School teachers in Arizona are at the bottom of the pay scale nationwide.
It is also a fact that they often buy school supplies with their own money – supplies their schools cannot afford or otherwise do not purchase.
At first glance, when we saw that legislation – to provide teachers statewide with cash or tax credits in exchange – was making its way through the Arizona Legislature, we thought “good!”
But the bills, now combined into one, are languishing for lack of support. Even on Thursday, the now-combined measure drew 14 “no’’ votes from Republicans, with a surprising 16 of the 25 Democrats in the House also rejecting the idea.
A step back provides some clarity.
Here we are in a state that is still feeling the effects of the Great Recession, where lawmakers cut education funds to get through it – to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.
While the politicians in Phoenix continue to work to provide more and more money for schools and teachers’ salaries, for example, much of the deficit from the recession remains.
Some of the “no” votes may be because of the price tag. The bill contains a $150 cash allowance and a $150 tax credit for teachers. Does not sound like much, until you multiply it out across all districts and teachers: $8.7 million. While it was $14.5 million in prior proposals, the House Appropriations Committee will not give the measure even a hearing.
Also, some of the Democrats are saying the gift equates to “crumbs” and “an insult.”
Rep. Gerae Peten, D-Goodyear, said: “Teachers spend way more than $150, $300 on their classroom just so they can survive in their classroom and show value to their students and provide for their students. This is a drop in the bucket. … After these crumbs are thrown at you, someone will say, ‘We gave you something, we gave you a little help.’ But it’s not enough to do anything.’’
They make excellent points.
First, $8.7 million here, another $7.5 million over there, a few million for this and that … it all adds up.
Plus, coming up with a $150 stipend may be well-intentioned; however, the state needs to figure out how to put a serious amount of money into education.
If school districts received $1,000 more per student, they could afford school supplies. If a teacher received a $5,000 per year raise, they too could afford the school supplies and might not jump ship for a job elsewhere paying that much more. It happens every year.
Bottom line: Fix the education funding challenge in Arizona. Let’s not nickel and dime this, lawmakers, go all in.