Leaders in education push for increasing salary for teachers


TED SIMONS: UP NEXT WE WILL HEAR FROM REPRESENTATIVES OF EDUCATION COMMUNITY WHAT THEY WANT TO SEE FROM STATE LAWMAKERS THIS LEGISLATIVE SESSION.

TED SIMONS: ADVOCATES FOR A VARIETY OF ISSUES ARE JOINING US THIS WEEK TO TALK ABOUT WHAT THEY WOULD LOOK TO SEE FROM STATE LAWMAKERS THIS SESSION. TONIGHT WE HEAR FROM EDUCATION LEADERS. JOINING US NOW IS JOE THOMAS PRESIDENT OF THE ARIZONA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, CHRIS KOTTERMAN, DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT RELATIONS FOR ARIZONA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION, AND DICK FOREMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF ARIZONA BUSINESS AND EDUCATION COALITION. GOOD TO HAVE YOU ALL HERE. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US. MAIN GOALS. WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR? THERE ARE A LOT TO LOOK FOR IN EDUCATION. WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

JOE THOMAS: I THINK THAT OUR TEACHERS WOULD LIKE TO SEE THAT THEY HAVE SOME SALARIES THAT ARE COMPETITIVE WITH SURROUNDING STATES. THEY FEEL RESPECTED BY THE LEGISLATURE AND GOVERNOR. LAST YEAR, THE BIGGEST APPLAUSE LINE IN THE GOVERNOR’S STATE OF THE STATE SPEECH WAS THAT TEACHERS WERE GOING TO GET A BIG RAISE. WE SAW THAT PAID OUT ABOUT THREE WEEKS AGO AND IT TURNED OUT TO BE A $400 TAKE HOME PAY. IT'S NOT EVEN SUSTAINABLE. TEACHERS WON’T BE TAKING THAT INTO THE NEXT YEAR. WE WOULD REALLY LIKE TO SEE THE LEGISLATURE TO HAVE AN ADULT CONVERSATION OF HOW WE CAN IMPROVE CHANCES FOR STUDENT SUCCESS IN ALL OF OUR SCHOOLS ACROSS THE STATE.

TED SIMONS: WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

CHRIS KOTTERMAN: JOE MENTIONED IT BUT WE ARE TOGETHER ON THIS ONE, TEACHER PAY IS WHERE IT'S AT. HE REPRESENTS A TEACHER. WE REPRESENT SCHOOL DISTRICTS. SCHOOL DISTRICTS CAN’T FUNCTION WITHOUT TEACHERS. THERE IS A NUMBER OF WAYS TO GET THERE. WE HAVE NEEDS AROUND CAPITAL FUNDINGAND THINGS LIKE THAT. WE HAVE DISTRICT WHO HAVE SCHOOL BUSES WITH 200,000 PLUS MILES ON THEM. THEY NEED TO BE REPLACED. WE HAVE SAFETY ISSUES TO BE ADDRESSED IN SCHOOLS. BUT ALL THAT GOES BACK TO TEACHER PAY. THOSE THINGS HAVE TO BE ADDRESSED REGARDLESS. WHEN WE DON'T HAVE FUNDING FOR THOSE, THEY EAT INTO SALARY. IF WE CAN GET MORE MONEY FOR SOME OF THOSETHINGS, WE WILL BE ABLE TO REALIZE SALARY INCREASES. AND THAT’S THE NAME OF THE GAME. WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE THAT OUR STAFF STICK AROUND TO TEACH THE CHILDREN.

TED SIMONS: SOUNDS LIKE TEACHER PAY, STAFF PAY, ALPHA AND OMEGA. IS THAT HOW YOU SEE THAT AS WELL?

DICK FOREMAN: THE ARIZONA BUSINESS EDUCATION COMMUNITY WOULD SUBSTANTIALLY AGREE WITH BOTH OF THESE GENTLEMEN. TIME FOR SIGNIFICANT DOWN PAYMENT. WE HAVE GONE FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS DOING MARGINAL THINGS. I THINK THIS YEAR IS AN OPPORTUNITY. COINCIDENTALLY TOMORROW, WE WILL BE PRESENTING A PRESS CONFERENCE AT STATE CAPITOL OFFERING NOT RECOMMENDATIONS SPECIFIC, BUT MENU OF OPTIONS WHERE WE CAN SAY IT'S TIME TO DO THE WORK. WE ARE LOOKING FOR SIGNIFICANT DOWN PAYMENT. TEACHER SALARIES CERTAINLY IS AT THE TOP OF PYRAMID AND PUBLIC HAS CERTINALY INDICATED THAT STRONGLY. AND TO ELECTED LEADER, IT’S TIME TO GET DOWN TO WORK.

