New report shows jump in Arizona teacher pay ranking

Arizona is moving up in national rankings and this time it is for teacher pay. According to a new report by the Arizona Tax Research Association the state will move up to #16 for average teacher pay after Governor Ducey’s 20X2020 is fully implemented. 

Earlier this year, Governor Ducey proposed a 20 percent pay raise for teachers by 2020, and the legislature approved the three-year plan in May. The plan provides school districts and charter schools with an estimated 9 percent increase for teachers this year and the full 20 percent by 2020.

There has been much debate over how to measure teacher pay and how to adjust for the cost of living, according to Sean McCarthy, Senior Research Analyst at ATRA. “Using Bureau of Labor Statistics data, which fails to capture hundreds of millions in Prop 301 sales tax monies and other funds paid out biannually, is intellectually dishonest,” he said. “Using National Education Association pay averages, which closely aligns to what our state auditor reports, and adjusting it by the nationally accepted Cost of Living Index is the appropriate measure for average teacher pay.”

Using National Education Association data and adjusting for the cost of living, Ducey’s plan will elevate Arizona from #40 to #16 in national teacher pay, according to a report from ATRA released earlier this year. The average teacher salary is expected to be $56,000, a considerable jump from $47,000.

While recent increases are moving Arizona in the right direction, the state still has a long way to go to meet its education funding needs, according to President and CEO of Expect More Arizona Christine Thompson. “We agree with many of the K-12 funding challenges highlighted in the recent report from ATRA and encourage all stakeholders to work together and think comprehensively about how to achieve a P-20 education system that meets the demands of our economy and all of our students.”

Arizona ranks #49 in the nation in the percentage of the population between ages 18 and 64 and #45 for total personal income per K-12 student. With few taxpayers and a limited revenue stream relative to other states, funding for teacher salaries has been sparse, until now.

With a dramatic state investment enabled by Arizona’s economic success, the state’s relative teacher pay ranking will increase. Schools across the state have implemented significant pay increases for teachers and support staff as a result of the new resources.

“Our study indicated that real progress in teacher pay was an achievable policy goal, unlike significantly increasing our per pupil current spending ranking, which is not,” said McCarthy. “The interesting phenomenon is the Legislature increased funding without a legal mandate, only a request to spend it on teacher pay. Local Education Agencies overwhelmingly followed the legislative intent throughout the state.”

With support from local residents and the promise of increased pay, Arizona is establishing itself as a desirable location for exceptional teachers.

Lorna Romero

Megan Donahey

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