Proposed plan by Republican lawmaker would add $10K to Arizona teacher salaries

The plan would give Arizona teachers an immediate and permanent $10,000 salary increase, with 100% of the money going directly to teachers and no tax increase.
Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 8:06 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Teacher pay has been a controversial topic in Arizona, and now a new plan would give all Arizona teachers an immediate $10,000 raise if passed through the state legislature. But some critics said this is likely all talk and no action. Why? Because they said, history repeats itself.

Arizona’s had a problem retaining qualified teachers because of low salaries, and this proposal would certainly help. However, critics question whether it will actually get passed, or is this a political play?

Excitement for the start of another school year is plagued by an education crisis that continues in Arizona. “This teacher exodus is impacting every single classroom, every single district across the state,” said Marisol Garcia, president of the Arizona Education Association.

Garcia said any salary increase could help, but $10,000 more for teachers would be major. “$10,000 is life-altering. I mean, it is life-altering,” Garcia said. “To be honest with you, right now, I have teachers living in tents because they can’t afford housing.”

She’s talking about the proposed plan announced Monday called “Pay Teachers First,” introduced by Republican Matt Gress, who’s running for a house seat. The plan would give every Arizona teacher an immediate and permanent $10,000 salary increase, with 100% of the money going directly to teachers and no tax increase.

“What we’ve seen in the past is that not every dollar we’ve provided gets to the classroom,” Gress said. “What makes this program different is that we’re going to legally require the districts and charters to use the dollars we provide to them to increase teacher pay.”

The plan is backed by several Republicans, which Garcia said is ironic. “Let’s be clear, a lot of the people he claims are behind this or support it are the same people that were in the legislature last year that could have pushed the plan before last year or the year before,” said Garcia.

Arizonans voted in favor of Prop 208 in 2020, which would have raised teacher salary then with a 3.5 percent tax increase to high-income earners. The legislature fought against that and won.

That’s why Garcia said this would be great, but she won’t believe it till she sees it. “Hey, you’ve got a plan? We’re going to hear it, but we want to see it actually put into play,” Garcia said.

Because this would not raise taxes, where would the money come from? Gress said it would come from the general fund and a revenue surplus from so many people moving to Arizona and contributing to the state economy.