Pictured: Teachers participating in the Red for Ed walk-ins on April 11 at Desert Willow Elementary in Cave Creek.

Photos courtesy of Tara Alatorre/Staff
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State educators skeptical of Ducey’s teacher pay proposal, long-term funding, walkout still looming

4/18/18

Tara Alatorre
Staff
CAVE CREEK – Arizona educator’s voices were finally heard by Governor Doug Ducey who announced a plan to give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020 after more than 1,100 schools statewide mobilized walk-in demonstrations as part of the Red for Ed movement.

However, the governor’s plan did not quell educators who were upset that the plan didn't meet most of their demands, and are now discussing their next move, which could mean more demonstrations or a walkout.  Many teachers took to social media saying that they did not trust Ducey’s plan, because no one from the grassroots Red for Ed movement was brought to the table to provide input for the plan, and they questioned the source of funding.
(The Red for Ed movement will take a vote and decide if teachers will hold a walkout despite Governor Ducey's proposed teacher raise announced on April 12.)

The proposed plan was outlined on April 12 by Ducey at a press conference, and it would give teachers a 10 percent pay increase by the fall 2019, with additional five percent increases made over the next two years, for a net increase of 20 percent.

The plan made no mention of raises for support staff or increasing spending per pupil, all which were demands brought to Ducey by The Arizona Educators United [AEU], a coalition that is leading the local Red for Ed movement.

“I’ve been listening, and I’ve been impressed,” said Ducey at the press conference.  “But the winners today are the teachers in the state of Arizona.”

The governor said that the raises would bring the average teacher pay to $58,000 which is near the median national average. His plan also included a proposal to invest $371 million over the next five years with an initial investment of $100 million to be made in 2019 to fix schools infrastructure, new materials, school buses and updating technology. 

However, educators are weary of Ducey’s proposal not only because it does not meet all their demands, but the plan does not include where the revenue for the raises would come from, which has cast doubt about the financial sustainability of it.

“Governor Doug Ducey’s Teacher Pay Proposal leaves many unanswered questions and it leaves out our fellow educators that do work beyond the classroom every day,” stated a press release from the AEU.  “The governor’s proposal provides no details about where the money is coming from.”

(Pictured: Supporter of the Red for Ed Movement near Desert Willow Elementary School at the walk-in on April 11.)

Ducey’s plan states that the current average teacher salary in Arizona is $48,000, but many teachers disagree with that.

Beth Hatcher is a fourth-grade teacher at Desert Willow Elementary and has worked there as an educator since the school opened 19 years ago.  Her base salary is less than $40,000 a year, despite spending almost 20 years as an educator at the Cave Creek Unified School District and having a master’s degree.

“Ducey is saying $46-48,000 is average salary, and I know very little people who make that,” Hatcher said in an interview while noting about half of her co-workers supplement their income in one way or another. “People are just tired, we have lost very good teachers, and they left because of the money.”

Hatcher says it goes beyond that. Besides having the lowest teacher pay in the nation, being overworked and having to purchase school materials out-of-pocket; she says class sizes have gone up drastically, there are deficiencies in classroom technology, the school is severely lacking class aides, there is only one counselor split between five schools, and high teacher turnover rates have all been hardships experienced at her school. 

The top two performing teachers in Hatcher’s grade left Desert Willows Elementary last year due to low pay.

“In my district we don’t want a strike because it will be a hardship, and we don’t want hardship for parents” Hatcher said.  “We are really in a catch 22 if we strike.”

Hatcher remembers protesting about teacher salary over a decade ago, but she says there is a different feeling about the Red for Ed movement happening right now.

“The momentum is there now for teachers. There is a lot of emotion that has not been there before, everyone is serious about it,” she said. 

On April 15 Red for Ed organizers announced that teachers will be voting this week on whether they will orchestrate a walkout, following the steps of their colleagues in Oklahoma and West Virginia.  No specifics were mentioned for when teachers are expected to announce the outcome of the vote or a when the potential walkout would take place.

“We are concerned about the legislature robbing other needed services just to keep teachers happy,” Hatcher said after AEU Cave Creek meeting last week.  “We are grateful for the governor's proposal but realize it is just that.  The legislature is where it begins so we need to go to the source.”