Questions arise surrounding Gov. Ducey’s teacher pay raise proposal

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Gov. Doug Ducey announced his three-year plan last week to give teachers a 20 percent pay raise, but where that money will come from and how it fits into the education debate is still being discussed.

“We have to look at teacher pay as a component of K-12 as a whole, then K-12 as a whole is a component of building the economy,” Economist with Rounds Consulting Group Jim Rounds says. “I like the approach that they did. Everyone was arguing for the 20 percent at some point. Looking at the occupational data that ended up being about right to get the wages to be competitive.”

Political Consultant Chris Herstam says that without a dedicated funding source for the 20 percent, all that has been given were politician promises. He warns teachers and support staff to be wary because a funding source was not explained in the governor’s plan.

“These are the same Republican politicians at the state capitol that over the last two decades has not funded the statutorily required inflation formula or the statutorily required capital funding for K-12 public schools,” Herstam says. “They haven’t done that for two decades. As soon as the economy starts to falter, the first things that are cut are K-12 education and social services.”

The governor has said that the funding will come from the extra generated revenue the state is currently seeing. Rounds says our economy is in the top five of most economic categories, and the additional revenues would be used for investing in some of the foundation issues like K-12 education.

However, Herstam points out what will happen after this year and after the additional revenue has been used. Arizona is currently seeing its greatest teacher shortage in state history, he says.

“I’ve heard the concern, and I think it’s partly being addressed,” Rounds says. “We have these other economic programs that are the rising tide issue… I think 15 percent would’ve taken teacher pay to a very comparable wage compared to other occupations that are similar. The 20 percent I think is good. It’ll take care of some of the turnover issues.”

Rounds says that all the education issue from teacher pay to affordable continuing education programs have to be dealt with step-by-step if they want anything to be solved for a long-term.

“I wouldn’t have been in favor of an increase of 20 percent without first looking at have we made efficiency gains,” Rounds says. “What is the right amount? It’s not just about adding extra money, it’s about adding the right amount because if we add extra money to one place it means we’re not dedicating resources to another. You have to come up with this balance. I think we’re getting there, and I think the teacher pay issue will be resolved.”

Jim Rounds: Economist, Rounds Consulting Group
Chris Herstam: Political Consultant

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