It’s Time to Examine the Relevant Facts and Dispel the Myths About Teacher Salaries in Arizona

It’s Time to Examine the Relevant Facts and Dispel the Myths About Teacher Salaries in Arizona

By Kurt Rohrs |

A lot of rhetoric is continually thrown around in discussions about teacher’s salaries in Arizona. So just what are the relevant facts?

Here we examine current teachers’ average salaries and starting salaries nationwide, in Arizona, and in the Chandler Unified School District (CUSD). This data is also compared to relative academic performance in those jurisdictions. This study is restricted to district school data for clarity. Charter and private schools were not included.

Average Annual Teacher Base Salaries

Arizona embarked on a “20 by 20” program in 2018 that aimed to provide funding to school districts in order to raise teacher salaries by 20% over a three year period. This resulted in an average teacher salary in Arizona of $57,465 in the 2020-21 fiscal year compared to the U.S average of $65,090. More state funding was recently provided by the State of Arizona. Chandler Unified, in particular, then provided another 7% increase in teachers’ salaries for the current 2022-23 school year. This is projected to result in an estimated average annual salary of over $68,000 for CUSD teachers.

Average Teacher Salary (2020-21)

U.S. $65,090  

New York  $87,838 

Massachusetts  $86,315

California  $85,892

Arizona  $57,465

Chandler Unified  $63,552

Chandler Unified (2022-23)   $68,000 proj. (calculated after recent 7% raise)

Does It Pay for College Students to Go into Teaching?

According to the National Education Association (NEA), the national average annual starting salary for a new teacher in the 2020-21 school year was $41,770 compared to that in Arizona of $40,554 (about 3% less).

Currently, the starting salary for a new teacher in CUSD is $52,715. When you compare that to the reported average salary of a new Arizona State University graduate in all degree programs of $54,400, it’s about 3.2% less. But presumably the starting salaries for high demand technical degrees would more likely pay better than teaching degrees.

Average Starting Teacher Salary

U.S. (2020-21)  $41,770

Arizona (2020-21)   $40,554

Chandler Unified (2021-22)  $52,715

ASU Four Year College Degree (2022)  $54,400

Pay for Academic Performance?

Teachers in neighboring California were paid an average of $84,531 in the 2019-20 fiscal year, far more than the $56,234 that their counterparts in Arizona were paid in the same period. The well-funded CUSD paid their teachers an average of $62,723 that year.

The latest scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a program run by the U.S. Department of Education, shows that Arizona students score as good or better in key academic proficiency measures as compared to California. Arizona students also scored only slightly below national averages. This appears to indicate that there is little correlation between teacher pay and student academic performance. A comprehensive update should be available soon, but preliminary reports indicate that academic scores have deteriorated significantly from this last report.

Location4th Grade Reading8th Grade MathAvg Teacher Salary

Arizona Selected School District Comparisons

Arizona’s largest school districts also show little correlation between teacher pay and academic proficiency. There appears to be a wide range of district academic proficiency scores as compared to a much smaller range in district average teacher salaries.

DistrictEnrolledSchoolsTeacher Avg PayAcademic Proficiency MathAcademic Proficiency Reading
Mesa Unified57,89781$63,1323831
Chandler Unified43,72545$63,5525749
Tucson Unified41,83291$60,4083314
Peoria Unfied35,28145$59,2654236
Gilbert Unified32,56839$58,5215249
Phoenix Union HS26,99519$65,3721910
Scottsdale Unified21,46230$55,4435553

Arizona Teacher Salaries by County

One way to look at the state’s demographic effect is to look at salary data by the state’s fifteen counties. Arizona has one large metropolitan county, Maricopa, some smaller metropolitan counties, Pinal and Yuma, and several rural counties. Except for a few outliers, average salaries in each county seem to be mostly grouped around the state average of $57,465. This would indicate that, except for some special circumstances, teacher salaries are not greatly affected by where teachers live and work in the state.

CountyEnrolledSchoolsTeacher Avg Pay
La Paz2,33412$56,556
Santa Cruz9,49921$51,689

Some Conclusions

  • Arizona average teacher salaries are below the national average. However, that average is significantly affected by much higher salaries in Massachusetts, New York, and California.
  • Arizona academic proficiency scores are only slightly below national averages. Scores appear to be pulled down by poor performance particularly in the Mesa, Tucson, and Phoenix Union Districts.
  • Student academic proficiency scores are not greatly affected by teacher salaries.
  • Teacher starting salaries in Arizona are only slightly below the national average.
  • Teaching graduates from ASU hired into the Chandler Unified School District would start at salaries only slightly below the average starting salary of all graduates of ASU programs.
  • Average teacher salaries do not seem to be greatly affected by where teachers live and work in the state.

