Arizona is in a strange place politically right now. Parents, teachers and community members, from all political affiliations, are up in arms, furious at how the state legislators have crippled public education over the past 18 years. Regardless of how much teachers deserve to be paid, the state has not acted on the will of the voters which has led to our current problems with education.
But a good politician always has a response. There’s a counter campaign, one of misinformation, with ties to those in power in the state government. Many of you have seen the commercials by The Arizona Education Project (http://azedproject.com). The spin is amazing.
We here at Arizona’s Working Poor don’t have a budget, much less the ability to buy air-time. But we do have a growing audience and our message and tone has resonated. We’d like to take a moment of your time today to address one of the claims by The Arizona Education Project. Here’s the page: http://azedproject.com/arizona-teacher-pay-is-not-the-lowest-stop-saying-it-is/
The page in concern is titled:
Arizona teacher pay is not the lowest. Stop saying it is
And the statement made is:
Arizona Republic readers who followed the teacher strike in West Virginia must be confused given the consistent drumbeat peddled here that Arizona has the worst teacher pay in the country.
While Arizona should attempt to drive additional dollars to classrooms to pay teachers competitive wages, there’s no reason for advocates to twist data to suggest we’re last in teacher pay.
Average teacher pay increased 4.4 percent last year to $48,372
This is of course tricky, comparing wages between states with varying costs of living and such. Doug Ducey mentioned that Arizona wasn’t last, but 43rd lowest in an interview. When the reporter asked if that was something to be proud of he responded, “Well, at least we aren’t last.” That inspired the following.
The real issue is the combination of cost of living and teacher salary. Arizona is not a particularly cheap place to live and it is getting more expensive. Medical insurance premiums are growing rapidly with the end result evident in the picture below.
These are paychecks of full time, experienced and highly qualified teachers here in Arizona. As frustrating as this is, what’s worse is people think teachers are doctoring these!
And it’s not just non-educators that are upset. I’ve heard from people around the state that their district administration is upset, board members furious, and have run into teachers that think this entire #REDforED thing is just a bunch of whining!
Those issues aside, let’s talk about the claim of being 43rd lowest in pay.
Now, when you hear these lies put forth by The Arizona Education Project, remember this is a politics game. The lies contain a smidge of the truth.
- The statement, Average teacher pay increased 4.4 percent last year to $48,372, leaves the impression that teachers have received a 4.4% pay raise. I know I did not get such a raise, nor do I know of any teacher that did.
- According to the BLS report referred to in the op-ed article that was used as a reference by The Arizona Education Project, Arizona was 49th in median (not the same as average, but way lower than Arizona claims our median pay to be), at $39,300, which is $30 behind Oklahoma.
- Let’s compare Arizona to Oklahoma. For the sake of the argument, let’s call the teacher pay equal. Oklahoma is the 3rd cheapest state to live in, while Arizona is 20th! (This is not to argue that Oklahoma is in less need of education reform by any stretch!) https://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/
(Thank you Jacquelyne Foster for helping with some of these points and phrasing!)
It doesn’t matter where our rank is, ultimately. Teacher pay is a simple economics problem. We have a teacher shortage, that is likely to increase massively in the next few years, and the biggest issue is low pay. Consider the graphic below.
And in case you think this is nonsense, consider the story of the teacher in Yuma, Arizona, who works in California at a teacher, doubling his pay! https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-education/2018/04/06/yuma-teacher-leaves-california-job-doubles-his-pay/471758002/
Ultimately, this claim made by The Arizona Education Projection is a simple Strawman argument.
Lowest, or 43rd, or even 25th, is irrelevant. The cost of living in Arizona far exceeds the average teacher pay. Teachers can easily bridge the gap between salary and cost of living by moving to a neighboring state.
To that point, we at Arizona’s Working Poor wish to help teachers stay in Arizona, working as teachers, while the issues with funding are sorted. There are two programs we are running. Take a moment to look read about them here. www.arizonasworkingpoor.com/programs