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'You have to make it worth their while': $2.2 billion education budget proposal for Arizona teachers

The Arizona Education Association said it's their biggest proposal yet.
Credit: Arizona Education Association

PHOENIX — It's the largest proposal the Arizona's teacher's union has ever brought to the table. 

The Arizona Education Association unveiled its 2023 Educators' Budget, which asks lawmakers to invest $2.2 billion into teachers' salaries, school repairs, and more.

“If you want people to stay in Arizona, you have to make it worth their while,” said Tucson high school history teacher Margaret Chaney.

Right now, Arizona has close to 3,000 open teaching positions. That, mixed with salaries that are about $20,000 less than the national average, Chaney said teachers are starting to reach a breaking point in the state.

“People still here have double or triple the workload,” Chaney said.

Amber Gould, who teaches English in Glendale, agrees and said it's a big reason why so many are leaving.

“It’s absolutely no wonder why so many incredible people end up leaving the state of their profession,” Gould said.

This massive proposal would address those issues, they said, by giving hundreds of millions to teacher salaries, building repairs, full-day kindergarten, student mental health services and $600 million for teacher healthcare. 

Both Gould and Chaney said they know teachers that are losing half their paychecks to cover health insurance.

“That goes above and beyond anything we’ve seen in Arizona,” Gould said.

In the past, with these proposals, Chaney said it never seems to go their way, with the state legislature either decreasing what they proposed or only agreeing to a few items they are asking for. She is hoping this year will be different.

"We have such a pro-education governor we may actually make some difference this year,” Chaney said.

Around the same time as this proposal was announced, Republican Representative Matt Gress and the Superintendent of Public Instruction held a press conference urging lawmakers to pass a bill Gress sponsored that would raise teacher salaries by $10,000. 

“This is an urgent issue that we need to address this year," Gress said.

While Chaney said she is for the raise, she is worried about caveats that may be added to determine which teachers will receive the raise. Gould also said the bill doesn't address all the areas that must be fixed.

“When we keep arguing and picking the lowest hanging fruit when we need the whole tree in order to get our students to grow, I think we have our answer right there,” Gould said.

The deadline to approve the budget is June 30. 

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