House Speaker Proposes New Teacher Pay Boost

Published: Tuesday, May 9, 2017 - 5:50pm
Updated: Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - 7:06am

Republican House Speaker J.D. Mesnard on Tuesday rolled out a last-minute proposal requiring school districts to spend half of their yearly inflation increases on teacher raises.

The proposal, an amendment to an unrelated education bill, would require school districts to spend about $38 million a year on raises for their teachers. It was scheduled for debate Tuesday afternoon.

The state budget passed last week gave teachers a 1 percent raise at a cost of $34 million.

The Arizona School Boards Association quickly came out in opposition. The group said the requirement directly violates a voter-approved law requiring the Legislature to provide yearly inflation increases and last year's Proposition 123, which added about $350 million in new funding for schools each year. That measure settled a lawsuit brought by schools over the Legislature's failure to provide the inflation increases and had no strings on the cash.

Daniel Scarpinato, spokesman for Gov. Doug Ducey, agreed with the association's analysis.

"Prop 123 and the education settlement are settled and done," Scarpinato said. "We're not looking to renegotiate the settlement."

Arizona teachers are among the lowest-paid in the nation, and how to fund teacher raises was a major issue for Ducey and the Legislature in the current session. Ducey originally proposed a 2 percent raise over five years, but was criticized for giving what amounted to a $1 a week raise. Republican majority lawmakers boosted that to 2 percent over two years, while Democrats fought for a full 4 percent increase.

Mesnard did not return calls seeking comment on his reasons for revealing the proposal during the last few days of this year's legislative session.

Individual school boards decide how to spend their state funding, and after the passage of Proposition 123 last year many gave raises. Some did not, however, and drew criticism for that from some lawmakers.

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