Arizona's Top Teachers Review Lawmakers' Performance On Education

Published: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - 11:05am

At the closing of this year’s legislative session, Arizona’s per-student spending rate remained at $4,324. That’s $163 short of what we spent on students more than a decade ago. 

It is, in part, why Arizona’s top teachers took a swipe on Monday at lawmakers’ attempts to fund public education this year. 

The legislature approved Gov. Doug Ducey’s recommended 1 percent pay hike for teachers this year with a 1 percent increase next year, which fell short of the 4 percent pay raise advocates asked for. 

That money is in addition to the $300 million Ducey approved last year. However, that was a settlement sum over a decade-long lawsuit in which Arizona lawmakers had ignored a voter-mandated adjustment of education dollars for inflation rates.

Responding to some Republican lawmakers’ claims that school boards could supplement teacher pay from the Proposition 123 funds, Arizona’s 2014 Teacher of the Year said long before those dollars were already in high demand to cover the schools’ most basic needs.

"Buildings, buses, technology, textbooks, art supplies,” to name a few, said Beth Maloney.

She explained how teacher pay falls behind those needs.

“I can tell you right now, at the end of the year, I have no supplies left," Maloney told constituents and three Democratic lawmakers. "I'm begging parents, I'm spending my own money, to get supplies at this point in the year."

As for school board’s possibly wasting dollars, last year’s Teacher of the Year Christine Marsh entertained the thought.

"Is there waste in schools districts? I don't know,'' she said. "Could they funnel the little bit of money that they get into different areas? Maybe.''

But Marsh, a teacher at Chaparral High School in the Scottsdale Unified School District, compared the funding of public schools in Arizona to a family living at the poverty level trying to save money $6 at a time.

"If they're spending $6 a month on a pack of cigarettes, is that a problem?'' Marsh asked. "Yeah, that's a problem. But moving that $6 a month back into the (family's) pot of money, it's still not enough.''

Maloney did concede there was a bright spot in this year’s legislative session for teachers. Changes in the teacher evaluation process and the Arizona Teachers Academy, will offer a free year of college for every year a student teaches in a public school.

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