State school superintendent discusses West Virginia strike, teacher pay in AZ

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Teachers in West Virginia will be back in the classroom this week after a four-day strike. They will be returning to their jobs with a 5 percent raise. 

"Would we have a statewide teacher strike in Arizona?" said Superintendent of Public Education, Diane Douglas. "No, we're a 'Right to Work' state. Could individual district have issues? Absolutely."

The average teacher in Arizona makes about $42,000, or about $13,000 less than the national average. To fix that, Douglas wants to expand the sales tax hike that's set to expire at the end of 2020.

"We have about the lowest paid teachers in the nation and they don't deserve that," Douglas said.

According to the Office of the Arizona State treasurer, "With the passage of Proposition 301 in the November 2000 general election, the Department of Revenue started collecting an additional 0.6 percent sales tax beginning June 1, 2001."

Douglas wants to extend that past 2020, and increase the tax rate by 4/10 of a percentage point.

"The 4/10 of a cent would generate another $400 million," Douglas said.

$300 million of that would go toward raises, Douglas said -- about $5,000 a year for the average teacher.

"That's groceries for a family of four," Douglas said. "That more than pays the average teacher's student loan."

But if you see the TV ads from the Arizona Education Project, you see a totally different picture. Their message is, "Arizona schools aren’t perfect, but they are making tremendous progress."

"Nothing paints the whole picture, everybody talks about their little niche, and whether it's positive or negative," Douglas said.

"I think there needs to be a balance between telling those success stories, but also shine a light on the reality," said Christine Thompson, president and CEO of Expect More Arizona. They support extending Proposition 301.

Thompson said while that is a start, we still have a long way to go.

"We have a teacher retention and recruitment crisis in Arizona," Thompson said.

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Lindsey ReiserLindsey Reiser is a Scottsdale native and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

Click to learn more about Lindsey

Lindsey Reiser

Lindsey returned to the Valley in 2010 after covering border and immigration issues in El Paso, TX. While in El Paso she investigated public corruption, uncovered poor business practices, and routinely reported on the violence across the border.

Lindsey feels honored to have several awards under her belt, including a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award, Hearst Journalist Award, and several National Broadcast Education Association Awards.

Lindsey is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and she currently serves as a mentor to journalism students. She studied for a semester in Alicante, Spain and also earned a degree in Spanish at ASU.

She is proud to serve as a member of United Blood Services’ Community Leadership Council, a volunteer advisory board for the UBS of Arizona.

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