(The Center Square) – Legislation going around school districts to directly increase pay for Arizona teachers passed the state House Appropriations Committee.
All Republicans on the committee voted for the bill, and one Democrat, Rep. Amish Shah, voted in favor, with 5 Democrats voting against it.
“I have to say I’m very, very surprised at what is happening here,” Rep. Matt Gress, R-Phoenix, who sponsored the bill, said about the Democrats’ opposition Monday.
“We’ve talked year after year about raising teacher pay. Here’s a bill that does it, and we can’t seem to make it perfect enough for some members on the other side to accept it,” he continued.
If passed into law, House Bill 2800 would require public schools to increase the salaries for eligible teachers by $5,000 from the base pay from fiscal year 2023 starting in fiscal year 2024 and an additional $5,000 increase beginning in fiscal year 2025 – $10,000 in total. That amount would be extended annually.
“The bottom line for me is well, this bill is really, I think, well-intentioned, and it’s good that, I’m glad to hear that Mr. Gress is acknowledging that teachers deserve higher pay, they absolutely do. But unfortunately, there are some serious flaws in this bill that I’m concerned could leave public schools in a worse financial position than they are in now,” Rep. Judy Schwiebert, D-Phoenix, said.
Rep. Nancy Gutierrez, D-Tucson, disagreed with other school staff not being included for pay raises in the bill.
The bill would only take effect if another bill strengthening teacher evaluations is enacted.
According to the National Education Association, Arizona ranks 44 out of all 50 states for teacher salaries, ABC15 Arizona reported in April 2022.
To pay for the increase, the Pay Teachers First Fund would be established, and $1,100,000,000 would be designated to it.
Beyond pay, the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association determined that there’s an ongoing teacher shortage, with 24% of teaching positions empty out of 194 districts statewide, The Center Square reported.