budgets, what are you proving by having a billion dollars in the coffers when the citizens of our state need you to invest in us and do your basic job and fund necessary services? Who are you helping?”

Storm, Osborn School District

“Teachers did not get a true 20% raise, and Ducey left behind our hourly support staff.”

Jennifer, Peoria Unified School District

“Since the 1st year was 10% and last year was 5%, and this year is 5%, not all teachers are getting the full 20% either,” Jennifer said. “I taught before, left the classroom, and went back full-time last school year. I have only gotten a 5% raise above our new teacher base pay, which they did not raise.”

Chris, Tucson Unified School District

“There’s got to be a better way. Some Arizona Educators United supporters – a majority it seems – are just as stubborn as our governor but only see him as the bad guy,” Chris said. “You and I can talk and come to agreements. These two sides can’t, and both are to blame. He’s not going to care about a group that threatens his career, bash him, and view him as the enemy. That’s not how you bring people together.”

Meagan, Osborn School District

“It’s hypocritical for him to say that the people don’t need permission from the government, but that the government needs permission from the people,” said Meagan. “He also talked about how we, the people, have the ability to make initiatives, yet he will try to block them.”

Tori, Sunnyside Unified School District

“I also feel like ‘not at the ballot box’ is a really icky statement. In grown-up words, it’s a statement that’s pretty contemptuous of the voters of Arizona — the very people he’s supposed to represent.”

Back to the Ballot

After last week’s State of the State Address, a coalition of educators revealed a ballot initiative to address low teacher wages. If passed, it would bring nearly $1 billion in additional school funding annually. A similar initiative was attempted in 2018, but the Arizona Supreme Court removed it from the ballot.