Texas school district targets Arizona teachers as state discusses budget
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — As legislators discuss Arizona’s budget, educators are hoping for a bump in pay and investments. “So far, from what we’ve seen, is not a huge investment in school. There’s a huge investment in rainy day for what might happen,” said Marisol Garcia, the president-elect for the Arizona Education Association.
Garcia said some money seems to be allocated into programs going into schools. “There’s some to the base--so some to help with a little bit of raise--and then there’s some investment into our actual structures that have been neglected for years and years,” said Garcia.
Garcia says the starting salary for new teachers is around $42,000. TAs a result, they’re finding it hard to compete with other states. “If I’m a family, a young family wanting to invest, figure out where we’re going to be. There’s a real close state across the way that’s willing to pay me more where I can buy a home and have a backyard and have a family,” Garcia said.
“I went to school in Illinois and my colleagues that I went to school with who are teaching in Illinois are making almost double what I make, so imagine what their starting salary is compared to what we’re seeing here,” said kindergarten teacher Kelley Fisher with 23 years of experience. “It’s no wonder that our college students who graduate with degrees in education immediately leave the state.”
Drivers around the Valley are seeing more billboards from the Dallas Independent School District, which is trying to recruit Arizona teachers. The billboard lists their salary range from $60,000 to $102,000. “We have competitive starting salaries of $60,000--not including our incentives that we have: $2,000 signing bonus, if you’re a math or science teacher, you’ll get a $3,000 incentive on top of that $2,000. If you’re bilingual, you’ll get another $5,00 incentive plus a $4,000 stipend,” said Steven Jackson, the director of recruitment at Dallas Independent School District. “We give a lot of financial things for teachers to be able to help them because we know the world we’re living in now and where the economy things are very high and expensive that we’re able to provide a competitive salary for our teachers to be able to have a living wage.”
Jackson says they’re targeting Arizona because they’ve noticed more teachers from the Phoenix area applying to Dallas ISD. “This is our first year we’re putting our efforts specifically on Arizona. When we look at our efforts, we look at historical data basically off of applications that we have as well as job fairs we attend and conferences as well,” Jackson explained. “We look at that data and we pinpoint, OK, we’re seeing that we have an influx of applicants from this area so we’ll go ahead and use of some of our recruitment efforts in those areas.”
Jackson said Dallas ISD will be holding a recruitment event in Phoenix on Friday and Saturday. More information can be found here.
“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. If anyone who pays more than we do, especially at a starting teacher’s salary, should probably come here and advertise because regardless of all of the other things, it does come down to pay,” said Fisher. “We can complain about our workload issues, we can complain about our class sizes, but a lot of it comes down to--are we paid for our worth?”
Garcia hopes legislators see the need for a change and more focus on the education budget. “The fact that we have not made this a priority in this state and we’re not looking at it in the same way we should be looking at any other market. This is a professional market, people should be able to get paid what they deserve,” Garcia said. “Texas is not that much different than Arizona when it comes to housing prices so there is no reason, there’s no excuse for us to not be investing in schools in this state.”
The Arizona Department of Education said last school year, they had 1,700 teacher openings, about 25% of which are still unfilled. About 55% of the filled positions, however, are filled by teachers who do not meet the state’s standard certification requirements.
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