TED SIMONS: DO LAWMAKERS THINK IT'S TIME TO GET DOWN TO WORK ON THAT?

DICK FOREMAN: SOME DO.

TED SIMONS: WHY DON'T THE OTHERS?

DICK FOREMAN: I WISH I COULD ANSWER THAT SIMPLY. I THINK EVERY LAWMAKER WANTS TO SEE TEACHERS MAKE MORE MONEY. I DON'T THINK ANY LAWMAKER IS OPPOSING TEACHER PAY. I THINK DATA POINTS WE HAVE TO CROSS ARE DO WE HAVE 100% CONFIDENCE THAT WE HAVE THE RIGHT REVENUE STREAM? IS IT GETTING TO THE CLASSROOM? WE BELIEVE WE CAN ANSWER THOSE QUESTIONS. WE HAVE TO HAVE AS I SAY, 31-16 AT THE CAPITOL AND GOVERNOR TO AGREE.

TED SIMONS: HOW DO YOU GET 31-16? HOW DO YOU GET THE PARTY OF THE CAUCUS OF ONE ON THE NINTH FLOOR?

JOE THOMAS: I THINK IT BEGINS WITH WHAT DICK WAS TALKING ABOUT EARLIER IS THAT THE ARIZONA SCHOOLS NOW COALITION IS GOING TO HAVE A PRESS CONFERENCE TOMORROW TO HAVE A MENU OPTIONS. THERE REALLY ARE A LOT OF OPTIONS OUT THERE. THERE’S REVENUE THAT'S NOT TAXED INSIDE THE STATE. WE'VE CUT A NUMBER OF TAXES OVER THE LAST 20 TO 25 YEARS. THE FIRST STEPS THAT WE NEED TO SEE IS RESTORING THAT REVENUE, REINVESTING IN EDUCATION TO WHERE IT DOESN'T MATTER WHERE YOU LIVE IN THE STATE, YOU HAE AN OPPORTUNITY TO GO DOWN TO A QUALITY SCHOOL. YOU HAVE A CERTIFIED TEACHER, A CAREER TEACHER, INSTEAD OF DECIDING GOING TO STAY IN ARIZONA FOR TWO OR THREE YEARS AND THEN GO GET A SIGNIFICANT PAY RAISE IN NEW MEXICO. YOU CAN GET A 15,000-DOLLAR ON AVERAGE PAY RAISE IN NEW MEXICO AND THAT IS INSULTING TO TEACHERS OF ARIZONA.

TED SIMONS: YOU MENTIONED CERTIFIED TEACHERS. THE IDEA OF STREAMLINING THE PROCESS TO GET MORE PEOPLE IN THE CLASSROOM, I THINK THERE WAS LIKE 3400 PEOPLE IN ARIZONA CLASSROOMS WHO WERE NOT TRAINED NECESSARILY TO TEACH. IS THAT A GOOD THING IS THIS?

JOE THOMAS: AS A PARENT, I DO NOT THINK IT’S A GOOD THING. AS A CERTIFIED TEACHER, I DO NOT THINK IT’S A GOOD IDEA. YOU’RE ALWAYS GOING TO HAVE ALTERNATIVE MEANS TO GET INTO THE CLASSROOM. YOU’RE ALWAYS GOING TO HAVE RETIRED INDIVIDUALS THAT WANT TO TEACH FOR SECOND CAREER. YOU’RE ALWAYS GOING TO HAVE A TEACH FOR AMERICA CADRE THAT’S COMING IN, BUT THEY SHOULD BE AT MARGINS. THE CORE, THE ROBUST PART OF YOUR TEACHERS SHOULD BE THOSE THAT WERE TAUGHT THE WAY I WAS TAUGHT. YOU GO THROUGH COLLEGE, YOU GO THROUGH UNIVERSITY. YOU DO TEACHER PREP. YOU ARE SUPPORTED, AND THEN YOU GET IN TO YOUR FIRST YEAR AND YOU BEGIN A CAREER. IN ARIZONA, WE’RE SEEING THAT'S ALMOST SHUNNED BY POLICY MAKERS BECAUSE THEY WANT TO OPEN UP ALL THESE LOOPHOLES TO LET, FRANKLY, ALMOST ANBODY TO TEACH. AND THAT’S DANGEROUS.

TED SIMONS: THEY DO THAT. IN THE LAST REPORT, THERE WAS STILL 2,000 SOME ODD TEACHING POSITIONS NOT FILLED. WHAT'S GOING ON?

