(The Center Square) – Arizona’s average teacher pay increased by 20.7% from the fiscal year 2017 to the fiscal year 2022, according to new data from the Arizona Auditor General.
On average, a teacher now makes $58,366, but the state was supposed to hit a 20% increase by the fiscal year 2021.
Overall spending in school districts saw an over $1 billion uptick in FY2022, and the Auditor General cited COVID-19 federal aid as a major factor.
“We continued to see wide operational spending variations among similar districts in areas such as plant operations, indicating possible opportunities for improved efficiency at some districts, which could free up dollars for teacher salaries or other district priorities,” the overview said.
“Nearly all districts returned to in-person learning, leading to increases in meals served, riders transported, and miles drove State-wide, which are areas that had seen significant decreases in the prior fiscal year,” the overview continued.
The increase serves as a promising sign for Arizona, which typically ranks near the bottom when in teacher salary rankings. The Center for the Future of Arizona placed the state last in 2021 for elementary and second-school teacher pay when “adjusted for cost-of-living.”
Outside of rankings, salaries are often a topic of discussion and debate in gubernatorial and legislative-level elections in Arizona. In addition, the state is facing a teacher shortage that prompted former Gov. Doug Ducey to sign legislation in July 2022 allowing those without a college degree to teach.
When it comes to salary changes across the board, Rep. Matt Gress, R-Phoenix, is pushing legislation to increase teacher pay by $10,000 despite opposition from many Democrats, arguing that it does not include a boost in staff pay and could lead to other financial issues for public school, The Center Square reported.