By Daniel Stefanski |
Republicans are leading a historic effort to raise teachers’ salaries, while most Democrats are resisting the current approach in the Arizona State Legislature.
On Monday, the Arizona House moved HB 2800, sponsored by freshman Representative Matt Gress, closer to a final vote in the chamber, amending it in the Committee of the Whole session. This bill “mandates each school district and charter school increase the base salary of all eligible teachers as prescribed.” It also “creates the Pay Teachers First Fund and appropriates a total of $1,100,000,000 in FYs 2024 and 2025 to the Fund for required teacher salary increases.”
According to figures provided by House Republicans, HB 2800 would give Arizona teachers the fourth highest ($50,554) starting salaries in the nation, compared to a current ranking of 27th ($40,554).
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne previously announced his strong support of this bill and appeared at a press conference at the state capitol last week with Gress and other lawmakers to tout the legislation’s movement through the House.
When asked by AZ Free News about why he supported HB 2800, Superintendent Horne replied: “I support HB 2800 because no school is better than the quality of the teachers in the classroom. Our surrounding states pay more so we lose good teachers to them, and we can no longer afford to do that.”
Representative Gress thanked Superintendent Horne for his support of the bill, writing, “Thanks @RealTomHorne for your advocacy on #HB2800. Raising teacher pay is key to recruiting and retaining excellent talent. We will not be deterred by the unions who are actively pressuring House Democrats to kill a $10,000 pay raise for teachers.”
Gress submitted a floor amendment to his bill Monday, which passed. The changes, in part, “removes the stipulation that an eligible school may receive the prescribed per teacher base salary increases from the Pay Teachers First Fund only for the lesser of the number of eligible teachers that a) are employed by the school; or b) would be employed by the school if the school had 15 students per eligible teacher.” It also tweaked elements of the proposed school online transparency portal, school districts facilities master plans, and appropriations.
Though both Republicans and Democrats campaign on adequately funding public education in Arizona, Representative Gress’s proposal has met with fierce resistance from many Democrats and school & teacher organizations around the state. Five Democrats voted against the bill in the House Appropriations Committee, and representatives from the AZ School Administrators Association, AZ Education Association, Save Our Schools Arizona, and AZ School Boards Association have registered their opposition.
In the lead-up to Monday’s deliberations, the House Democrat Caucus ardently campaigned against HB 2800, calling it a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and “deeply flawed.”
Should the bill pass the House, it will soon head to the Arizona Senate for consideration and a potential vote in that chamber in the near future. If it clears the Senate, Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs will be forced to decide between giving teachers a $10,000 raise or denying them this much-needed increase.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.