CHRIS KOTTERMAN: I THINK I SAID THIS LAST TIME I WAS HERE TED, BUT TEACHING IS NOT AN EASY JOB. IT IS A HARD JOB AND IT DOESN'T PAY VERY WELL. NO INDUSTRY WILL -- WOULD GET AWAY WITH TYPE OF WORKING CONDITIONS THAT THEY PUT THE TEACHERS THROUGH IN TERMS OF PRESSURE AND EXPECTATION FOR THE AMOUNT OF MONEY THAT WE PAY THEM. IT’S A SIMPLE MATH PROBLEM. I THINK THAT THAT'S NOT TO SAY THAT TEACHERS SHOULD HAVE THE CUSHIEST GIG IN THE WORLD -- WE RECOGNIZE IT'S A CHALLENGE TO TEACH STUDENTS BUT THERE IS A LINE AND EVERYONE HAS A BREAKING POINT. WE ARE SEEING IT. WE ARE SEEING TEACHERS WALK OUT OF CLASSROOM WITHIN FIRST FEW MONTHS OF SCHOOL BECAUSE A) THEY WERE HIRED UNDER AN ALTERNATIVE CERTIFICATION PROGRAM AND THEY CAN’T HACK IT OR GET BURNED OUT AND THEY LEAVE. THESE ARE PROBLEMS THAT HAPPEN. I DON'T LIKE TO BEAT THE DRUM ALL THE TIME. THERE ARE SOLUTIONS. BUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT WHAT THE PROBLEMS ARE, IT'S A PRETTY SIMPLE ANSWER. YOU HAVE TO ALIGN EXPECTATIONS TO COMPENSATION. THAT’S A FUNDAMENTAL ECONOMIC REALITY IN ALL BUSINESSES.
TED SIMONS: THAT'S SOMETHING THAT BUSINESSPEOPLE WOULD UNDERSTAND. YOU THINK IF THERE ARE 2,000 JOBS STILL OPEN THAT THERE WOULD BE A BIG PUSH AND COMPETITION IS THERE AND VISIBLE HAND AND BUSINESS ECONOMICS CLASS. IT’S NOT HAPPENING DICK. WHAT'S GOING ON?

DICK FOREMAN: TWO POINTS TED. IN THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY WHERE I COME FROM, IF YOU HAD A SHORTAGE OF A VALUABLE POSITION THAT WAS FUNDAMENTAL TO YOUR PRODUCT, YOU WOULD ADDRESS IT IMMEDIATELY. IT WAS A COMPETITIVE DISADVANTAGE TO NOT ADDRESS IT IMMEDIATELY.

TED SIMONS: AND YOU MAKE IT MORE ATTRACTIVE WOULDN’T YOU NOT?

DICK FOREMAN: YES. WE WOULD LOOK AT BENEFITS AND PAY. BUT I THINK THE OTHER POINT I LOOK AT, I'M A HISTORIAN BY NATURE. WE SOMETIMES FORGET IN THIS STATE THAT IS SOON TO EXPERIENCE PUBLIC SCHOOL THAT IS BEEN AROUND FOR 150 YEARS. THE PHOENIX ELEMENTARY DISTRICT NUMBER ONE WILL CELEBRATE ITS 150TH ANNIVERSARY. AND ARIZONA WAS ALWAYS A LEADING STATE IN FUNDING AND SUPPORTING EDUCATION, HIGHER TEACHER SALARIES IN REST OF THE NATION, THAT HERITAGE HAS BEEN LOST.

TED SIMONS: WHAT HAPPENED?

DICK FOREMAN: WE HAVE MOVED TO A FUNDING MODEL THAT DOES NOT REWARD TEACHER PAY. DOES NOT LOOK AT TEACHING PROFESSION AS PROFESSION. SAD TO SAY THAT TED, BUT IT’S TRUE.

TED SIMONS: IT'S INTERESTING. CHRIS AND DICK MENTIONED THIS BUT IT’S LIKE PEOPLE DON'T APPRECIATE WHAT TEACHERS DO. OKAY THAT'S A PROBLEM. HOW DO YOU, AS A LEADER IN THE EDUCATION COMMUNITY, GET THE BETTER MESSAGE ACROSS?

