After facing weeks of protests, Arizona's governor signed a bill granting public school teachers in his state a 20 percent raise.
What are the details?
Like their counterparts elsewhere in the country, public school teachers in Arizona have been protesting for weeks over low pay. On Thursday, not long before the signing took place, teachers in Arizona cancelled classes. They have done this every day since April 26, a move which has affected most of the 1.1 million public school students in the state.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey proposed the plan to raise salaries, which passed the state Legislature before coming to his desk for him to sign. While the new law promises to give many teachers a 20 percent raise, The Arizona Republic reported that 59 school districts in the state would not get enough funding under the plan to give raises that large to all their teachers. Teachers in those districts would still get raises, but they would be roughly 15.6 percent instead of the full 20 percent.
The new raises would take effect in increments over the next two years, with the full raise reaching the teachers at the beginning of the 2020 school year, Ducey said.
Teachers also proposed a 10 percent raise for support staff, and an amendment that would cap classroom sizes at 25 students. These were not included in the version that Ducey signed. Addressing that bill, Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas said:
“While this bill moves the needle, it still does not go far enough. It does not restore the more than $1 billion taken from our students and it leaves out school support staff like counselors, bus drivers, librarians, and many more who are vital to the success of our students.”
How much were teachers getting paid?
Arizona's average teacher's salary ranked 45th in the nation for the 2016-17 school year.
When you adjust for inflation, in the last full school year, teachers in Arizona made nearly $9,000 less on average than they did in the 1989-90 school year.
According to the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2016-17 school year, teachers in Arizona made an average of $47,403. That was down from $48,087 the year before, which in turn was down from $52,567 in 2009-10, and from $52,894 in 1999-2000, and finally from $56,189 in 1989-90. Dollar amounts for the 2015-16 school year and before have been adjusted for inflation by the Department of Labor using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Teacher's salaries were affected by state budget cuts after the 2008 recession. Many of these cuts were kept in place after the economy improved.