School districts committed to teacher pay increase

According to a Learning Policy Institute report, it can cost a district an estimated $20,000 to replace a teacher. Increasing teacher pay can help the state attract and retain talented teachers, which will save money in the long run and benefit the students they serve. 

To that end, Governor Doug Ducey introduced and the legislature approved a three-year plan in May 2018 to increase teacher pay in Arizona 20 percent by 2020, also known as 20×2020.  

With the money now promised from the state, school districts across Arizona are working to meet the 20×2020 commitment and increase teacher pay. 

Florence Unified School District (FUSD) increased teacher pay over the last two years by 18 percent, 13 percent last year and 5 percent this upcoming school year.  

Chris Knutsen, FUSD superintendent, explained that 15 percent of the teacher pay increase comes from money provided by the “legislature and the governor.”

The remaining three percent is provided by 301 Pay for Performance, which measures a teacher’s individual performance to make them eligible for an increase in salary.

The salary increase has encouraged teachers to stay at the district.  

Knutsen explained that 89.1 percent of teachers that were offered contracts going into the next school year are returning. 

A few years ago, however, FUSD turned over more than 20 percent of its staff. 

“That’s a significant number for us because if you’re constantly having to retrain your teaching staff, how is that good for kids? It’s not good for kids,” he said. “The idea is to try to be consistent year to year and not just from a teacher perspective, but administration as well.” 

In addition to increasing teacher pay, FUSD works to attract and retain talented teachers by building a positive culture. 

“We’re just trying to build culture by increasing communication across the board in our district, letting our teachers know that we’re here to support them,” Knutsen said. 

Kingman Unified School District (KUSD) is also working to meet the 20×2020 commitment with a seven percent raise for teachers this upcoming year, totaling 17 percent.  

“The teacher pay increases have helped promote positive morale and the retention of quality teachers.  It has also helped attract qualified educators to the rural area of Kingman,” said Lindsay Wolsey, principal of Manzanita Elementary School in the KUSD. 

Madison School District, Marana Unified School District and Mohawk Valley School District are among many other districts that are working to increase teacher pay as part of the 20×2020 plan. 

Sierra Ciaramella

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