JOE THOMAS: I THINK THE PEOPLE DO VALUE TEACHERS.I THINK IF YOU PUT OUT ANY SURVEY – THERE’S A RECENT ONE PUT OUT BY EXPECT MORE ARIZONA THAT SHOWS THE VOTING PUBLIC UNDERSTANDS THE BIGGEST CRISIS WE ARE FACING IS IN TEACHER RETENTION. IT REALLY GETS DOWN TO WHEN YOU BRING IN POLITCIANS THAT WANT TO RUN FOR A HIGHER OFFICE, POLITICANS THAT RUN ON PLATFORM OF AUSTERITY. THEY ARE BEGINNING TO HEAR FROM THEIR TEACHERS, SUPERINTENDENTS, GOVERNING BOARD MEMBERS AND THE LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS ACROSS THE STATE THAT WHAT WE HAVE RIGHT NOW, TED, IS FRANKLY AN UNSUSTAINABLE SYSTEM. THIS 2,000 TEACHERS, THAT SOUNDS LIKE A LOT, BUT UNDERSTAND THAT'S 60,000 STUDENTS. 60,000 STUDENTS THAT DON'T HAVE A HIGHLY QUALIFIED CERTIFIED CAREER TEACHER IN THEIR CLASSROOM. THAT IS NEGLIGENT IN ARIZONA. VOTERS ARE READY TO DO SOMETHING. THEY ARE TIRED OF WAITING FOR POLITICIANS.

TED SIMONS: BEFORE WE GO, YOU KIND OF REFERRED TO THIS EARLIER. INFRASTRUCTURE CONCERNS WITH SCHOOL BOARDS AND SCHOOL DISTRICTS. IT KIND OF GETS LOST WHEN WE TALK ABOUT TEACHERS AND SALARIES AND THOSE SORTS OF THINGS. HOW SERIOUS IS THAT PROBLEM?

CHRIS KOTTERMAN: WE LIKE TO SAY THAT BUILDINGS ARE NOT SEXY. THEY SIT THERE AND DO THEIR JOB UNTIL THEY DON'T DO THEIR JOB ANYMORE. SAME WITH SCHOOL BUSES. THEY SHOW UP EVERYDAY UNTIL THEY BREAK DOWN AND DON’T SHOW UP. THAT WASN’T A JOKE. WE HAVE DISTRICTS THE LIKE PAYSON UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT THAT DOESN'T HAVE A BUS WITHOUT 200,000 MILES ON IT. WE HAVE SCHOOL DISTRICTS BUYING JUNK SCHOOL BUSES TO PART OUT TO KEEP THEIR CURRENT SCHOOL BUSES IN SERVICE BECAUSE IT'S CHEAPER THAN BUYING NEW PARTS. THESE TYPES OF THINGS ARE GOING TO OCCUR. THEY HAVE TO BE ADDRESSED WHEN THEY OCCUR. I DON’T KNOW WHO IT IS BUT THEY SAY THE BUILDING DOESN'T SPEAK UNTIL IT SCREAMS AT YOU. WHEN IT SCREAMS AT YOU, YOU HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION.

TED SIMONS: VERY QUICKLY, ARE LAWMAKERS PAYING ATTENTION?

CHRIS KOTTERMAN: I THINK THEY ARE STARTING TO SEE THAT. WE HEARD FROM THE GOVERNOR. HE’S GOING TO TALK ABOUT THIS. WE HOPE THAT HE WILL TALK TO SCHOOL BOARDS ABOUT THIS. TAKE OUR INPUT AND WE LOVE TO HAVE THAT CONVERSATION.

JOE THOMAS: THEY SHOULD LISTEN THIS SATURDAY AT 10:00 A.M. DOWN AT THE CAPITOL BECAUSE WE ARE GOING TO HAVE THOUSANDS OF PARENTS AND TEACHERS AND BUSINESS LEADERS FROM ACROSS THE STATE AT SAVE OUR SCHOOLS CAPITOL RALLY FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION. HOPE PEOPLE COME ON DOWN THIS SATURDAY AT 10 A.M. AT THE CAPITOL.

TED SIMONS: 10 A.M. AT THE CAPITOL AND THE MEDIA EVENT IS TOMORROW CORRECT?

JOE THOMAS: PRESS CONFERENCE TOMORROW AT 11:00.

TED SIMONS: ALRIGHT. GOOD TO HAVE ALL OF YOU HERE AND THANKS FOR JOINING US. I'M TED SIMONS. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US. YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING.

As the 2018 Arizona legislative session begins, leaders in the education system have one common request: increased pay for teachers.

Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, wants teacher salaries in Arizona to start competing with those in other states. He also hopes to see “the legislature have an adult conversation about how we can improve the chances of student success in all of our schools across the state.”

Chris Kotterman, director of governmental relations with the Arizona School Boards Association, agrees that “teacher pay is where it’s at.” While issues like replacing buses that have over 200,000 miles and updating safety procedures will be addressed regardless, teacher pay needs to be the number one priority following that, says Kotterman.

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In this segment:

Joe Thomas: President, Arizona Education Association
Chris Kotterman: Director of Governmental Relations, Arizona School Boards Association
Dick Foreman: President, CEO, Arizona Business and Education Coalitions

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