Hopefully this research will help answer some questions and dispel some of the myths surrounding the teacher pay issues here in Arizona. The data sources are provided so individuals can do their own analyses and reach conclusions based on published facts.

Kurt Rohrs is a candidate for the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board. You can find out more about his campaign here.

Should We Do More Job Skills Training in Schools?

Should We Do More Job Skills Training in Schools?

By Kurt Rohrs |

In the ongoing struggle between academic and social instruction in schools, perhaps we are leaving out the most practical instruction of all—job skills training.

As our local economy continues to develop, there has been a shortage of both skilled and non-skilled workers who can take jobs that are available. This has frustrated business owners and slowed economic growth. A prime example is Intel, which is building two world class wafer fabrication facilities here in Chandler. These projects will employ thousands of workers in high-paying jobs during their construction and once it is completed. We should be preparing our local Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) kids to fill those jobs. That requires a plan.

What Would It Take to Get There?

An education plan that incorporates job skills training could take the following form:

  • Elementary School (PreK – 6th grade). Provide a firm foundation in reading and math skills that prepare students for the next steps in their education. In fifth and sixth grade, introduce general career choices for students to consider.
  • Middle School (7th and 8th Grade). Broaden curriculum into other education areas such as science and history, and also introduce specific career path opportunities to students to form a basis for potential career choices.
  • High School (9th and 10th grade). Students should start making choices on specific career paths and learning the details about these choices.
  • High School (11th and 12th grade). Involve students in off-campus work/study programs, internships, and job training programs in addition to classroom learning programs in their specific fields of interest.

Present a Broad Array of Choices

One criticism of CUSD is that they are too narrowly focused on a university education as the preferred, if not only, goal of a graduate. Career counselors typically do not present other options as equally beneficial to students. This ignores the reality that not all students are suited for a university education and not all good-paying jobs require a university degree. There are also some university degree options that have rather doubtful economic value to students. They can then become saddled with excessive student debt and little opportunity for reasonable job prospects.

In addition to a university education, other suitable options that should be presented to students are:

  • Trade Schools. There is a significant shortage of skilled trade workers. These are often well-paying jobs with detailed training programs. Students typically complete these programs with no debt and have a good job waiting for them.
  • Technical Certificate Programs. The technology field moves very quickly. In order to keep pace, many technology companies often offer their own certificate programs specific to their technology, such as application development, database management, cybersecurity, and network management. These are the jobs of the future.
  • Military Enlistment. Some of the best technical skills training is provided by the military. They are very proficient at taking young people from all types of backgrounds and training them in complex operations.

Keeping Students Engaged and Motivated

One of the common complaints heard from parents and teachers is the challenge to keep their kids engaged and motivated. Igniting a student’s interest in a career path early on in their education may help them be more keenly aware of their purpose for being in school. Students who typically ask the question “Why am I here?” or say things like “This is boring” would have a clear and immediate reference to the purpose of being in school and participating. The goal changes from just merely “graduating” to “I have a plan after graduation, and I know what I need to do to realize it.”

K-12 education is sometimes regarded as a monolithic entity unto itself with tenuous connections to continuing activity after graduation. Perhaps it should be regarded as just one part of a journey of a student’s development into a productive adult.

Partnering with Other Education Entities

Effective cooperation with other educational entities, such as the East Valley Institute of Technology, Trade Schools, and Community Colleges that offer critical opportunities is the key to developing the pathway to successful careers for our students. However this can be hampered by interagency squabbles, mostly about control and funding since there is a lot of money involved here. Which entity “owns” the kid and the funding that comes with that kid is often a serious point of contention. These obstacles need to be removed for there to be effective cooperation between these entities. This may require some legislative fixes since funding rules and regulations come primarily from State statutes. But when it’s all said and done, these fixes shouldn’t be about the institution’s best interests. They should be about the student’s best interests.

Partnering with City Government and Local Businesses

The City of Chandler also has a keen interest in the availability of a skilled workforce as an integral part of their economic development plans. Companies will be reluctant to locate here if they cannot hire the employees they need to operate their facilities. The City should be sharing critical information on projected workforce needs to help CUSD develop useful programs and for students to better understand what opportunities are available to them. Local business hiring managers should frequent the schools to talk to students and explain the expectations for when they eventually enter the workforce. This should also help connect students to the business community outside the classroom and expand their perception of the very real world that awaits them after they graduate.

So, What Is the Purpose of Education?

