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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
3:02 AM Sun, Nov. 18th

Charter schools to raise average pay for teachers

Infusion of state dollars to benefit charter schools; BASIS teachers get extra rewards from parents

An overview of BASIS Prescott, a charter school, on Prescott Lakes Parkway. (Courtesy)

An overview of BASIS Prescott, a charter school, on Prescott Lakes Parkway. (Courtesy)

Gov. Doug Ducey, and a majority of state legislators, may not have met all the demands of Arizona Educators United #RedForEd movement, but teacher pay is slated to increase by an additional 19 percent for both district and charter schools over the next three years.

Several local charter officials said this movement is as important to them as their district counterparts because they, too, want to be able to retain and attract high-caliber professionals for their classrooms.

So when the state funds are dispersed, charter school leaders said their faculty can be assured those dollars will be used to bolster their paychecks similar to what will be done for their district peers.

The average base salary for charter school teachers ranges from just over $31,000 to just under $44,000; Arizona lists the average teacher salary in the state as just over $48,000. In Prescott Unified School district, the base salary schedule ranges from $31,800 up to $40,200.

District and charter schools are also both eligible for the additional Proposition 301 funds that can add as much as $5,000 to a teachers’ salary.

One charter school, BASIS Prescott, though, is already augmenting their teachers’ pay with performance-based bonuses provided through an aggressive fund-raising campaign that asks parents to donate at least $150 a month, or $1,500 a year, so as to reward teachers for results that have won the charter chain national accolades. BASIS salaries average between $37,000 and $52,000; performance bonuses can vary from a few thousand dollars to what was the highest such bonus of $20,000, officials said.

In 2016-17, BASIS’ 21 schools in Arizona received 6,000 donations totaling some $5 million, officials said. BASIS Prescott donors are showed to have contributed at least $120,000.

Other area charter and district leaders seem perplexed by this practice. Most said they do not want to place further burdens on parents, particularly when public education is a state responsibility.

Tri-City College Prep Founder and Executive Director Mary Ellen Halvorson said her school has never asked parents to supplement teacher salaries. Tax-credit dollars are restricted to extracurricular programs.

IMPACT OF NEW DOLLARS

Like other local charter and district leaders, BASIS.ed Chief Executive Officer Peter Bezanson said his nonprofit school company appreciates that state lawmakers are starting to make education a higher priority. It doesn’t solve all the funding issues, but it is a “step in the right direction,” he said.

The salary increases, though, will not change BASIS’ decade-old philosophy to offer additional rewards for their highest performing educators, Bezanson said. These incentives were never intended to correct Arizona’s low pay scale, he said.

Bezanson did admit the state’s inability to provide more funding for teacher salaries did lead BASIS teachers to count on end-of-the-year performance bonuses to pay their bills. So now that raises are imminent, Bezanson said the bonuses will be used as BASIS leaders want them to be used – for something extra special to recognize exceptional work in the classroom.

The average BASIS teacher has worked in their schools for between two and five years.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Arizona Charter Schools Association heralded the new budget deal as making a “vital” investment in all of this state’s public schools.

Halvorson and Bezanson both said pumping more funds into the whole education system might also make the relationships between charters and district schools less divisive.

Association President and Chief Executive Officer Eileen Sigmund lauded the Legislature for committing to full restoration of recession-era cuts over the next five years.

Speaking for more than 550 charter schools that educate 185,000 children in this state, Sigmund thanked those leaders who “stood with schools and educators to get this done.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas praised what she sees as a new direction for Arizona education.

“Make no mistake, there is still much work to do” Douglas said in a written statement.

She, however, sees light at the end of the tunnel.

“I feel we have made great strides towards the world class education system we want and that Arizona parents and students deserve,” Douglas said.