PHOENIX — One year after the historic teacher walkout in Arizona, educators are renewing their push.
On Wednesday, they staged a protest on the Missouri Avenue bridge, which goes over State Route 51, after a recent report suggested Arizona teacher pay is dead last in a ranking comparing weekly pay for teachers to the weekly pay for other college-educated workers.
According to the Economic Policy Institute study, Arizona teachers earn 32.6% less than comparable college graduates.
Arizona schools continue to lag behind most states in funding, with per-student funding still well below pre-recession levels.
Pinnacle High School English Teacher Katie Fizz said even one year after the passage of Gov. Doug Ducey’s 20X2020 plan, teachers are desperate for more help.
“The initial raise has been nice. I appreciate it,” Fizz said. “But our classes are still very full. The per pupil to counselor ratio is astronomical.”
Gov. Ducey has proposed a plan to add up to 200 more counselors and staff to schools. House Education Committee Chair Michelle Udall said she expects the new budget to contain a mix of new positions for counselors and school resource officers.
Udall, a Republican, supported a failed attempt to give voters a chance to raise the sales tax in 2020 as a way to boost school funding. Udall, a teacher herself, said she understands the sense of urgency teachers feel.
“I’m supportive of finding fiscally responsible, permanent ways to fund our schools,” Udall said. “But I don’t think we need to do it all at once. I think anytime you try to do too big of a cash influx, there is the possibility of waste and inappropriate spending.”
When asked if her fellow lawmakers understand the severity of the funding shortage in schools, especially in light of the latest study released, Udall said everyone recognizes there is a teacher shortage, but not everyone believes it should be the highest priority.
“I think it’s just like the public. I think some do and some don’t,” Udall said.