Schools should be more than just “babysitting” duty or fulfilling a state-mandated curriculum. There must be tangible and well-defined goals that engage our students and develop a sense of purpose in them. Teachers may find it useful to help motivate students if those students more clearly understand why they are in school and what the intended result of their education is. It’s time to redefine the purpose of public education as the process of producing capable adults who can effectively participate in the economic activity of the community.

Kurt Rohrs is a candidate for the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board. You can find out more about his campaign here.

Rogue HOA Refuses to Comply with Arizona State Law Regarding Campaign Signs

Rogue HOA Refuses to Comply with Arizona State Law Regarding Campaign Signs

By Kurt Rohrs |

IronOaks Homeowners’ Association in Sun Lakes has been misinforming its residents. They are telling them that they cannot put up campaign signs in their yards until 71 days before the general election on November 8, 2022.

That is not true.

Communication from the Maricopa County Elections Office confirmed that fact and referenced Arizona state law, ARS 33-1808 (C), which clearly states that HOAs can only regulate political yard signs under the following specific conditions, including placement of signs 71 days before the primary election which was on August 2, 2022.

“ ….Notwithstanding any provision in the community documents, an association shall not prohibit the indoor or outdoor display of a political sign by an association member on that member’s property, except that an association may prohibit the display of political signs as follows:

1. Earlier than seventy-one days before the day of a primary election (which was on August 2, 2022).

2. Later than fifteen days after the day of the general election” (which is on November 8, 2022).

When confronted with this discrepancy, several HOA staff members repeatedly responded with the refrain of “We have to follow our own rules and regulations.” Apparently, they are oblivious to the fact that Arizona state law clearly takes precedence over any HOA rule. That is what “… Notwithstanding any provision in the community documents …” in this statute literally means. This homeowners’ association simply cannot act as law unto themselves.

Cease and Desist

A cease-and-desist letter was hand-delivered to Veronica Semey, IronOaks’ HOA Director of Community Services, on August 26, 2022 demanding that the IronOaks Homeowners’ Association do the following:

1. Immediately, cease and desist from incorrectly informing residents that they cannot have campaign signs in their yards.

2. Within thirty days, publish a communication to every resident in the HOA correctly informing them of their rights under ARS 33-1808 regarding placement of campaign signs.

3. Within sixty days, update the HOA rules and regulations so that they are fully compliant with ARS 33-1808.


Upon delivery of this letter, the HOA threatened fines and sanctions if its clearly illegal rules were not complied with. This is in spite of the fact that their improper prohibitions were actually due to expire in a matter of a few days. This appears to be a petty and vindictive threat of retaliation that smacks of bureaucratic intimidation and bullying that many residents have become so disappointed with.

Another ploy that was advanced was to direct an appeal of any improper sanctions to the HOA board. This ignores the fact that the HOA board does not sit in judgment regarding Arizona statutes. It is expected to be in full and complete compliance with them as written.

There are other miscommunications by the HOA regarding political signs and campaigning.

Number of Yard Signs

Many residents believe that they can only have one political yard sign in their yard.

This is also not true.

The actual ARS 33-1808 (D) statute reads that the “… the maximum aggregate total dimensions of all political signs on a member’s property shall not exceed nine square feet.” This is equivalent to three standard 18” x 24” signs.

Door Knocking

Residents have also been led to believe that “door-knocking,” or residents going door to door to speak with their neighbors, is prohibited in the community.

This is also not true.

The actual ARS 33-1808 (H) statute states that there are only limited restrictions that an HOA can impose:

1. Restrict or prohibit the door-to-door political activity from sunset to sunrise.

2. Require the prominent display of an identification tag for each person engaged in the activity, along with the prominent identification of the candidate or ballot issue that is the subject of the support or opposition.

HOA Wars and Free Speech Rights

This situation is reminiscent of the “HOA Wars” from several years ago. Rogue HOAs that were abusing residents with tyrannical policies eventually had to be reined in by the Arizona legislature. The ARS 33-1808 legislation discussed here was most likely one of several statutes that were put in place to protect residents from the atrocious activities of HOA management teams.

These unlawful actions by the IronOaks Homeowners’ Association have deprived their residents of their rights to free speech that are guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and by Arizona state statute. They have also caused harm to political candidates who rely on their free speech rights to present their campaign messaging to potential voters in order to win elections.

Suppression of the civil right to free speech is certainly not the direction that our citizens want the country to be heading in. Now, it’s time for HOA Boards to make sure they are in full compliance with all local, state, and federal laws before they impose any rules and regulations on their residents.

Kurt Rohrs is a candidate for the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board. You can find out more about his campaign here.

Do SEL Programs Need to Be Defined Better to Make Them Less Controversial?

