PHOENIX - In the midst of a national teacher shortage, California lawmakers are debating a bill that would exempt teachers from the state's income tax in order to raise their pay.
The plan would increase teacher pay without the state or school districts having to find more money, advocates claim.
Arizona ranks near the bottom of most lists in teacher pay and desirability for teachers, so would the same plan work here?
"I think we have a couple of different ways we can look at it," state school superintendent Diane Douglas said. "But first and foremost is to get them paid."
Douglas has been pushing a 5 percent raise for teachers across the board. Eliminating the income tax for teachers could increase their take-home pay, on average, close to 5 percent. But Douglas said she doesn't see that as a solution.
"I prefer a level playing field," Douglas said. "I prefer that we give the teachers a 5 percent increase in their salary but then keep our tax structure equitable for all."
Education advocacy groups are split on their support for the California bill. A spokesman for the Learning Policy Institute, based in California, said money alone won't solve the problem.
"Money is an important piece," Lieb Sutcher said, "and compensation matters, in both bringing teachers into the profession and also keeping them, but it's not the only factor."
Sutcher said keeping teachers from leaving the field also depends on improving the teaching experience and the school teachers teach in.
So far, California is the first and only state to introcuce this proposal.