How Arizona schools operate — from paying teachers to new rules — is focus of proposals at Capitol

By Mary Jo Pitzl || The Arizona Republic

Give teachers a $10,000 raise.

Set up a process to investigate parent complaints.

Give school districts a bigger budget as long as they give up the ability to hold bond or budget override elections.

These bills, and many, many more, are among the latest ideas from lawmakers on how to run the state’s $7 billion public school system. After 2 1/2 months of legislative hearings, most of the bills still active have advanced on the strength of Republican votes, with Democrats opposed.

Democrats oppose $10,000 teacher pay raise

That stark divide was on display recently, as the House debated a bill that would give many classroom teachers a $5,000 raise next year, with the promise of another $5,000 in the following year.

Rep. Matt Gress, R-Phoenix and the sponsor of House Bill 2800, argued it’s a way to stanch Arizona’s chronic teacher shortage. He contends it would raise the average starting teacher pay to the fourth-highest nationally, at $50,000, citing figures from the National Education Association.

But Democrats, including the four House members who are educators, argued its $1.1 billion price tag is not sustainable in the very near future, which would force cuts to other parts of school budgets.

The bill’s definition of teacher also excludes many classroom instructors, such as special education teachers and reading specialists, said Rep. Laura Terech, D-Phoenix. The bill requires an eligible teacher to spend at least half of the day in the classroom.


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