Do SEL Programs Need to Be Defined Better to Make Them Less Controversial?

By Kurt Rohrs |

Recent legislation mandates that public schools offer Mental Health Instruction and Social and Emotional learning (SEL) programs to their curriculum. But the legislation does not specify what those programs should consist of.

However, companion legislation does offer some guidance on SEL instruction by prohibiting instruction typical of Critical Race Theory (CRT) doctrine from being presented in classrooms.

The legislation gives seven specific prohibitions on social instruction: It prohibits teaching that:

1. One race, ethnic group or sex is inherently morally or intellectually superior to another race, ethnic group or sex.

2. An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race, ethnicity or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.

3. An individual should be invidiously discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of the individual’s race, ethnicity or sex.

4. An individual’s moral character is determined by the individual’s race, ethnicity or sex.

5. An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race, ethnicity or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed by other members of the same race, ethnic group or sex.

6. An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress because of the individual’s race, ethnicity or sex.

7. Academic achievement, meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race, ethnic group or sex to oppress members of another race, ethnic group or sex.

Parents are concerned that SEL programs may still be used to usher in controversial political and social ideologies concerning race relations (CRT), child sexuality (CSE) and neo-Marxist political doctrine (“Equity” as Wealth Redistribution), which may be buried in the details of certain programs. Parents would probably be far more comfortable if these ideological considerations were carefully scrubbed from SEL curriculum.

It may be far more effective to base SEL programs on agnostic, apolitical concepts that are generally accepted across cultural boundaries and are not agenda driven by activist special interest groups. Programs that focus on good character and positive behaviors, instead of specific identity group grievances and restitution typical of cultural Marxist doctrine, would most likely find far greater support in the community.

Here are several positive social behaviors that are generally accepted across many cultures that we used to present to students and which generated little controversy. Perhaps we never should have gotten away from these fundamental principles of behavior.


    • Be honest. Don’t deceive, cheat, or steal.
    • Have integrity. Do what you say you’ll do.
    • Keep your promises.
    • Be loyal. Stand by your values.


    • Follow the Golden Rule.
    • Be accepting of differences.
    • Be courteous to others.
    • Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements.
    • Be considerate of others’ feelings.


    • Do what you are supposed to do. Try your best.
    • Persevere. Keep on trying.
    • Be self-disciplined.
    • Think before you act. Consider the consequences.
    • Be accountable for your words, actions, and attitudes.


    • Play by the rules.
    • Take turns and share.
    • Be open-minded. Listen to others.
    • Don’t take advantage of others.


    • Be kind.
    • Be compassionate.
    • Express gratitude.
    • Forgive others.


    • Do your share to make your home, school, and community better.
    • Cooperate.
    • Stay informed. Vote.
    • Be a good neighbor.
    • Make choices that protect the safety and rights of others.
    • Protect the environment.

“Whole Child” Concept

The newest iteration of SEL appears to be the “Whole Child” initiative, which combines the academic education of children and the management of their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The “Whole Child” initiative is driven primarily by the Association of Supervisors and Curriculum Development (ASCD) in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in an apparent effort to expand government agency influence into the home life and parenting of children. It is described by the Whole School, Community, and Child (WSCC) model as having 10 components:

  1. Physical education and physical activity
  2. Nutrition environment and services
  3. Health education
  4. Social and emotional climate
  5. Physical environment
  6. Health services
  7. Counseling, psychological, and social services
  8. Employee wellness
  9. Community involvement
  10. Family engagement

Other collaborators are the Priscilla Chan/Mark Zuckerberg Initiative and Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL). Both these collaborators’ organizations have been criticized recently for surreptitiously weaving controversial Social Justice doctrine into seemingly innocuous education programs.

Whole Child programs can take on a variety of forms. The Chandler Unified School District’s approach includes several specific, and far less controversial, programs such as:

    • Athletics
    • Art Masterpiece                                   
    • Mandarin Dual Language                       
    • Academy and Traditional Schools
    • Special Needs Programs
    • Band and Orchestra
    • Spanish Dual Language
    • Gifted Programs
    • STEM Programs

There seems to be no generally accepted guidelines on SEL programs and the proper balance of academic instruction (the realm of teachers) and social instruction (the realm of parents). Both communities appear to be encroaching upon each other’s “turf” with parents recoiling about intrusive social instruction in the classroom and teachers dismayed about alternative school choice options being exercised by parents because of their discomfort.

It is long past time to resolve these conflicts with clear and distinct boundaries with respect to the education of, and raising of, children. Our children will be the ones who benefit most.

Kurt Rohrs is a candidate for the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board. You can find out more about his campaign here.